A lawmaker has filed a bill that would withdraw Georgia from Common Core national education standards and prohibit personal information collected on the tests from being shared outside the state.
That makes Georgia the eighth state to formally reconsider the Common Core, a list defining what K-12 tests and curricula must cover in math and English. Forty-five states adopted the Core, nearly all in a span of three months in 2010.
“What has really been surprising to me is how many of our legislators had no idea Georgia was doing this,” bill author and state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) told School Reform News. “Such a huge, tremendous policy shift was not vetted by the legislature, not vetted by the people in the state.”
Common Core means changes in curriculum, testing, teacher preparation, and teacher evaluations. Ligon said his central concerns were higher expenses and loss of local control. Just the new, computer-based Common Core tests cost $30 per student, or $37 for a paper version, whereas Georgia’s previous tests cost $5 per child, he said. That’s an extra $30 million per year.
This school year was the first most Georgia schools began implementing the Core in every grade in English and K-9 in math, according to the state department of education.
So, until a few months ago most parents had little contact with it, and teachers started training for it in January 2012. Some 80,000 Georgia teachers have received some form of Common Core training, according to the department.
“Teachers are truly overwhelmed with the Common Core,” said a Georgia educator who asked to remain anonymous to maintain good relations with local school officials. “It takes every breathing moment they have to figure it out.” She described the situation as “chaotic” because the standards are confusing. For example, English teachers in her district are incorporating social studies into lessons because of the Core, and they’re not trained in the subject.
“Who knows what damage is going to be done with the kids not having quality math and quality language arts?” the teacher said.
Ligon introduced Senate Bill 167 in February, but officials in Georgia’s department of education had not seen it and refrained from comment, said spokesman Matt Cardoza.
Several superintendents, school board members, and teachers have voiced concerns to Ligon and to Jane Robbins, a Georgian and senior fellow for the American Principles Project, both said. Teachers and superintendents are afraid of speaking publicly because it “would be a career-ending move,” Robbins said. “The education establishment is so invested with this.”
Rural districts especially will struggle with technology requirements for Common Core tests because they are all online, Ligon said.
“This program has never been policy-tested, and it’s not wise to jump into this without that,” he said.
Local Control Concerns
“People in Georgia are very concerned about local control in education,” Robbins said. “They don’t trust anything that comes out of Washington telling them, ‘This is what you will do, and you have no choice about it.'”
Just a few years ago in Georgia, she noted, parents widely disliked a shift in math instruction, so they raised a “hullabaloo” and changed the standards.
“This is the kind of thing we can’t do any more” under the Core, Robbins said. “When things were not working, we were able to fix it.”
On Feb. 6, former Texas education Commissioner Robert Scott spoke to a joint House-Senate education committee meeting about the Common Core. That meeting prompted Ligon’s bill.
“The majority of the parents we’re talking to and hearing from are telling us they don’t like this,” Ligon said. “They want Georgia to retain control of its curriculum and testing standards.”
A 2010 Thomas B. Fordham Institute study comparing all states’ standards to Common Core rated Georgia’s standards equal in quality, but Ligon says he would like Georgia to improve its standards itself through public meetings and input from teachers and Georgia colleges and universities. He plans to propose bill to that effect, also.
Image by Texas Tribune.