This is a rambling rant as I try to process the state of education in Georgia. What a way to spend my fall break!
I’ve taught language arts in Georgia since 1995. I began with Quality Core Curriculum, QCC standards; these were criticized for being miles wide while an inch deep. We moved on to a new and improved set of standards Georgia Performance Standards, (GPS), and now we have adopted the Common Core Standards known in Georgia as the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.
Now the future of Common Core is unclear because the political battle ensuing in the state of Georgia. Right now this seems to be a GOP battle between State Supt. John Barge and Gov. Nathan Deal. Supt. Barge has announced that he is running against Deal in the next election. I do believe this next election will be The Year of the Educator (or at least the year of education talk). Rumor has it that we might get back some furloughed days and have 180 days again, and perhaps we might get the first raise we’ve had in 6 years or so.
At this point, I don’t care if we revert back to GPS, keep CCGPS, or come up with some hybrid. All I want is a little bit of stability here in Georgia. I’d like to know my academic vocabulary (the wording changes each time are standards change and this makes it harder for the synapses to connect and the neurons to fire. I’d like for students to be able to build upon the knowledge and standards each year. I’d like for students to have some consistency across grade levels. I’d like for teachers to be able to plan vertically with the knowledge that it will mean something. I’d like to not have to spend my summer studying my new standards, creating new benchmark exams for the district, and revamping mediocre sample units from the state. I’d like to look at longitudinal data with some reliability and validity–not to mention I’d like to teach more than test and have the tests we use truly mean something. Most of all, though, I’d like students to get the education they need and deserve–this will take more than just a list of standards!
On one hand, State School Supt. Barge is saying we jumped on the CC bandwagon too soon here in Georgia, and he wishes we would have done what Virginia did and not moved into CC too quickly. On the other hand, he’s saying he’s not ready to scrap CC (http://wabe.org/post/state-superintendent-barge-still-common-core-supporter). I know in the time of CC adoption, we were trying to get our NCLB waivers, we were trying to get Race to the Top money, and we were following where GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue was leading us. Plus, we were trying to remain competitive and keep up with the other states. Now Barge is asking for feedback from educators using our local RESAs (nobody has contacted me yet!). While I applaud the efforts of Barge to examine the CC and get feedback from teachers, I am a bit dismayed at how we continue to build this plane in the air with no clear indication of our final destination or even where our next layover will be.
Deal is either confused about what he believes to be true in education, or he’s playing games. In June he was a supporter of CC, but in August he ordered a review of the CC. Recently Deal tacked something new onto his review of CC, asking the board to develop a social studies curriculum that teaches students the importance of American government, the country’s founding documents, citizenship, economics education and fiscal responsibility. Wait–perhaps we should hold off on changing social studies while we work out this CC mess and decide if we are keeping that (along with the literacy standards related to social studies in the CC), or is this about getting re-elected not about examining CC?
What I am hearing through the rumor mills is that we will probably keep part of CC and bring back part of GPS and have some sort of hybrid of the two. At the same time, what will become of the Race to the Top money? What will become of our future? And how much of the decisions made really even relate to educating our kids?
When Barge and Deal announced that Georgia backed out of PARCC because the tests are too expensive but said we were keeping the CC, I was a bit shocked but with all the cutbacks in education, I understood how the lofty PARCC pricetag was not something we could afford. How this will play out remains to be seen. The initial answer given was GA would create its own assessments and perhaps even partner with other states to create these CC assessments. Now I’m not sure that will even happen.
I would like for us to get to a time in education when the voices of teachers are valued and heard, and I mean live teachers who work in the trenches each day–not those people vying for political power. I mean teachers in each and every grade level, the best teachers.
In the spring of 2012, I watched a video from the GADOE and was taken aback by a state curriculum specialist who said of CC implementation, “We are building this plane in the air.” As the teacher who is supposed to fly that plane and teach students to navigate the airspace at higher DOK levels and prepare them for tests, I found myself a bit disconcerted. At the same time, I understood that this would be where we might be during the initial phases of Common Core implementation. Now I see we haven’t covered much air space, and I’m wondering where we are going–perhaps I’ll just remain for awhile in a state of confusion.
As I wonder where we are going, I find myself in a state of confusion, literally.