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“Common Core has pros and cons, but there’s nothing truly terrible about it, and it’s already been implemented,” Chapman says. “We can’t seem do anything consistent in education across this state and country. To get the results we want, we need to find decent standards and tests and stick to them.” State School Superintendent John Barge has requested a moratorium on using new state standardized tests — the Georgia Milestones, which would replace the Criterion- Referenced Competency Tests and EOCT — to judge a teacher’s effectiveness. As part of the new Teacher Evaluation System, 50 percent of a teacher’s score could be measured using standardized test scores. Chapman hopes the board will uphold the plan. The state already agreed that students’ scores won’t “count” in relation to improvement goals this year. “Teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for the scores and a new test that students aren’t even being held accountable for,” Chapman says. “That invalidates what we’re trying to do in the first place.” Testing requirements have already placed unnecessary stress on teachers and students, and this would add more in the coming year, he says. The cheating scandal in Atlanta, for example, points to what can happen when teachers face pressure to perform for their salaries and livelihood. “It’s unfortunate and wrong, but it’s bound to lead to some kind of corruption,” Chapman says. “During the evaluation process, you don’t realize after 25 years into a career that a teacher isn’t effective — that should happen in the first three years.” Chapman finds administrator observations and student perceptions problematic in teacher evaluation as well. Principal observations may be rushed or biased and places too much power in one person’s hands, he says. GAE is fighting for better evaluation methods and is considering legal action on behalf of teachers. “If that’s what it takes, we will do it,” he says. “We can’t have our members or careers harmed by something that’s unfair.” PAYING EDUCATORS At the personal level, funding educators through salary, benefits and retirement is one of the hottest issues this fall. Right now, the average new teacher lasts about three to five years. With financial strains and deficits, many districts have gutted their budgets, often resulting in dozens of furlough days and shorter school years. In some districts across the state, the 180-day school year is down to 140 days. “Not only do the students suffer, employees suffer as well,” Chapman says. “Everyone needs those 180 days to perform well. Adding minutes to the day doesn’t cut it.” In the past eight years, Georgia’s public education funding deficit has grown by billions of dollars. This is the first time in years that the state budget has put additional money back in the pot, meaning slow recovery from the recession, no raises and no adjustments for cost of living or inflation. This year’s extra $540 million contribution helps but doesn’t go far, Chapman says. 12 | KNOW • Volume 12 Issue 3 “The tax base is up a little, so that also helps some districts,” he says. “But if we’re trying to hold onto and attract teachers, they need more.” Part of the concern this year is changes to teacher retirement. The current system is a defined benefit plan and is one of the top three retirement systems in the nation, Chapman says. Legislators are considering a plan that would change the system to a defined contribution plan, or more like a 401K system. “Legislators want to invest our funds and play with our future, and we’re not going to let that happen either,” Chapman says. “I don’t understand the thinking of some of these legislators and why the public votes against their best interests all the time by electing these officials.” COURTING CHANGE Chapman still lives in and commutes from Griffin and watches ongoing changes at a more stable Clayton County. Stocked with hardworking superintendent Luvenia Jackson and a school board that’s working in harmony, the county is “light-years from where it used to be,” Chapman says. “Right now stability in the district is important,” he says. “In any public district — especially a big district — change is going to take time. I’m happy to see that it’s moving in the right direction.” The county is facing the same questions about pay, organization and curriculum as most others around the state. Chapman and Baumann hope to pool district concerns and tackle them at the state level. “GAE members will see us out there in action, moving around the state and going to different local and district meetings,” Baumann says. “We need to hear from the members every day to make sure we’re doing what they want, and we’re already off and running in a strong way.” Just as he did in Clayton County, Chapman is ready to speak up and be the voice for teachers across the state. Speaking at Clayton County Education Association’s New teacher Orientation Being interviewed for appearance on WSB-TV’s People 2 People program “I THINK THAT FAITH AND DETERMINATION IN EDUCATION CAN CHANGE A PERSON’S LIFE, EDUCATION IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL OUR HOPES AND DREAMS.”


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