State school chief will dive into Cobb's Common Core debate
by Jon Gillooly
May 03, 2013 12:17 AM | 7129 views | 22 22 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb Republican Party, speaks out against the Common Core program at a recent Cobb School Board meeting.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb Republican Party, speaks out against the Common Core program at a recent Cobb School Board meeting.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
Georgia School Superintendent John Barge
Georgia School Superintendent John Barge
slideshow

State Schools Superintendent John Barge is coming to Cobb County on Saturday to address concerns about the controversial Common Core standards.

The announcement of Barge’s visit to Cobb comes on the heels of a 4-3 vote by the Cobb Board of Education last week to reject the purchase of $7.5 million in math textbooks aligned with Common Core. This rejection at the local level came after the state had already committed to implementing the nationwide standards under the past two governors, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, even though the Legislature has never voted on the issue.

That Barge would come to Cobb to face what is likely to be a room full of fellow Republicans with deep-seated suspicions about a federal program is a sign that worry is building in Atlanta about the possibility of a grassroots revolt against Common Core.

Barge is scheduled to address the Cobb Republican Party Breakfast at 8:15 a.m. Saturday at the GOP’s Roswell Street headquarters.

Meanwhile, Republican office-holders in Cobb, along with those hoping to be elected to offices here, continue to line up against Common Core.

Forceful opposition

One of the most forceful statements against the federal standards came Thursday from Bob Barr.

Barr, who is running for the congressional seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), blasted the Common Core standards as a “top-down, one-size-fits-all” approach that’s doomed to fail.

He joins other Republican leaders in Cobb, such as state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) and Cobb Board of Education member Kathleen Angelucci, who have denounced Common Core as the federalization of education.

The Republican National Committee also adopted a resolution in April denouncing the Common Core Standards.

“I oppose Common Core as a top-down, government-driven, one-size-fits-all approach to education that shifts responsibility from classroom teachers to bureaucrats,” Barr said Thursday.

“Common Core makes it more difficult for local and state school administrators and teachers to tailor teaching methods and subjects to their students, and instead favors so-called national standards far removed from the actual students and teachers,” he said.

The ongoing cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools is clear evidence of the problems that can result from government-driven “standards,” Barr said.

“We need to be moving away from such top-down approaches, and toward re-empowering state and local educators and parents to regain control of the agendas and standards,” Barr said. “We need also to support initiatives such as charter schools, which also provide incentives for improving educational standards and results far more effectively than government-administered programs like Common Core.”

Not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ process

A second candidate who has announced he is running for the 11th District against Barr, state Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), co-sponsored a bill with state Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) during the last session to extract Georgia from Common Core.

“I think we should come up with a plan for repealing it, and it may be as far as we won’t renew — I think it’s the math standards that we’re in right now — we’re not going to enter into the other standards of Common Core,” Loudermilk said. “I’m in favor of Georgia being responsible for its own education system and setting our own standards.”

It was Gov. Sonny Perdue’s administration that locked the state into Common Core without a vote by the Georgia General Assembly, Loudermilk said.

One of the big concerns is that the state adopted a set of standards that have yet to be developed, he said.

“They’re still being developed, but we’re just going to blindly take whatever the federal government tells the states, ‘This is what your standards are going to be,’ and that’s why we’re starting to see some states come back and say, ‘You know what? This may be a mistake. We’re going to begin the process of backing out of this,’ and I think you’re going to see more and more of that.”

It all goes back to a lack of trust of the federal government, Loudermilk said.

“Education is not one-size-fits-all,” he said. “It’s unique to each state and each community, each county. You can have standards that each county can meet, but the way you teach, how you go about teaching is even unique to each community.

“Children in south Georgia relate differently based on the way they’re brought up, their environment, their culture than children in inner city Atlanta, and you have to have the flexibility to work with them, and I think from a constitutional standpoint that is a power that was reserved for the states, not for the federal government.”

There is also a lack of thought over what adopting the program will cost, he said.

