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Common Core complaints are firmly in mind as state’s K-12 science standards face changes

PIERRE – The state Board of Education will hold its meeting Monday morning at the State Library in a room large enough for a bigger crowd than what was typically seen before Common Core standards for math and language arts became such a hot political issue in South Dakota.

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Another set of K-12 standards, this time for science, is on the agenda for a preliminary discussion about making revisions. Part of the presentation also will be about clearly establishing the process used for standard setting.

The board also will hold the third of four required public hearings on revised standards for physical education.

Unlike Common Core, where the standards are national but voluntary for states to use, South Dakota educators designed the standards for science and physical education, and the proposed revisions, too.

The four-hearing regimen, set by the Legislature in 2012 at the request of a Common Core opponent, Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, passed with nearly unanimous support.

Lawmakers’ easy acceptance of the hearing mandate reflected the divisiveness that spread through South Dakota -- like many other states that converted to Common Core -- in the past few years, as school districts prepared to use Common Core as the guiding principles for what is taught in classrooms.

The hearing Monday will begin at about 9:15 a.m. The fourth and final hearing on physical education will be held Sept. 15 in Rapid City.

The change to Common Core attracted little attention five years ago when the state board adopted the new standards in the closing months of the Rounds administration. But each legislative session since then saw more and more discussion.

Citizens began crowding into state board meetings in 2013 and the topic at times dominated the Legislature’s attention in January and February of the 2014 session.

Each legislative attempt this year however failed at repealing or crippling Common Core. Several compromises calling for review or restriction lost, because supporters of Common Core wouldn’t budge and the strongest opponents wouldn’t give ground.

State officials stayed with their plan of putting the Common Core standards into South Dakota schools for the 2013-14 academic year and administering the first round of assessments to students.