- Introduction: Overview of Education in the State of Georgia
- Educational Options in Georgia
- Analysis of Educational Needs of the State
- National Ranking of Georgia Educational Level
- Evaluation of the Georgia Educational System and Curriculum
- Cheating: The Circumstances and Outcomes of the Atlanta Scandal
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Introduction: Overview of Education in the State of Georgia
Education in the USA is one of the most problematic issues that the federal, state, and local government faces in the 21st century for the sake of national advancement, development, and evolution.
Obviously, there are a number of state educational standards, and each state has its own number of private and public schools, administers a set of statewide testing and certification procedures, etc.; however, the disapproval of existing norms, policies, and regulations in the educational field is growing.
The reasons for disapproval and discontentment may be found in irrational curriculum, excessive focus on pursuit of good certification grades, low access to prestigious educational establishments, and rising costs of education. As noted by the librarian Joseph Curasso,
“this is what the education revolutionaries have sowed: dumbed-down standards, narrow curriculums, meaningless test drilling, and union busting….
Through large grants to cash strapped states, dependent on such stipulations as not granting teacher tenure in less than three years and ‘ensuring successful conditions for high performing charter schools and other innovative schools’, large donations to both political parties, and hundreds of millions of dollars in media advocacy… big money philanthropists have been able to shape the education debate and be fawned upon by the national media (cited in Richardson, 2011, para. 2)”.
However, approaching the US educational system at the nationwide level is highly ineffective, since all US states enjoy a considerable level of autonomy from the federal government, which explains serious gaps between state standards of healthcare, education, and quality of life.
Therefore, it proves more efficient to treat the problem at the statewide level in order to identify its common practices, rules, policies, and regulations for the sake of further identification of strengths and weaknesses thereof.
The comprehensive analysis of the educational system of any state is likely to provide a realistic picture of the current situation with its pros and cons; it will enable the researcher to produce a set of feasible recommendations regarding the ways to improve and advance the educational practices, curriculum, and related issues.
Taking into account these considerations, the researcher focuses on the analysis of the educational system in Georgia in the present paper; educational options and programs, standards and certifications, curricula and educational success rankings will be analyzed for the sake of making a conclusion about the current state of Georgia’s education development as well as the ways to introduce the optimal and constructive reform to it.
According to the NEA Research (2011) estimate, the total revenue receipts in Georgia accounted $22,328,160,000, state and local revenue receipts equaled $20,330,754,000, which is 46.8% for the state and local revenues, and 48.9% of local revenues as compared to the total revenue amount (p. 67).
The expenditures for education in Georgia accounted $18,536,859,000, and $10,971 per pupil in ENR in 2010-2011 (NEA Research, 2011, p. 67). At the same time, the salaries of instructional staff equaled $56,575, and the salaries of teachers were estimated at the rate of $53,906 per annum (NEA Research, 2011, p. 67).
The estimate for the overall Southeast region (into which the state of Georgia was included in the NEA Research) in terms of operating school districts was 1,604 in 2011; the 2010 enrolment equaled 832,721 pupils in elementary schools, and 856,927 pupils in secondary schools (NEA research, 2011, p. 86). In addition, the estimate for enrolment (despite the low number of school districts as compared to other regions) was 24.4%, which is nearly a quarter of all US pupils (NEA Research, 2011, p. 70).
The overall number of schools in Georgia is 2,221, according to the official data published at the site of the Georgia Department of Education (2012).
Only 1,718 schools meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is 77.4% of the total number of schools. The present situation raises certain worries in the circles of educators and policymakers, since the expenditures for public schools account for $18,536,859,000 statewide.
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Expenditures per student equal $11,315 in ADA and $10,971 in ENR (NEA Research, 2011, p. 96). The expenditures for other programs in Georgia account for $34,610, which is a rather low indicator, and the capital outlay in Georgia is estimated at the level of $200,875,000. Finally, the interest on school debt equals $249,070,000 in Georgia, which is growing in comparison with the 2009-2010 estimate of $249,034,000 (NEA Research, 2011, p. 96).
According to the data of the Georgia Department of Education (2012), students in Georgiaschools have to pass the End of Course Test (EOCT) in high schools in grades 9-12, the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in grades 1-8, and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) in order to get high school diplomas.
The performance on these key tests is also highly indicative of the academic performance and rating of the state in the overall US-wide scale. Thus, the most recent figures on these tests can be seen in Figures 1-4:
Figure 1. CRCT Statistics for 1
Source: from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (2010), Retrieved from http://www.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&StateId=ALL&T=1&FY=2010
Figure 2. CRCT Statistics for 8
Source: from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (2010), Retrieved from http://www.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&StateId=ALL&T=1&FY=2010
Figure 3. EOCT Results of 2010 for Georgia Students
Source: from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (2010), Retrieved from http://www.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&StateId=ALL&T=1&FY=2010
Figure 4. GHSGT Statistics for Georgia Students
The present statistical data show the urgent need to involve educators, administrators, and policymakers in the reformation process aimed at bringing clarity and efficiency in education and testing in the state of Georgia. It is obvious that the rate of students who do not need the bottom line of testing is quite high, and it continues to rise.
