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Hearing leaves Gainesville's Rogers wary of Common Core standards
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Common Core hearing
What: Georgia Board of Education public hearing on Common Core standards and performance in public education
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 9
Where: Gainesville High School
More info: To sign up to speak, contact Debbie Caputo at 404-657-7410.

LAWRENCEVILLE — State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, spent Monday hearing from educators and members of the public on Common Core education standards, part of what he says is a long learning process on how the standards are working for Georgia schools.

Supporters and some opponents of the standards made their case to a panel of Georgia House of Representatives members who are tasked with making recommendations on the role of federal spending in public schools.

The committee, formed as a compromise to House members opposed to Common Core education standards, heard about federal grants and funding that Georgia receives, including free or reduced-price meals.

Rogers said in an interview that all of the presenters were educators or administrators speaking in support of the standards, with the exception of Dorothy Kitching, a retired nurse and tea party member from Hall County.

Kitching gave a presentation titled, “Common Core: The Marxist Brainwashing of American Children,” which Rogers said he found to be particularly interesting.

“It puts me in a concern situation not only for our country but for our children as well,” Rogers said.

Rogers said there are two more public hearings on Common Core standards. One is scheduled for Sept. 24 at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. The other, he said, has not been scheduled but may be held in Hall County.

The state Board of Education is also holding public hearings throughout the state, with one scheduled Sept. 9 in Gainesville.

“Learning is a process that has been most interesting, and there’s still more to come,” he said. “We’re trying to gather all the facts on the role of federal government in education.”

Supporters of the Common Core standards, which lay out what kids should learn each year in English and math, said at the Monday hearing that the requirements are more rigorous and prepare students for college or careers.

Teachers and school district officials use the standards to plan classes and choose materials.

Jody Brooks, a third-grade teacher at Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta, said Common Core lets teachers be creative. Brooks said she has used chat rooms and other online resources to talk strategy with fellow teachers across the country.

“Common Core will work if you accept the challenge,” Brooks said. “It is not premade, you cannot purchase it. It’s about good teaching, interactive teaching and solid practices.”

Opponents questioned what influence the federal Race to the Top program had on states adopting Common Core standards. Race to the Top gave states federal grants in return for education reforms.

Susan Andrews, deputy superintendent with the Georgia Department of Education who is overseeing the state’s Race to the Top work, said Georgia chose to apply and was awarded $400 million, but was not required to adopt Common Core standards.

Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, asked whether there was any implied pressure that adopting the standards would be helpful.

“No,” Andrews said. “We believe we could have received the Race to the Top grant with the Georgia standards.”

Opponents at Monday’s meeting weren’t convinced. Kitching told the panel that governors and education officials who adopted the standards “were coerced with a bribe,” referring to the Race to the Top program.

Rogers said seven members of the public voiced an opinion during the meeting, and all but one of them was opposed to the standards.

“I have some concerns. I think the main issue is, is this a dumbing down of our children,” Rogers said. “Probably so. Is it something that helps advance our children? Probably not. We’ve always had a standard curriculum. What was wrong with the one we had before?”

He said he is concerned with the extent of the federal funding used to support Common Core standards and school nutrition.

“There’s a lot of money involved in all this. It’s just so much ... it’s like trying to get your arms around Mount McKinley,” he said, adding, “The tea party’s position is we don’t need any federal funding. I don’t know if that’s true.”

House members established the committee just before adjourning their session this year, charging its members with studying and making recommendations on federal education funding and programs.

Common Core also is being reviewed during meetings hosted by individual members of the state Board of Education.

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield spoke on Common Core standards Tuesday at a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce meeting.

He said he doesn’t see a drastic difference between curriculum under Common Core and curriculum under the previous Georgia Performance Standards. He had the same criticism for both.

“I don’t like any curriculum that I’ve ever had to teach,” he said. “We’re trying to shove way too much ... down kids’ throats.”

Schofield said curriculum standards make it difficult for teachers to keep students’ engaged in the material because they don’t have time to further examine the subjects that students express an interest in.

“I think we’re making an incredible strategic mistake trying to cover such a breadth of information,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.