In the face of a chorus of loud, yet inaccurate, attacks on the Common Core State Standards, we felt it necessary to set the record straight.
Despite the claims of some groups, the Common Core State Standards are not an attempt by the Obama administration to usurp states' sovereignty over public education. They are not even a creation of the federal government.
Rather, the Common Core State Standards emerged from a state-level, bipartisan effort to improve public education by creating a common, national - not federal - set of academic benchmarks that reasonable people can agree that all students should know by the time they graduate high school.
No state has been, nor will be, required to adopt the standards as their own. Since the standards were finalized in 2010, 45 states - including Georgia - have voluntarily adopted the standards.
In Georgia, that wasn't much of a stretch. The Common Core standards incorporated many concepts that were already in the Georgia Performance Standards. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue was a co-chairman of the National Governors Association, which along with the Council of Chief State School Officers led the development of the standards. Those two groups, which include representation from all 50 states and truly are bipartisan, partnered with Achieve, ACT and the College Board.
ACT runs the college-entrance exam by the same name. The College Board runs the SAT college-entrance exam. Achieve is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to help states raise their academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability at all levels to help prepare students for postsecondary education, careers and citizenship.
It should be noted that while these standards do include literacy guidelines for social studies and science, the standards themselves are only in English language arts and math. Therefore, Common Core cannot possibly be an attempt to rewrite what is taught in history and social studies courses in public school classrooms - despite what some groups opposed to the standards claim.
The Obama administration has endorsed Common Core and required states - including Georgia - that apply to receive waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to adopt and implement college- and career-readiness standards. That requirement does not limit states to adopting Common Core, but those standards do comply with the U.S. Education Department's waiver requirement.
But states that have not adopted Common Core - Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia - have not lost federal funding as a result.
Despite these facts, there is a growing movement in several states - including Georgia - to pull back from Common Core. The opposition makes a series of claims that sound sinister on the surface and would be objectionable if true. The problem is, they're simply not true.
The Bulloch County school system, like other districts across Georgia, has invested significant time and money implementing the standards and training teachers to make sure their lessons are aligned with the new benchmarks. While the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards share a lot in common with the old Georgia Performance Standards, some concepts were moved to different grades and different materials are required to teach some Common Core benchmarks.
Gov. Nathan Deal, a supporter of Common Core, felt compelled to respond to the groundswell of opposition to the standards by issuing an executive order that changed nothing about what the state does. But the order reiterates what the state has not done and will not do: share student-level identifiable data with the federal government, cede the state's control of public education to the federal government, and mandate curriculum and instruction decisions to local school districts.
Yet this gesture was not enough for some. Americans for Prosperity-Georgia issued a statement applauding the executive order, yet urging the state to remove itself what the group terms the "federally controlled straitjacket" of Common Core - which, as we have demonstrated, Common Core is not.
Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, is sponsoring legislation that would remove Georgia from the Common Core. While it did not pass this year, it is still alive for the 2014 legislative session. He, too, has cited the standards as a federal overreach into public education.
If what the Common Core opponents said were true, we would support the state removing itself from the standards. However, the accusations lobbed by opponents are clearly inaccurate at best, and patently false at worst.
Given the investment that school districts across the state have made to implement the new standards, we think it would be foolish for Georgia to retreat now. We urge Georgia and its public schools to continue implementing the Common Core standards, which we believe are an important tool to help raise student achievement and better prepare them for life after high school as productive citizens.