The Common Core State Standards Initiative defines itself as “a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt.” Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue co-chaired the initiative for the National Governors Association and the press conference for the national release of the Common Core standards was held in Georgia. The Georgia State Board of Education adopted the Common Core in 2010. Georgia joins 45 states that have adopted the Common Core standards for English language arts and math.
Georgia already had high academic standards in place. In 2004, Georgia adopted the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for all subjects and all grade levels. These standards were universally recognized as a great improvement over the state’s previous standards; both the math and English language arts standards were ranked in the top 10 in the nation by the Fordham Institute.
The adoption of the Common Core in Georgia involved minimal changes compared to states with low academic standards. For example, a 2010 comparison study showed that 81 percent of the Georgia English language arts standards and 90 percent of the Georgia math standards matched the Common Core standards.
Georgia could be negatively affected if it withdraws from Common Core. The Reason Foundation reports: “College entrance exams such as the ACT and the SAT plan to benchmark their tests against Common Core, so even private schools are planning to change their curriculum to align with Common Core.”
Current controversy over the standards provides an opportunity for Georgia to be a test case by exerting its authority to make changes to the state’s standards and address Georgians’ concerns. Georgia and other states with similar concerns should band together to ensure that Common Core remains a voluntary, state-driven initiative that is never allowed to be a top-down effort to impose weak national standards.
Weakness in the Standards
There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core standards that need to be addressed. These basic standards were not designed to prepare students for entrance into selective universities or for careers requiring rigorous math, science, engineering or technology (STEM) skills. Georgia needs to thoroughly review its standards and address these shortcomings. Areas needing addressing include a reduction in the time allocated for literature and the addition of math skills necessary for students interested in pursuing STEM fields.
The second major concern is control. The governance structure of Common Core is murky at best. Without clear governance, private consultants and private foundations (through their funding) develop too much influence. There are two sides to this concern. On the one hand, it is critical that Georgia make clear that it maintains complete control over its state standards. On the other hand, publishers of national tests such as the SAT, ACT and AP tests have announced plans to align these tests to the Common Core. Such a move could put Georgia’s public, private and home-schooled students at a disadvantage if they are tested on material they have not been taught. Georgia would have no influence over the content of these tests.
Any changes made by Georgia would strengthen, not weaken, the standards. Georgia, therefore, should retain its influence over Common Core to be able to amend its standards. It should not voluntarily give up its vote on the governing board that will determine the content of the important college entrance tests mentioned above.
In order to further clarify Georgia’s control over its standards and avoid unintended consequences, “Common Core” should be removed from that standards’ name. This may seem like a minor and inconsequential change, but one concern expressed by education experts such as Dr. Jay Greene and others is that “Common Core” will be used as an excuse to do things that have nothing to do with Common Core. In his words, “Common Core is providing license to all sorts of crazy and contradictory local policies.”
Clearly separating Georgia’s standards from Common Core can help solve this problem. Many of the examples of Common Core that have concerned citizens have involved textbooks and other curriculum that is supposedly “aligned with Common Core.” By changing the name of our standards, we take away the risk that a questionable curriculum is not adopted in order “to comply with Common Core.”
Student data and privacy
The Common Core initiative does not address student data. Even so, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued an executive order in May 2013 clarifying the state’s policy: “Intrusive data tracking is an invasion of student rights. No personally identifiable data on students and/or their families’ religion, political party affiliation, biometric information, psychometric data and/or voting history shall be collected, tracked, housed, reported or shared with the federal government. No student data shall be collected for the purpose of the development of commercial products or services.”
Federal influence on state education authority
In his executive order, Governor Deal “firmly asserts the state’s sovereignty over educational standards.” The order states, “The federal government has no constitutional right to determine how children in the State of Georgia will be educated, no educational standards shall be imposed on Georgia by the federal government, and all decisions regarding curriculum and instruction shall be made at the local level.” The Georgia Department of Education has a similar view, according to a spokesperson: “We have the flexibility to change [standards] as we see fit.”
Highlights of Governor Deal’s executive order:
“Background and Analysis of the Common Core State Standards As They Relate to Georgia,” Georgia Public Policy Foundation, August 2013
 Minnesota has adopted the English language arts standards only.
 “Georgia State Board Report: Mathematics Findings,” Achieve, June 2010, https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=1262&AID=244381, https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=1262&AID=244380)
 “Georgia State Board Report: English Language Arts Findings,” Achieve, June 2010, https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=1262&AID=244380
 May 15, 2013 Executive Order, http://gov.georgia.gov/sites/gov.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/05.15.13.01.pdf
 Dorie Turner Nolt, assistant director of communications for the Georgia Department of Education. June 6, 2013, http://www.times-herald.com/local/554480-20130605CommonCore-StateResponse-SQ
The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is our state’s leading organization promoting government transparency. The Secretary of State’s office shares the Foundation’s commitment to transparency and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars, which is why our agency was the first in Georgia to publish its budget and spending data on a public transparency website.