The State Board of Education has approved revisions to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards in English Language arts and math. Those standards were posted for a 60-day public comment period late last year.
“We have taken care to hear the concerns of educators, parents, and other stakeholders, and to make changes on the basis of that feedback,” State Board Chair Helen Rice says. “These revisions ensure that our standards are responsive to the needs of Georgia students and educators.”
The standards were revised based on a formal review and evaluation process, as directed by an executive order from Governor Nathan Deal. That process included several survey opportunities, along with legislative and State Board of Education listening sessions. Further, the public was invited to comment on the proposed revisions for 60 days following their proposal by the State Board.
“I am committed to ensuring the very best standards for our students, and the Governor and State Board of Education share that goal,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods says. “The proposed revisions are a step in that direction. However, we must retain the authority to make changes to the standards, which we will do when educators tell us changes are necessary.”
Minor changes were made to the language arts and math standards, the only Common Core Standards in place in Georgia.
Most of the revisions are in math and clarify language and sequence. As the AJC reported: There are a few additions and some rearranging of standards in the proposed revisions, but mostly the changes clean up language and terminology. For example, in analytic geometry, the standard “prove that all circles are similar” is changed to “understand that all circles are similar.”
Georgia adopted Common Core in 2010 with little fanfare. Somehow, Common Core became an explosive political issue last year even while many critics admitted they hadn’t read the standards but opposed them on principle because they represented a federal initiative and intrusion into localized education systems.
Critics were not persuaded by repeated declarations the standards originated with the nation’s governors, including Sonny Perdue of Georgia who co-chaired the effort.
Neither were opponents assuaged when a majority of Georgia teachers said in surveys they supported Common Core.
Contrary to what opponents said at public hearings, most teachers surveyed didn’t find the standards confusing and felt they would improve student learning.
As part of the review process, survey feedback was collected and analyzed by the University System of Georgia. A working committee representing Georgia public school teachers, post-secondary staff, parents, and instructional leaders made revisions to the standards based on public feedback and recommendations from survey results for standards with less than 90 percent approval. ELA and Mathematics Advisory Committees then reviewed the recommended changes and provided additional suggestions based on public feedback. Members of the public were then invited to comment on the proposed revisions for 60 days.
Some survey respondents, as well as the Academic Review Committee, felt that certain standards needed to also be emphasized in the teacher guidance documents developed by the Department of Education for each grade/course and subject. Some of the recommendations to be emphasized in Guidance and Professional Learning include: phonics instruction; cursive writing; literature and informational text; traditional computing methods; and the memorization of addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts.
In a show of full support for the revised ELA and Mathematics Standards Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instructional Supervisors stated, “The revised standards reflect support for increased rigor and vertical alignment. The revisions strengthen the ELA and mathematics standards and provide the stability educators clearly want and need. While the standards provide clear expectations and goals, the school districts have local control over the curriculum, instructional resources, and delivery of instruction to best ensure that students can meet the targeted goals and expectations.”
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce also weighed in: “The proposed revisions to the Mathematics and English Language Arts standards are relatively minor, do not weaken the existing standards, and indeed represent an improvement to the existing standards. Most importantly, these standards were developed by a team of experts who reside in Georgia and have experience with instruction with Georgia K-12 students and teachers.”
THE CASE FOR COMMON CORE
Despite the chasm in acceptance for the state standards, the case for it and the implications for how it will improve educational outcomes of students in order for them to compete in a knowledge-based global economy, remain compelling.
Sixty-two percent of new jobs available in 2018 will require some postsecondary education. Without a dramatic change of course, U.S. employers will be unable to fill 3 million of these positions. (Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce)
A 2009 international assessment (PISA) revealed that 15-year-old students from more than 30 countries were outperforming U.S. 15-year-olds in mathematics. More than 25 countries had a higher percentage of students scoring at the highest levels than America, meaning even America’s most advanced math students were outperformed by their international counterparts.
The Common Core will ensure that teachers teach and students learn the knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, including communications skills, perseverance in problem solving, technical reading and writing, literacy across disciplines, and the most important mathematical skills.
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS
To further support the successful implementation of the revised standards, the Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instructional Supervisors offered the following recommendations:
• Although the revised standards are/will be aligned to the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, the potential implementation or achievement dip must be considered. Teachers, students, parents and the community must be informed and prepared to stay the course.
• Substantial and on-going professional development, at the local and state levels, to ensure that all teachers understand and are prepared to teach rigorous standards is and will continue to be the key component for successful implementation and increased student achievement.
• Instructional resources aligned to the standards must be readily available.
• A definitive decision on the discrete vs. integrated high school mathematics debate would provide additional stability.
• The Foundations of Algebra course and Computer Science courses for math core credit will provide additional support for students who may be struggling in mathematics and more career pathway options.
• An established process for reviewing and updating the standards will ensure the standards reflect emerging research and practices. AT