Common Core central to state superintendent primary - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Common Core central to state superintendent primary

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In the crowded race to become Georgia's State Superintendent, Common Core has emerged as a flashpoint in the race.

Five of the nine candidates oppose Common Core, a national set of educational standards in which Georgia has opted to participate.

Four candidates, including top fundraiser Fitz Johnson, say they do not oppose Georgia adhering to Common Core standards.

The state superintendent cannot do away with Common Core alone. That requires action from Georgia's governor-appointed Board of Education. But, the superintendent traditionally has held powerful sway over that board.

All four candidates who came to Saturday's Chatham County Republican Party debate at Johnny Harris Restaurant, oppose Common Core.

A WTOC crew asked them what standards they thought should be set for Georgia's students if not Common Core.

Candidate, Ashley Bell, a 33-year-old attorney from Gainesville, said the state needs "standards that are grown from our teachers and our business community getting together" to find out how to make students "job ready, day one."

"My vision for this state is that five years from now, a student should be able to get their high school diploma on a Friday, and their associate's degree on a Saturday," he said.

Candidate Richard Woods, a Tifton teacher, said he wants a careful review of Common Core. He wants to do away with the overall program but, "instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, to look at what is actually working within the standards of Common Core."

Candidate Mary Kay Baccallo, a 45-year-old math and science professor from Fayetteville, wants standards set by the state and local school boards. She is calling for a change in how Georgia tests children to find out whether they are meeting the standards.

"Do placement tests instead of criterion-referenced tests, which means reading level, writing level, and math level and verifiable science," she said, "so we won't have to worry about government dictated standards, like Common Core."

Candidate Nancy Jester, a DeKalb County Board of Education member, points out that Common Core sets academic targets students should be meeting, but does not map out how to get there. She says Georgia should develop its own standards by learning what is working in higher-achieving states.

"A standard is not a method," she said. "So, we need to look at what is driving achievement; what is driving it in other states?"

The primary is scheduled for May 20. Early voting already has begun.

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