(Professional Association of Georgia Educators) -- On Tuesday, November 13 at Twin Rivers Middle School in Buford, State Superintendent Dr. John Barge launched the "Georgia's Future. Now!" alongside J. Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent/CEO of Gwinnett County Public Schools; Jim Maran, CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce; Twin Rivers Principal Linda Boyd; and Georgia Teacher of the Year Lauren Eckman.
"Georgia's Future. Now!" is described by the Georgia Department of Education as a movement, not a mandate, of forward-thinking educators, supportive communities and business leaders answering the call for help from Georgia's students, teachers and parents for an education system that creates graduates that are ready for college and a career.
"It's a research-based initiative, born in the classroom – not in the boardroom – with living examples of what works for teachers to prepare all Georgia students for college and careers," said Superintendent Barge. "It's time to stop tearing down public education and start building it up. There are many things working well in our public schools – and plenty of things not working well – so we need to rally around the successes and build on those and share them with other schools."
The "Georgia's Future. Now!" movement is a package of initiatives has withstood the scrutiny of teachers, principals and researchers. It features high standards, evaluation and accountability measures focused on improvement, and career pathways to inspire students based on their personal interests and aligned with business needs. Three of the most important aspects of the movement include creating these career pathways, creating higher standards and creating pathways for better teaching.
Career pathways involve creating relevant, experiential learning based on an area of interest that prepares each student for the world of work, whether they choose to attend college or not. While college graduates are continuing to struggle finding jobs, there are also employers in many fields that are unable to find qualified and capable workers; these career pathways will create capable graduates that will be able to fill open jobs in this modern economy. Schools will be offering courses in high-demand areas which will in turn reward graduates with the skills needed for high-paying jobs. The ultimate goal of career pathways is to give children a sense of direction, focus and eagerness to attend school that teachers and parents will notice.
The second area of focus, higher standards, incorporates Georgia's role as a key player in the development of the Common Core State Standards. The Department of Education recognizes the need to create an even playing field across state lines. These higher standards will challenge students and elevate the level of teaching methods to meet the needs of the new global economy. Described as "rigor with relevance," these higher standards will not only test the knowledge of students, but it will also test how students can apply this knowledge in real-world situations.
Finally, better teaching will be created through a new process of providing teachers with multiple measures with deeper meaning to improve performance rather than a checklist of satisfactory or unsatisfactory. In order to achieve a better teaching environment, the Department of Education plans to understand what students learned and how much they grew throughout the school year rather than just what the teachers taught. Once strengths and areas for improvement are identified, the Department will then be able to offer tailored professional development and collaboration with colleagues. The implementation of the Teacher and Leader Keys Effectiveness Systems will allow each educator to identify exactly how he or she can improve student learning.
During the presentation, Dr. Barge and all of the speakers emphasized the importance of collaboration between schools and the business community. Equally as important, according to Jim Maran, is the importance of informing lawmakers of the importance of improving student achievement and influencing policy that will help achieve this goal.
To conclude the presentation, Dr. Barge presented a trailer for the "Modern Teacher" video web series as part of a new statewide campaign to help build community support for public education. This series will launch in January of 2013 and features a full cast of characters that will use comedy to present changes taking place in public education. Each episode will be followed by a serious roundtable discussion about the state's primary education initiatives.
SOURCE: Professional Association of Georgia Educators