Deal wrong to push more standardized tests, says leader of educators group

Sid Chapman

Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman hopes to unseat state School Superintendent Richard Woods in next year’s general election. But he’s on Woods’ side in the latest dispute between Woods and Gov. Nathan Deal: Georgia students need less standardized testing, not more.

 

Woods last month released the Georgia Department of Education’s proposed plan to comply with new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act. The plan, which de-emphasizes standardized testing to measure student progress and teacher performance, has been generally well received by organizations that represent public school teachers and administrators. But Deal has said he doesn’t approve of it, calling for changes that include hiring companies to design and administer new standardized tests for children in the earliest grades, including kindergarten.

But the governor is wrong in that, just as Deal was in his failed effort to get a constitutional amendment passed to give the governor control of so-called “failing schools,” said Chapman, who visited Athens this week.

“I’m glad that he hasn’t backed down from the governor,” Chapman said of Woods. Deal and Woods are both Republicans, but Woods has pushed back against Deal’s efforts to gain more control over state schools. Deal also came into conflict with Woods’ predecessor, John Barge.

Chapman plans to run as a Democrat.

The federal Every Child Succeeds Act, passed early in the administration of President George W. Bush, put heavy emphasis on standardized testing. But Georgia went even further under Deal’s administration, requiring more than 40 tests and giving companies multimillion-dollar contracts to design, administer and score them. That’s now down into the 20s, although the state’s battery of standardized tests still exceeds what federal law requires.

An agenda underlies Deal’s criticisms, according to Chapman — turning public dollars over to private companies brought in to run the “failing schools.”

What struggling schools need are things like adequate health care and health screening for children and parenting-skills training for their mothers and fathers, not testing or privatization, Chapman said.

Chapman is also troubled by the way another recent state education law is playing out. Two years ago, Georgia school systems had to choose between three options for the future: they could remain traditional systems bound by the normal state laws and regulations, or choose one of two options that would allow them to waive certain requirements, including limits to class sizes, teacher training requirements and pay rewards for additional training.

Some school districts are using those waivers to avoid giving teachers the pay raises approved by the legislature last year, and school districts are also using waivers to hire inadequately trained people because they can pay them less, Chapman said.

And other waivers, like allowing larger class sizes, clearly are harmful to children’s learning, he said.

“What people are not having now is equity,” Chapman said.

These new challenges come after years of cuts in state funding to education, still not completely restored, he said.

“It’s just one challenge after another. There’s a movement to destroy public education,” Chapman said.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

 

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