“I think it does tie back to the stimulus money, which was no doubt needed, but I think the lack of foresight was the cost it’s going to put on the states to actually implement this,” he said.

In one the hearings on his bill, for example, a superintendent told lawmakers that the new testing requirements will have to be phased in over a 12-week period.

“Now the classes that are given the first testing block are going to be at a disadvantage because the ones that get the last testing block, those teachers have 12 more weeks to prepare the students, and so we can’t afford it,” he said.

Loudermilk said the federal government must realign its priorities to those based on the Constitution, and those responsibilities are very limited.

“And they don’t include setting national standards for education,” he said. “That is something clearly that the founders left at the state level and the states have voluntarily adopted these, but I think it goes back to there was a tough time, budgets were tough and so here’s some Race to the Top money, let’s take that.”

A third candidate in the congressional race, state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), did not return calls for comment by press time.

Opinions from conservatives

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has blasted the Common Core standards scheme as a “Nanny State racket,” arguing that it was enabled by President Obama’s federal stimulus law and his Department of Education’s Race to the Top program.

“The administration bribed cash-starved states into adopting unseen instructional standards as a condition of winning billions of dollars in grants,” Malkin wrote in a recent blog column.

A component to the Common Core standards, Malkin goes on to explain, is a new federal student-tracking database funded with stimulus money and grants from “liberal billionaire” Bill Gates.

“A nonprofit startup, ‘inBloom Inc.,’ evolved out of the strange-bedfellows partnership to operate the invasive database, which is compiling everything from health-care histories, income information and religious affiliations to voting status, blood types and homework completion,” Malkin wrote.

But it isn’t just Democrats who are involved in the program. Malkin blasts “big government Republicans” such as Jeb Bush for supporting it as well.

“Whether under Bush or Obama, it’s about top down control engineered through government-administered tests and left-wing textbook monopolies,” she wrote.

Federal lawmakers weigh in

The Journal asked the federal lawmakers who represent Cobb County whether they support or oppose Common Core and why that is. Here’s how Gingery answered the question in an email:

“I’ve always believed states and localities must decide what is best for their students,” Gingrey wrote. “It’s unfortunate the Obama Administration played politics with Common Core, essentially reversing course on what was originally intended to be voluntary program designed by governors.”

Ryan Murphy, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell), answered the question this way: “Congressman Price believes educational decisions are best made at the state and local level. He opposes a mandated one-size-fits-all approach or a scenario where we drift in a direction that would lock states into a national standard and not allow for local, state, and regional differences.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) answered the question of whether he supports or opposes Common Core by writing the following email: “I fully support the efforts of the state of Georgia to raise our academic content standards and update accountability systems, and Common Core is certainly a component that can be a part of the plan. At the same time, I firmly reject attempts by the federal government to prod states toward the Common Core Standards Initiative, and I believe that the federal government should remain silent on this issue and leave these important decisions to the state.”

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie) emailed this statement: “The decision to use the Common Core Standards Initiative was one left to individual states, and Georgia has decided to adopt those standards. I believe the federal government should leave important education decisions such as this one to the states.”

U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-south Cobb) did not respond to requests for comment.

 

Comments
(22)
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CobbTeach
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May 21, 2013
Please, please, please - take the politics out of the Common Core.

They ARE developmentally appropriate. They DO challenge teachers and students to dig deeper with concepts we were only scratching the surface of before. They were also CREATED by EXPERTS in the field of education - NOT politicians.

Our country needs standards that work across all 50 states. Our schools need to speak a common language, so that there aren't huge gaps in student learning when families move.

This has been the most challenging, and most rewarding year, in my 12 years as a teacher. I hope our state superintendent can talk the school board off the ledge.

We need these standards. They are going to have a huge positive impact on our students in the years to come. With anything new, we need to give this time. It will work.
Tony Cain
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May 03, 2013
Lots of comments, too bad only 10 percent of voters voted on the recent nearly $800 million SPLOST. This is one more tax for half a decade.

