Barge says teachers support Common Core

by Celia Shortt

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John Barge

(Editor’s note: In its annual media symposium at the beginning of the month, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education unveiled its top ten educational issues to watch in 2014. See today’s Focus in Education, page 1C.)

Teachers and school superintendents are satisfied with keeping the national Common Core Standards, according Georgia State Representative Brooks Coleman and State School Superintendent John Barge.

“One hundred percent of superintendents said ‘let’s keep it,’” said Coleman at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s annual media forum at the beginning of January. “We’ve gone too far. We’ve spent three years getting ready. We’ve spent millions of dollars.”

“Teachers said unanimously, ‘Don’t make us start all over, and change it every time we do something different,’” he added. “‘Let’s stay the course for a while.’”

Coleman heard these comments from teachers and superintendents during listening sessions held throughout the state in 2013, including one at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts in Newnan. At those sessions, superintendents, educators, and citizens voiced their opinions about Common Core.

Barge echoed Coleman’s statements and also stressed that even with keeping the standards, there will be revisions to them.

“Anytime that you embark on a huge initiative, such as Common Core, you always, always do a review of implementation,” he said. “We did a review after year one implementation, and we did some adjustments and made some refinements.”

Barge also referenced a survey which had been sent out to teachers across the state.

“I can tell you that based on what I’ve seen of the over 11,000 responses that we received from teachers across the state, over 80 percent of our teachers in this state are in favor of keeping the standards,” he said. “They like the standards. They want to keep them. There are recommendations for refinements and that’s exactly what I wanted to see.”

“Our teachers are in favor of the standards,” he added. “We’re not making any recommendations for pulling out of the standards.”

Prior to the legislative session starting, Georgia State Representative David Stover, R-Palmetto, said he and Georgia State Senator William T. Ligon Jr. would draft a companion bill for the house calling for withdrawing Georgia from the Common Core educational standards.

"Common Core was never tested anywhere in the country before it was launched on our state, and I expect it will do the same to our education system as a whole as the Integrated Math Curriculum did to our high school students with regards to their math skills and understanding," Stover said. "Common Core is Integrated Math on steroids. When a system is more focused on the methods than the outcome, then the system is broken before it even starts."

State senator and chairman of the Education and Youth Committee Lindsey Tippins weighed in on all the pending legislation about Common Core.

“I cannot tell you right now what the outcome of that (Common Core legislation) is going to be,” he said. “I will say this, I think the governor acted very prudently back in the spring, early summer when he withdrew Georgia from the testing consortium (PARCC).”

“I think most people who understand the process of education realize that whoever controls the test is ultimately going to drive the curriculum and what’s taught in the classroom and who controls the testing piece,” he added.

PARCC is a consortium of states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math founded in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. Georgia announced in July it was withdrawing from the consortium.

Kristin Bernhard, the education policy advisor for Governor Nathan Deal’s office, weighed in on what she thought Barge would say about the new assessments to replace PARCC.

“We’re not going to be backing away from rigor in our assessments,” she said. “This is not going to be CRCT 2.0.”

The 2014 legislative session began on Jan. 13.



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