Bill would remove Georgia from national curriculum agreement

ATLANTA – Georgia would break its ties to an agreement to abide by national standards for schools under legislation that got its first reading Tuesday.

Education groups oppose it.

Senate Bill 167 seeks to restore the state’s independence in designing goals for what schools should be teaching young people, and it would end all connections to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the multistate organization that drafted what’s known as the Common Core State Standards.

The partnership is controlled and funded by companies that publish textbooks and education software wanting to market the same version nationally rather than having to tailor their materials to the requirements of individual states, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick.

“This is where our standards for testing, education and basic control of curriculum would be set by interests in Washington, D.C., outside of Georgia, and not by people in Georgia who are accountable to Georgians,” he said.

According to Ligon, the national standards are untried and costly. For example, the required exams would be six times higher than what the state already budgets for each student’s tests today.

One of the arguments for adopting a nationwide set of standards is so that students who move from one state to another would be able to easily fit into the new school’s lessons. Ligon said the percentage of Georgia students who move is too small to be worth the problems of having out-of-state groups say what local students should be learning.

State Superintendent of Schools John Barge has no problem with the national standards because he said much was based on Georgia’s previous curriculum and Georgia experts helped in the drafting, so teachers here need little adjustment to switch to them.

“These standards are clearer and more focused and help students get the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and careers,” he said. “They also give consistent expectations across states so they are portable, and they give us the ability to compare student performance in Georgia to that of students in other states.”

Plus, they will allow teachers to share ideas with colleagues in other states, and standardized textbooks could wind up being cheaper, he said.

Objections like Ligon’s to the standards are based on misconceptions, said Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, a spinoff of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“Our concern is around the high level of inaccurate information circulating about the Common Core,” he said. “They are not a national curriculum, and these are not standards decided on by the federal government.”

Calvine Rollins, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, sees good and bad in the national standards.

“It is always good for state curriculums to be aligned with the national curriculum standards, but it would mean that each state will forfeit an opportunity to provide the flexibility necessary for its state and students,” she said.

Ligon expects to get a public hearing for his bill in a Senate committee but has no assurances the committee will ever vote on it. He’s talked to Gov. Nathan Deal about it, too, but hasn’t gotten any promises from him either.

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