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Perdue says a new school initiative could boost the economy

Supporters laud Common Core program to standardize grade measures among states

POSTED: June 3, 2010 12:21 a.m.

What is Gov. Sonny Perdue’s solution to the economic crisis? Education.

Yet that education needs to be competitive nationally and internationally.

On Wednesday, Perdue and national education leaders launched the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which establishes national standards in English, language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

“Complacency can’t lead us into the doldrums, and our nation can’t afford to be second class in education,” Perdue, a national co-chairman of the initiative for the governors association, said in a packed auditorium at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee.

“I see a direct link in education and economic development. What are the opportunities and the rightful responsibilities of our states to get students, not at a ceiling, but at a floor of expectations?”

In what Perdue referred to as an “alphabet soup” of supporters, speakers from the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, national Parent-Teacher Association, Campaign for High School Equity, Georgia State Board of Education, College Board and others boasted for an hour about the opportunities available under the Common Core Standards.

The initiative, led by states, pulled in teachers, school administrators, parents and experts to determine what students should know at each grade in any state.

“Students deserve a world-class education, and the world demands it,” said West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, who mentioned the group looked at standards in Singapore and Finland. “All children should be ready for work or college, regardless of zip code, background, disability, even language proficiency.”

Each state now has its own set of academic standards that can vary widely in how success is measured and in which grades certain concepts are taught. Although some educators oppose national standards created from a federal level, the Common Core pushes for the collaboration of states. Common standards would allow states to make apple-to-apple comparisons among schools and ease the transition for moving families as they transfer school credits.

Wednesday’s event marked the end of the development phase and the beginning of adoption by individual states.

“Imagine in football if one team made a first down in 7 yards and the other in 10 yards. That’s not fair,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “Once the states adopt this, that’s when the preparation really begins to take this from ‘should’ to ‘will.’ If it looks like we’re unabashed supporters, it’s because we are, to make sure our country’s better days are in the future and not in the past.”

State school board members plan to adopt the standards in July, but changes won’t enter classrooms until fall 2011. The new standards shouldn’t change what’s in place in Georgia too dramatically, said Martha Reichrath, deputy state superintendent for standards, instruction and assessment.

“That’s the anxiety for teachers, but it’s really the next phase of Georgia Performance Standards,” she told The Times. “This is merely a stamp of approval from national and international standards.”

The Georgia Performance Standards were based on the practices in other states, and this next wave of standards will help the nation to be “more coherent,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

“We expect changes that will help us in compacting standards, becoming more conceptual and promoting deeper learning,” she said. “The Georgia Performance Standards were already on the road to the Common Core.”

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said he’s been a decade-long supporter of common academic standards.

“We spend an embarrassing number of hours and money to reinvent the wheel in 50 states and thousands of districts,” he said.

“We need this common understanding of minimum standards.”

The standards aren’t only for teachers who hope to teach critical thinking instead of “to the test,” said Steve Rohleder, group chief executive for health group Accenture, who represented the voice of businesses.

“We see the competitiveness for jobs day in and day out, and the U.S. is losing competitive advantage,” he said. “This is the opportunity to do something bold and innovative because if the U.S. doesn’t do something different, we’re going to lose ground in the war for talent.”


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