State school chiefs: Republican John Barge would cut waste in DOE

Candidate John Barge

Republican candidate John Barge

The AJC asked John Barge, state school superintendent candidate, his views on four issues. (This is part of a Sunday/Monday package in the print newspaper.)

1. How would you manage a mandated 10 percent cut in education spending?
2. How will you restore public confidence in test results?
3. Do you support vouchers for public education?
4. Do you support pay for performance for teachers?

His responses:

1. The budget is the primary concern facing the new state school superintendent. We must cut waste at the State Department of Education.

This means getting rid of layers of bureaucratic red tape and consolidating a number of areas. We must return education to the local district as much as possible — this will free up money that is currently being wasted in Atlanta at the DOE while simultaneously enhancing education across the state.

2. If we brought back a common sense approach to testing in Georgia and reduced the amount of testing required by the DOE we would see an immediate surge in the confidence we have in our test results.Additionally, we would save a significant amount of money statewide. Such a move would reduce stress and let teachers get back to teaching the curriculum rather than teaching the test — all of this would restore confidence in our testing procedures.

Another way we can restore confidence to the area of testing is to stop lowering the standards for passing in order to produce artificial gains that make for good press. If we would spend more time educating and less time teaching test-taking, we would see our students perform better.

3. While I do believe we can work with school choice advocates to create a more rounded approach to choice that protects education while giving parents more options, I do not believe that vouchers are the silver bullet that will save public education. Given our current budget shortfalls I do not believe this is the time to institute a pure voucher system that would drain already dry public school budgets. This would only increase teacher layoffs and firings, further heightening our deficiencies in Georgia.

4. The recently proposed model of pay for performance would be harmful to public education in Georgia if implemented.
While in theory pay for performance sounds good, it will work to reduce teacher motivation, discourage teacher collaboration, and almost guarantee wide-spread cheating on standardized tests. I believe there is a way to work pay for performance into the system on a district-wide basis that would enhance education in Georgia.

21 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Mom

June 19th, 2010
9:09 am

Wow!!! Impressive non-answers.
“I do not believe this is the time to institute a pure voucher system” . So what kind of voucher system are you thinking–if not “pure”?
Pay for performance-sounds good, is bad, but can be worked into the system? That’s definitive.
As for questions one and two. There’s not enough there to even both commenting on.

Atlanta Mom

June 19th, 2010
9:20 am

bother, not both

Truth Filter

June 19th, 2010
9:27 am

I’ll handle answers one and two:
1) Not sure what kind of waste he’s talking about at the DOE, but even if you cut half their budget, it wouldn’t be a drop in the bucked to fill the gap in our schools. This is gobbledygook double speak that diverts attention from the fact that Mr. Barge (and I’m guessing most of his opponents) have no ideas.
2) Don’t look to the DOE for changes to testing–look to the legislature. Every test administered by the DOE right now is mandated by the state legislature. And, Mr. Barge, please provide proof of “lowering standards” to improve test performance.

Real answers would be nice.

Mitch

June 19th, 2010
10:31 am

So pay for performance works for all professional jobs except for education? One of the most impotant things I am judged on in my job is collaboration. Poor scores there and I would never make more money. But apparently that does not work in education. Same with standardized tests. So, they will cheat to look better? His comments say more about the people we have teaching our kids than about a system

Mitch doesn't get it; let's help him

June 19th, 2010
11:10 am

One question Mitch. If you want to pay a teacher based on test results, like you would pay a manager based on sales results, are you willing to be consistent and give that teacher, like we do a sales manager, the authority to remove those who A) don’t show up to work B) show up tardy when they do show up C) don’t work when they do show up D) argue with others who are trying to work E) become verbally abusive when given feedback and F) have frequent outbursts of temper, that often escalate into physical abuse of staff and management?

Would you hold a sales manager accountable for her staff’s sales WITHOUT giving them the authority to remove those workers who engage in A-F?

Well you may not know it, but that’s EXACTLY what you are doing by tying teacher’s performance to test scores, as the system currently is now.

Will you Mitch, advocate for giving teachers the AUTHORITY needed so they can hold those they manage accountable for THEIR behaviors, or do you just propose scapegoating the teacher when students are given no accountability for their performance?

Mitch doesn't get it; let's help him

June 19th, 2010
11:17 am

Gotta love the blog filter; NOT.

Mitch one question. Would you advocate that the sales manager be held “accountable” for a salesperson who refuses to even COME to work, refuses TO work when they do come, and is verbally AND physically abusive to fellow employees AND the manager?

Because that’s EXACTLY what you are doing when you suggest teachers be held “accountable” for a STUDENT’S test scores, the way the system is set up now.

Are you willing to advocate, JUST a strongly for teachers have the AUTHORITY to hold students accountable, as you are for holding the teachers themselves accountable?

