It’s rare that this site will ever be used to heap praise on anyone. I would say “on anyone other than me”, but…well, nevermind.
At any rate, in a speech late last week to the Vinings Bank, state School Superintendent John Barge took on Georgia’s conventional reputation as a spit tune of a state for public education, and outlined coming changes to high school structure, part of his plan to reduce Georgia’s traditionally high dropout rate.
Georgia is frequently derided as being the 48th worst state for public education in the nation, just a step above college football rivals who shall not be named. The basis? Numbers based solely off SAT scores that serve as easy-throwing bombs for talking heads who never walked through the door of a public school in Georgia.
Of course, here is where I, naturally, mention that 80 percent of Georgia’s students take the SAT test. This number runs in contrast to the “Top 10 states’, where the maximum sits at a whopping 9 percent.
Not to make the talking heads (not named me) look bad or anything, but there’s also that little nugget where, when Georgias top 5 percent of test takers are compared with the number one state in the nation, where only 5 percent of students take the standardized barometer, the average score is 195 points higher.
But we can’t defy traditional logic, right?
Barge mentioned all of this in his speech. But where did he begin? Oh, yeah. That’s right. With other studies that examine a much wider range of parameters for determining the quality of a state’s public education system, not just standardized test scores.
“Education Week” is a publication that uses a blistering 129 areas to determine the true quality of public education for a given state. Under such study, Georgia’s public education system ranks 7th, a whole 41 spots better than many would have you to believe.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am by no means saying that there couldn’t be improvement, and neither was Barge. But I, like anyone with a shred of common-sense (yes, I’m bestowing that title upon myself; it is my blog), appreciate an officeholder willing to tred beyond talking points and into the serious wonkiness of education policy.
Like I said, there could always be improvement. Superintendent Barge said the same thing himself. For my two cents, I can’t refrain from being of the mindset that the better end of the statistics are probably skewed towards metro-Atlanta, and away from the rural side of things. I also think it is important to that the state not become dragged down in a one-size fits all policy on matters of public education. That experiment utterly failed students, in the form of standardized testing, and, in this not so bashful writer’s mind, it will fail rural school systems if given greater credence.
Which provides an excellent segway into the second aspect of Barge’s talk, the College and Career Ready Initiative, which his office is set to implement come fall 2013. Per the words straight from proverbial the horse’s mouth, the plan is designed to serve as more of an organizational model for future high school education, rather than a complete overhaul requiring more spending and government oversight.
The mission? Reduce high school dropout rates. The plan? Provide 17-ish “career paths” for students to pick from upon entry to high school. In turn, the courses they take, and the requirements for graduating, will be built around placing the student into learning environments about a field they are interested in, want to learn more about and will, hopefully, continuing studying further in a post-secondary format, be that college or technical school.
A “gnat line apologist’s” thoughts? Hell yes. Questions definitely remain, and I don’t have all of the answers (or questions, for that matter) stored in my teacher’s clipboard, but I do think this Initiative has potential to provide a key step in lowering dropout rates while better prepping students for their field of choice.
I await further details with the eagerness of someone who survived a Jimmy Buffett concert on Saturday.
Full disclosure: I didn’t vote for John Barge in the GOP primary last go round. I did in November and, thus far, I’ve enjoyed watching the direction he’s shifting the focus towards when it comes to public education in Georgia.