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Concern common reaction to new standards
State lawmaker discusses issue with local GOP
State Rep. Mike Dudgeon spoke about Common Core standards during a Forsyth County Republican Party meeting. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie

Discussion of Common Core standards in education didn’t reach a consensus among those at a Forsyth County Republican Party meeting on Saturday.

State Rep. Mike Dudgeon presented the topic with the intent to dispel misinformation about Georgia’s adoption of the national education standards.

Dudgeon, a Republican from south Forsyth who represents District 25, talked for about 20 minutes before fielding questions from party members and others in attendance, many of whom expressed concern.

The Common Core standards, he said, are “the very top level goals of what you’re trying to teach for a grade and for a subject area.”

Those goals then translate into curriculum, including how to teach the subject and what materials to use, and then the in-class lesson plan.

“What’s in the Common Core was already 80 to 90 percent … the same as what Georgia was already doing,” said Dudgeon, who sits on the House Education Committee and previously served a term on the Forsyth County Board of Education.

“When the state adopted the Common Core in 2010, it was not that big of a change for us.”

In 2004, the state adopted the Georgia Performance Standards, which created more rigorous benchmarks for education, according to Dudgeon.

A few years later, a group of governors initiated a review of state standards to create a common method to compare education systems, including that of Georgia. That product was essentially adopted by the federal government as what’s now Common Core, he said.

The standards currently include only math and language arts skills, not science or social studies.

“There’s no federal law or federal rule that says Georgia has to use these standards,” Dudgeon said. “This is a voluntary decision by the state board of education.”

If future social studies standards push a “liberal ideology,” he said Georgia could opt out.

Common Core is not tied to federal funding, and it doesn’t include personal data sharing or tracking of political or religious beliefs, Dudgeon said.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently announced the state would not be participating in the testing portion of the setup, citing the high cost of doing so.

Dudgeon said he prepared some legislation to address some aspects of the state’s educational standards.

The bill would allow for local jurisdictions to: determine curriculum; prohibit any data sharing without public hearings; increase the comment period from 60 to 90 days for future adoption of standards; and require the state legislature to ratify such changes.

Dudgeon also proposed legislative approval for accepting future federal education grants.

He said what he likes about Common Core is the ability to compare similar districts and create positive competition.

Forsyth County always topped the state in test results, he said, but it was difficult to determine how that matched up with the rest of the nation.

“I want us to compete internationally,” he said. “How we’re going to do that is to have our states compete to see who’s best, and if there’s absolutely no common anything, our states can’t compete and do well.”

Opinions varied widely among those asking questions and offering viewpoints after the speech.

Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman Hal Schneider held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and asked what gave the federal government the power to set educational standards for the states.

“The federal government is driving Common Core,” said Schneider, adding that funding has been expended and attached to peripheral programs.

A former teacher spoke in favor of common standards, but expressed concerns about comparing states, as the populations are different.

A current teacher said Common Core will allow for more uniform skills of students across the nation, so out-of-state students moving in will be at the same level.

However, he said a solution needs to be addressed for the children who can’t meet those standards because they aren’t ready for that knowledge, which can then affect the school’s testing results.

One parent said she decided to home-school her elementary age students in no small part due to the Common Core standards.