With schools continuing the transition to Common Core, areas across the country have seen residents and some political leaders come out against the educational standards.
Representatives from local school systems said that they have not heard the same reaction from parents or politicians, while from an educational viewpoint they had mostly positive comments regarding Common Core.
On the other hand, the founder of the Lanier Tea Party Patriots, Mike Scupin, said that he believes there is a large contingent against the standards, and that the issue is only going to get bigger.
“I anticipate this being a major deal in the governor’s race if (Gov. Nathan Deal) continues to push these things,” he said. One of his complaints about the standards, Scupin said, is that they are copyrighted. This, he said, is a “top-down” approach that leaves no room for change or improvement.
The Common Core website, corestandards.org, does state that the standards are “protected by copyright and/or applicable law.”
While Scupin says that several in the state share his concerns, the standards have not brought forth much controversy locally.
Kevin Bales, the middle grades school improvement specialist with Hall schools, said that the few complaints the system has heard about them mostly involve overall governmental interference, not specific to Common Core.
“Every once in a while we have heard concerns just about the loss of local control,” he said, pointing out that Hall schools, along with the Gainesville system, are both Race to the Top districts.
Race to the Top funding was created in 2009, with the federal government offering financial incentives for schools and states in a variety of areas, including compliance with Common Core standards. That being said, the standards were developed by two private companies, and are not federally developed or mandated.
“(Common Core) is not truly coming from the federal government, but what’s happening is the federal government is staying behind the scenes and doing everything they can to promote it,” Scupin said.
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said that she thinks the key to fully explaining the standards is open communication. To that end, information about the new standards was disseminated to parents via brochures and workshops.
Hall County also has shared the standards with parents and students, by including them in student agendas and discussing Common Core at curriculum nights hosted by the individual schools, Bales said.
In the implementation, Dyer said that the teacher’s role is important.
“The teacher efficacy, the teacher’s creativity and availability to teach those standards in an engaging way is really key,” she said.
Member of the local Democratic Party and pre-kindergarten special education teacher Lora Cooley said that, coming from an education perspective, she believes Common Core provides more cohesive learning standards.
“My concern is just in how we test the kids so much,” she said, saying that standardized tests provide an ability for teachers to assess student progress, but the focus on those assessments can take away from truly providing an education.
“That can be a little constraining for teachers, so you’re constantly finding new ways to deliver information that engages students and makes it interesting for them, but also allows students to learn the content, and remember it,” she said.
She said that the Common Core standards are a good way to improve academics in the country as a whole.
Dyer said that she believes backlash against Common Core isn’t in this region for a couple of reasons, with the main one being that Deal is generally supportive of education.
“He sees the big picture,” she said. “In the states where they see some of that pushback and concerns ... (these) are from states that predominantly do not have education-supportive governors.”
She also said that the region has historically shown strong support for public schools and education, while in other areas of the country there may be a stronger anti-public-school sentiment.
Bales and Dyer said that they don’t anticipate Common Core going away any time soon, particularly with Deal’s support.
“If this group of legislators do not want us to teach Common Core, what do they want us to teach?” Dyer said, pointing out that the majority of states are following the standards.
“(What) I think is even more important is that you have common goals,” she continued. She said that students should be held to high standards across the country. “Why should we not have the same goals for our children?”
Cooley pointed out that there’s more to what goes on in the classroom than adhering to a set of standards.
“There’s so much to teaching besides just teaching,” she said. “We’re trying to make whole people, well-rounded people who care about others, who care about the world they live in ... we’re just trying to unlock all those doors.”
Scupin said that a common set of standards across the country is not in the best interest of public education.
“As you begin to define through a system of standards, you begin to eliminate innovation,” he said. “There was competition built into our original design. Once you eliminate competition and go under a blanket, you ruin innovation.”