Common Core’s Upcoming Ballot Test

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There are fifteen people currently running to be Georgia’s next State School Superintendent.  On May 20th, the field will likely be winnowed down to four – two Democrats and two Republicans – for another nine week contest to narrow this field down to two.

Perhaps somewhere along the way, the general public will engage and make this race matter.  As of now, there’s little buzz and about as little fundraising activity surrounding this race.  The election action surrounding education is currently in the Governor’s race.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising.  It is the Governor who has the biggest say in the percentage of Georgia’s budget that is devoted to education.  Perhaps more importantly, it is the Governor and not the State School Superintendent that appoints the members of the State School Board.  It is those board members that determine statewide policy for Georgia’s schools. 

On the Democratic side, Senator Jason Carter has staked much of his campaign’s early rhetoric on the topic of education.  Carter is sticking to the premise that Georgia’s education problem is rooted in funding, and promises to set a separate education budget prior to dealing with those other pesky items the state must also pay for like roads and prisons.

But before we can contrast Carter’s ideas in a general election setting, we must first have a Republican nominee.  We can likely presume that to be current Governor Nathan Deal, but we should not overlook the importance of May 20th on the Governor’s race and the Republican position on education.

While Governor Deal is being challenged by Georgia’s current State School Superintendent John Barge, the positions each has on education do not differ drastically enough to define the differences between them.  Deal did support Georgia’s recent Charter School Amendment, which Barge opposed.  Give Deal and edge over Barge for the record on school choice.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington, however, has made Georgia withdrawing from Common Core standards a centerpiece of his campaign message.  Here, the differences are more pronounced.

Pennington’s message has been escalating around Common Core repeal since Senate Bill 167 died in Georgia’s House.  While the bill was promoted as an anti-Common Core bill, it didn’t remove Georgia from Common Core standards.  It would have, instead, virtually ended on-line learning over data collection concerns, and made it almost impossible for Georgia’s State School Board to implement any Science standard that included teaching evolution.  SB 167’s supporters held up “David Pennington for Governor” signs just before the final House hearing that voted “Do Not Pass” on the measure, killing the bill for the session.

Pennington’s website criticizes Deal’s measured response to concerns over Common Core, which has included withdrawing from a new nationalized test and refusing to turn identifiable student data over to the Feds.  In it, he states “it would have taken me 3 seconds to reject (Common Core) in its entirety.”

Therein not only lies the contrast between the two candidates, but a problem with Pennington’s overall approach and understanding of the issue.

Common Core represents the GOP’s most significant contribution to education reform since taking the Governor’s mansion in 2002.  Its origins began with Kathy Cox’s revamp of Georgia’s curriculum, after determining that more rigor was required to get Georgia out of the education rankings cellar.

Matched to that curriculum were Georgia’s Performance Standards.  These were the benchmarks used to ensure that each school was teaching the proper lessons, and each student was learning them.  The overhaul, while not without controversy, received national acclaim.

When Governor Sonny Perdue became the head of the National Governors Association, there was a concern that the Federal Government had begun to interfere too much with state control of education via programs such as No Child Left Behind.  The Governors decided the most appropriate response was to establish voluntary standards themselves in order to prevent the Federal Government from doing so.

Because Georgia had established its standards most recently, and because of their rigor and acclaim, they were used as the basis for the Math and English standards.  The move from Georgia Performance Standards to Common Core was much less significant than the original move to establish GPS.

What is significant here is that GPS and Common Core represented a commitment not to just throw money into a broken system, but to figure out what worked and establish high standards around that.

David Pennington would take just three seconds to throw away a decade of real education reform.  Georgia’s students, parents, and teachers deserve better.

If polling numbers are correct, these three seconds will never come to pass.  But the issue can be said to have been settled at the polls.  Elections have consequences.  The May 20 GOP gubernatorial primary should consequentially settle the Common Core issue for Georgia once and for all.


  1. Daniel N. Adams says:

    I recall our state’s education system and standards weren’t what I’d refer to as successful under Kathy “with a K, smarter than a fith grader” Cox. She was also known for flying around the State passing out awards for being “adequate. ” The backlash to Common Core isn’t high standards, it’s that concerns and failings… and preceived and unwanted socialistic federal madates are being ignored. We’re gonna continue to lose good teachers and what little parental involvement we currently have over it.!IQK37

  2. gcp says:

    Oh heavens, another anti-Pennington article on PP. I don’t guess he will be getting the coveted PP endorsement for governor.

  3. Harry says:

    Charlie – in order to build more traction on Common Core you’ll need the support of teachers and parents.

    • Charlie says:

      Funny thing about that. Instead of reading anecdotes like the one Dan posted above, look at who showed up for the House hearings to support Common Core/oppose SB 167:

      The Georgia Association of Educators
      The Association of State School Superintendents
      The Associations of Math, English, and Science teachers.
      Various county school boards and/or their representative associations.

      There’s a very vocal contingent that loves repeating “the teachers are against this”. Every major and minor education association I know of in Georgia showed up to voice support to remain in Common Core.

      Are there individual teachers who don’t like it? Sure there are. But the groups they choose to associate with professionally have polled their members, and the vast majority want to stay on the reform track we’re on, not let a screaming minority throw us into yet another unspecified “reform” agenda that is rooted in paranoia and misinformation.

  4. Jackster says:

    After talking with every teacher / educator I know, there are two main focal points:

    1) Common core doesn’t matter much to me as an educator, since the school board places strict curriculum guidelines that support testing outcomes.

    2) Assessments and reporting (IEP / Discipline / Case work / CYA documentation) are not correlated to their job security. Their ability to talk with parents and provide escalation to their chain of command is what will improve their students.

    THe problem is when the chain of command cannot then act on issues escalated by teachers and parents.

    Common core would be used by those with budget control to distract from those issues.

  5. Mensa Dropout says:

    Here’s the bottom line on CC:
    The SAT, the ACT, the ITBS, and the International Baccalaureate Curriculum have all aligned to the Common Core Standards.
    If Georgia, or any state for that matter, drops out now, then its children will not fare as well as their peers in other states that kept the standards.
    I should point out…again…that standards don’t equal curriculum. Curriculum equals curriculum.
    Standards: What we expect our children to know.
    Curriculum: The materials we use to teach our children in order that they reach the standard.
    Instruction: How we teach the chosen curriculum to reach the standard.
    There are three parts to this teaching education thing, and I really believe that the major problem folks are having is the curriculum. Everything that I read anti-common core is not the standard, but the chosen curriculum: stories, books, word problems.

    • Lea Thrace says:

      “Everything that I read anti-common core is not the standard, but the chosen curriculum: stories, books, word problems.”

      This. So much this! The curriculum and the instruction are the problem. Which CC does NOT dictate!

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