All the candidates for governor are being invited to share their education views with Get Schooled readers. As each piece comes in and is published here, it will be added to a category called Governor 2010. I urge you to read all the pieces.
Here is what GOP candidate Jeff Chapman submitted:
By Jeff Chapman
It is a fact of life that today’s children must have access to a first-rate education if they are to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to compete successfully in a modern, technological society.
It is also true that the quality of education in America, Georgia included, has, in too many cases, not kept pace with the demands of an increasingly complex world. High drop-out rates, low scores on achievement tests and poor classroom discipline are just some of the signs indicating that we must do better in preparing today’s youth for success in college and the workforce.
What are some of the steps we could take to promote quality education and help ensure that every Georgia student has the opportunity to succeed?
To begin with, we must recognize that the best of intentions for improving education may amount to little if unruly students are allowed to disrupt the classroom, interfere with learning, and diminish the authority of teachers. I’m not referring to isolated incidents of students acting up but serious misbehavior and acts of violence that affect too many of Georgia’s schools. This is a significant and complex problem. It doesn’t have a single cause and there isn’t a quick fix for it. I believe we can, however, improve discipline in our schools if all stakeholders – teachers, parents and administrators – make this goal a top priority, day in and day out, week after week throughout the school year, and work collaboratively with students in laying down clear rules and the consequences of misbehavior. Children’s respect for legitimate authority and acceptance of accountability for their own actions are not just a matter of behaving in class; they are ethics with lasting application beyond the school ground.
Second, the micromanagement of Georgia education through a bewildering system of federal, state and local mandates wastes precious resources, limits teacher creativity, and reduces the ability of teachers and principals to focus on their core mission – the education of our state’s youth. Rather than holding schools accountable for complying with rules, procedures, and mandates, they need to be held accountable for measurable student outcomes. The most efficient, productive and cost-effective way to accomplish this goal is to replace top-down, bureacratic micromanagement of individual schools with site-based decision-making and localized systems of accountability that actually work. Put simply, a community’s teachers, administrators and parents are in a far better position to identify their school’s needs and add measurable value to the learning process than an educrat in Washinton or Atlanta who confuses quality education with school compliance with mounds of regulations.
Third, if we are to raise the standard of education and narrow the gap between student potential and academic performance, we need to take full advantage of Georgia’s top schools and most talented teachers by further promoting the sharing of best practices and exemplary learning programs among educators across the state. Establishing a clearinghouse of the best and brightest ideas in Georgia education and providing the means to broadcast this resource to the educational community would be a positive step in this direction. We could also provide the means for master teachers to mentor new ones, and for schools of excellence to mentor schools seeking improvement. In sum, by facilitating ways for the best of the best to become models for the rest, we can encourage the systematic replication of success stories in Georgia education.
Fourth, at a time when taxpayer dollars are stretched to the max and educators are being called upon to do more with less, we should try to identify ways for schools to control costs, reduce overhead and make their operations more efficient so that every possible dollar can be moved to the classroom. Simple steps, such as the automation of administrative functions to reduce paper shuffling and labor hours; full use of competitive bidding to ensure that high-quality supplies, equipment and services are purchased at the lowest price; and promoting more efficient cash-flow management, including wise investment of cash being held for long-term use can make the difference in hiring an extra teacher, keeping class size small, or providing additional help for students performing below grade level.
There are, of course, other initiatives that might benefit education, and there will always be differences of opinion over how best to improve our schools, but I think we can all agree that providing Georgia’s youth with the knowledge and skills required of critical thinking citizens, productive workers and competent leaders is a task we must master. With a collaborative effort, creative thinking, hard work and persistence, I believe we can meet this challenge and make our public schools among America’s best.