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Georgia debate touches on the money, the politics and — sometimes — the education in public education

Georgia debate touches on the money, the politics and — sometimes — the education in public education
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In one of those curious, tenuous and usually quite temporary alliances that politics frequently produces, the two major party opponents for the position of state school superintendent in next year’s Georgia general election find themselves on the same side of a major education issue.

On the other side is the governor.

The issue isn’t a new one: It’s the perpetual and probably unresolvable debate over the proper role of standardized testing in determining not just a student’s level of academic achievement, but also how that student measures up against others around the state, nation and world.

The battle is drawn along familiar lines: Without baseline standards, say testing advocates, there is no coherent way to measure how an “A” student in Ellijay, Ga., measures against an “A” student in Grand Junction, Colo.

Overreliance on tests, goes the counterargument, results in teachers who “teach the test” and students who (sometimes) study it, and perhaps learn little or nothing else.

Both sides are right.

Representing Side A in this round is Gov. Nathan Deal who, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, isn’t a fan of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act which places a lower premium on standardized testing. On Side B are state Superintendent Richard Woods, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman. (Woods’ predecessor John Barge, also a Republican, likewise clashed with Deal on this issue.)

One of the subtexts in this debate, as it was with the failed 2016 constitutional amendment to give the state more authority over “failing” schools, is the matter of public vs. private interest. Among the changes Deal wants, the Banner-Herald reports, is “hiring companies to design and administer new standardized tests for children in the earliest grades, including kindergarten.” The newspaper noted that under the earlier and more test-intensive No Child Left Behind standards passed in the administration of President George W. Bush, 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.”

Instead of more testing, says GAE President Chapman, the Democrat, struggling schools need more skills training for parents, and better health care and screening for students.

Somewhere between turning public education in Georgia into a for-profit industry and turning it into a de facto DFCS outreach program, surely there must be a zone of effective and results-driven practicality. Let the debate continue.

Good riddance

If the exit door hit former CBS legal counsel Hayley Geftman-Gold on her way out, let’s hope it was swinging hard.

Geftman-Gold was the network exec who posted on Facebook that the Las Vegas massacre victims included “Republican gun toters” who deserve little or no sympathy. The sheer vicious ignorance of such dismissive assumptions about the lives, values and human worth of fellow Americans she never knew is beneath ugliness. Its toxic meanness is matched only by her apparent cluelessness that such poison would go viral in a digital media world.

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