Sunday, June 1, 2008

Barnes Draws a Map for School Success

I'm not sure whether it's myth, legend or the truth, but the story goes that soon after Barnes was elected Governor, he was at a meeting with Governors from other states. They were asked how many major initiatives they hoped to achieve during their first term. Most indicated one or maybe two. Barnes was more ambitious, hoping to take on several new initiatives with education reform at the top of the list. He was cautioned not to try to do too much, or he could be a one term Governor. Well, we already know the end of that story, and judging from Perdue's ability to maintain high approval ratings despite doing little other than building boat ramps, I'd guess that there was political wisdom in the caution. People say they want change, but, when it comes down to it, change is a hard sell.

Today, Barnes and Perdue have dueling editorials in the AJC. Barnes offers clear, common sense solutions for our schools, suggesting that even if we have to scape the gold off the dome to improve our schools, it would be well worth the investment. He is exactly right and offers a clear road map for success. It's ironic that teachers, more than flaggers, defeated Barnes. That, in my opinion had much more to do with the "how" of his education reform than the "what" of the now infamous HB1187.

Perdue, on the other hand, blusters about partisanship and yet spends most of the op-ed damning Democrats. And, despite the recent test scores we've all heard so much about, he actually seems to be defending the status quo. Imagine, defending Georgia's SAT scores! I believe that we are holding steady at 46th in the county. Now, there's something to crow about. Here's what the AJC reported in 2007:

A year after Gov. Sonny Perdue crowed about Georgia's climb from the bottom of the SAT barrel, the state's overall scores fell five points to 1472.The good news for Georgia's ranking? Everybody else in the nation did worse, too. Nationally, average math, reading and writing SAT scores fell seven points to 1511, according to the College Board."While we never like to gain ground by allowing our scores to go down, Georgia was again able to close the gap with the national average, continuing a positive trend for the sixth year in a row," the governor said in a statement.

And, here's what Gov. Perdue had to say today:

We have also funded programs that better prepare our students for the SAT, and since 2003, the gap between Georgia and the national average on the verbal and math sections has shrunk by 14 points. From 2003-2007, Georgia's verbal and math scores have increased by 5 points while the average across the country has dropped by 9 points.
If you're dizzy from the spin, join the crowd. We need leadership that actually values public education. If you don't believe me, ask the parents of all the 8th graders who are headed for summer school.