Drastic Changes For Georgia Schools

I would ask the Georgia Department of Education, “Somewhere in Georgia is the worst school district in the state.  What is the Georgia Department of Education going to do about it?”  More money is not the answer.  Spending on education in Georgia has almost doubled per student over the last 20 years.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods might very well be as much a knob as Barge.  Woods has become more vocal about coming out against the Governor and the majority Republican legislature.  The Associated Press writes about the direction the Governor and state legislature are taking Georgia.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s education system could see some dramatic changes in the next two years, as Gov. Nathan Deal shifts his first-term focus on prisons and courts to education.

Voters will decide in November whether to approve Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over chronically failing schools. The state’s education and teacher organizations oppose the amendment and are gearing up for a fight.

Meanwhile, Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto a measure passed by the Georgia Legislature that would reduce the number of standardized tests that students must take and change the way teachers are evaluated.

Other measures may also gain traction in the next legislative session, including a new funding formula for state schools.

SCHOOL TAKEOVER

Perhaps the most contested portion of Deal’s education agenda is a constitutional amendment that would give a state-run district control over schools deemed “chronically failing.”

If passed by voters in the general election this November, the amendment would create an Opportunity School District (OSD) that would manage 20 failing schools per year, controlling no more than 100 at a time.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said in a statement that the potential creation of an OSD has spurred a new sense of urgency in communities and school districts, where many are focusing additional resources on improving failing schools.

The Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Chances (TRAGIC) opposes the amendment.

“This model simply gives up on communities and locally organized schools and its students and hands them over to someone else to manage,” spokesman John Palmer said.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods said he agrees that some schools may need some “intensive care,” but his chief concern remains “that we are doing our part to support them and not being an obstacle to their improvement.”

NEW FUNDING FORMULA

An issue that is sure to be on the calendar for the 2017 legislative session is an overhaul of the state school funding formula.

Lawmakers are expected to consider changes to the Quality Based Education (QBE) funding formula, which is viewed by many as outdated. Funding has been central to the education debate in Georgia, and Deal’s office asserts that changing the funding mechanism will benefit students.

Deal was expected to propose changes this year, but teacher organizations’ outcry prompted legislative leaders to question his strategy. Deal held off but told lawmakers he wants them to consider the issue in 2017.

Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said his organization supports a new funding formula, but will be closely examining the details.

A commission Deal appointed recommends that each district shift K-8 teachers to a pay scale based on student performance. The group also recommended that the state determine funding for schools based on individual students’ needs, factoring in poverty, grade level and enrollment in gifted or special education classes.

The group also advocated for more flexibility on testing, more support to charter schools and letting students advance grade levels when ready.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Sweeping reforms were approved to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by students, along with adjusting teacher and principal evaluations.

Education associations from across the state have supported the bill, calling for less stringent teacher evaluations that would allow them to dedicate more time to test preparation. Additionally, the bill would ease evaluations on high quality teachers, who would be rated as such by the state.

Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action by that date, the measure automatically becomes law.

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