I Will Protect the Sovereignty of Georgia No Matter the Cost

October 20, 2013 — 16 Comments

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, Georgias 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.

  1. 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.
  2. The Common Core is less rigorous than Georgias previous standards.  The fact is that Georgias 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

16 responses to I Will Protect the Sovereignty of Georgia No Matter the Cost

  1. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding Common Core. Thank you for taking the time to explain it more thoroughly. Keep working hard to get the message out, would love to see you as our next Governor.

    • The Common Core is a federal takeover of education. – This is in fact true. The standards were developed by a small group of businessmen and lawyers and the federal government then bribed states to sign on to them by threatening to withhold federal money from the states. At a time when cuts were killing schools states signed on without ever seeing the standards, just to get the funding.
      The Common Core is less rigorous than Georgia’s previous standards. They are significantly less challenging (rigor is for the dead). A study authorized by Senator Ligon (R) found that the previous GPS are much better AND had teachers involved in their development. Common Core had NONE. These studies can be found on Senator Ligon’s website.
      The Common Core does not require our students to learn literature. Students are not able to study literature in depth with Common Core. Literature is used, but only in small parts. Reading entire novels is impossible. Even the state curriculum gives 7th graders 2 weeks to read Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”! Teachers must use only snippets of novels. There is no in-depth study of great literature, but they can spend days studying the Applebees Menu.
      The Common Core does not teach the founding of America using the Founding Documents. It is true that CC is only for Math and English, however Social Studies and Science have “literary requirements” along with all other classes. If you want to know why students are spending days in art class writing essays, that is why.

      “One can already see how distorting this stuff is. Look at an American lit book from one of the big basal publishers. Turn to the units on, say, the Puritans or the Transcendentalists. Ask yourself, how much does the student actually learn from this unit about what happened during that time and what those people actually thought? The answer is, precious little. The emphasis is not on learning about the thoughts and behaviors of the Puritans and Transcendentalists but on learning some abstract set of skills. The content is WAY down the list of concerns in each lesson. The result: These units are, in current texts, incredibly dumbed down. The student who does the unit on the Puritans does not come away knowing about original sin, election, predestination, salvation through Grace, local governance, individual responsibility, the Protestant work ethic, the direct relation without intermediaries between people and God, the significance of the Word as a direct pipeline between people and the divine. But all of these were incredibly important to the development of American thought. Much in our current culture is a direct consequence of this stream that has run through our history, and if people don’t understand it, they won’t understand a lot of why things are as they are today. If one goes back to textbooks written twenty years ago, all of this stuff is dealt with in the unit on the Puritans. Now, that stuff is considered too difficult, and besides, the emphasis is supposed to be on this or that set of abstract skills described by this or that subset of the CCSS in ELA. That’s what will be one the only test that matters–the high-stakes test. It will be a test of isolated “skills.” – Robert Shepherd, textbook author & curriculum writer

  2. The only “literature” my 3rd grader is learning under Common Core is a Time Magazine for Kids weekly 4 page insert that they take an “open book” quiz on. Keep trying to explain to us parents how wonderful it is, but we are living it.

  3. State Senator William Ligon’s SB 203– cease implementation of the Common Core standards and develop Georgia’s own, superior standards through a public, transparent process that includes Georgia teachers, Georgia professors, and Georgia parents. (In other words, the opposite of the Common Core development and adoption process.) The baseline could be the previous, superior GPS. The developers could then consider other sets of standards that even Fordham admits outshine Common Core, such as the Massachusetts English standards and Indiana math standards (all of which can be easily downloaded). The best of the best could be adapted for Georgia.

    • Here is the problem with standards based instruction and the reason why the last 10 years has been so damaging to our kids. In the words of the great curriculum and textbook writer Robert Shepherd:

      He writes:

      The fact that the “standards” are entirely highly abstract descriptions of skills to be demonstrated, that they are content free, will be ENORMOUSLY distorting in their effects on curriculum development. Instead of presenting a coherent, progressive body of knowledge having to do with some subject like the short story, literary archetypes, Romanticism, the oral tradition, Greek history and thought, etc., we shall see curricula that present materials pretty much at random to teach x set of abstract skills. Even those Common Core standards that are process related are at such a high level of abstraction that they do not encourage the operationalization of those processes, and when one attempts to create a lesson that does operationalize them, that, for example, steps students through the process of, say, writing a press release, one will find that the necessary specific processes that students must learn are nowhere even suggested by the “standards.” Educational publishers will reject manuscripts with this extraneous material and insist that every lesson “cover” some number (six or seven, for example) of standards, whether it makes sense to deal with these together or not. That’s because, over the course of the year, all the standards will have to be “covered.” So, the abstract standards will drive the curriculum development. It’s the tail wagging the dog, and it is entirely predictable that this will be the case because that is what has largely happened with materials developed to meet state standards.

