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State adopts unified core curriculum

Georgia's public schools soon will have a new yardstick by which to measure, and compare, their academic performance with that of other states.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) curriculum in English/language arts and mathematics, for grades K-12.

The curriculum, which would match up with those of several other states in the union, is expected to take effect in Georgia starting in the fall of 2011.

"The State Board's vote to adopt the Common Core State Standards is a huge step toward, giving us a meaningful comparison of our students' achievement with that of students in other states," said State Board of Education Chairperson Wanda Barrs. "Our students will be competing for jobs with students from all over the world, and we must be able to compare ourselves to the rest of the U.S., and other countries, to ensure that we are providing students with the tools they need to be globally competitive."

The standards are part of an initiative coordinated by the National Governor's Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, to establish a unified academic curriculum among the different states, according to Matt Cardoza, communications director for the Georgia Department of Education.

"If you're going to test us on the CRCT [Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, Georgia's state-wide assessment] and these other high-stakes tests, and you're going to compare them to other states, then you need to be comparing them based on the same standards -- an apples-to-apples comparison," said Henry County Board of Education Member Pam Nutt. "And, that's a great thing," she added.

"Any decision that maintains and enhances the rigor of the standards-based instruction, which occurs daily in our classrooms, is deserving of our support," said Charles White, a spokesman for Clayton County Schools. "The Common Core State Standards have the potential to elevate to new levels the high quality instruction that presently takes place in our classrooms," he said, in an e-mailed statement.

Cardoza, the state's education spokesman, said the curriculum was developed with the input of experts, educators and parents. It defines the knowledge and skills students should have by the time they graduate from high school.

"Today's students must be prepared to compete in a global economy," said Gov. Sonny Perdue, also co-chairman of the National Governor's Association. "These state-developed standards make sure that our students are prepared for college and the workforce."

Common state standards are being considered by 48 states and two territories of the United States, as well as the District of Columbia.

Cardoza said about 90 percent of common core state standards align with the existing Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) curriculum in English/language arts, and mathematics. The newly adopted curriculum will replace state performance standards during the 2011-12 school year, and will become the Core Curriculum Georgia Performance Standards curriculum.

"When reading the CCSS, it is clear that there are many elements of the Georgia Performance Standards throughout," Cardoza said. "Therefore, the adoption of the CCSS in Georgia will not be a drastic change for either teachers or students. Some of the standards are introduced at different grade levels, but teachers have, essentially, been implementing the CCSS while they've been teaching the Georgia Performance Standards."

Henry school board member Nutt also believes the unified standards could generate consistency in the education process, in the classroom, and on standardized assessments.

"My thinking is, if we're already working within the GPS, and this (CCSS) is closely aligned with the GPS, then this won't be anything new or different," said Nutt, also a media specialist at Moore Elementary School in Griffin.