The need to reform education in Georgia can be evidently noted in the rising failure statistics in statewide exams. For example, the failure rate at the GHSGT examination in social studies was 12% in 2009, and 13% in 2008, while it comprised 19% in 2010. The EOCT statistics showed the rising rates of failures in exact sciences; thus, the 2007-2008 examination showed the 44% failure in algebra and 38% in geometry, while the 2009-2010 rates are 63% and 60% correspondingly (Georgia Department of Education, 2012).
Figure 5. Advanced Placement Results for Georgia
|Number of Students Taking Tests||63,923|
|Number of Tests Taken||104,505|
|Number of Test Scores 3 or Higher||52,679|
|Percentage of Test Scores 3 or Higher||50.4%|
As one can see from the present statistics, there are only a half of students from Georgia who take Advanced Placement tests successfully. Therefore, there is a clear need to ensure the movement towards improvement and increase of focus on academic achievement.
Educational Options in Georgia
There are a number of educational options in the state of Georgia, including private and public schools, homeschooling, charter schools, etc. Public education in Georgia corresponds to the nationwide PreK-12 program, which oversees education of children starting from the pre-kindergarten preparation until their graduation from grade 12.
According to the 2008 estimate, there were 1.6 million students in Georgia; there are 181 school systems that include about 2,000 public schools in the state. Education in Georgia is compulsory for children of 6 to 16 years old. The modern public education system in Georgia employs 114,000 full-time and 5,000 part-time educators (Mewborn, 2009).
The history of public education in Georgia is short, since the state was unable to provide the population with high-quality free education for many decades since the adoption of national legislation on public education. One of the first efforts to provide public education was made in 1822 with the establishment of the “poor school fund”; the governor of Georgia Joseph E. Brown attempted to create the comprehensive public school system in 1858 (Mewborn, 2009).
However, the traditional Southern segregation that did not allow African American students to study together with white students proved to be the mitigating factor on the way to developing effective public education.
Even in the middle of the 20th century, when the effort to integrate the free African American population in the public healthcare and education systems nationwide, the Southern community responded with racist incentives such as creation of “segregation academies” in which only white students were allowed to study (Mewborn, 2009).
The critical situation in the public education of Georgia was realized in the 20th century, and serious effort was made to accelerate its development and improvement.
Thus, for example, the HOPE (Help Our Public Education) program was initiated in 1958; it helped to raise funds for financing public schools for the sake of their continuous operation, since only a few of them could afford functioning for several months without disruption (Mewborn, 2009). Therefore, the public education in Georgia experienced a set of breakdowns, affecting the overall quality of education for the population of Georgia dramatically.
Nowadays, the state of Georgia has a well-developed, effective system of public education; the authority responsible for overseeing, managing, preserving, and developing it is the Georgia Department of Education. It oversees all aspects of public education in the state, and provides compliance of the state public education system with the national and state laws. It is also responsible for the control over fund allocation, mainly federal funds (Huff, 2011).
The state superintendent of schools is the head of the Department of Education; he is also the CEO of the state Board of Education that consists of 13 members. Now it is John Barge; he was appointed in 2010, and he presently supervises all five divisions of the Department of Education: the one of curriculum and instruction, finance and business operations, instructional technology and media, policy and external affairs, and teacher and student support (Huff, 2011).
The division of curriculum and instruction oversees the state’s public programs and helps to develop them for children from the kindergarten through the secondary schooling curriculum. At the same time, this division manages the execution of ESOL programs for immigrants who are not native English speakers.
Some additional functions of the curriculum and instruction division include the provision of SAT and Advanced Placement programs, control over the Migrant Education program, and management of the state educational testing services such as GWA and GHSGT (Huff, 2011).
Other divisions also have a wide range of responsibilities in terms of providing and improving public education in the state of Georgia. For instance, the division of policy and international affairs compiles annual reports for the federal authorities on the subject of fund allocation by Georgia public schools, and ensures compliance of the educational regulation of the state with the No Child Left Behind Law provisions mandatory for all US states.
At the same time, this division runs the public schools for blind and deaf students (Huff, 2011). The division of instructional technology and media is responsible for the newest form of education in Georgia – for the Georgia Virtual School.
It was founded in 2005, and offers preparatory courses for the advanced placement, college-preparatory, career and technical educational courses. It operates mostly for the high school students, but the initiative is very successful, and it is recognized for its high potential for the upcoming research and development in the field of technology-assisted instruction (Huff, 2011).
There are also a large number of opportunities for Georgia students in terms of receiving a high school diploma; the variety is explained by the varying degree of academic achievement, and getting a certain type of diploma is presupposed by the academic success, grades, and individual peculiarities of students.
Thus, the students of public schools in Georgia can obtain a diploma with a college preparatory endorsement (49% of students), a diploma with vocational endorsement (23%), with both endorsements (21%), a special education diploma (3.5%), and a certificate of attendance (4.5%) (Mewborn, 2009). However, the variety decreased in 2008 – the state eliminated the opportunity to get a vocational diploma only (Mewborn, 2009).
However, it is inappropriate to say that the education of racial minorities and vulnerable groups has always been neglected in the state of Georgia. The Rural School Building Program initiated by Julius Rosenwald has been existing in Georgia since the beginning of the 20th century.
