State leaders undermine core education

Edward O. DuBose is president of the Georgia State Conference NAACP.

To its credit, Georgia has chosen to adopt what is known as Common Core State Standards, a partnership between states intended to increase the quality of education for all students. But these sound academic standards are only as good as the assessments against which they are measured.

Which is why Gov. Nathan Deal and State Superintendent John Barge’s recent decision to withdraw the state from Common Core assessments could have such a devastating impact on Georgia’s students, particularly its minority students.

By opting out of the assessment, Deal and Barge are undermining the state’s intent to provide high-quality education to the low-income and minority students and students with disabilities who desperately need the benefits that the Common Core promises.

In 2011, only 59 percent of Georgia’s economically disadvantaged students graduated high school on time. When broken down along other demographic lines, that figure is even more shameful, with only 60 percent of African-American students graduating on time, only 58 percent of Latino students, and only 30 percent of students with disabilities. Meanwhile, our overall graduation rate puts us right near the bottom out of all 50 states.

This move is short-sighted and jeopardizes our opportunity to ensure that all Georgia students, regardless of race, socioeconomic class, or disability, can get the best possible education that we can provide. Retreating from high standards and assessments betrays our students and relegates them to the lowest academic and economic stations in America. Without a quality education, a child’s economic and social prospects are severely limited.

Instead of providing a meaningful explanation of why we shouldn’t assess our students’ learning with the same rigor as other states, Deal and Barge have hidden behind fiscal constraints. The costs of assessing students with the Common Core Assessment is $30 per child, or about $18 more per student than the current assessments. They contend that the state can develop its own assessments without increasing costs.

But Georgia has already cut its investment in education by 12 percent since 2002. Should we trust that a state that has spent the last decade disinvesting in the education of our kids will develop the robust assessments we need to tell us how well schools are teaching our kids’ critical thinking and other skills they need for college and the 21st-century job market? Without the assessments, how will they know where and how to target professional development and other supports schools need to help students meet the new standards?

Georgia initially adopted Common Core because we, as a state, decided that we wanted more for our children. We believed all children should be taught to the same high standards, should be held to the same rigorous expectations, and should reap the economic, social and personal benefits that a high-quality education makes possible. The civil and human rights community vigorously supported the new standards because they offer us the best opportunity in decades to push for the higher achievement, better resources, and capable teachers that the most disadvantaged children need but have rarely gotten.

By withdrawing from the assessment, Deal and Barge are weakening our ability to have effective college- and career-ready instruction for all children. The result will be more of the status quo that ignores growing populations of students who are habitually marginalized and underserved.

It’s said that you can’t put a price tag on a quality education. But Governor Deal and Superintendent Barge just did: $18 per student. Surely Georgians think their children are worth an additional $18 to ensure that they are getting the best possible education our state can give them.