Ligon, who tried to pass a bill last year repealing the controversial national standards from state schools, said he is now working with Gov. Nathan Deal to write a new law, which would give local school boards the power to choose curriculum.
Deal thanked the students, staff and bus drivers at Hickory Hills Elementary School in Marietta Friday morning for their tireless work keeping students safe during last Tuesday’s “unexpected sleepover” at the school.
On his way out of the school, Deal paused to say he wasn’t in any hurry to repeal the Common Core standards, which were implemented in state schools for math and English classrooms in fall 2012. Deal said he doesn’t think he will be repealing the controversial Common Core standards any time soon, and it was still too early to tell what kind of an impact the standards would have on Georgia students.
“I think it would be ill-advised to just simply abolish the standards without having anything to to take their place. That would leave students and teachers in a very vulnerable situation,” Deal said.
Where to go from Common Core
Legislators are working on a bill that would allow individual school districts to move away from Common Core standards without the governor having to officially renounce Common Core’s source of funding, which is Race to the Top.
These funds will run out in September, and Ligon said he is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to give control back to local districts.
“We have committed as a state to do this until September of this year. We are moving on and working on our own standards and will use Georgia Performance Standards as a baseline for review,” Ligon said.
Ultimately, the control is moving back into the hands of local communities.
“Local school systems will have the flexibility to choose another curriculum if they choose,” he said.
Common Core has not been welcomed with open arms in Cobb County, and residents are excited for the opportunity to move away from the standards.
Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci is heartened by the news, as the school board has opposed Common Core in the district’s schools.
In June, the State Committee of the Georgia Republican Party unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the state withdraw from participating in Common Core.
One month later, Deal and State Superintendent John Barge had pulled out of the testing mechanism associated with Common Core.
Barge has yet to shift away from Common Core.
On Friday, a spokesman for Barge, Matt Cardoza, said the state superintendent did not support repealing the current standards.
“He would rather make any changes to the standards based on teacher and public feedback,” Cardoza said.
‘We took a step backwards with Common Core’
After much protest from local residents, the Cobb school board rejected purchasing $7.5 million in math textbooks aligned with Common Core standards in August.
Deal also asked the state Board of Education in August to evaluate the Common Core standards in math and English to the formerly-used Georgia Performance Standards.
Friday morning, Deal said the state Board of Education had yet to come to any conclusions.
In the meantime, conservative legislators are working to remove the bond local districts were forced to make with Common Core, which they see as a top-down, one-size fits all set of standards that strips local school boards of their control over curriculum. Critics also say Common Core would represent a step backwards for many schools in terms of the level of rigor it incorporates into the classrooms. They cite a lack of classic literature in English coursework, which has been replaced in many cases with material from government training manuals.
“We took a step backwards with the Common Core standards, and lost our flexibility as a state to make changes and innovations; this bill is bringing more clarity to that process,” Ligon said.
Local counties will have the option to continue with Common Core standards, or move back to Georgia Performance Standards, or another set of state standards, Ligon said.
The state school board is expected to have completed its evaluation and comparison of Common Core standards with the Georgia Performance standards by May 2015, Ligon said.
Randy Scamihorn, vice chairman of the Cobb Board of Education, said he supports Ligon’s bill to allow the Cobb School District to depart from Common Core.
“Any movement in the direction away from Common Core is positive ... the school district will move away from Common Core if the bill passes, but we still look to the state school board for guidance,” Scamihorn said.
If given the option, Scamihorn thinks the board would favor returning to Georgia Performance Standards in the classroom.
Angelucci is hesitant to get her hopes up before the bill passes, but firmly believes control over curriculum should rest with the locally elected school board.
“It is so refreshing to hear our legislators talk about giving back local control,” Angelucci said.
Not all Cobb residents OK with moving on
State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) was disappointed with the news Cobb might be ditching Common Core.
“That deeply concerns me. First and foremost, why would we regress and move away from having rigorous standards, for all of our students. Secondly, we are disregarding the immense amount of resources and time and commitment from educators across the state, who believe that Common Core is working,” said Morgan, a Democrat who is running for state schools superintendent.
Switching to different standards wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal, said John Adams of Educators First, a teachers’ advocacy group.
“This is not the first time teachers have had things changed on them, nor will it be the last. Unfortunately, they are used to transitioning to the program du jour on a regular basis,” Adams said.
The news the county could potentially be moving away from Common Core was relieving, Adams said, and well worth any hassle of transitioning again to another set of standards.
“I don’t think there is any value in keeping Common Core just to avoid changing things,” he said.
While Deal was in Marietta, Morgan was meeting with principals from her district for a breakfast, where they discussed Common Core.
“Everyone unanimously said Common Core was working and we needed to keep it,” she said.
Morgan is concerned the bill is purely political and not in the best interest of her constituents.
“It’s unimaginable we would have this conversation about moving back and regressing on education in the state. … I’m curious where they are going to find money to find an entirely new set of standards, when it should be used in classrooms,” Morgan said.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a group traditionally aligned with Republicans, has also endorsed Common Core standards.
Deal was wary of giving any opinion on Common Core on Friday.
He wants to wait to see what the state board of education’s investigation reveals, and doesn’t think he will have to sign a bill that outright repeals Common Core until something better presents itself for Georgia students, he said.
“I don’t think the General Assembly will ask me to do that,” Deal said.