Due to the operation of this program, about 242 schools have been built for African American students to have an equal access to the merits of education alongside with white students (Jones, 2005). As a result of the Rural School Building Program, 103 counties of Georgia have at least one school for African Americans built between 1912 and 1932 (Jones, 2005).
Overall, there are 181 school systems in the state of Georgia, 159 of which are the county systems, and 21 of which are city systems. The Department of Juvenile Justice runs its own school system, and 24 more educational facilities are of psychoeducational character.
They cater for the special needs of students with severe disabilities (Mewborn, 2009). There is only one virtual school in the state of Georgia, and the accrediting body that oversees the operation of all these educational establishments is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The first type of schooling options available for Georgia students is a charter school type. Charter schools operate under the terns of the charter of the Department of Education in Georgia. Their peculiarity is that they can be exempted from a set of regulations and rules; however, they are legislatively required to meet the performance-based objectives of the state. There were 113 charter schools in the state of Georgia in 2009 (Mewborn, 2009).
The second type of schools available for students is the state school type. However, the notion of a state school differs dramatically from the conventional perception thereof; there are only three state schools, the responsibility of which is to cater for the needs of disabled children, deaf and blind ones.
The Atlanta Area School for the Deaf operates in Clarkston, the Georgia School for the Deaf located in Cave Spring provides students with both daily and residential educational options, while the Georgia Academy for the Blind located in Macon has been providing residential education for blind students since 1852 (Mewborn, 2009).
In addition to their strict specialization, these state schools also provide customized programs for children with multiple disabilities. The three Georgia state schools cater for the educational needs of students aged between 3 and 21.
In addition to the educational programs involving professional teachers, the described state schools oversee the Georgia PINES (Parent Infant Network for Educational Services) program to teach parents cater for the special needs of their children with various disabilities (Mewborn, 2009).
Private schools are also numerous in the state of Georgia. According to the 2007-2008 estimates, there were 650 parochial and independent schools in the state (Mewborn, 2009). These schools are also subject to the state regulations, and they have to retain the standardized length of the schooling day and the schooling year traditional for the traditional American schools.
The law of Georgia indicates that private schools have to have “180 days of instruction each year” (Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b)(3), d.). In addition, private schools in Georgia have to retain the set of subjects, testing standards, and reporting procedures similar to the public schools for the sake of successful accreditation.
Finally, there is a homeschooling option for children and parents in Georgia, which allows parents to provide education to their children at home. The basic requirement for allowing homeschooling is that parents should have a high school diploma, or a GED diploma.
According to the figures of 2005-2006, there were 36,600 students receiving homeschooling in Georgia. Parents who choose this educational option have to provide regular attendance reports, and their children have to take nationally standardized tests every third year of their studies starting from the age equaling the third grade in schools (Mewborn, 2009).
As one can see, the number of options available for students in Georgia is quite large; however, the reputation of schools, the average grade with which students finish each year of their studies, and the availability of accommodation for students with special needs are some additional deciding factors for parents and students in choosing the school in which they would like to study.
Therefore, the educational options in Georgia presuppose fierce competition for students, as well as the struggle for higher ranking of schools at the state and national scale.
It appears possible to assume that the supply of schooling options is adequate to the demand of students; however, the quality of education is an independently assessed factor that does not depend on the quantity of schools; it will be identified in the further sections of the present work.
Analysis of Educational Needs of the State
The state of Georgia has a high variety of educational establishments, and strives to compliance with nationally established standards in terms of academic achievement. However, one should note that every state has a set of individual socio-economic and demographic peculiarities, and some states have the needs and challenges non-typical for other regions of the country.
Therefore, when one discusses Georgia, he or she has to note that the state is situated in the South of the USA, which implies the dominance of rural communities over the urban landscape, which is always indicative of lower access to education for residents, and generally presupposes lower rates of attendance by rural children.
Southern states have traditionally been engaged in agriculture, while the North of the USA has always been more business- and industry-focused. Therefore, agricultural activities are possible only under the conditions of having much land, which complicates access to schools for children living on the farms far from the school systems in their county.
The statistical data on the investigation of Georgia educational needs supposes that the majority of Southern states are found in the critical or very critical state in terms of education.
According to the data of the Educational Needs Index (2005), the percentage of young people with a high school diploma as related to retired people (about 64 years old, who studied at school about half a century ago) is high and strongly related to that of the nationwide scale: 83.7% and 85.8% respectively.
However, the percentage of young people to old people with an associate degree is very low in Georgia, differing from the nationwide level by 1.3% out of 8.2%, which is a dramatic difference in such small numbers – see Figure 6 (Educational Needs Index, 2005).
