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August 2019
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Common Core is common sense

    State Senator William Ligon of Brunswick is like many critics of the Common Core educational standards. Ligon introduced legislation to have Georgia pull out of the Common Core. But according to an AJC report, when asked which standards he objected to Ligon wasn’t able to cite any specifics.
    It seems the majority of the critics of the Common Core object to the big picture of the standards – especially with the belief that these standards originated at the federal level.
    One local school board member said they have heard comments from several people on Common Core, who generally don’t like the idea of a mandatory requirements, but nothing specific concerning any requirements that students must follow.
    At a recent Tea Party forum a video was shown that cautioned the Common Core connection to the UN and brainwashing, but even that didn’t point to anything specific that children might be taught.
    Locally, a board member said there have been expressed concerns that the Common Core would require books that parents might find offensive. Nationally two objections  are that it might require a heavy dose of evolution or global warming in the school classes.
    But from the Pickens County schools central office, Dr. Sandy Greene said there is some confusion on standards versus curriculum. For Common Core there are some basic standards, but the curriculum is still a local decision. There are recommendations, but these are only recommendations.
    The earlier Tea Party forum featured the three incumbent school board members up for election who generally support having standards in place.
    Board member Dan Fincher said he became supportive of Common Core when he attended a discussion of school teachers and realized that the teachers didn’t have the problem with it – apparently it is mainly politicians who object, not parents. The New York Teachers Union has objected, but the national teachers union is supportive of the standards.
    One big misconception is that the Common Core standards were developed and handed down by the federal Department of Education; actually they sprang from the governors association.
    Common Core was adopted by 45 states. In Georgia it replaced the Georgia Performance Standards. In Georgia most of the standards have been implemented, with the process starting in the 2012-2013 school year.
    Pickens County students have already seen the implementation and as far as public outcry, comment or praise, none has been detected at school forums. In fact we had to call the central office to see if the Common Core is in use here, thinking something this controversial in the political  arena would have created some disruption on local campuses. Apparently it didn’t raise any ruckus.
    Based on the proponents of Common Core, these national standards were called for by big business (not a liberal cabal) because companies with offices stretched across the nation found too much discrepancy in what employees could do in one region to the next. If this is true, that’s a strong argument for the need of national standards. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is a supporter of Common Core.
    A second problem the Common Core was designed to address is the poor standing of American students when compared to other countries. American student math skills rank somewhere below the top 20 nations. A host of nations we dominate in every Olympic sport beat us at basic ciphering.
    One teacher described the Common Core as reigning classrooms back to fewer topics with more emphasis on going deeper in particular skills. American education, particularly math, was thought to be “a mile wide but only an inch deep,” according to a New York Times article.
    There are strong arguments that teaching to any standards is a flawed system. But, frankly, it is hard to see much alternative in the public school system. And conversely, knowing that schools in Jasper, Ga. will be held to the same standards as those across the nation is reassuring.
    And as our school board chairperson responded at a recent forum, we don’t aim to only meet standards, we aim to go far beyond what is bare minimum.