5th grade – those are things we need to monitor. One of the things I want to have researched is, what are some of the gateway tests that we need? Having that literacy and math component in there to evaluate where students are at with regards to the grade level and allow teachers to take that information to ensure that the students are on grade level. If we’re not using testing to actually improve student achievement or to help in the learning process, then we really have to evaluate its practicality. Q: Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) has amassed a stark level of contention among educators. How necessary are TKES? What can and should be done about the evaluation system? A: We are going to have to look at and review the process of TKES for administrative relevance and meaning. We will begin a process of seeing what is actually effective, what actually provides us with good information, and what are some of the things that we’re asking our teachers to do that are perhaps redundant and don’t allow them to professionally grow. One of the things that we must look at with any type of evaluation system is if we are preparing our teachers and allowing them to improve within the profession. Accountability has to be married to responsibility as well so that we can provide the support that our teachers need. We’re looking at somewhat of a modified system where successful teachers don’t have to go through the same number of evaluations as a new teacher or one that seems to be struggling. It’s certainly a process – and this is just one of the many things on the table that we have to look at. Q: What are your thoughts on the Common Core, and do you think Georgia students would be able to compete globally without a baseline? A: As far as common core is concerned, it’s no secret about my objections to it. When I looked at the standards, I truly believe that we can do better. I think there were some better standards that are out there. One of the issues I ran on in 2010 was that I thought there were some very strong national standards that prepared our kids from a foundational standpoint. In the areas of math and English/language arts, we can 10 | KNOW • Volume 13 Issue 1 still do better. It’s a process that we will look at and continue to ensure that our kids have the very best. As far as us being able to compete globally without a baseline: one of the things we found out is that it’s not German standards, it’s not Japanese standards that we adopted. So, we are competing in a sense. We will continue to participate with the internationally accepted standards. So we will have a measurement of success as far as being able to compare our kids from an international standpoint. Q: What are your thoughts on how schools are determined to be “failing?” What aspects of a poor performing school should be evaluated before it is deemed to be failing? A: In looking at the College and Career Readiness Index, it is somewhat of a complicated process. And I think we’re going to have to look at what we’re measuring, and again how we measure to make sure we simplify the process in general so that we do get usable measurements. But also I think that we have to look at the environment and look at what is going on within a school. A raw number doesn’t necessarily reflect what is taking place inside of a school. You’re looking at parental involvement, you’re looking at issues such a poverty, that some schools are basically starting off a little bit behind others. And this is by no fault of their own – it’s just the reality of the situation. So finding a system that allows for a bit more flexibility in what we’re focusing on and taking into account the reality of a school environment – it would be somewhat of a blend. Again, this goes back to accountably with responsibly, which is something you can’t do without. If we were measuring manufactured parts, it would be very easy. But we have a human element that we’re looking at that makes it much more difficult. Q: Do you think vouchers undermine the financial stability of public education? A: It really depends on what type of school vouchers you’re considering. One of the things I’ve been supportive of is the special needs voucher. I think it helps meet a specific need. Then again, you’re looking at your entire base of spending. If you take money away from a school system or a school and begin to erode its educational effectiveness, then yes – it does have an impact on a systems financial stability. So you have to look at your spending as a whole. If you have vouchers in conjunction with the appropriate spending allocations so that you’re not losing the effectiveness then it does balance out. Q: What would you say to encourage college students to: a) pursue education as a major, and b) teach in Georgia once they’ve obtained their teaching degrees? A: To me there’s no greater reward in any other profession than in teaching. There are a lot of intrinsic elements in working with students. In a sense you start with almost a raw piece of clay and you help mold it into what I’ve always considered a great piece of art. I think being a part of that process is something that you just can’t measure with dollars. And so for our best and brightest wanting to go in to that field, its something at the end of the day you look at establishing somewhat of a legacy. I wish I could go back and thank all my teachers in preparing me for life. This is a great state and I think in the days ahead we will see education in our state go through an educational renaissance or a rebirth in Georgia. We have the pieces in play to where we can become an educational leader – not just in our nation, but also in the world. The best days are yet to come. Woods also noted the importance of parent participation with their student’s education and considered them a “key” element in the entire process. He noted that having parents read to a child before they get enter school could mean the world of a difference for a student’s development and academic future. Additionally, Woods would like to partner with groups to educate parents on the vital role they play in their child’s education. When asked what GAE could do in helping the Department of Education achieve its mission, Superintendent Woods did not hesitate to encourage the organization and its members to provide him and his office with feedback. “I want to know what is working and what is not working,” he said. Moreover, Woods wants to know how the Department of Education can be a relevant service to educators throughout the state of Georgia. Inline with his vision on establishing more effective communication, Superintendent Woods wants to help build more successful educators and celebrate overcoming challenges together.
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