GOP state superintendent candidates differ over fed standards, classroom time
by Rachel Gray
June 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 6616 views | 2 2 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Candidates for state school superintendent Richard Wood, left, and Mike Buck square off Saturday morning at the Cobb County Republican breakfast at Cobb GOP headquarters on Roswell Street. Both men will join other runoff candidates in a special election July 22 to see who will advance to the November general election. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Candidates for state school superintendent Richard Wood, left, and Mike Buck square off Saturday morning at the Cobb County Republican breakfast at Cobb GOP headquarters on Roswell Street. Both men will join other runoff candidates in a special election July 22 to see who will advance to the November general election.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — An hour-long debate Saturday between the Republican candidates for state superintendent focused on student assessments, with Richard Woods criticizing the classroom time given for testing and Michael Buck holding fast to the need for federal standards.

Woods, who said he has 22 years of education experience, beginning as student teacher at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, said teachers are not given enough time to evaluate students themselves based on classroom lessons.

Instead, Woods said, instruction time is interrupted too often in order for educators to “teach to the test.”

“To be honest, we test too much in our state,” Woods said.

Buck, who called himself a “career educator” with 31 years of experience at “all levels” in the education field, said testing is a needed “accountability measure ... to ensure what we are doing is working.”

As a former assistant principal, Buck said he approaches assessments the same as student discipline, by being firm, fair and consistent.

After beating seven other Republicans in the primary, Buck, acting chief of staff for current Superintendent John Barge, and Woods, a former high school social studies teacher from Tifton, will go head-to-head in a runoff election July 22.

In the general election on Nov. 3, the winner will challenge either former City of Decatur School Board Chair Valarie Wilson or state Rep. Alisha Thomas-Morgan of Austell, who will face off on the Democratic ticket.

Molly Bethune, who attended the monthly Republican breakfast Saturday morning to support a family member running for a different office, is a social studies teacher.

“The questions were very good and on point,” said Bethune, adding the candidates gave “substantive answers … which you don’t always expect from politicians.”

Although Bethune lives in Fulton County, much of her family lives in Cobb, and the debate for the statewide position struck a chord with her son, Josh, 16, who also attended the debate.

While attending public middle school, Josh Bethune said his class was constantly interrupted a week at a time for assessments that often did not match the curriculum the students were learning.

“I remember standardized testing was all the time,” Bethune said. “Then you returned to the previous lessons.”

Common Core debate continues

During the breakfast at the Cobb GOP headquarters on Roswell Street, Cobb Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy, who moderated the debate, said 90 percent of the questions he received ahead of time were about Common Core.

Although the Georgia General Assembly elected to keep Common Core curriculum, the decision remains a point of contention.

Supporters of Common Core say the initiative creates a consistent set of education standards across the country, proving helpful when families move from one state to the next.

Yet critics view Common Core as a federal assault on local control.

Others believe the “one-size-fits-all” standards are subpar to the Georgia Performance Standard.

Woods said the only good Common Core has achieved is engage Georgia residents in education policy.

“I can tell you across the state, the community is involved on the issue,” he said.

Otherwise, Woods said Common Core is inferior to how Georgia students are already asked to perform and is “not leading us where we need to be.”

In complete contrast, Buck said he supports the current standards, meaning the implementation of Common Core curriculum, and said by the end of 2012, the move toward these federal guidelines had shown positive results.

“They are working,” Buck said.

He added Gov. Nathan Deal, the Parent Teacher Association and 75 percent of educators support Common Core.

“The teachers and the students do not need us to rip up the standards and start anew,” Buck said.

Molly Bethune said selecting the winner of the debate depends on people’s stance on Common Core.

If a voter is in favor of Common Core, then Buck is the best candidate, Molly Bethune said, or even if the person thinks the federal standards are inevitable.

Emily Cook, of Cobb Republican Women, said she had not made a selection when arriving to the debate, but afterward said she would most likely be supporting Woods, who she views as more conservative.

“He says he is against Common Core,” Cook said. “That is a big factor.”

Georgia Milestones debate begins

The Georgia Department of Education announced Wednesday a new testing system, called the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, will be put in place for the 2014-15 school year.

The test will replace both the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and the End of Course Tests previously given to Georgia students. The state awarded a bid to McGraw-Hill to develop the new testing system at a cost of $107.8 million over five years, according to the state.

The new test system aligns with Common Core education standards adopted by 45 states and, according to the state, will be tougher than the tests it replaces. The state also says the test provides a consistent program across grades 3 through 12, whereas before, the CRCT was given to grades 3 through 8 and the EOCT was taken by high school students.

By the fifth year of implementation, Georgia Milestones will be administered entirely online. The new tests will require students to show and write out answers to questions, where the old tests were only multiple-choice.

Buck said the current tests were old and outdated, and it was necessary to align more with standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT that allow students to be compared not only nationally, but internationally.

“We had to move forward with a testing forum,” Buck said. “We have to raise the level of achievement and accountability in the state.”

Buck said the change was also a matter of proving results to taxpayers.

“We have to meet federal guidelines,” he said, or risk losing the $1 billion Georgia schools receive from the federal government.

Woods said a curriculum focused on standardized assessments takes away the right to direct education at the local level.

“I thoroughly reject the notion that we had to do this,” he said about Georgia Milestones. “This was an absolute waste.”

Woods said the implementation of Georgia Milestones also locks the state into Common Core instead of continuing the debate.

He disagreed with Buck saying support for Georgia Milestones is due to funding concerns, instead of focusing on what is needed for the students.

“We need to look at the relationship we have with the federal government,” said Woods, who called for an audit across the Georgia Department of Education to pinpoint spending that is unnecessary.

Meet the candidates:

Michael Buck

Age: 53

Occupations: Principal of Rome High School, Assistant Superintendent Rome City Schools, Chief of staff to State School Superintendent John Barge

Family: wife, Joy; twin 10-year-old daughters and 8-year-old son

Residence: Rome

Education: bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from University of Georgia in education

Richard Woods

Age: 51

Occupations: high school social studies teacher for fourteen years, school administrator for eight years, small business owner

Family: wife, Lisha Woods; no children

Residence: Tifton

Education: bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University in secondary education and social studies; master’s degree from Valdosta State University in educational leadership

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 08, 2014
These two are just more mindless drones who will not really do anything to change the badly administered state schools in Georgia. Teachers are being used as pawns so that upper level administrators can get paid, and get are being used to prove how great these "educators" are. I can assure you, neither of these men would know what to do if you put them in a classroom tomorrow. Homeschool your kid or put them in private school before things get even worse than they already are.
Huge problems
June 08, 2014
Common Core is great in theory. Every state is suppose to teach the same standards. Yet, there is no uniform calendar for when everything is taught. So far, we have not had one single child transfer from another state or county who has been on the same page. We were finished teaching fractions, but the had never started or heard of fractions. It is not working so far. In addition, computer based testing seems like a great idea, right. We don't have enough computers in the building, and they never work for an entire classroom. This is simply another passing project that will bleed us dry, and we will move on. Sad! What I do know, is please do not vote for Alisha Morgan! She and her husband are against public education, and blame the public for the black kids not passing. Education begins in the home Morgan!
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