Senate Bill 167 passed the upper chamber last week and will likely be considered â€“ and passed â€“ by the House before this yearâ€™s installment of the Georgia General Assembly reaches adjournment.Â It is the compromise bill to keep Georgia in Common Core, but curtail expansion into additional and more controversial areas such as Science and Social Studies while allowing an independent review of existing standards.
There are real problems with Common Core as currently devised.Â Educators question the approach to mathematics, especially in lower grades.Â More importantly, the time and training needed for teachers to fully understand this highly revised approach to demonstrating basic mathematical concepts has been noticeably absent.Â Educators and parents alike have been frustrated by the implementation.
Itâ€™s important to note that this is a process that has been underway since Math curriculums were revised under former State School Superintendent Kathy Cox, and predate Common Core.Â It was Governor Sonny Perdue who, as head of the National Governorâ€™s association, used Georgiaâ€™s revamped curriculum when setting the national standards on a voluntary, state led basis.
In addition, the Federal Department of Educationâ€™s endorsement of Common Core and, more pointedly, tying â€œRace To The Topâ€ dollars to them, has fueled additional fears that these standards are no longer voluntary.Â It is easy to understand how those who value â€œlocal controlâ€ want to tap the brakes.
And yet, SB 167 doesnâ€™t so much address the concerns of educators or delineate a voluntary program from mandatory national ties.Â It speaks to those who believe Common Core is a creation of an Obama administrationâ€™s Department of Education.Â As such, the problems Georgiaâ€™s teachers are facing in the classrooms are skipped over in lieu of placating a small but noisy and paranoid faction within the GOP base.Â
If the bill merely repealed Common Core standards for Georgia, it would only be an acknowledgement that a decade of Republican-led education reform initiatives has failed.Â Instead, it handcuffs the State Board of Education, adds restrictions beyond the scope of Common Core standards, and politicizes education policy with a stance that is decidedly anti-science and anti-technology.
The bill forbids Georgia from adopting â€œany national content standards established by a consortium of states, or a third partyâ€. Thatâ€™s a fairly broad handcuff to the State School Board to continue to adopt science standards that match national and international benchmarks.Â At a minimum, it ensures Georgia will have to start from scratch when addressing future standards, and wonâ€™t be able to partner with any others â€“ including states will similar political ideological majorities.
The bill also calls an appointed board to review the actions of the appointed State School Board. 15 members will be appointed to an â€œadvisory councilâ€ in order to oversee the decisions of the 14 appointees of the State School Board. Nothing says â€œcreating political coverâ€ than to form a new group of political appointees to review the work of other political appointees.
As for testing, the refusal to participate in other states or third party tests leaves overly broad language that may have unintended consequences.Â The bill requires â€œAll Statewide K-12 tests and assessments shall be controlled by the State of Georgiaâ€ and not be â€œbased on any standards established by a consortium of states or a third partyâ€.Â Advanced Placement tests, The PSAT and SAT, as well as the Militaryâ€™s ASVAB are all tests offered statewide controlled by third parties.Â While not the subject of the billâ€™s intent, the wording leaves those who wanted to keep those tests from being offered in Georgiaâ€™s public schools a basis to proceed.
The language restricting technology and data collection goes well beyond what is necessary to ensure that confidential student information does not end up in the hands of third parties, either by sale or by theft.Â Use of Google Apps for Education and most other online learning tools may be one of the first casualties of this section. Â In trying to protect data, doors for innovation in content delivery are being slammed shut.
Georgia has amazing institutional assets for Science and Mathematics such as the Centers For Disease Control, Georgia Tech, Emory, the University of Georgia, and Georgia Regents University.Â We, as a state, should be looking for ways to leverage these and attract science based industry.Â Instead, we capitulate to those who deny science and institutionalize their fears with SB 167.
On both Georgiaâ€™s education reform and on positioning Georgia as a home for next generation technological employers, this bill is a major step backwards.Â But for incumbents only looking forward to the next primary, itâ€™s apparently worth a pass.