Atlanta superintendent commits to Common Core

Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis said Tuesday “there will be no retreat” from controversial national Common Core education standards that have been adopted by most states, including Georgia.

The standards are not “communist plots or promulgated by (President Barack) Obama. He had nothing to do with it,” Davis told an audience of community and business leaders at the Carter Center. “It was first started by Republican governors, quite frankly.”

Davis, delivering his last State of the Schools address before retiring, said Common Core standards will help prepare students for college and careers.

Davis said Atlanta Public Schools isn’t doing enough for students, and that’s reflected by the school system’s 51 percent graduation rate. He didn’t specify how Common Core will increase graduation rates, but he said the standards help ensure students get a quality education.

“We will need to keep our foot on the pedal toward … full implementation of the Common Core Georgia performance standards,” Davis said.

Common Core is a set of standards adopted by Georgia and 44 other states in an effort to set minimum guidelines for academic achievement. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers began the push to create a set of national standards in 2008.

But critics of Common Core fear they undercut state sovereignty over education and lower standards rather than raise them.

Davis, a former member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors, compared Common Core to a runner trying out for the Olympics: Competitors can choose how to train or what equipment to use, but they have to beat a 10.07-second time in the 100-meter dash to qualify.

“Life has set a very new and very harsh standard for students today, and that’s to be college and career ready, or else,” Davis said.

Davis took over as superintendent in 2011 following revelations of widespread cheating by educators to inflate standardized test scores.

A nationwide superintendent search is seeking to find his replacement by January.

Public schools nationally and in Atlanta are still failing their children, he said. In addition to low graduation rates, 55 percent of Atlanta Public Schools students who attended college had to take at least one remedial course.

“We’re not doing a good job, which I think stresses the importance of understanding at every level what we have to do to get better, and I think Common Core standards tell us what we have to do,” Davis said.

He also spoke about areas of improvement, including a decrease in the dropout rate from 11 percent to 8.5 percent last year, better special education administration and closer collaboration with parents.

“He’s willing to tell it like it is but give us the hope we’re going to make it,” said Ann Cramer, chairwoman of Atlanta Partners for Education, a partnership between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Public Schools. “We need to make sure every student has a chance to succeed.”

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