For some, July 8, 2010, was a momentous day in the state of Georgia — but not for a good reason.
That’s the day the state board of education, with letters of support from the Technical core College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia, adopted the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards in English-language arts and mathematics as the benchmarks for our public-school students.
The CCGPS are based on the Common Core Standards that were created through a state-led effort coordinated by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association with the assistance of ACT and the College Board. Interestingly, the NGA Center for Best Practices was co-chaired by then-governor Sonny Perdue.
Adoption of the standards was a requirement of the federal Race to the Top application, of which Georgia was awarded a $400 million grant. RTTT was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and included $4 billion in grant opportunities to support new approaches to school improvement.
Although it is purported that the federal government was not involved in the development of the standards, opponents of Common Core still are concerned. They see the adoption of the standards as the first step in nationalizing curriculum standards, leading to the loss of local control.
They point out that in Georgia, it is the duty of the state board of education, and not the Legislature, to adopt these standards. They note that the standards originated with nonprofits and other unaccountable parties without open public oversight. Because of this, they raise concerns that the standards have not been properly vetted through the citizens of the state or through their elected representatives.
Opponents of Common Core also point out that there is no evidence that the nationalization of standards increases performance. In fact, they point to a Brookings Institute report that suggests the opposite.
They also point out that Georgia is one of nine states that had more rigorous standards than those of Common Core, using the example that Algebra I is now being moved from the eighth-grade curriculum to the ninth-grade curriculum in our state. They further state that the only mathematician on the committee that approved the standards would not sign off on the proposal, since he felt it would not prepare students for college.
Two other concerns raised by opponents are the cost involved in administering the tests for these standards and the sharing of student or teacher data.
As a result of this opposition, Senate Bill 167 was introduced this past session to void any action taken by the state BoE or the Department of Education to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards.
SB 167 also requires public hearings, comments and majority approval by the Legislature before any statewide competency or content standards are adopted, as well as prohibiting the sharing of any personally identifiable student and teacher information.
Although SB 167 never made it out of committee last session, the bill has garnered the support of a number of conservative, grassroots organizations, including tea-party groups, creating a debate within the majority ruling party.
As a result of the concern over Common Core, and in an attempt to dispel any fears that federal-education standards would be imposed on Georgia’s students, on May 15 Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order that places restrictions on the controversial standards.
In the order, Gov. Deal addressed the issue of intrusive data tracking referring to it as “an invasion of student rights” and pointing out that the standards do not require information sharing with the federal government.
A potential confrontation was avoided at the state Republican convention last month in Athens when a resolution dealing with the issue of Common Core was tabled due to the lack of a quorum.
In my almost decade-long career under the gold dome, it has been my experience that the only issue that comes close to the budget in terms of interest and intensity is education.
While the governor may have quelled the debate on this issue temporarily, the concern over Common Core and local control of education surely will continue.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.