Figure 6. Educational Needs of the State of Georgia
|Percent of 18 to 64 Year Olds with a High School Diploma (2005)||83.7||85.8|
|Percent of 25 to 64 Year Olds with an Associate Degree (2005)||6.9||8.2|
|Percent of 25 to 64 Year OIds with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher (2005)||28.1||28.6|
|Difference in College Attainment between Young (25 to 35) and Older (45 to 54)||0.7||1.5|
|Unemployment Rate (2005)||7.57||7.12|
|Percent of Population Under 65 at or Below the Poverty Level (2005)||20.6||18.5|
|Median Family Income (2005)||54,092||57,167|
|Per Capita Personal Income (2005)||24,270||25,360|
|Percent of Employment in Manufacturing and Extraction Industries (2005)||11.7||12|
|Rate of Population Growth 64 and Under||7.6||2.7|
|Percent of Population Ages 0 to 19||28.9||27.6|
|Percent of Population 20 to 44||38.1||35.1|
|Percent At-Risk Minorities 0 to 44||43.1||31.1|
Source: from Educational Needs Index (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationalneedsindex.com/georgia-education.php?n=3
However, the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree or a higher education diploma is nearly similar for the students in Georgia and the USA overall, reaching nearly 30%. Therefore, the present ratio indicates that the tendency to receive higher education is more typical and commonplace for the modern young community than for the community of the 1960s or 1970s.
The present figure shows the historical Southern disregard towards higher education; people who worked in the field or with domestic animals underestimated the need for higher education and considered it wasteful and irrelevant for their agricultural activities. Therefore, a much lower number of Georgia students bothered to attend a college or a university.
The agricultural focus of Southern states is surely a decisive factor in the low numbers of higher education diplomas received in the middle of the past century; however, the percentage of nationwide college and university graduates seems to follow the pattern of Georgia as well, which indicates the higher access and affordability of higher education at the present period.
It is possible to assume that receiving higher education was considered a privilege for the best students in the past century, and racial minorities such as African Americans and Asian Americans were eliminated from the public education process, therefore being unable to receive higher education and to obtain a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree.
Hence, nowadays the higher level of younger people with higher education diplomas is explained by the increased access to educational facilities for students, which indicates two changes – the growth of academic achievement levels that allow students to automatically enroll to the American universities and to receive scholarships, or the decrease of academic achievement standards needed for enrollment to the universities.
In any case, the presently noted tendency is much more complex than depicted in the present paragraph, and comprises a great set of factors and changes that have occurred in the educational field of the USA within the past 50 years.
It is possible to summarize that the access to education has increased generally around the country, while students have become more aware of the need to receive higher education in order to be competitive in the American and global labor market. Hence, the ratio of young people having higher education is very optimistic for both Georgia and the USA in general.
According to the information of the Educational Needs Index (2005), there is lack of motivation in younger students for school attendance; as the ratio indicates, the level of attendance for younger to older students is 0.7, which is 1.5 for the national community. Hence, one can assume that the number of younger students attending classes on a regular basis is lower in Georgia than the number of older students is.
The present inference implies that younger students are subject to dropouts for different reasons be it employment, incarceration, pregnancy, or anything else. The overall American pattern indicates the popularity of education with younger people more than with older people, which shows the need to motivate younger students for education in Georgia.
In case students receive their education in a timely manner, they will be able to find a reputable job faster, and will become more successful in their career. However, the traditional tendency is noted for people involving in career change at a later age, which is surely ineffective in terms of career development.
Next, the socio-economic background plays a significant role in the formation of educational patterns and rates in any state. Thus, a brief look at the socio-economic conditions in Georgia allows making some more conclusions about the state’s educational needs. The unemployment rate in Georgia is 7.57%, and the level of people under the age of 64 living at the verge of poverty or below the living standards minimum in the state is 20.6% (Educational Needs Index, 2005).
Therefore, one can make a conclusion about a dramatic socio-economic situation in the state, since these indicators are several points higher than those for the US-wide statistics. Further on, the average income per household is more than $3,000 lower for Georgia families than for the national level – families in the state of Georgia enjoy only $54,092 of annual income, while the average American family usually obtains about $57,167 (Educational Needs Index, 2005).
Finally, the demographic factor is also a meaningful one in the field of educational situation; the state of Georgia experiences the unprecedented population growth level equaling 7.6%, while the overall US figure equals 2.7% (Educational Needs Index, 2005). The present difference shows how much the strain of young people’s influx in the state (birth or immigration) will affect the quality of education in Georgia.
Though having enough educational facilities, the state of Georgia is not likely to be able to cater for the needs of such quantity of young Georgia residents.
In addition, the quality of education measured by performance-based indicators is not appropriate for the state, since it is inhabited by 43.1% of at-risk minorities, which is much higher than the 31.1 rate for the overall country (Educational Needs Index, 2005).
Minorities are noted to have a much lower level of attendance and academic achievement, which produces a negative impact on the ranking of Georgia schools, and the overall ranking of the state in terms of education.
Taking into account the number and gravity of educational needs in the state, one has to pay attention to the attempts undertaken by the policymakers and educational authorities in the state of Georgia to improve the situation, and to meet those needs effectively.
There are a number of programs operating nationwide for the sake of reforming education in the USA that have been successfully implemented in Georgia; they include the Teach for America program, the New Teacher Project (TNTP), and the Race to Top grant that Georgia received in 2010 from the US federal government for financing the development of low-performing schools.
They represent the modern comprehensive effort towards reforming education, and introducing the 21st-century performance standards to the majority of schools lagging behind in educational provision.
