Georgia Could Make The SAT A Casualty Of Its Common Core Paranoia

If you've spent any time at all reading up on recent trends in education policy, you probably know: Common Core State Standards Initiative -- the most recent offering from the "standards and accountability" set, which would establish consistent curriculum parameters in English and math and dictate expectations for students nationwide -- so hot right now! I don't claim to be an expert on this policy, but based upon what I've read and conversations I've had with educators, I'm convinced that Common Core is worthy of a rational debate.

Unfortunately for everyone, this is America, and we don't exactly do rational debates anymore. And so the bleeding-edge Common Core criticism is mostly emanating from the same paranoid fringe that shows up at your local county board meeting to denounce the plan to build a bike path or expand a recycling program as a one-world government "Agenda 21" conspiracy. Many state governments also include lawmakers who treat the Common Core as some sort of stealthy socialist takeover, so when it comes time to craft policies on the matter, things can get pretty entertainingly dicey.

One such state government is the laboratory of democracy known as Georgia. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Maureen Downey reports, "In capitulating to extremists who consider Common Core the work of the devil and/or Barack Obama, the state Senate passed a bill last week that isolates Georgia from the rest of our nation." And one other thing it isolates Georgia from, potentially, are those standardized tests that are critical to getting into college.

At issue here is Georgia Senate Bill 167, which has passed that chamber and will be voted on by the state House this week, before landing on Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's desk. As Downey relates, the bill has strayed from its original intention, i.e., an outright ban on the Common Core. Instead, it sets up a "review of the standards."

At first blush, this seems pretty anodyne. However, Downey goes on to note that "senators should have read the 18-page bill a little more closely as it still contains plenty of bad stuff, including a prohibition on embracing any new content or tests that even smack of national standards." The relevant language reads like so:

On and after the effective date of this Code section, the state shall not adopt any federally prescribed content standards or any national content standards established by a consortium of states or a third party, including, but not limited to, the Next Generation Science Standards, the National Curriculum for Social Studies, the National Health Education Standards, or the National Sexuality Standards.

Lord only knows what National Sexuality Standards are, or how well we as a nation are meeting them (I suspect not well). The more salient concern is: What about those Scholastic Aptitude Tests that everyone has to take to get into college? Downey continues:

Another unintended consequences of SB 167 could be a ban on critical national tests. The bill mandates all testing be controlled by the state. Some education experts worry that the broad language could prohibit the administration of International Baccalaureate exams, Advanced Placement tests, the SAT and the ACT -- tests students in Duluth and Johns Creek need to get into college.

"In my reading of the bill, it bans assessments that are not created within or by Georgia," says Dr. Dana Rickman, policy and research director for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and former director of research and policy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"What about AP, SAT and ACT? Are we not going to use them anymore? The bill doesn't allow for assessments or standards based on any multi-state consortiums," says Rickman. "That means we are not allowed to use the SAT or the ACT because they are based on Common Core."

Soooo, this is something that the Georgia legislature is probably going to want to rethink, especially considering recent reports that "more employers are making applicants provide SAT or ACT scores years or even decades after taking the test," for reasons well beyond my understanding.

Of course, if you refrain from leaping headfirst into the closest paranoid fever-swamp in the first place, maybe this law-making business is the sort of thing one tries to think all the way through.

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