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S.C. State Board Chairman to State Chief: Sorry, Smarter Balanced Stays

South Carolina State Board of Education Barry Bolen has written to state Superintendent Mick Zais telling him that despite Zais' April 14 announcement that he was pulling the state out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in order to seek a new test, Smarter Balanced remains (for now) the state assessment.

Bolen's April 30 missive reiterates some of what I reported on April 18, when I talked to Bolen and he blasted Zais over the month-long Smarter Balanced tug-of-war. In his letter, Bolen says that he's not wedded to Smarter Balanced, and is indeed open to entertaining other assessment options. And he acknowledges that Zais has the authority to downgrade South Carolina's membership in the consortium from "governing" to "participating." (For what it's worth, Smarter Balanced no longer lists South Carolina as any sort of member.)

But in his letter, he tells Zais in no uncertain terms that it's the state board, not the state superintendent, that has the authority to select a new assessment for the Common Core State Standards.

"Because of your disregard of the State Board's decision in April to not withdraw from the Consortium and to ignore the State Board's approval of the Smarter Balanced assessment, superintendents and instructional leaders throughout the State are frustrated and confused due to the apparent indecision regarding the state assessment to be implemented in 2014-15," Bolen wrote to Zais.

So where does that leave South Carolina? It may turn out, as Bolen acknowledged in his April 30 letter and in his interview with me, that the legislature will take the decision out of both men's hands. One South Carolina lawmaker, Sen. Larry Grooms, a Republican, is claiming a major step forward in his quest to end the state's association with both the common core and Smarter Balanced because of a bill the state Senate passed today:

That Senate bill and one in the House are what Zais was referring to when he said he was simply anticipating the legislature's proposals. But he recently said, also, that the state could still use Smarter Balanced's test if it wanted to following a broader search. Zais may prove to be prescient in the end about the legislature's actions, but that may not mollify folks on Bolen's side, including (if Bolen's right) South Carolina school districts.

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