The Teach for America program is the nationwide endeavor of improvement of educational quality standards; it represents the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit two years to teaching in urban and rural public schools (Teach for America in Georgia, 2012).
These graduates become leaders and expand the educational opportunities in the USA for the sake of increase of the overall education quality in the country; it is due to the overall voluntary effort of the Teach for America educators that the innovative technology and cutting-edge instructional techniques are brought to the public school classrooms. In addition, the young graduates are able to realize themselves as skilled educators, natural leaders, and charismatic inspirers for unmotivated students.
The Teach for America program operates in the Atlanta Public Schools, and the Fulton County Schools in Georgia. The eligibility of educators for the participation in the program is identified in terms of having a Bachelor’s degree from the accredited college, or a university degree; the applicants’ GPA should be not lower than 2.5 (according to the 4.0 scale).
Additionally, they should be US citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents of the USA (Teach for America in Georgia, 2012). The qualities that candidates have to reveal include the natural urge to leadership and achievement, perseverance and sustained educational focus in the face of challenges, the developed critical thinking skills, and strong organizational ability.
To become effective educators in the US public schools, candidates should also have respect for the diversity of students in the classroom to which they will come; finally, they have to possess interpersonal and motivational skills to manage the classroom activities constructively, and to introduce high standards of instruction (Teach for America in Georgia, 2012).
Another project successfully operating in Georgia is the New Teacher Project; it functions in Georgia through the Georgia Teaching Fellows program (TNTP, 2012). The program is aimed at recruiting talented career changers and recent graduates with the purpose of teaching the high-need subjects in public schools.
The prime task of the present program is to supply talented new teachers, and to support effective teaching in the public education field. Maximizing teacher efficiency in high-poverty schools has become the top priority for American policymakers; therefore, the TNTP program offers effective solutions in terms of closing the instructional gaps in public education.
The ultimate goal of the TNTP program is to give the poor and minority students quality teachers to catch up with their peers in higher performing schools, to graduate from schools with adequate grades, and to succeed in further education and career development (TNTP, 2012).
The educational improvement measures taken in the state of Georgia in terms of reforming education are intense, and certain feasible improvements are already evident. The Race to Top federal grant was received by the state from the federal government in 2010, and the progress in targeting high-poverty schools in Georgia is reviewed by federal authorities annually.
At the present moment, the RT3 pilot program is scheduled for 2011-2012 schooling years within the Race to Top framework aims at assisting the innovation and reform in four primary education areas. They include recruitment and retention of effective educational staff in low-income schools; building data systems that measure student performance and achievement; adoption of standards and assessments that prepare competitive labor market players; and turning around the lowest-achieving schools in the state of Georgia.
The reform instruments generated for targeting these chosen objectives include: revised CLASS and Leader Keys, the choice of alternative students learning measures, surveys, and artifacts; adoption of the student growth score; and achievement gap reduction (RT3 Pilot Program Schedule: 2011-12 School Year, 2012). The program has been thoroughly planned with the assistance of state and federal authorities, and the timeline of its implementation can be seen on Figure 7:
Figure 7. The Timeline of Race to Top Program Implementation in Georgia.
Source: from Georgia’s Race to the Top (2011). Retrieved from http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs011/1105202030182/archive/1105684170312.html
National Ranking of Georgia Educational Level
Since Georgia is one of the American states, it has to comply with the regulations set at the nationwide level in order to receive the federal funding, to be fully accountable to the government, etc. Therefore, the academic achievement of Georgia’s students is also assessed in comparison with the US standards and patterns. The overall distribution of Georgia academic results in the US scale is optimistic – Figures 6 and 7 show the results of students from Georgia in the national ACT testing.
Figure 8. ACT Testing Results of Students from Georgia
The national standards for schooling performance were established by the then-President of the USA George Bush who forced the nation to face the reality of too many pupils simply not studying at schools, and getting through the grades only due to the lack of national standards of academic achievement (Hefling, 2012).
Hence, the US President passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 that was aimed at helping boost the students’ performance (Turner, 2012). The No Child Left Behind Law of 2001 revealed the federal policy of aggressive intrusion into the state management of educational achievement gaps.
Figure 9. Results of Georgia Students in the 4
These two figures indicate that the educational performance in Georgia is at the sufficient nationwide level in the majority of indicators; however, these figures reveal a more large-scale problem in the US education.
There is a very low percentage of students who receive more than average results, and the number of students falling behind the nationwide standards is extremely high.
Since the USA is a multi-national and multi-culture country that offers equality and diversity in employment and education to all nations and ethnicities, the low levels of proficiency for Black and Hispanic students are indicative of a great range of troubles underlying the current state of US education.
Despite equality, there are vulnerable groups of students who enjoy lower access to educational materials, to instruction, and who have low results on a steady basis. Therefore, close attention to numerous aspects of education in Georgia is likely to reveal educational problems at the macro-level; these may help generate solutions to various problems in the field of education at the local and national level.
Evaluation of the Georgia Educational System and Curriculum
The overall assessment of Georgia educational system is closely connected with the evaluation of the current demographic situation in Georgia, and the legislative basis on which the educational system functions. One of the most notable factors that allows producing a certain set of conclusions is the current initiative to update the No Child Left Behind Act, and the review of the law requiring 65% of funding spent in public schools’ classrooms adopted in 2006 (Turner, 2012).
