Stating that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a catalyst for education reform, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) has created a “Roadmap to Reimagining K-12 Education”  which they believe will guide them through the pandemic and beyond. The roadmap is also the foundation for the department’s legislative priorities as the 2021 session of the Georgia General Assembly gets underway today. 

The priorities are built around a number of issues including: expanding opportunities for students; elevating the teaching profession and strengthening the teacher pipeline; funding public education; and continuing in their quest to reduce high-stakes testing for all students. These issues reflect both the current needs to be addressed and the potential opportunities available to ensure success for students now and in the years to come, officials said. 

“Georgia’s public schools need support as they continue to meet the moment of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Georgia State School Richard Woods. “And even when schools can go back to ‘normal,’ there is a ‘normal’ we cannot and should not go back to. We cannot return to the status-quo of over-testing, hyper-accountability, and data points determining destiny.  

“Now is the time to cast a clear vision of what our education system should be, and how our children’s futures should unfold” Woods added. 

The DOE would like to see lawmakers create multiple diploma pathways, which education officials say would provide a “tailored high school experience to match the passion, potential, and postsecondary pursuits of every student.”  

They will also be seeking funding to create a Military Family Liaison position. The DOE recently recognized seven schools as being military friendly schools — presenting them with the Military Flagship School Award. 

Stating that teachers are the “drivers of all educational success,” Superintendent Woods is also looking to pursue “robust Teacher Pipeline legislation” which would include the removal of certification loss as a punishment for developing teachers, and the establishment of a pilot to design an evaluation system built on professional progression with embedded supports for educators.  

Another priority this year is allowing districts to utilize retired educators full time to fill high-need teaching positions.  

Funding will again be an issue as Woods and his team plan to push for full funding of the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula. Among their priorities will be: additional one-time funding for school districts to offset temporary student enrollment declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic; more funding for transportation costs for school districts; and increased funding for school counselors to assist in the counseling and guidance of the whole child (including student mental health needs), funding for a GaDOE School Social Worker position, and funding for a GaDOE School Nurse position to better support school districts.  

The DOE also hopes to see the expansion of the allowable use of SPLOST funds to include instructional software, subscriptions, and other resources.  

As a federal priority, Woods and his team would like to see lawmakers a legislative resolution that supports changing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to only require grade-band testing (elementary school, middle school, and high school) rather than high-stakes testing in grades 3-12 each year.

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