I have to wonder, is the cost of government becoming too much? Have we reached a point where we can no longer afford to pay for all this?
anonymous
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May 03, 2013
Teacher Heather, May I remind you that past generations have NEVER done so well in Georgia? We have ALWAYS lagged in education. ALWAYS. And stop the whining. In Corporate America, we don't just give 150%, we give 200. In Corporate America, decisions are made every single day by the powers-that-be that affect our jobs, but we don't whine. We just deal with it and get on with our day. It is time for teachers to stop whining, for school officials to look for the root cause of the failure of Georgia's schools throughout history, and do something to get us ranked on up there in the top 5 at least. Lofty goal, huh? There is no excuse for Georgia to be at the bottom of the pack except that everyone in education is fighting each other, and all have lost sight of (or never had a vision of) making education in Georgia better. It isn't the parents, it isn't the administrators, it isn't the teachers. It is ALL OF YOU combined that do nothing but pull each other's hair out.
Get over yourself
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May 03, 2013
Obviously you are not teacher, so I do not believe you should be commenting at all. I am a parent and believe the politicians have used teachers as a scapegoat for the failures of the parents. Parents want to be their children's best friends, don't discipline, and don't care anymore. My children's teachers have worked very hard. Facts are facts and we will call it like it is. Look at the schools in high income areas and you will see successful schools. Look at schools in low socio-economic areas, you will see failing schools. It is all about demographics and money. Are all students who come from low income families failing? Absolutely not. Typically, the lower income, the less educated thus, they do not have the means to help their children. Fact honey! I am in corporate America and I hear plenty of people whining. Teachers work as hard as many of my colleagues, so please stop your ignorant comments!
cobbmomof2
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May 04, 2013
Anonymous come out of your corporate world and into the world of education. From your comments it is obvious you haven't stepped inside a school for possibly decades. You are seriously misinformed if you think teachers have a sayso about what is taught in classes. From the decision of the Cobb Board of Education teachers don't even have an input regarding the supplies we receive. Teachers chose the math curriculum they thought would best serve their students but the Board rejected their input. Teachers have NO power within the education system. The powers that be, school boards, parents and politicians belittle teachers and disregard their opinions. After all what does a teacher know? They spend all their time with children, how could they possibly contribute anything meaningful to a conversation regarding education.
Cobb Citizen
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May 03, 2013
Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one. I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.

Last in Education
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May 03, 2013
It would be nice if the reporting were somewhat balanced. I get the feeling as with all of Gillooly's articles that he is coming from a far right perspective to reflect the newspapers editorial positions. And yet the editorial page acontinues to rant about the mainstream media.
John Galt
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May 03, 2013
It seems to me that most of those posting here do not understand the true agenda of Common Core. Relinquishing local control to the Federal Government is certainly less than ideal and it shouldn't be all about the money.
@randiculous
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May 03, 2013
Because Georgia has done so well running its education, we should avoid the federal input. Makes total sense. While it shouldn't be all about money, to ignore that aspect is naive.
TeacherHeather
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May 03, 2013
Even if Georgia has not done as well in the field of education, the federal government has proved that it shouldn't step in and take over. Name one thing they have done well, even on things they should be experts on? Don't step on education when you know nothing about it. I despise politicians who know nothing about what is best for children coming in and telling me (with 2 degrees and 20 years of experience) what I should do. Most of their suggestions are political at best and have no true reflection on best practices for children.
liberals against
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May 03, 2013
Liberals are also against the Common Core. See movements in Chicago, New York...
Just Saying
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May 03, 2013
The historical variation of what each state defines as quality education has led America to this sad state of our science and math proficiency of our students as compared with their peers around the globe.

