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MERCER: Seen as Obama’s plot, Common Core began in response to NCLB

Bob Mercer, Capitol Correspondent  PIERRE — There’s no good way to measure the true breadth and depth of the opposition to the Common Core standards that will be used in South Dakota’s public schools to measure students’ academic achievement.

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But it was a strong sign when a busload of angry people from the Sioux Falls area showed up at the state Board of Education meeting in Pierre a few days ago. They demand South Dakota withdraw.

At its roots, the opposition movement is stirred to action by a common hatred for President Barack Obama. Common Core is seen as an evil perpetrated upon the nation by Obama’s administration.

But Common Core’s start came in 2007 through the National Governors Association. That was two years before Obama took office.

The governors wanted a common set of standards to measure their states relative to each other. Common Core was to be that. Each state’s elected leaders could decide whether to use Common Core.

The desire for the uniform standards was in response to No Child Left Behind, the federal accountability program that measured student and school performance.

The 2001 legislation passed by Congress was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Jan. 8, 2002. That was six years before Obama.

National Governors Association staff oversaw the Common Core initiative. In South Dakota, the state Department of Education considered adoption for two years.

In December 2010, during then-Gov. Mike Rounds’ last month in office, the state Board of Education adopted Common Core.

The Common Core math and language standards and the Common Core assessments are now the replacement South Dakota will use for the Dakota STEP assessment. The state Department of Education had developed and used Dakota STEP under NCLB.

The plan by the state board and the state department calls for schools across South Dakota to administer Common Core assessments to students this school year as a trial run.

South Dakota received a waiver from NCLB for the current school year from the U.S. Department of Education.

The state department is preparing to seek a second waiver.

The state department’s plans for meeting the federal government’s requirements in the NCLB waiver involve using Common Core. But Common Core wasn’t forced on South Dakota.

South Dakota could have stayed under NCLB and suffered federal interference and penalties. Approximately one-fourth of students weren’t able to reach proficient or advanced levels on Dakota STEP.

The movement against Common Core in South Dakota is part of a national uprising. In the 2013 legislative session, the House of Representatives voted 36-32 to require the state Department of Education to receive the Legislature’s approval before adopting any further Common Core standards.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. He planned to run for the Republican nomination for the state office of lands commissioner in 2014, but he put that ambition on hold this fall so he could organize against Common Core.

Senators killed Bolin’s bill, HB 1204. Don’t be surprised, however, if busloads of Common Core opponents pack the 2014 session this winter demanding South Dakota withdraw.