All the board members rightly voiced concern about math textbooks and online resources being available for teachers and students, but the majority agreed on a plan that avoids two big problems: 1) The huge cost of the Common Core testing, which would run upwards of $18 per student versus the state-budgeted $8 to $9 per student annually, according to news reports, and 2) The risk of spending almost $8 million for Common Core resources including books that could not be changed if Georgia pulled out of the program entirely.
Board member Kathleen Angelucci got it right concerning fears that the district won’t have enough resources. “It’s not the end of the world. The sky is not falling,” she said. Amen.
The idea that the state won’t exit Common Core standards at some point in the future — maybe sooner rather than later in view of the constantly changing standards in recent years — simply doesn’t fly.
Board member Scott Sweeney, in arguing for the full-bore, $7.5 million Common Core plan, said, “The likelihood that the standards will be shifted again, I personally feel, is quite remote.” Which Chairman Randy Scamihorn refuted, pointing out that the state has switched standards three times in six years.
Changing academic standards — and of course the tests that go with new teaching materials — has become a biennial event in Georgia. But all the changes haven’t driven the state’s SAT scores up to the national average. In the 2012 tests, graduating seniors in Georgia did improve by 5 points to 977 out of a possible 1600 on critical reading and math, but still lagged behind the national score of 1010. Georgia was fourth from the bottom in about a dozen states in which at least 70 percent of graduating seniors took the tests.
Even Gov. Nathan Deal, a supporter of Common Core, reacted to the test cost factor this week, announcing that Georgia will not participate in the Core testing plan and instead will save money by creating its own tests. He and state schools chief John Barge argue that the tests can be just as rigorous as the expensive Core exams.
And why not? The state has been churning out its own tests for one set of curricula after another. Surely, it can come up with tests for the Common Core standards now being followed. As for math, is there another “new” math or is it still adding, subtracting, dividing, algebra, etc.? Truth is that with the “old” math, students could excel even with old textbooks and no online resources. And there were tests to determine what students had mastered but nothing like today’s multiple tests.
Maybe it’s time to do less testing and more teaching in Georgia public schools.