ATLANTA — Georgia’s policies on public education earned it a grade of C- and a ranking of 14th among all states in a report card issued today by StudentsFirst, a national organization that advocates for school reforms.
The organization, which has approximately 70,000 Georgia members, assigned grades for 10 policy areas that it supports. It gave Georgia an “A” for its new system of teacher evaluations, the only state getting top marks in this area.
But the evaluators gave the Peach State an F because teachers can’t move their pensions to private schools or other states, and another F because the state doesn’t notify parents when students are assigned to a weak teacher or give them the option to move their students to a better one.
The group was also critical of Georgia’s “financial efficiency,” restrictions against hiring teachers without formal education training and salary schedule that’s based on experience and college degrees instead of student performance.
“One of the most glaring things is trying to figure out how spending is done,” said the group’s state director, Bradford Swann.
He said schools systems and the state should prepare reports so that parents can easily see where their tax money is going.
Much of the group’s emphasis has been on merit pay for teachers and school choice for parents. And the report card reflects that approach rather than measuring how well students perform.
Swann argues that students are beginning to excel in states like Tennessee and the District of Columbia that have implemented many of the policies StudentsFirst support. The organization’s founder, Michelle Rhee, gained national attention when she headed the D.C. schools.
“There’s not a ton of data out there, but you can look at where Tennessee and D.C. rank and make the argument that if you follow the principles that are outlined in our report card, student performance will follow,” Swann said.
In a separate report card released Friday by Education Week that was based on student performance, Georgia ranked 17th.
“The report that Education Week produces shows a marked difference from the stereotype most people think of with Georgia’s K-12 Achievement,” said State School Superintendent John Barge. “When looking at more than one indicator, it is clear that Georgia’s students are performing at higher levels than many of their peers across the nation, especially those in the other southeastern states.”
Education Week, a magazine for teachers, compared scored on a national standardized test. It highlighted Georgia’s accomplishments in fourth-grade math scores and the shrinking “achievement gap” between students of different ethnic groups in the eighth grade, two measures that each ranked fifth in the nation. It also credited Georgia for improving its graduation rate and for the scores high schoolers earn on advanced-placement tests.
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