The standards were quietly accepted under former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s administration without a vote of the Legislature, which represents the people at the local level. Some say it was the federal “Race to the Top” funds dangled by the Obama administration that proved too enticing to pass up.
Gov. Nathan Deal picked up where Perdue left off in supporting the first-ever national education standards and accepting the federal funds that were attached to them.
Opposition to Common Core has been building at the grassroots level ever since, citing mostly a lessening of local control over education, while proponents have focuses on the need for national standards across the 50 states.
The opposing views were presented last week in two separate meetings in Cobb County.
Wilkerson carrying the
torch for Common Core
In an Austell panel discussion organized by state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), support for Common Core was voiced by him, state schools superintendent John Barge and Cobb school superintendent Michael Hinojosa. All said they were opposed to the Legislature repealing the standards.
Barge, a former school district curriculum director, talked about the constant changing of standards in Georgia. He said that just as educators were completing their training on the previous state standards, they were told, “Oh, by the way, we’re introducing Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and we start training in six months.”
He said teachers “are tired of being jerked around by policy makers” but as for Common Core he foresees “no full-scale backing off because teachers are tired of that.”
Common Core requirements “are not bad standards,” he said.
Angelucci an ardent opponent
On the other side of the issue, Cobb school board member Kathleen Angelucci, who strongly opposes the new program, met with like-minded board members from Fayette and Cherokee counties in a Marietta forum sponsored by the Northwest Georgia 9/12 project that seeks to forestall implementation of Common Core in Georgia. Angelucci said the standards are “sub-standard, developmentally inappropriate standards” that mandate impossible evaluation of teachers and over-testing of students and teachers. She, along with two Fayette and Cherokee school board members, said Common Core will result in a federal government overreach and loss of local control of schools.
Angelucci cited the cost of testing as a major concern. On that point, Gov. Nathan Deal, who supports Common Core, has said Georgia will not participate in the highly expensive Core testing but will create its own tests. Whether this will placate the anti-Common Core forces is far from clear at this early stage. What is clear, however, is the need for more information about Common Core and its ramifications.
It’s also clear, as both sides agree, the frequent changing of academic standards and tests are a problem. Our state has switched standards no less than three times in six years. And despite all the promises about how the next new set of standards would fix the problems, SAT scores have not reached the national average. Indeed, the recently released 2013 Georgia average score was stuck at 1452, same as the previous year, well below the national average of 1498 – which also was unchanged. And unfortunately, in Cobb schools, the test scores fell five points to 1515 from 1520 in 2012.
Common Core was implemented in 2010 with the hope of getting those scores up. So far, that hasn’t happened in any statistically significant way.
Shades of ‘No Child
Historical context is a prerequisite to understanding the present. Let’s remember the last great program to remedy the ills of our public schools. It was called No Child Left Behind. It required that states adopt “rigorous” standards and tests. It is rapidly being left behind as 39 states plus the District of Columbia have been granted waivers from its requirements. In short, it failed because too many students could not meet the standards. So now the next solution is for “more challenging” standards?
The Common Core pro and con forums last week in Cobb will, no doubt, be followed by more public discussion and debate of an issue that is extremely important to the future of public education in Georgia. We concur with the advice that school board member Angelucci offered at her meeting: People should “do their own research and decide for themselves.”