      Think of it this way: What is the difference between sitting down and saying, I want to develop a unit that teaches kids about the Civil War or mythology or whatever and saying, I want to develop a unit that teaches kids standards L.3.1 through L.3.6. The curriculum designer starts making decisions based on whether the standard is covered rather than on whether the subject being studied is.

  4. I am not sure what planet you are on Dr. Barge, but I do know that it is not the same one as parents, teachers and students. You were against Common Core because you saw what they were doing in the classroom. Senator Ligon, on his website, has posted the most recent review of Common Core and experts have established that the Georgia Performance Standards were FAR superior to Common Core. Teachers can see this, but teachers have been so bullied and intimidated in this state we will never know what is truly happening in the classrooms. Teachers are scared to death to speak out against Common Core. As a teacher I will tell you what IS happening. Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate. Let me explain this in small words for you. Common Core standards expect children to do things their brains are not yet developed enough to do. They are being forced to think in ways they cannot and teachers are trying everything under the sun to make students successful. It is nothing short of abuse. Child development experts across the country have verified this. BUT you and the other Gates buyouts see this frustration and failure as “rigor.” Rigor should only be found in dead people, not in a classroom Dr. Barge. Your training under the Broad Foundation (yes, the same Broad who is paying to promote Common Core) should have helped you see that when children are cutting themselves, children are quitting their assignments, children are dropping out of activities and school, it is much more than “rigor.” You have a huge problem Dr. Barge. You have teachers who will not tell you the truth. You have parents who cannot help their children. You have students who are being dumbed down by a standards based educational effort that is meant to line the pockets of the 1% and create a class of cashiers. We the people of Georgia say no! We want scholars. We want technical education. We want children taught content NOT random skills from a list written by David Coleman. Wake up Dr. Barge, there is no Governor position for anyone who supports Common Core. You have backed the wrong horse.

  5. From a parent, Jon DiPietro, on his blog. Perhaps this will jog your memory as to why Common Core is destroying education.

    There are many aspects of common core that I think are problematic. In my mind, they range from troubling to truly mind boggling:

    I could talk to you tonight about my disappointment that following the standards will mean that our high school graduates will be years behind the rest of the world in math.
    Or I could express my deep reservations about the abdication of local educational sovereignty.
    Or I could share my outrage at the inappropriate, dangerous and possibly unconstitutional data sharing that accompanies common core.
    Or I could recite the growing list of communities and states who are hitting the brakes on common core and questioning its efficacy.
    Or I could recount testimony from developmental child psychologists who insist that the common core standards ask grade school children to perform tasks that require areas of their brains that won’t be fully developed for several more years.
    Or I could repeat stories pouring in from other states about exasperated teachers and emotionally drained children who are wrestling with a badly and hastily constructed system.
    Or I could mention the fact that Sandra Stotsky – credited with developing one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students – refused to endorse the common core English language arts standards despite being paid to do so.
    Or I could mention the fact that James Milgram – professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University – refused to endorse the common core mathematics standards despite being paid to do so.
    Or I could object to the shift away from knowledge and mastery in favor of empty skills, which will lead to a work force full of sophomores, which you may know is Greek for “wise fool.”
    Or I could explain the danger in a standard that requires children to use emotional words to construct persuasive arguments instead of classical techniques of rhetoric that instead rely on logic and reason.
    Or I could highlight the dangers of a system that favors inquiry-based learning that train teachers to become facilitators instead of instructors.

    Why are you experimenting with my kids?

    Please don’t tell me that this isn’t experimental when we’ve adopted a system that hasn’t even completed the development of all of its standards.
    Please don’t tell me that this isn’t experimental when my daughter’s algebra teacher unexpectedly gets a shipment of new books dropped in his classroom six weeks into the school year, causing him to throw out his entire lesson plan and finish out the year flying by the seat of his pants.
    Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when we have no data to support the theory that this will lead to an improvement in education.
    Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when most teachers I’ve spoken with in the two open houses I’ve attended shrug their shoulders and admit that they don’t know where this is going or what’s expected of them.
    Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when my middle school daughter comes home crying because she failed a math quiz because she got the correct answers using the outdated method she was taught last year.


  6. I’m thinking your chances of getting elected are slim. Supporting Common Core makes them substantially slimmer.

  7. i am 100% against Common Core. i certainly acknowledge you have the right to your thoughts…..however, based on my research i believe some of your information is completely inaccurate and i would presume bias. I don’t plan on supporting any person for any elected office who supports Common Core. it just isn’t good education for our kids. I agree the professor at the University of Arkansas who served on the Common Core Validations Committee and was one of 4 who did not sign off on the Standards…….“Common Core standards are inferior to what we need in this country — they are not rigorous, they are not internationally comparable and they are not research-based,”

    with respect, Tom Smiley, Gainesville, Ga.

