Business, education leaders tout Common Core academic standards

They didn’t have cute kids holding up signs blasting the controversial set of academic standards known as Common Core. They didn’t have fired-up parents taking the day off to rail against the standards.

But the business and education leaders who gathered Wednesday at the State Capitol to tout the Common Core said they had something else on their side: facts.

One day after Common Core opponents lit into the standards as unnecessary, poorly thought-out and a federal intrusion into state control of K-12 public education, business and education leaders countered by arguing that much of the anger about the standards is based on misinformation.

“We are here to correct the incredible amount of misinformation around this issue,” Chris Clark, the president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said during a news conference at the State Capitol.

The chamber is joining with a variety of business and education groups to form the Better Standards for a Better Georgia Coalition, whose members will travel across the state to praise the Common Core as an improvement that will force students to do more critical thinking instead of relying on rote memorization.

Wednesday’s news conference, with a range of powerful people in education and business dressed in suits, contrasted with the rowdier, less formal rally from the day before. The news conference also underscored the reason why having Georgia leave the Common Core will be a tall order for opponents.

Many businesses in this state want Georgia to remain in the Common Core. And what powerful business interests in Georgia want, they often get.

As some parents, politicians and tea party activists give Gov. Nathan Deal a hard time for refusing to pull Georgia out of Common Core, education and business leaders have been quietly making the case that the new standards will get students better prepared to enter a competitive workforce.

Opponents of the standards say many teachers don’t like them. Emily Jennette, a former Georgia Teacher of the Year who is now a literacy coach in Marietta City Schools, said that’s not true.

“We have embraced them and are truly excited to see what they will do for our students,” she said Wednesday. “There is a big misperception that we do not know these standards. We know them very well.”

Opponents of the standards say they are a step backward, particularly in math, where students won’t be required to take high-level courses like calculus before graduating.

Dana Rickman, policy director for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said the standards are not a step backward. Students can still choose to take high-level math classes. The goal for all students, she said, is to make sure they have a firm understanding of what they are taught.

“These are the foundational skills in math,” she said of the standards. “There is an accelerated track. Not all students are going to Georgia Tech.”

More than 40 states have agreed to adhere to the Common Core standards. Georgia embraced them in 2010 and has been offering new courses tied to them.

There was little political debate about the standards when they were created, but they have since become a hot topic, one that poses some risk for Deal as he seeks re-election this year.

Clark said the fight over the standards is about more than just politics.

“We’re going to work hard to make sure parents understand this,” he said.

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