Or are you just looking for a scapegoat?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

HStchr

June 19th, 2010
2:45 pm

Oh, I’m so not voting for this guy!! He’s too much of a politician- lots of words, little substance. He says we test too much without giving any specifics for how to redo the testing plan. I also don’t like his answer to #4. Florida tried passing a bill that put performance off on local districts. They reduced the funding going to systems by 5%, but required those systems to devise test models, submit them for approval, and they use their reduced budgets to pay for the testing. NOPE- we have to have a reasonable student assessment system statewide that can be fairly and consistently evaluated. Vague answers = no confidence in this man!

td

June 19th, 2010
4:20 pm

Are these really the best questions to publish? Were are the answers to the following questions that we have been asking for months on these blogs?

1: What is your position on the Federal Race to the Top initiative?

2: How do you feel about the Math 1, 2, 3, 4 Curriculum?

3: What is you position on the one tract fits all (College track) requirements

k.wylde

June 19th, 2010
10:45 pm

It seems like Mr. Barge has some detractors because he isn’t a knee-jerk reaction Republican…school vouchers!…merit pay!!…NOW!!! He is actually looking at the system the way it is currently organized and trying to realistically figure out a way to make is the most productive. Seems to me that he understands that what might look good on paper doesn’t always prove to be the most practical. But then again, those who’ve never spent any time in the classroom might want to just grandstand.

@Mitch

June 20th, 2010
4:48 pm

There is a book out talking about end of the year performance reviews, stating that they are based on ooutmoded management ideas and provide little value to anyone. _Get Rid of the Performance Review_.

new blood needed

June 20th, 2010
5:22 pm

ScienceTeacher671

June 20th, 2010
10:15 pm

These are definitely “politician” answers — very vague. I also resent the implication that most teachers are unethical, or would be if pay for performance were instituted.

Northview (Ex)Teacher

June 20th, 2010
11:07 pm

Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.

td

June 20th, 2010
11:15 pm

ScienceTeacher671, Let us be a realist for a minute. If they only way you could get an increase in pay is for your classroom to score a certain amount on a standardizes test the temptation would not be their to do whatever it took for them to make the score? Any study of human nature tells you that 50 plus percent of the population would take that unethical step to get ahead. If you look at the current cheating scandal (remember APS attached bonuses to CRCT increases) and believe that everything the AJC uncovered then I think it runs about 3% cheating happening currently. Can you tell me that there is no way cheating would increase if teachers raises were attached to these scores?

I think Dr. Barge’s entire answer is that attaching test scores to pay is a bad idea because it would significantly increase, if not cheating itself, then certainly present the temptation to cheat.

ScienceTeacher671

June 20th, 2010
11:53 pm

td, we’ve already seen huge cheating at the statewide level, but everyone seems to be ignoring it. I’m talking about the GaDOE lowering cut scores so that students who are 3-4 years behind appear “proficient”, and students who can’t even pass a test “exceed expectations”.

So far it looks as though cheating has only occured in a limited number of districts, and most of the cheating seems to have been done by administrators. I’m not so naive as to believe that all teachers have impeccable morals, but I don’t believe the majority are dishonest.

ScienceTeacher671

June 21st, 2010
7:04 am

Also, attaching test scores to pay is a bad idea for a number of reasons (see, for instance, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/17/AR2010061704565.html ) but to suggest that one of the primary reasons against it is that teachers are dishonest is an insult to teachers.

schooled

June 22nd, 2010
7:23 am

I find it interesting there are so few comments on the post from the superintendent candidates. Maybe voters would like more information. I checked out Mr. Barge’s website and found it very informative. TD will be interested to know that he is against RTTT, Math 123, and the single track diploma. Mr. Barge is a huge supporter of CTAE programs. I think the three questions TD has posted on every blog entry relating to the race are important to voters. Maybe we would see a few more comments if these questions were addressed by the candidates. Just a thought.

Joe

June 27th, 2010
9:26 pm

To respond to “new blood needed” Barge is FAR more qualified than Willis, and none of them are incumbents so “new blood” is moot. In fact, looking at ALL the candidates bios (background, experience at the local and state level, etc.) John Barge has the strongest and broadest education background, and I like Joe Martin’s business background – too bad we can’t have co-superintendents. They all sound like politicians (sadly), because that’s what they decided to be when they put their hats into the ring.

To Atlanta Mom

September 3rd, 2010
3:09 pm

Very funny response, especially in light of the CRCT problems in the Atlanta school system. I know that I am going to vote for Martin, after all he was able to keep the Atlanta school system at the bottom of the pile as the board president for over a decade

[...] When Barge was running for state school chief in 2010, I asked him about vouchers. He replied: While I do believe we can work with school choice advocates to create a more rounded approach to choice that protects education while giving parents more options, I do not believe that vouchers are the silver bullet that will save public education. Given our current budget shortfalls I do not believe this is the time to institute a pure voucher system that would drain already dry public school budgets. This would only increase teacher layoffs and firings, further heightening our deficiencies in Georgia. [...]