  8. “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.”

    Nice spin with this statement, but it is not the whole truth and it is very insulting to our intelligence. Yes, we do not have to ask the federal government for permission but we CANNOT accept the standards AND reserve the right to change them. Not because we need the government’s permission, but because we need the AUTHOR’S permission. They ARE copyrighted. We cannot take away from them, period! We can only add 15%, but why would we do that if it won’t be tested and teacher evals will rely heavily on said testing? And please answer this for me. If the standards have changed to the oh so closely correlated or better common core standards but the tests are still the same…why have both of my children who have been exposed to the new standards doing so poorly on the tests? My daughter dropped around 50 points in math and ELA on the CRCT last spring as a fourth grader. She missed failing by just a few points. Now, what happens if she is not so lucky this year as a fifth grader? Yup, she is held back for remediation. Do you have any idea what this is doing to her self esteem? She has gone from a 90th percentile child on her benchmarks to 75% in ELA and 37% in math thia year yet her progress report is all Ms and Es? How can that be? Especially if, as you say, the standards are not that much different then the previous GPS? My 10th grade son who has been in adv/gifted classes since kindergarten and NEVER had an issue in math had to switch to on level math because he had a 69 in adv math after the first progress report. It is absolutely ABUSIVE and psychologically DAMAGING to change standards on a student in the middle of their school career. He has gone from a confident child to one who questions his abilities. How do I know it’s not my kids and it’s the new standards? Because my other son, an11th grader, who was able to stay with the same math and ELA because he is dual enrolled in college level ELA and my district only changed the math standards for in coming freshman last year. Those already in high school were able to stay with the old curriculum. Now, my boys are only ONE year apart in school and both have been gifted/adv since kindergarten…you would think my oldest son would be able to help the other two, right? Nope….he looks at their homework and says..”what in the world? this makes no sense!” If you will not help us get rid of these standards and all the high stakes testing and federal/corporate control that goes with it, I will not support you with my vote. If you are elected and continue us down this path, I will pull my kids out of public school and home school them. And you can look for that to happen in record numbers in the coming years as parents realize what is happening to their children.

  9. Commom core math last week: 4×3=12 right???
    Wrong: 4×3 is actually learned as (3×2=6)+(3×1=3)+(3×1=3) now add all those together and get 12. And you have to show all the steps, even if you KNOW that the answer is 12!! Students who know the material are becoming bored and frustrated with math, and those who don’t have to learn so many steps that each have a chance for error. And then in two days they take a math buster with 100 multiplication problems in 5 minutes. It is insanity!

  10. Thank you for your comments, we are enjoying the spirited discussion. As you can see, this is an area that creates a lot of emotion. I understand your concerns and want to give you reasons for my position.  We will continue to discuss this issue here, but I would like to encourage you to read my other posts, and my vision, to see the other facets of the campaign. One note of caution:  comments regarding the common core, your support or opposition to it, are only appropriate here. So, please enjoy our site.

  11. Of course it is an area that causes a lot of emotion. Why wouldn’t parents and teachers not to have emotions about the abuse of children? Frankly your lack of concern on this topic is disheartening. You have stated your reasons; unfortunately they are inaccurate, full of contradictions, and your support of the Core nullifies any other positive positions you may have on other issues for many voters. The welfare and future of our children must come first or nothing else really matters. One note of caution: telling people how, when, and where to post their concerns on any topic (other than asking people to be respectful and civil) is not appropriate and will further damage any relationship of trust with your potential constituents.

  12. Also, just in case you haven’t noticed….Americans are quite tired of listening to politicians. We are ready to be heard. If we can’t be heard through our voices…we will be heard through our votes. Politicians are in for some wake up calls in the next few years.

  13. Mr. Barge, I left teaching in May of 2010, because I was not teaching students in a way that I saw as a good education or one that I’d want my own child to be a part of, and I made the decision to homeschool my child. I was a teacher who first excited about the Common Core Standards when I heard all of the talking points early on in the process. We moved to Georgia after teaching in several other states for 13 years, prior. I’ve done much research on educating myself about Common Core, and you seem to only know the talking points, and haven’t read the opposing side and the concerns of even those who were on the Common Core Standard Committee, and refuse to sign off on the standards.

    Common Core is not making education better. It’s dumbing education down for our children, and giving them an education that may or may not get them into community colleges and trade schools, let alone the major universities that I and my husband were privileged to attend.

