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    Organization: Georgia Association of Educators     Date: 12/16/2017

 

  Dr. Sid Chapman Says GAE Is Not In Favor Of ESSA Changes  
 

(Tuesday,11/14/2017 ©  The Summerville News)

Dr. Sid Chapman, President of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), was in Chattooga County last week and said that the GAE was not in favor of the changes requested by Gov. Nathan Deal that removes aspects of Georgia’s current ESSA [Every Student Succeeds Act] plan.

Chapman was on the panel that put the plan together and when they submitted the plan to the governor he stated that there was not enough testing for students K-2.

“They do not start testing until the third grade,” Dr. Chapman said. “He said that it raised the scores for the schools and had fewer failing schools. That is what they want. This whole thing is about privatization.”

If the school are termed failing and not making adequate progress, then they turn them into a private charter.

“If you look at all these politicians that are pushing all of this – follow the money.”

“GAE has been fighting what we call ‘toxic testing’ for many years,” he said. "What Gov. Deal is asking could take us back to the days of over-use and over-emphasis of high-stakes standardized testing that had become ‘toxic' to our students. The open input period from which Georgia citizens, including thousands of teachers, commented and participated in feedback sessions and online surveys, clearly indicated they wanted to move on from that requirement. Georgia’s plan is truly one put together by Georgians, for Georgians, and it should maintain the integrity of that originality of thought. The plan meets specific needs that our schools need to maximize the opportunities for positive growth and achievement among our students.“

Chapman pointed to aspects such as removing key indicators for student attendance; the inclusion of a well-rounded education that includes the arts and physical education; career, technical and agricultural education and world languages; and AP and IB as a step backwards in how we want our children to be educated. “Georgia is beginning to make positive strides as shown by our recent ACT and SAT scores. We neither want to slow, stop nor reverse this momentum at this point,” he said.

The GAE is working with the Georgia Legislature in getting the funding lost during the 14 years of the austerity cuts.

“It is a high priority for us,” Dr. Chapman said. “We probably won’t get it all back. We will be calling for full funding in next year’s legislature.”

He said that rural school districts like Chattooga and Trion are impacted more than their counterparts in bigger cities and towns.

“Many of our rural school districts are especially impacted by funding, which is why the legislature must update the state funding formula,” said Chapman. “We simply must address the impact of high poverty in our schools wherever that may be. We know this has a direct impact on schools’ learning environments and consequently those children’s ability to concentrate and grasp their lessons. However, we must begin associating the funding with the specific and different needs between rural and urban schools.”

He said that the state had hired someone that is not directly answerable to the State School Superintendent and makes much more money than the superintendent.

“We take a real exception to that,” Dr. Chapman said.

The new education man hired is only answerable to the board appointed by the governor.

He said that a lot of the schools that are failing in Georgia are in high poverty areas. A lot of the families are every transient, moving from one district to another which affects the test scores.

“It is a social problem,” he added.

He said that Fulton County and Atlanta Public Schools don’t have enough money to get through the year.

“Payroll - they will have to get loans to do that,” Dr. Chapman added.

Most school systems have gone back to 180 days instruction. Money was given back to the systems, he added.

“With all the waivers, it is a Catch-22, “Dr. Chapman explained. “It gives you local control in a lot of ways and then they waive out a lot of things – all the good stuff like lower numbers in classrooms.”

He said the state has waived it to 30, 35 and in some cases 40 students to a classroom; add an extra period for teachers to make a longer day; all of the testing - teachers can’t even make up their own tests – every test question has to come from a bank of questions that go along with the test.”

Dr. Chapman said with the new charter program at the state for schools, it seems like they are re-segregating schools.

“When you look at the more urban areas, and you get further south you have more minorities,” He continued. “Our belief is that every student should have a good education regardless. If you adequately fund the schools, you are going to have better opportunities.”

He said that schools just can’t function without bus drivers, lunchroom workers, custodians and paraprofessionals and that their benefits any pay needs to be addressed.

“If you regard educators and education as important and treat them like professionals and be able to use their creativity and all the skills they are not able to use – the average life is five years now for teachers – they might go on further.”

He said that education was a challenge and he hoped it would get better.

“Teachers and students ought to have shared responsibility,” Dr. Chapman said.

He reiterated the need for smaller class sizes for a better learning environment.

LEARNING

ENVIRONMENTS

Our schools’ learning environments play a large role in how well our students excel Dr. Chapman said. “While there are so many moving parts to creating a successful school, a key factor remains creating an environment that is safe, nurturing and supportive for both students and teachers. This ensures educators have the maximum opportunity to prepare for, reach, and teach their students.”

“Our most successful public schools and systems have instilled manageable class sizes and duty-free planning time for teachers along with appropriate disciplinary procedures and academic standards,” Chapman added. “Running a school is like running a microcosm of society. For it to be successful you need the administrative support to ensure as many aspects as possible are being addressed. In today’s schools this includes ensuring equity in the administration of classroom resources, including access to technology.”

To these points he said the GAE supports the consensus of research which indicates that class size reduction in the early grades leads to higher student achievement, and the significant effects of class size reduction on student achievement appear when class size is reduced to between 15 and 20 students.