State defends Common Core model
by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
State education officials want to set the record straight on “Common Core” education standards.
Officials responded to complaints made at a town hall meeting in Senoia last week by Common Core opponent Angelia Bean. A story about Bean’s presentation was published in Saturday’s Newnan Times-Herald.
“There were a lot of things attributed to her that are not factual. And I want to be sure the facts are out there,” said Dorie Turner Nolt, assistant director of communications for the Georgia Department of Education.
Bean claimed the Common Core standards are lower standards than what Georgia had previously and that Common Core is “the nail in the coffin for local control and parental control.”
“That is not correct,” said Nolt. “We are a local controlled state.”
Common Core standards were not put out by the federal government, Nolt said. Instead, they were created by two organizations: the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association for Best Practices.
“It’s not a federal standard, it is not the federal government releasing anything,” Nolt said. “The people who released this are not federal employees, they are not Arne Duncan (U.S. education secretary), they are not Barack Obama.”
Georgia was involved in the process from the beginning. The Georgia Performance Standards, the state’s education standards, were used to help write Common Core. In fact, when the state education department worked to merge the Common Core with the Georgia Performance Standards, “they really aligned 90 to 95 percent, already, with Common Core,” Nolt said. “The standards are top-notch school standards.”
Sonny Perdue, who was at the time Georgia’s governor, was co-chairman of the committee that wrote the Common Core, Nolt said, and the official release event for the standards was held in Georgia. “That is how big a player Georgia was in writing the standards,” she said.
Bean is “welcome to feel how she wants,” Nolt said, but “these standards were evaluated by teachers and principals” and other education professionals before they were adopted.
“I trust the professional educators in this state to know how best to teach children in this state,” Nolt said. “They are trained professionals.”
It’s important to understand that standards are not curriculum. Instead, they are a list of what things students should know by the end of each grade. Currently, there are Common Core standards for Math and for English/Language Arts. Standards for Science and Social Studies are in the works but are a few years away.
In Georgia, everyone uses the same standards, but each local school district determines its own curriculum.
Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Education, gave an example from the Boy Scouts. There is a certain set of standards to become an Eagle Scout, and it’s the same all over the country. But “how you go about getting all those individual badges differs all over the place,” he said.
“How you go about reaching those standards or meeting those standards is up to you,” Cardoza said.
The standards say “what all students in Georgia should know and be able to show that they know… but how you arrive at that, how to teach that, what resources you use are not dictated by the state and certainly not by the federal government,” he said.
The state has people who work to develop resources to help teach the standards “but we don’t develop an actual curriculum,” Cardoza said.
A major point of Common Core is to have the same set of standards nationwide so that students who move from one state to another won’t be at a disadvantage.
“Children move around a lot more than they used to … families are very mobile,” Nolt said. “A child can be set back significantly” moving from one state to another because of differences in what is taught in certain grades.
As for the federal Race to the Top education grants, states that won the competition had to agree to adopt Common Core or another similar college and career readiness standards program. Georgia got some of that money, but the state adopted Common Core two months before it got the Race to the Top money, Nolt said.
The federal government got involved because it thought the Common Core drive was a good one and wanted to encourage states to adopt it, according to Nolt.
Another concern that Bean addressed was data collection and sharing and the inBloom system. Georgia is not participating in the data sharing of inBloom, Nolt said.
“We do not provide student data to inBloom — period,” she said. The state had signed on to the first phase, which was simply about sharing resources — allowing a teacher in Oregon, for example, who came up with a PowerPoint presentation on the Pythagorean Theorem to put it on inBloom for teachers across the country to see.
There was some incorrect information on the inBloom website indicating Georgia was partnering in the data sharing.
The company removed the incorrect information, and “we have been working with inBloom to clarify that because it was misleading,” Nolt said. She said a few districts in the state have signed up with InBloom.
“That is totally up to the district,” she said.
Georgia is not “stuck” with Common Core.
“We in Georgia adopted the standards. These are the standards that we have put in place, that we think are best, and we will continue to tweak them to do what is best,” Not said.
“We have the flexibility to change them as we see fit. And if we ever stop having that flexibility, that is the day we will be out of Common Core.”