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State adopts national education benchmarks
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ATLANTA — Georgia has adopted a set of national benchmarks that detail what students should learn in each grade and what they should know to graduate high school.
Georgia joined about 20 other states Thursday in signing on to the Common Core State Standards. The sweeping education benchmarks released in May aim to replace a hodgepodge of academic goals varying wildly from state to state with a uniform set of expectations for students.
Under Common Core, a third-grader should know how to write a complex sentence and add fractions, no matter if they live in Georgia or California. And an eighth-grader should understand the Pythagorean theorem.
"This is a major step in helping the state of Georgia graduate more students not only from your institutions, but also from mine and the technical college system," said Willis Potts, chairman of the Georgia Board of Regents overseeing the state's public colleges and universities. "We're not only interested in post-secondary access, we're interested in post-secondary success."
Potts joined leaders from the state Department of Early Care and Learning, the Technical College System of Georgia, the Georgia PTA, the business community and others in commending the state Board of Education for adopting Common Core.
Education department officials will spend the next year training teachers on the new standards, which nearly match what the state already has in place. A study by Achieve — a Washington, D.C.-based education nonprofit, shows that Georgia's current standards match 90 percent of Common Core in math and 81 percent of them in English language arts.
The standards will be in place for the 2011-12 school year.
"This board of education is willing to stand firm and hold our students to higher expectations and take them to higher ground," state school board chairwoman Wanda Barrs said.
The standards were produced by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It marks the first time states have joined to determine what students should know when they get a high school diploma.
The federal government was not involved but has encouraged the project, including adoption of the standards as part of the scoring in the U.S. Department of Education's "Race to the Top" grant competition. President Barack Obama has said he wants to make money from Title I — the federal government's biggest school aid program — contingent on adoption of college- and career-ready reading and math standards.
Common Core was structured over a year of meetings with teachers, parents, school administrators, civil rights leaders, education policymakers, business leaders and others from across the country. The group produced multiple drafts and collected comments from more than 10,000 people online.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was a leader on the committee that created the benchmarks and has pushed for their adoption in his home state.
All but two states — Alaska and Texas — signed on to the original concept of Common Core more than a year ago. Critics worry that the standards will essentially nationalize public schools rather than letting states decide what is best for their students.
Virginia and Minnesota have both chosen not to adopt Common Core because educators there say the states' standards are already more rigorous than that.
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