The present law increased the transparency of funds’ allocation, and transformed the majority of expenditures from the principals’ offices to the classroom; however, the present legislative measure reduced the funding of libraries and counselors, which put them under threat with the outburst of the crisis, and which resulted in underfunding thereof (Turner, 2012). The overall legislative environment of educational operation in Georgia led to the situation described in the article of Curasso cited by Richardson (2011) in his blog:
It is the poverty rate, along with the incarceration rate, that has long separated the U.S. from other industrial countries. Mechanized test prepping, schools closing, and cheapened diplomas won’t make a dent in either, that self-reinforcing loop, in the absence of real reform and commitment to communities as a whole, figures only keep on churning (Curasso, 2011; cited in Richardson, 2011, para. 5).
The current legislation on education in the US is outdated, which can be seen in the law prohibiting the usage of electronic devices at schools (Turner, 2012).
In addition to the critical neglect towards the educational reality, the No Child Left Behind Act also poses rigid and unrealistic expectations that make too much emphasis on the reading and math tests, which proves irrelevant to the overall academic improvement in the USA (Hefling, 2012).
The pressure of the No Child Left Behind Act poses additional constraints on teachers and principals who appear to be judged on the factors out of their control, which is totally unfair.
There are still huge racial differences in academic achievement visible in all parts of the USA, South in particular, so states with a high portion of African American or Asian American students experience the inadequate or inappropriate ranking results (Hefling, 2012).
Alongside with reformation urges, there have always been critical remarks regarding the planned reforms; according to the opinion of Jones (2009), maintenance of the US economic dominance is possible only under the conditions of educating generations with superior analytical and creative skills.
The statistical data indicate that the majority of scientists and engineers employed in the USA are foreigners, and the USA does not have the intellectual capital of such kind of its own. Therefore, the educational reforms should be directed at the introduction of additional instructional support in favor of scientific development and advancement.
Many reforms are successful on the way of moving Georgia towards the nationwide and international educational standards; one of such reforms is the introduction of the Comprehensive School Reform (CSR), and the creation of the Georgia Core Curriculum (GCC). The quality basic education Act was adopted in Georgia in 1985, including the quality core curriculum for public schools for the K-12 program (Mewborn, 2009).
However, the gaps in academic standards were detected at the beginning of the 21st century, and the curriculum was revised in 2003, resulting in the New Curriculum made by the Georgia Performance Standards organization. Since 2005, it encompasses four primary areas of educational focus: math, science, English, and social studies (Mewborn, 2009).
Nowadays, the CSR initiative aims to improve student achievement by reforms based on scientific research and effective practical implementation of research findings. The focus of CSR efforts is the group of low-income, high-poverty schools unable to meet challenging state standards (CSR, 2002).
In addition to the K-12 curriculum, the University System of Georgia has also introduced the New Core Curriculum. It has been adopted in 2009 to allow greater flexibility in aligning students’ general education experience with individual instructional missions and strategic plans of the state (University System of Georgia, 2012).
The core curriculum of higher education establishments includes such areas as communication skills, quantitative skills, institutional options, humanities, fine arts, and ethics, natural sciences, math, and technology, social sciences, lower-division major requirements, US perspectives, global perspectives, and critical thinking (Implementing the New Core Curriculum, 2010).
Unfortunately, not all educational reforms are as successful as the CSR and core curriculum are; according to the opinion of the Georgia Association of Teachers, the introduction of the student performance indicator as a decisive factor in teacher evaluation and remuneration is completely inefficient and subjective (Jones, 2009).
The previously used system based on the seniority of teachers was much more effective in financial terms, and provided the right motivation for teachers who longed to advancement and career promotion instead of pushing their students to better results at tests and employing unethical and illegal measures to achieve the sufficient level of academic progress at least formally (Jones, 2009).
In addition, the proposal to merge the state’s public technical colleges with the traditional 2-year community colleges was received with disapproval and hesitation. The major part of criticism was directed at the identification of these two types of educational establishments having completely different missions, and providing education in different areas (Jones, 2009).
The imperfection of assessment and ranking based on the standardized tests’ results is also an obvious fact that impedes on the quality of education overall, and stagnates all reformation attempts undertaken statewide and nationwide. As recognized by Downey (2011b), standardized testing does not represent absolute quantitative estimate of what students have learned, so it is unable to provide information for effective decision-making in the field of education.
Moreover, no standardized test should be used as a basis for making important decisions (Downey, 2011b). The total reliance on standardized testing in the USA has led to the situation in which educators teach only to tests, curriculum is narrowed to teach only the data needed for testing, instruction is narrowed to test preparation, and the academically disadvantaged students quickly drop out of educational establishments due to their inability to catch up.
In addition, the pressure to raise grades on the school-wide or district-wide level often pushes principals and teachers into unethical practices, cheating, and intimidation, which is totally ineffective in the US educational environment (Downey, 2011b).
Among other factors resulting in the current dramatic situation in the US education visible in Georgia as well, one can note the lack of motivation for teachers to involve in meaningful educational practices.
