Editors note: The set of national education standards known as Common Core are in place in Georgia schools. But they have faced steady attack from some education critics and in the state Legislature. Reporter Newspapers asked two education activists from our communities – one a supporter of the standards and the other an opponent – to share their thoughts on the Common Core.

Centralization is a bad idea

By Nancy Jester 

Forget the rhetoric. Forget the posturing. Common Core is a bad idea.

It will not improve academic achievement for Georgia’s students. It will increase costs.

It creates another bureaucracy, a standards bureau of sorts, to compliment the already unwieldy state and federal education apparatus that has failed to improve the educational lives of Georgia’s children, and failed to be good stewards for Georgia’s taxpayers. The title of General Sullivan’s book, “Hope is not a Method,” pretty much sums it up.

Common Core is only a “set of standards.” Standards, goals, hopes, whatever you want to call them, are not methods that generate improvement in academic achievement.

The daily work of a teacher, the techniques they use, are the method. Our state has spent millions of dollars to implement something that will not improve education. What if our military spent all of its resources developing great battlefield strategy but didn’t properly equip the soldiers? No matter how good the strategy (and I’m not saying Common Core is good, quite the opposite), the results would
be abysmal.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the major education legislation passed under President Bush, had standards. In 2014, NCLB said that 100 percent of our nation’s third graders would be proficient readers. That didn’t happen. Why? Because a standard, a goal, is not a method. Your tax dollars have been wasted on a distraction that delivers
no value.

The Georgia Department of Education likes to tout that Georgia was one of six states used as a model for Common Core. That should give us all pause.

Given how poorly Georgia compares in achievement measurements, it is no comfort to learn that the same team that has brought Georgia to such a poor standing is guiding a new national effort to redefine standards.

We also know that centralization, especially in governmental entities, doesn’t produce particularly good results. Common Core is a centralization strategy. It’s effective for increasing bureaucratic jobs. It’s ineffective for improving
outcomes.

It is the antithesis of various reform strategies which recognize and tailor education to the individual. Our world is evermore customizable and filled with choices – iPods, Spotify, Amazon, blogs. So, why do educational bureaucrats insist on going in the other direction? If centralization worked, the Soviet Union would still be around. If centralization worked, why did we break up Ma Bell?

The bottom line is that Common Core is yet another bureaucratic creation that won’t do anything to help students and teachers. Yes, it also creates one stop shopping for anyone peddling an agenda in education. Georgians should reject Common Core less out of fear and more out of common sense.

Nancy Jester, a former member of the DeKalb School Board and former candidate for State Superintendent of Education, writes about education issues at blog.nancyjester.com.

Higher standards challenge our children

By Steve Dolinger 

The Common Core State Standards are now into their third implementation year as doors open on school houses across the state. Thousands of Georgians clearly see the value they provide. After years of struggling in public education, they believe Georgia is on the right track. They have no desire to turn back now in search of another silver bullet.

The Better Standards for a Better Georgia Coalition of 25-plus organizations supports the higher standards. And, yes, they are higher standards built on the previous Georgia standards that had received national praise. They do raise expectations. They challenge our students, who are in fact, responding.

Who are these citizen groups in this coalition? They are not the special, big money, government funded, corporate interests that some would lead you to believe.

They are your neighbors. They are parents who want the best education possible for their children. They are teachers who love their students and want to see each one succeed. They are businessmen and women who have a vested interest in a quality, future workforce. They are our military families answering their nation’s call wherever that takes them.

Let’s consider the experts who must implement these higher standards, and translate them into an effective curriculum written by Georgians for Georgians, our teachers.

A poll of more than 3,000 educators was conducted last year by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). Almost 75 percent said they supported the Common Core. These are the people we trust with our most precious treasures, our children. Listen to them!

Here are some key points to consider as you do your Common Core homework:

• Increases classroom expectations

• Increases critical thinking skills

• Decreases emphasis on rote memorization

• Better prepares our students for post secondary education and careers

• Decreases the need for remediation as our graduates enter higher education

• Allows our educators to maintain control of teaching Georgia’s children.

The Georgia Partnership’s latest Economics of Education report includes this statement that sums up the argument for Common Core: “College- and career-ready standards are a must-do for our state, its economy, and the future of our students. Georgia should not go back to the days when 90 percent of our students were told they were proficient, yet when compared to their peers in other states, only one-quarter of them were on track to be ready for college or embark on a career when they graduated from high school.”

We must stay the course. The Common Core is right for Georgia.

Dr. Steve Dolinger is the president of the non-partisan Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, www.gpee.org. Before joining the partnership in 2002, he served as Fulton County Superintendent of schools for seven years.

 

 

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