State proposes tweaks to Common Core standards

After a months-long review, state education leaders are suggesting changes to Georgia’s controversial Common Core standards, but it won’t be the retreat many critics were hoping for.

The state Board of Education is proposing mostly revisions to clarify the standards, which have been maligned by critics as a federal intrusion into local education. Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the review in 2013 as he navigated tricky political waters on Common Core.

The review process included surveys and legislative and state board of education listening sessions. The bulk of the proposed revisions are in math, particularly for ninth and 10th grade where Georgia students have struggled in recent years. Some changes are in language arts.

“Through this process, we have taken every opportunity to hear the concerns of educators, parents, and other stakeholders,” said State Superintendent John Barge, who supports the standards. “This revision is not a retreat from our standards, but a refinement to ensure they are the best standards for Georgia’s students.”

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. The math and English/language arts standards were not controversial then, but they have since come under attack by political conservatives and tea party activists as a federal intrusion into state control over public education.

Supporters say the standards improve education by increasing the rigor of academic material and harmonizing when students across the country are introduced to that material.

Richard Woods, who will become superintendent in January, said he was pleased some revisions have been proposed.

“I think it’s a good start,” said Woods, who criticized Common Core on the campaign trail. “It falls in line with what I’ve been saying. We need a review of the standards.”

Woods said he may suggest additional changes during the 60-day public comment period on the revisions. The board is scheduled to vote on the revisions in January. If approved, the changes would take effect at the start of the 2015-16 school year.

A large majority of teachers surveyed this spring on the standards as part of the state’s review said they were worded effectively. Those results ran counter to one of the claims of Common Core critics, who have said teachers find the standards poorly written and confusing.