Analysis: Georgia quick to leave 'No Child' law behind

Sunday, May 6, 2012 3:33 PM
Last updated 9:01 PM
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ATLANTA -- Given the chance, Georgia education officials wasted no time leaping to an alternative to the accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Under a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, this is the last academic year Georgia and nine other states will be subject to the student-performance measure that determines if each school is making adequate yearly progress.

As a result, students feeling spring fever aren’t the only ones counting down the remaining days of this school year.

Ironically, Georgia was one of the first states to embrace what become No Child Left Behind. When Roy Barnes was governor, he borrowed ideas enacted by George W. Bush during his time as Texas governor.

Texas was showing results closing the achievement gap between minority students and whites. Bush liked to say it was because educators were being held accountable for every student, not just the brightest.

The idea was to track test scores for every group of child by race, grade, gender, and handicap. None were to be swept aside.

From the start, the concept was controversial in Georgia. Business groups supported it. Education groups opposed it. In the long run, it became a factor in Barnes’ re-election defeat because teachers perceived his sales pitch as blaming them for the quality of Georgia’s schools.

Georgia had hardly begun implementing its education-reform law when Barnes was ousted, and his successor Sonny Perdue began repealing parts of it, especially teacher tenure that had gotten Barnes in so much hot water.

Perdue couldn’t erase all of it because Bush had become president, making education accountability his top policy goal before the 9/11 attacks. The president recruited U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to work with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to get the law passed since Isakson had once chaired Georgia’s State Board of Education.

So, the Peach State was committed to accountability.

Still, teachers chaffed at its rigidity. After all, standing in front of two-dozen kids every day requires being a little bit of a ham, and the people who become teachers tend to be more of a creative bent, which is why they didn’t become engineers or accountants.

What teachers prefer is to cover material at the pace of each class, adding elements that engage students and glossing over those that don’t. Then the tests are based on what was actually covered.

Under No Child Left Behind, the tests are based on what the school board determines is supposed to be covered to prepare students for the next grade.

Teachers found that getting to all the material meant omitting those fun, engagement projects and sticking to the text. It left less room for creativity, and teachers weren’t happy.

They talked about “teaching to the test,” suggesting that adherence to the state’s prescribed curriculum was a bad thing. They also complained of “too many tests” because they continued to give students the traditional exams over what was actually covered for grading purposes in addition to the required, standardized tests which could have been used for grading.

Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools John Barge has overseen the creation of the state’s alternative measurement tool to the tests required by No Child Left Behind. After hundreds of hours of discussions around the state with teachers and others, he came up with the inelegantly named Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index.

“We are not shirking from accountability,” he said. “I have not come across an educator in this state afraid of accountability. But what they want is to be held accountable for bulk of the work that they do, not just a single test score.”

The index is a 0-100 annual score for each school. While it includes test results, it also factors like graduation rate and “post high school readiness.”

Ten of the 19 elements in the high-school index come from the readiness category. That includes percentage of students completing career, technical and agricultural education “pathways,” or essentially three or four courses useful for one of a 10 broad career areas.

Schools get extra points for students who earn career certificates, like one for nursing assistants or carpentry, those who do well on college-level courses and for those who score over a 1550 on the SAT.

Where No Child Left Behind sought to be transformative in prodding educators to do something different, the new index is rooted in the desire to measure schools on what they already do. In other words, schools are no long expected to radically change, just get better at what they currently do.

It represents a swing of the pendulum, giving the education system a breather from a decade under No Child, a law Barge describes as needed.

“Absolutely, it was the right thing to do, the necessary thing to do, and we see a lot of progress here in Georgia,” he said.

However, when the school bell rings in the fall, No Child will have gone with the wind, and schools will return to improving on what they’ve always done.

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Dr. Craig Spinks.Georgians for Educational Excellence
106
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Any disinterested, attentive

Any disinterested, attentive attendee at Tuesday's Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education's(www.gpee.org) May Forum at the G-P Auditorium in Atlanta had to be impressed with John's Barge's leadership skills and his "meaning business" about cleaning up the mess that is GAPubEd.

corgimom
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corgimom 05/06/12 - 06:17 pm
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NCLB was dreadful, it needed

NCLB was dreadful, it needed to be left behind. It is unfair, and unreasonable, to expect small children to be tested. The pressure that is put on them is terrible. Thank God it's gone! Now for the rest of the states...

avidreader
3222
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avidreader 05/07/12 - 06:04 am
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One side note: The

One side note: The ObamaBucks are flowing in MASS quantities in Richmond County. The "Race to the Top" is simply another waste of precious funds, considering the money comes with strict guidelines and forces our county to adopt curriculum procedures that once again push our educators into boxes and does not allow a seasoned professional any discression in initiating creative techniques, unless one considers graphic organizers as creativity.

Principals now have to account for eight to ten pages of yearly evaluations for each teacher. What a crock! -- "Teacher Keys", and the massive training time to absorb all of the details. Plus, teachers are being pulled from their classrooms to attend training sessions that once-upon-a-time were conducted on Staff Development days. It's cheaper to hire a sub than to pay the teacher for an extra day.

Some educators will differ with my view, but every time the feds start doling out massive amounts of money, the strings attached soon become ropes.

Dr. Craig Spinks.Georgians for Educational Excellence
106
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2
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When was the last time that

When was the last time that the GDOE and each local GA public school system were subjected to financial and personnel audits by competent, disinterested, out-of-state entities whose unredacted reports were published in legal organs throughout the state?

My hunch: Never.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/07/12 - 08:18 am
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Government By Waiver is the

Government By Waiver is the model of the Obama Administration. It comes right out of Josef Stalin's model. First, set up strict laws and policies that concentrate power in a centralized state, run by bureaucrats. Second, grant waivers from those laws and policies to croneys whom you court for support.

Liberty becomes smashed like a bug.

YeCats
10789
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YeCats 05/07/12 - 09:09 am
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Good for Georgia! Next

Good for Georgia! Next step, do not accept any FED monies. Get the FED out of education.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 05/07/12 - 10:09 am
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Excellent observation at 8:18

Excellent observation at 8:18 by LL.

Little Lamb
46040
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Little Lamb 05/07/12 - 11:33 am
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Thank you, and good morning,

Thank you, and good morning, Willow. Hey, they've got my photo over on the "spotted at Arts in the Park" feature. They didn't get my good side, though.

:-)

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 05/07/12 - 02:06 pm
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Sorry I had to miss it,

Sorry I had to miss it, because of an appt., but I met a little girl who had a Rose tattoo and glittered hair. She said I missed a very good time! I will check out that photo later.

raul
4893
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raul 05/07/12 - 04:25 pm
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@LittleLamb

O.K. give us a clue, which one is you?

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