Setting a universal higher goal doesn’t seem all that bad, but taking positions based solely on political ideology and who is President at the time will only serve to keep our kids behind.

whats best for kids?
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May 08, 2013
Common Core is asking students to do more, explain more and students are rising to the challenge. In math for example we are seeing kindergarten, first graders and second graders who CAN do the the math. They CAN handle the new rigor. In reading, they are stopping and asking questions about the lead characters and making inferences. Common Core is a better set of standards. The assessment can only help students.

Teachers have realized that Common Core is asking them to do more and to facilitate more.

They are improving on teaching true mathematical practices. It has helped so many teachers focus and implement better lesson delivery.

It truly is so sad that we cannot provide quality tools (resources) to our students and teachers due to a politically driven agenda. To do so is to set up teachers and students to fail.
Top Down?
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May 03, 2013
This may not be a great plan, but NCLB was a true top down initiative that harmed education in this country. How much opposition to NCLB did Barr or other republicans have?
Kennesaw Resident
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May 03, 2013
Not enough in my book.
one more time
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May 03, 2013
I asked this question a few days ago: if we reject Common Core (and the federal funds attached to it), how do we make up the difference? I'm fine with the state going in another direction, but what NONE of these politicians (and make no mistake, they are only doing this out of political motives, not some altruistic gift to the kids and schools) has offered is any type of fiscal solution to the consequences. This is why I hate politics: all talk, no logic, no sense, no real solutions. I am in support of whatever makes the schools better, but rejecting this without a reasonable Plan B makes even less sense. If this is a terrible idea, please articulate a defined alternative with clear delineation of funding sources outside of the fed.
Pay Up Seniors
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May 03, 2013
We can give up the special interest exemption for seniors for one. Of course, that comes with all the political baggage any other decision does...
anonymous
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May 03, 2013
Since Georgia ranks almost dead bottom in education in this country, I can't take any protesters of keeping the old school way of doing things seriously. Anything has to be a step in the right direction. Can't get much lower than Georgia already is. Ship in teachers from other states that rank at the top is an idea to teach our Georgia educators to get out of the past and get into the present. Sorry to step on toes, but we are not succeeding in education in Georgia. And don't blame the higher ups. The higher ups don't teach, therefore, they are not to blame for student's failures. Teachers are.
@anon
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May 03, 2013
You have it wrong. Teachers can only succeed to the extent that education is valued by the parents and community. My husband's school continues to get kids whose parents have no interest in education. School is viewed as a glorified babysitting service by many, instead of the lifeline to success. When you look at high achieving schools, it is because of the parents who are involved and supportive of the teachers and their efforts. Georgia ranks low because PARENTS aren't doing their jobs. Send my husband high school students who can read, do math, complete their homework when assigned, study for tests, and take initiative to ask for help, and you will see success.
@really?
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May 03, 2013
Higher ups don't receive any blame? They create the structure, funding, and curriculum, yet carry no responsibility? That is completely insane. The Georgia math curriculum changed four times in the past five years, so our students are struggling; you want to blame classroom teachers who had no training or materials for that struggle? I sense you have never been in a school nor talked to a teacher. I am all for change, as are many teachers, if it is in the best interest of students. I think real change starts with leadership who can create a vision for success, an action plan for results, and environment of school and community collaboration. So far, no higher ups have done that, which is why Georgia still trails other states.
Are You Kidding
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May 03, 2013
@ anonymous, parents who place no value on education are really the ones to blame. I see it everyday. Teachers can try to change these kids minds all day long, but when they go home and are told otherwise by the hand that feeds...
TeacherHeather
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May 03, 2013
Amen!Teachers give 150% everyday, before and after school as well. It can not be all up to the teachers. Why do you think past generations have done well? Parental support, more involvement at home and at school because there were more stay at home moms. There has been a lot of changes over the year in society and in education. I see lots of positives in education but many negatives in society. Please don't put ALL the blame on schools and teachers. I was just visiting a school today (May 3rd). The child was late and the parent had to come in and sign them in. He didn't know what his child's teacher's name was. Really? 169 days into school and you don't know the name of your child's teacher.
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