Thus, according to the opinion of Downey (2011a), even the most expensive colleges and universities cheat students, since they are unable to give them the high-quality education, and teachers as well as professors with excellent academic reputation are often reluctant to work with students, believing that having a diploma of an expensive university is already a guarantee of career success.
Thus, Downey (2011a) advises all students to demand more from their teachers and professors, to require the education for which they have paid, and to take the maximum of what they have acquired with enrolment to a higher educational institution (Downey, 2011a).
The US President Barack Obama speaks about the necessity to work hard, and not to stop one’s education after graduation from high schools; it is obviously a degrading tendency for children to grow unmotivated, and to long to finishing the 12th grade for starting their careers (Suggs, 2011).
However, more and more teachers notice the indifference of students attending or not attending their classrooms. As Diguette (2011) noted, there are only few students who understand that academic proficiency is their guarantee for having good career prospects.
The rest attend classes without interest and engagement, do not participate in discussions, and sincerely believe that the activities they conduct at school will be irrelevant in their future work (Diguette, 2011). This obvious lack of motivation for higher education and education in general mitigates the development of the country in terms of intellectual capital competitiveness.
The noted growth of the educational gap indicates that Georgia needs skilled workers, but does not educate the sufficient number of people able to work for its benefit (Markiewicz, 2011). It is very pessimistic to note this fact, since Georgia was a leader in the introduction of innovative educational solutions, such as the HOPE scholarship, and the PreK-12 co0mprehensive program (Holladay, 2011).
The decision offered by Downey (2011c) to provide low-income families with housing vouchers to enable them to move to higher-income communities is surely potentially beneficial, since it is based on the findings about the crucial effect of the environment on the academic outcomes of students, and the financial success of their parents.
However, a much more in-depth action is needed to save education in Georgia and the USA; teachers and students should get an innovative vision of education to move them forward to the achievement of educational goals of the state.
Cheating: The Circumstances and Outcomes of the Atlanta Scandal
Quality and efficiency of education has always been assessed by its integrity and objectivity; therefore, the issue of cheating raised at the nationwide level after the Atlanta cheating scandal is a serious problem to consider for all stakeholders.
The involvement of students in cheating is much more logical to predict, since all students want to have higher grades, and to show much better performance at any price. However, the involvement of teachers and, what is more, principals in the cheating machinations was an incredible discovery made by the reporters and journalists in Atlanta during their statistical analysis of standards deviations of the number of erasures at state examinations.
The first person to alert the public about commonplace cheating was Heather Vogell, the reporter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution; the reporter noted a dramatic gap between the marks of students falling behind the state standards during the test, and their perfect re-examination results (Lenoir, 2011).
As a result of her investigation in which the state authorities got gradually involved about 44 public schools and 178 teachers were accused of cheating and faking state test results (Pennsylvania is latest to face school cheating scandal, 2011).
The scandal unleashed at the full scale after the detailed report on cheating was released; striking facts were outlined in the report, indicating the ways teachers were made to erase wrong results of their students, to make them review incorrect answers, or bring the drafts of writing works for the teachers’ review with the purpose of proofreading, editing, and then rewriting them (Strauss, 2011).
The Atlanta scandal became a highly audacious case for all US states to reconsider their policies in remuneration of teachers and principals, as well as assessing the students’ performance. There were many mentions of the obsession with figures that principals of schools had regarding their statewide or nationwide ranking.
It is obvious that funding of public schools is usually allocated according to the performance of students studying in them, and logically, schools with higher rates and with more visible improvements in rates received more funds from federal and local authorities. Moreover, teachers also reported the dependence of their payments, as well as prescription of certain bonuses and monetary awards depending on the results their classes showed.
In case of a failure to take the whole class through the testing procedure, teachers were fined or fired (Strauss, 2011). The reports of teachers about intimidation and fear in which they had to work for the sake of not knowledge, but exam rates give a clear idea of why faking the results of tests became a commonplace practice for both students and educators.
The continuation of the Atlanta cheating scandal touched Pennsylvania as well; 89 schools, 28 of which are located in Philadelphia, were found guilty in cheating at the state exams as well. The reason for suspicion was found in the improbably high number of erasures at the exams, and tremendously high progress in math within a short period between the exam and re-examination (Pennsylvania is latest to face school cheating scandal, 2011).
The cheating facts were disclosed with the help of mass media coverage – the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Notebook published their reports about anonymous confessions of teachers’ about being forced to cheat. As a result of mass media investigations, about a half of Atlanta schools were found guilty in allowing cheating practices, and even encouraging them in classrooms for the sake of getting higher rating results.
The neglect to teachers’ erasures of wrong answers, and putting the right answers in the exam answer sheets was mainly explained by the pressure of the No Child Left Behind Law dictating the need to provide adequate educational levels for all children regardless of their skills, motivation, and progress (Pennsylvania is latest to face school cheating scandal, 2011).
As a consequence of the shocking Atlanta scandal, the terrifying reality of legal, educational, and federal pressures pushing teachers and principals to educational crimes has become the prime focus of policymakers, reporters, and lawyers. Despite the common embarrassment of the community, one could not help identifying the deeper factors that has led to the current situation.