    If you really want to learn about education, I suggest you read Charlotte Iserbyte’s The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, as I’ve read it and much of the original supporting documentation and it opened my eyes to why certain things in education were happening that didn’t make sense. John Talyor Gatto, a former winner of NY State Teacher of the year also has several good books that will help your knowledge of education in America. The Hidden History of American Education, Dumbing Us Down, and Weapons of Mass Instruction are three of my favorites from Gatto.

    I believe that you are looking at talking points and haven’t actually taken time to do the research on Common Core needed to fully understand what it means to our children, especially those in elementary school right now who will get the full brunt force of it. Or maybe you get contributions for your candidacy from people and companies that support Common Core. Or maybe you can afford to put your children in private schools and think that your kids won’t be effected, so that it doesn’t really matter or isn’t too important.

    Here are a few college professors that are not for Common Core.

    1. Dr. Anthony Esolen of Providence College in Rhode Island:

    “What appalls me most about the standards … is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is a sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women… to be human beings, honoring what is good and right and cherishing what is beautiful.”

    2. Dr. Thomas Newkirk of University of New Hampshire:

    The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress, so broadly representative of beliefs in the educational community—that they cease to be even debatable… The principle of opportunity costs prompts us to ask: “What conversations won’t we be having?” Since the CCSS virtually ignore poetry, will we cease to speak about it? What about character education, service learning? What about fiction writing in the upper high school grades? What about the arts that are not amenable to standardized testing? … We lose opportunities when we cease to discuss these issues and allow the CCSS to completely set the agenda, when the only map is the one it creates.”

    3. Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University:

    “Education reform in the United States is being driven largely by ideology, rhetoric, and dogma instead of evidence…. Where is the evidence of the efficacy of the standards? … Let us be very frank: The CCSS are no improvement over the current set of state standards. The CCSS are simply another set of lists of performance objectives.”

    4. Dr. James Milgram (Stanford University) and Dr. Sandra Stotsky (University of Arkansas):

    “We hear no proponents or endorsers of Common Core’s standards warning this country about the effects of the college-readiness level in Common Core’s mathematics standards on postsecondary and post-baccalaureate academic and professional programs. We hear no proponents or
    endorsers of Common Core’s standards advising district superintendents and state education policy makers on the kind of mathematics curriculum and courses they need to make available in our secondary schools if our undergraduate engineering colleges are to enroll American students.
    At this time we can only conclude that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards. We have no illusion that the college-readiness level in ELA will be any more demanding than Common Core’s college-readiness level in mathematics.” – Sept. 2013 paper: Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College
    Readiness Level? by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky

    5. Dr. Bill Evers of Hoover Institute at Stanford University:

    “The Common Core — effectively national math and English curriculum standards coming soon to a school near you — is supposed to be a new, higher bar that will take the United States from the academic doldrums to international dominance.

    So why is there so much unhappiness about it? There didn’t seem to be much just three years ago. Back then, state school boards and governors were sprinting to adopt the Core. In practically the blink of an eye, 45 states had signed on.

    But states weren’t leaping because they couldn’t resist the Core’s academic magnetism. They were leaping because it was the Great Recession — and the Obama administration was dangling a $4.35 billion Race to the Top carrot in front of them. Big points in that federal program were awarded for adopting the Core, so, with little public debate, most did.”

    6. Dr. William Mathis, of the University of Colorado

    “The adoption of a set of standards and assessments, by themselves, is unlikely to improve learning, increase test scores, or close the achievement gap.
    • For schools and districts with weak or non-existent curriculum articulation, the CCSS may adequately serve as a basic curriculum.
    • The assessment consortia are currently focused on mathematics and English/language arts. Schools, districts, and states must take proactive steps to protect other vital purposes of education such as citizenship, the arts, and maximizing individual talents – as well as the sciences and social sciences. As testbased penalties have increased, the instructional attention given to non-tested areas has decreased.
    • Educators and policymakers need to be aware of the significant costs in instructional materials, training and computerized testing platforms the CCSS requires. It is unlikely the federal or state governments will adequately cover these costs.
    • The nation’s “international economic competitiveness” is unlikely to be affected by the presence or absence of national standards.”

    Take time to do more research on Common Core. Don’t stop at talking points. Look at the specific reasons people are opposed and why they are for. Stopping at what you hear in the media is not enough research, to form an opinion.

    Parents who know the truths about Common Core aren’t able to vote for anyone, at any level of government who is for it, as they know that it will help destroy America as we know it, and will not help our children to get the same or better quality of education that we as their parents received.

    Mr. Barge, taking money for Common Core is like making a deal with the devil, and once the deal is made, you can’t get out.

  14. As a current high school doing common core standards. Common core standards are the same standards as the Georgia standards that we was learning. I don’t know why people is so mad about common core because its the same standards that Georgia was using it does not come from the federal government. Dr. Barge is right about common core. He has my support and vote

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