Georgia graduation drop predicted

New state superintendent says math grades push the decline

 ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia's high school graduation rates will dip in the next couple of years, partly because so many students are failing math, state Schools Superintendent John Barge said Tuesday.


"(Georgia) has an inordinately large number of students who have not passed Math I and Math II," Barge told nearly 300 people at a meeting of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders in the Classic Center. "That's going to play havoc with graduate rates next year."

The federal government has ordered states to calculate graduation rates using a new formula, which also will send graduation rates down, he said.

Barge outlined how he and his staff plan to fix math, saying if state and local educational officials don't act to solve the problem, the legislature will.

The state will allow school districts to back off the new "integrated" curriculum and return to the traditional way of teaching math, dividing it up into traditional areas such as algebra 1, statistics and geometry, he said.

 The state Board of Education also has approved counting supplemental math courses as core courses to keep students on track for graduation, he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal also spoke at the GAEL session Tuesday morning, promising to give school systems more choice in how they teach, if they can show those methods work.

"We give you the flexibility; you show us you can achieve the results," Deal said, encouraging the educators to think in new ways.

"I think it's important that all of you be part of the evolution of education in our state," Deal said, touting the charter school approach.

"We have seen great progress resulting from our charter schools," he said.

Georgia ranks low on many measures of education, but with innovation can do much better, he said.

"We are on the verge, I think, of being able to do great things. We can change this. If we work together, we certainly can," Deal said.

Deal also warned that upcoming changes in the state's HOPE Scholarship will affect public schools.

"It will impact you in terms of whether your graduates are going to be eligible," he said. "We have far too many of our young people (on HOPE) having to take remedial courses in college."

The state should not be spending HOPE money on remedial classes, he said.

One legislator's idea to use some of Georgia's federal "Race to the Top" grant money to replace textbooks with iPads or similar devices in struggling schools is at least "interesting," Deal said after his talk to the educators.

"I think it's going to be one of the coming trends," he said.

Georgia will receive about $400 million from the federal government over four years, about half going to 26 individual school systems, about half to the state for statewide improvement projects.

Deal also is happy that Georgia is one of 42 states that have agreed to a common core curriculum.

But the states must also develop a common test to measure how well students have mastered the new curriculum, Barge said.



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