Something happened in College Park Wednesday night that hasn’t really garnered much attention but should be front-page news. Thanks to the College Republicans at Morehouse College, I was able to participate in a panel* focused on how to constructively respond to recent police shootings of black males and the violence and protests that have followed.
Diego Aponte, President of the Morehouse College Republicans, said it best when he said that, while protests are necessary at times to raise awareness of a problem that’s going unaddressed, the real question is whether we know what can and should be done to solve the problem.
While much of the discussion centered around ways the public can hold police officers accountable for their actions and how police can more effectively engage with the communities they serve – through things like actually living in the community or regularly interacting with community members – a significant amount of time focused on the systemic problems that are limiting opportunities for young African-American males.
Because of our work at GCO, the topics that kept coming up were not new to us – lack of a quality educational options, limited access to employment, and epidemic levels of family instability. Each problem, in its own way, chips away at the ability of an individual to succeed in life. Together, they can virtually insure that a person experiences poverty and all of the social pathologies – including crime – that come with it.
After a discussion that continued for the better part of three hours, a group of us agreed to come together again, but this time for the express purpose of plotting out the concrete actions we must take to change the status quo in Georgia on these issues.
Like a lot of the people I talk to, I am very worried for our country on many fronts. That said, the discussion that took place last night gives me hope that we still have what it takes – the intelligence, the candor, the faith, and the goodwill – to turn things around.
Many thanks to Leo Smith for the invitation to take part.
*Other panelists included Douglas County Solicitor General, Matthew Krull; Georgia GOP Director of Minority Engagement, Leo Smith; GAGOP First Vice Chairman and former Police Officer, Michael McNeely; Douglas County Police Chief Gary Spark; Retired Law Enforcement Trainer Darrin Bell; Conservative Talk Show Host and Political Commentators, Shelley Wynter and Attorney Robert Pattillo; Morehouse College Republicans Chairman, Diego Aponte; Spelman College student leaders, and Pastor Joel L. Trout.
Six years ago, supporters of the national Common Core academic standards thought they had the formula to measure student success. Under the Common Core, states would agree to teach the same material in the same sequence to all students. The ensuing tests would measure all students according to the same material. We would track the results and compare student achievement across the country.
If only teaching children was so simple.
As centrally-planned policies are prone to do, the Common Core unraveled. South Carolina and Oklahoma left the standards citing, among other things, “federal intrusion” and vowed to replace the standards with better content. A group of states that agreed to offer the same test to students lost half of its state members by 2015. Three months ago, New Jersey had to postpone all student testing in grades 3-11 because the Pearson Education’s testing software malfunctioned.
Then came the Gates Foundation’s admission earlier this year that the Common Core isn’t ready and the “foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required.” The foundation’s mea culpa is significant because of the organization’s commitment to national standards and the associated financial support.
Despite this morass, some in Georgia still claim that alternatives to national standards and testing will cause more problems than pressing ahead with the Common Core. Most parents would agree that “whether they come from a civilian or military family, all children deserve to be held to high, consistent academic expectations that fully prepare them to succeed after high school.”
Yet there are other—and better—ways to do this than national standards.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education approved New Hampshire’s pilot project to administer the Common Core tests in fewer grades and use the SAT for high schoolers. Students will have ongoing projects during the school year to measure learning. Education leaders in states like Indiana are considering this alternative.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2544 this year, which allows public schools to choose from a “menu” of tests to measure student progress. Rep. Paul Boyer, chair of the House Education Committee, and Sen. Sylvia Allen, chair of the Senate Education Committee, led the legislative effort.
Schools should be allowed to choose from existing national norm-referenced achievement tests like the Stanford series of tests or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. This way, schools could use a test that aligns with what they already teach—not curriculum imposed from somewhere else—and, because the tests are nationally normed, the scores could be compared across schools.
Critically, district and charter schools would have the same autonomy to choose what and how to teach while still measuring achievement in a comparable way across localities. The Common Core didn’t deliver, so Georgia lawmakers should be looking for solutions like those in Arizona and New Hampshire.