After approval last week by the Georgia Senate of a bill that would abandon the Common Core State Standards the state first adopted in 2010, state House members are now getting set to debate the bill that, if signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, would do serious harm to the public school education of children in our state.
Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, first introduced the bill last year, but it did not receive a floor vote. And his reasoning behind sponsoring the current bill — Senate Bill 167 — contains the same, yet inaccurate, attacks on the Common Core State Standards.
Here is a fact that most critics of Common Core, like Ligon, refuse to acknowledge: The Common Core State Standards are not an attempt by the Obama administration to usurp states' control over public education. They are not a creation of the federal government.
The Common Core State Standards emerged from a state-level, bipartisan effort started before President Obama took office in 2009 to improve public education by creating a common, national — not federal — set of academic benchmarks that reasonable people can agree all students should know when they graduate high school.
No state was, is or will be required to adopt the standards. Since the standards were finalized in 2010, 45 states - including Georgia — voluntarily adopted the standards. Sonny Perdue, Georgia's most conservative governor in the past half-century, participated in establishing the standards in Common Core and enthusiastically supported its implementation in the state. In fact, Common Core incorporates many concepts that were already in the Georgia Performance Standards.
Gov. Deal, a longtime supporter of Common Core, last year issued an executive order that the state will not: 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.
Deal felt forced to issue the order on the heels of Ligon's bill, because the motives behind Common Core were being so misrepresented.
Senate Bill 167, as written and as passed, would permit no national testing in Georgia. It would permit no comparison of the performance of Georgia students with those of any other state. It would have a group separate from the state Department of Education decide what is taught and then the standards by which students would be measured. But those measurements/scores would not be shared or compared with other states. Any input from respected national groups like the Next Generation Science Standards or the National Curriculum for Social Studies would be expressly forbidden.
Georgia would create, in essence, its own cocoon of education standards that would have no responsibility to be compatible with the nation or other states.
For the moment, just forget the more than $1 billion in federal funds for education the state would risk losing. Forget the businesses falling over each other to relocate to other states or the lack of any new businesses relocating to Georgia. Forget that Georgia's university system would be devastated.
Just focus on this: If Senate Bill 167 as passed becomes law, children in Georgia public schools will be at a mandated disadvantage compared to students in public schools from other states the moment they start school.
That must not happen.
Georgia government leaders joined the Common Core effort because they recognized the state needed to improve not only how students were taught, but how their improvements, or lack thereof, were being measured.
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.
Given the investment that school districts across the state have made to implement the new standards, it makes no sense for Georgia to retreat now. Common Core is an important tool to help raise achievement and better prepare students for life after high school as productive citizens.
We believe Senate Bill 167 as passed would do almost the opposite.
We urge the House to either reject the measure or not to bring the bill to a vote. If it does pass because of political expediency, we hope Gov. Deal understands the terrible implications for our children, indeed every state resident, and vetoes the bill.