The topic of math textbooks has been a controversial one for the school board.
In April 2013, the board voted 4-3 to reject spending $7.5 million on math textbooks aligned with the Common Core national standards.
Board members who voted against buying the materials were Kathleen Angelucci, Tim Stultz, Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler.
Supporters of Common Core say the initiative creates a consistent set of education standards across the country, proving helpful, for example, to military families when they move from one state to the next.
Yet critics view Common Core as a federal assault on local control. Some believe while the “one-size-fits-all” set of standards helps students at underperforming schools, it lowers the standards at high-achieving ones.
Last July, after months of arguing, the board authorized a scaled-down version of math resources for kindergarten through 12th grades, spending $2.9 million on the purchase. In addition to the lower cost, the $2.9 million version was composed of digital resources with the exception of advanced courses unaffiliated with Common Core.
Scamihorn and Angelucci said at the time that with an effort underway in the Georgia Legislature to withdraw the state from Common Core, the board shouldn’t risk spending millions on books that could be rendered obsolete.
“The board basically wanted to hold off to make sure we didn’t have to spend $7 million in textbooks and resources that we were going to have to change in a year or two,” Ragsdale said.
Earlier this year, the Georgia Senate indeed passed legislation that would have created a pathway for Georgia to pull out of Common Core, but the bill was stopped in the Georgia House.
With the standards intact, Ragsdale believes it’s time the board moves forward with the textbook purchase. But that doesn’t mean the school district has to settle for the Common Core standards alone.
“We don’t have to stop at that,” Ragsdale said. “We wanted not only textbooks, but textbooks and resources that would allow the students and teachers in Cobb County to far exceed the minimum standards set forth by the state. We want to exceed those standards.”
Ragsdale said the recommended purchase he’s bringing will supply books for all grades, K-12.
Due to bidding regulations, he said the publisher’s name and exact price will not be released until the board’s June 11 agenda is published.
Elections stir board makeup
Board member Tim Stultz, representing the Smyrna/Vinings area, is in the middle of a closely watched re-election battle. He faces education consultant Susan Thayer in a July 22 Republican runoff, with the winner going up against attorney Kenya Pierre in the general election.
Thayer has already made it clear she would have voted for the books if she was on the board last year.
“Our kids are suffering because they don’t have materials,” said Thayer. “That’s a big issue to me.”
She says Common Core isn’t an issue for the school board to decide.
“It’s not my decision and school systems don’t have an option,” she said.
For now, Stultz isn’t sure how he’ll vote on the text books this time. Since the legislature didn’t pull Georgia out of Common Core, it appears the standards are here for the time being.
“I need to take an overall look at where the curriculum will be developed here in Cobb,” Stultz said.
Former Cobb administrator favors book purchase
The board should buy the books this time around, Stanley Wrinkle, a retired assistant superintendent, wrote in a Tuesday opinion piece for the MDJ.
“The board has a district rule which clearly explains how texts and instructional materials are to be adopted by the board,” he wrote. “Last year, teachers and central staff followed this procedure to the letter, enabling the superintendent to present the recommended mathematics adoption to the board. However, a relatively small group of citizens appeared at the meeting demanding the board refuse to adopt the teacher recommended texts and materials because the group was opposed to the state’s association with the Common Core curriculum standards.”
Wrinkle said the board accepted and agreed to the demands of the group at the expense of the teachers’ recommendations.
He argued the decision deprived more than 100,000 Cobb students of the math program thought to be the very best by their teachers.
Ragsdale said Thursday the proposal he’s bringing to the board was planned long before he saw Wrinkle’s letter.
“I had planned to bring this in June already, and the reason it’s coming in June is I wanted to make sure we had the proper amount of time for a couple of things — one, that we were covering the needs of the district to exceed the standards set forth by the state, but secondly to make sure we were getting the best bang for the buck,” Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale also wanted to make sure he had enough time to ship the books from the publisher to the schools before the new school year begins August 4.
“With the digital resources, we’ll make those immediately available to teachers, and we’re actually going to try to make sure that the teachers have the teacher editions before preplanning,” he said.