The recent analysis of cheating tendencies shows that students involve in cheating for the competitive reasons, and because of the frequent cheating practices they see in their classrooms.
The traditional ranking pattern in a class is the one on the curve, i.e., students’ ranking depends on the performance of other students in their class. For this reason, students who lag behind the rest because of their non-involvement in cheating practices decide to cheat because of the relative ease and speed of successful homework completion (A cheating crisis in America’s schools, 2011).
Judging from the motivation students provide for cheating, and taking into account the statistical facts about 50% of teachers reporting neglect to cheating on the regular basis, one can assume that there is a critical point in the US education when the academic achievement loses its sense and value.
As students report in surveys, they are sure that no higher educational establishment will waste time checking their real knowledge – the majority of institutions put restrictions in grades on eligibility for studying. Thus, they use all available measures for getting good grades, while the most successful learners (formally) are often ignorant of the basic academic concepts, and appear academically disabled when they get to higher educational establishments.
The Atlanta scandal is still the subject of agitated debate and discussion; the Interim schools Superintendent Erroll Davis informed all accused teachers and principals about the options they had – either to resign, or to be fired (Atlanta Public Schools: 41 Named in Cheating Scandal Quit, 2011).
The present solution seems logical in the conditions of the comprehensive involvement in cheating nationwide – the fierce prosecution of those uncovered today is likely to intimidate those secretly involved for the future. However, the morale of the Atlanta scandal should stretch much farther than plain resignation and dismissal; the governmental officials have to think of an alternative set of incentives to drive academic performance instead of formal compliance with figures and statistics.
As it comes from the present analysis, there are a number of educational options in the state of Georgia, and state authorities do their best to comply with the nationwide-established standards of education and academic achievement. There are about 2,000 schools, and both private and public educational establishments offer a wide range of educational opportunities for children and youth.
In addition, there is much being done for the sake of reforming and improving educational facilities in Georgia – the state participates in such programs as Teach for America, Race to the Top, and New Teacher Program. Generally, the state enjoys high standards of public and private education, but there are certain gaps to be filled, and certain challenges to be faced for the sake of providing comprehensive, high-quality education for the growing number of young people in Georgia.
The state administration and policymakers responsible for monitoring and managing education in Georgia have to increase their awareness of the intensification of competition in the labor market, both nationally and internationally. Therefore, the educational opportunities in the USA overall, and in every US state in particular, have to meet the innovative needs of employers worldwide.
To identify these needs, the educators and principals have to work jointly with the scholarly community to conduct research on the changing educational and career needs, and to identify the ways in which the reformation could be executed smoothly and constructively. Thus, the state of Georgia lacks evidence-based research in the field of education, and needs to take not only practical, but also theoretical action for the sake of continuous improvement.
Another factor that allows assessing the state of education in Georgia is the geographical location of the state, and the historical tendency towards segregation, which made the racial integration in Southern schools highly problematic. As one knows, Georgia is one of the Southern states that were for slavery, and that did not accept African Americans as equal until the end of the past century.
Therefore, the problem with equal access to public education has been existing until recently, which is now reflected in low academic achievement of non-white American population of the state. Only Asian Americans are notably successful in their studies, which is opposite for African Americans and Latin Americans.
The critical position of public education is not unique for the state of Georgia; this problem is common for nearly all states in the USA. The main challenge to reformation and improvement in the majority of low-performing schools is the performance-based funding typical for the USA. Many Georgia schools are unable to reach the nationally acceptable assessment levels, which results in under-financing, and aggravates the situation even further.
The present assessment type affects the academic process in American schools negatively, which can be seen from the Atlanta cheating scandal – principals and teachers are intimidated by the administration in terms of avoiding low grades by any means for the sake of school funding. As a result, the assessment results do not reflect the real-state academic achievements of students, certification outcomes are faked, and the overall integrity of academic assessment is becoming doubtful, redundant, and ineffective.
The only solution for the state of Georgia, as well as for many other states facing similar problems in the 21st century, is to generate a different set of performance indicators, and to create a new set of metrics for allocation of funds. The problem has much deeper roots that the simple inability of students to pass the annual tests such as GWA, EOCT, CRCT, or GHSGT. The performance-based funding scheme is a closed circle that helps successful schools prosper, but neglects the needs of unsuccessful schools.
Finally, sufficient effort has to be directed at the achievement of high technological standards incorporated in the educational process. The 21st century requires close attention to the information technology, technological innovations, invention of advanced appliances and devices that facilitate human work and activities of any kind. Thus, modern students have to obtain the adequate set of computer and technical skills for the sake of succeeding at the workplace or higher education.
Overall, the state of education in the state of Georgia is not critical, since there are an adequate number of private and public schools able to cater for the growing needs of Georgia students. However, the challenges and gap existing in Georgia education reveal the problems faced by the whole country in terms of assessment, funding, and lack of technology.
The needs-based approach is potentially more effective than the performance-based one, which is likely to bring the US education at a new level of motivation, initiative, and outcomes. Authorities of the state of Georgia are taking enough effort to improve their education, but the assistance of local and federal authorities, as well as certain legal changes in the No Child Left Behind Law, and the funding issues, will have a high potential at the statewide and nationwide level.
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