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Common Standards and Local Control in Georgia

On the beat I cover, I long ago lost count of the number of times I have heard people express worry that adopting the common standards will mean that they lose local control over what they teach. The response from common-core supporters has been that the new standards articulate the strengths your students must have, but don't tell you exactly what must be taught or how to teach it.

That's part of the message Georgia is sending to its districts. We learn from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the state board of education voted this week to stop requiring districts to use the "integrated" approach to math, which blends the teaching of algebra, geometry and other math topics, and has created a bit of unhappiness in that state.

With the state board's vote, districts can now decide whether to take the integrated approach, use a more traditional course-by-course approach, or offer a choice to incoming freshmen. (The state department of education's official statement on the vote is here.)

An irate math teacher wrote to the Journal-Constitution to point out that using a "traditional" math pathway will not "fix" problems with Georgia's integrated approach. Regardless of approach, teachers will have to lift students to the common core standards, since Georgia is one of the 44 states that have adopted them. And the two approaches, he suggests, might not be as different from each other as people think.

The idea of carving out local options for how to reach the standards is much-discussed, and I'm sure this is hardly the last we will hear of it. With more than 14,000 school districts in the U.S., and scads of people working on curriculum—or curricular "materials," "resources," "frameworks," "guidelines," and whatever other curriculum descriptors you want to name—this is bound to be a journey with many interesting developments.

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