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New Georgia school math standards roll out for comment

March 25, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — New Georgia math standards billed as a removal of the multistate Common Core standards and a return to teacher freedom are making their debut for public comment. The state’s 1.7 million public school students will likely see the results in classrooms in the 2022-2023 school year.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to post the standards for public comment, after a yearlong delay blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

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People involved in the rewrite say the new standards are clearer and more understandable, less reliant on academic language, and include examples of what students should know and how teachers might instruct them.

It’s a big and expensive change, requiring new textbooks and instructional materials and new state standardized tests in grades 3-8 and high school. The Georgia Department of Education plans to spend a whole year retraining teachers.

Common Core was an effort to write academic standards to be shared by all 50 states that would enable students to learn more analytically and less by memorization. With the support of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, Georgia joined 45 other states a decade ago in adopting Common Core-inspired guidelines for what each grade’s students should learn in math and English language arts.

That change set off fierce criticism as some parents struggled to adjust to the “new math.” President Barack Obama’s administration was accused of wielding improper federal influence and making other undesirable changes to traditional math teaching methods.

Georgia’s new standards will mean traditional methods of computation will always be acceptable, and that state test results will depend only on students getting the right answer, according to Matt Jones, chief of staff for state Superintendent Richard Woods.

State officials are hoping it will bring an end to complaints from parents that students weren’t allowed to solve problems the way previous generations were taught.

“It disenfranchised our parents when little Johnny went home and they were trying to get help with their homework or help from their parent, and their parent was trying to show them a certain strategy to answer the problem,” Jones said. “Oftentimes the kids said ‘Well, our teacher says we can’t use it.’ It wasn’t the teacher’s fault, it was the state’s fault.”

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But districts will still have the freedom to teach other ways of thinking about numbers, before children jump straight into traditional arithmetic, said Kim Conley, a Lee County teacher who is the president of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

“There are different ways you can teach, and you don’t have to use all of those strategies,” Conley said.

Other changes may be apparent in the core high school math sequence of algebra I, geometry and algebra II. Jones said universities have helped to shape the new standards, with more emphasis on statistics and data literacy. The change could help students make better choices about their fourth required high school math course, he said.

“They’re interested in using the algebra II and geometry courses as kind of more of exploratory courses within those disciplines,” Jones said. “You might see how statistics fit in what you’re learning with algebra or some other concepts.”

Teachers were extensively involved in the rewrite, Conley said, and Jones said the new state tests prove this was a much more intensive process than changes in 2015. Critics said that effort, producing the renamed Georgia Standards of Excellence, resulted in only minor changes meant to whitewash the political unpopularity of Common Core.

The public has at least a month to weigh in on the results, although state Superintendent Richard Woods told board members Wednesday that he’s willing to listen and make possible changes if there is substantial criticism.

“I am not on a timetable with this set of standards,” Woods said. “My job is to make sure we offer the very best for students.”

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.