I have received many questions regarding the Common Core Performance Standards in Georgia, and I know there are people who see my view of this educational platform as a pressing issue in the upcoming election for Governor of the State of Georgia. Although, I do not believe that I can please everyone with my stance on this issue, I do believe I can give you a straightforward answer as to “why” I am taking the position I am taking.
First and foremost, I would never put the sovereignty of the state of Georgia in jeopardy by giving up our state’s right to determine and provide the standard and curriculum by which our children are taught in public schools. I will not retreat from my firmly held belief that Georgia, and Georgia alone, can and will determine what our students are taught in the classroom.
Secondly, it is important that you know that Common Core is not a program created by the United States Department of Education. The standards were developed through the collaboration of many states; including Georgia, with the objective of improving education. In fact, Georgia’s Performance Standards were used as a model in determining the Common Core Standards.
In the state of Georgia, we reserve the authority to change any standard — at any time — and we do not need permission of the federal government to do so.
In my campaign for State School Superintendent, I initially opposed the adoption of Common Core, because Georgia had just completed the introduction of its new Performance Standards, and we had just finished training teachers on how to implement them. In that regard, because the Common Core standards were similarly aligned with Georgia’s, I felt it was unnecessary to expend additional resources in implementing another program.
Before I took office, the State Board of Education, who alone has the authority to determine the standards that are to be used statewide, adopted the Common Core. From that point on we had an obligation to implement the standards. After one year, we have made great progress in training and implementing the program. For the sake of our teachers and students, it would be inappropriate at this time, to conduct a massive change to our educational system again.
I want to address some of the most common misunderstandings and questions some have about the Common Core.
- The Common Core is a federal takeover of education. This statement is absolutely not true. I understand the concern and mistrust many Georgians have regarding the federal government. I believe in the limited powers of government. As the Constitutional Officer who is charged with overseeing Georgia’s K-12 education, I can tell you without reservation that the Common Core does not give the federal government authority over what we teach in the classroom. I know there are some among you who will insist that this is not true. Secretary Duncan, the Cabinet member in the Obama Administration charged with overseeing education, has publicly stated that the federal government understands that what is taught in the classroom, including the standards adopted by the individual states, is the sole authority of each state.
- The Common Core is less rigorous than Georgia’s previous standards. The fact is that Georgia’s previous standards are a large part of the foundation of the Common Core. This means that the Common Core is as rigorous as the Georgia standards on which they are based. Having said that, I am committed to a review of the new standards. After this review is completed during the current school year, I will recommend to the State Board of Education any changes that need to be made to ensure that our students are acquiring the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the 21st Century.
- The Common Core does not require our students to learn literature. Students in Georgia are continuing to learn literature. The Common Core has not changed this fact.
- The Common Core does not teach the founding of America using the Founding Documents. The Common Core is only for the subjects of Math and English. Therefore, it does not influence the teaching of social studies, especially the founding of America. Without a doubt, this teaching is the responsibility of the State of Georgia. We must do a better a job and we will.
I understand that we must increase the rigor of our instruction while also making education more relevant to the needs of our children.