These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
Now that Brian Kemp is destined to be Georgia’s next governor, he has a chance to eliminate the big elephant in Georgia’s classrooms – the Common Core State Standards (the Core).
Yes, Georgia still has the controversial standards.
Kemp is commending of his predecessors (Deal and Perdue) in many policy areas such as business and agriculture, but it is unlikely that Kemp would agree with them about the progress of Common Core in Georgia. Kemp has been fervent on the campaign trail that he plans to eliminate the Common Core.
Kemp’s predecessors are loyalists to the standards, citing the standards would build on the unmeasurable and mythical phenomenon of “college-and-career readiness” promising Georgia’s global ability to be educationally and economically competitive– but have they?
Nine years later, the Core has proved it is not worth keeping:
- Nationally, ACT scores in math achievement are at a 20-year low. Although Georgia’s has slightly improved, the gains are far from significant, but rather anemic.
- SAT scores dropped until they changed the test to align to the Core – anything to change the goal post and create a perception it is working. After the change to the Core, national scores increased only by 0.7 percent.
- On the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (2017), comparing 58-countries, U.S. fourth-graders dropped almost 10 points on the reading test.
- U.S. dropped from fifth to 13th on the Progress in International Reading (2017) – the study said the U.S. made no statistically significant improvement.
- Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, results in science and math show “stagnant” for 15 year-olds.
- NAEP scores, “the Nation’s Report Card,” shows similar trends in the data nationwide, and Georgia’s rate of change is also not significant in the NAEP, and dropped in reading for fourth graders.
- AP course taking in AB and BC calculus has been rising steadily over the years, yet the number of students who scored a passing grade this year – 3 and above – has plateaued in BC calculus and declined in AB calculus for many demographic groups.
The chance of finding quality in such standards is about as good as finding votes in “Glasgow County, GA.”
Improvements are stagnant in many national measures across all demographics related to Common Core. Independent studies are needed to make this correlation, but it is the 9th inning of this ballgame, Georgia and the nation are losing.
Georgia’s love affair with Common Core and the testing –
Governor Sonny Perdue, who chaired the National Governor’s Association (NGA) sold Georgia on the standards while he was on his way out of the governorship in 2010. The NGA, along with other special interest organizations, sold the states a bad product with no data to support its effectiveness.
Perdue, and State School Chief Cathy Cox, convinced the Georgia State Board of Education to adopt the standards packaged in a $400 million competitive federal grant called Race to the Top – without one Georgia teacher writing a standard. This money sounded great to cash-strapped school districts in the economic recession.
Nathan Deal, and former State School Superintendent John Barge, inherited a very toxic policy and compressed timeline to implement the standards, testing, accountability, and new teacher evaluations in order to comply with the grant. Deal and Barge attached their educational clout to the entire Race to The Top Agenda for different reasons: Deal – using data for school turnaround/takeover efforts; Barge – increasing alleged “rigor” in the standards.
Deal doubled down on the support for the state report card system known as CCRPI which relied heavily on standardized testing ladened with everchanging cut scores. The scores directly tied to a new teacher evaluation model promising to identify Georgia’s most effective teachers.
The new teacher evaluation system was the remedy that would root out bad teachers in the state despite Georgia’s new evaluation system showing 97 to 99 percent of teachers were effective (1-3 percent were bad). Under the Core, “rigor” was equated with the awkward learning practices hoisted on parents and students who voiced concerns.
Common Core Standards’ influence on curriculum and instruction were rushed and expensive. The state’s testing program changed to the Georgia Milestones Assessment System which cost the state over $100 million riddled with technology glitches. All for the sake of federal grant money tied to unvetted content standards with a testing program that was not statistically validated or reliable.
Let’s rename the standards instead; that’ll work –
In 2015, after a new state school superintendent, Richard Woods, was elected, and ran as an anti-Common Core candidate, the State School Board Chair Helen Rice proposed to rename the standards after Governor Deal issued a review. Parents complained of trivial math methods and the conservative base of the Georgia Republican Party claimed the Core was indoctrinating children citing examples of social justice literature replacing classical literature in English courses.
Rice had the standards reviewed, and only one percent of the standards were changed. Rice and the State Board voted to rename the standards from the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards to the Georgia Standards of Excellence thinking it would tamp down further controversy. Renaming did tamp down the palpable controversy, but the standards remained. Woods was critical of the Board’s renaming efforts and said many times in public that changing the name does not change the standards.
Likely allies – Kemp and Woods:
The standards were created under contested policy and Kemp knows that reviewing the standards are necessary to involve Georgia teachers which is a view currently held by State School Superintendent, Richard Woods.
The Georgia Standards of Excellence (Common Core) in English and mathematics will be up for a standard review in 2020. Brian Kemp and Superintendent Woods have said they plan to use the standards review process to write away the Common Core-aligned language.
Woods commissioned a re-write of the science and social studies standards using Georgia teachers and stakeholders to write and validate them – this process was ignored under Common Core’s adoption. This commission stopped the spread of Common Core-aligned influences into social studies and science.
Kemp looks to make the process more transparent and it’s clear both Republicans know that Common Core’s agenda is far-reaching and limits the curriculum and has monopolized the testing.
Kemp and Woods should expect resistance from state’s education establishment and special interest organizations who have deep ties to the pioneering groups of the Common Core. Supporters of Common Core, like the National Governor’s Association, miss the bigger picture. The Core came as a package deal: pre-packaged curriculum, more testing, more mass school closings, more invalid teacher evaluations, and uniformity while increasing expectations and achievement – an unfulfilled and costly promise.
Kemp appears to have adopted a plan to create citizen advisory teams, similar to what Richard Woods has done. With both Republicans leading the charge to write-away the Core, Georgians can start restoring common sense to education reform efforts, decrease regulations on teachers, and uphold local control efforts in maximizing learning environments for Georgia’s students and teachers. However, nine years of the Core has cemented a lot of bad education policy in the state.
Kemp must use his politically incorrect persona when governing –
Kemp’s politically incorrect persona will be needed to fend against the education establishment, and correct misalignment between the college system and K-12 as both areas have struggled to tie college coursework to the Common Core exit standards under to federal law.
Kemp’s attempt to write away the Core is the first step to creating a disruptive policy that reduces empty “skill sets” for short-term employment gain and can focus on rich content-based learning linked to enriched experiences for a lifetime.
Georgia’s early learning needs must change too. The early learning standards need correction, as the standards are aligned with the failed federal Head Start Early Learning Outcomes: Ages Birth to Five. This framework provides for federalized “Baby Common Core” under Georgia’s early learning standards. This is aligned to his Democratic opponent’s “cradle to grave” program under Race to the Top – this must go.
Perdue’s selling of a “poison apple” with a bad core and a name change alone under Governor Deal was nothing more than a seasoned political deflection. Kemp’s plan seems to defend Georgia’s classrooms and he can become one of the few anti-Common Core governors in the country willing to restore relevant learning methods to the classroom. This is a model that is far more promising than what the pioneers of Common Core could ever envision.