Georgia Reforms Draw Second Unanimous Endorsement
A joint committee of the Georgia legislature last week ironed out final differences in a sweeping school-reform bill and passed the measure without a single dissenting vote.
The bill was based largely on the recommendations of Gov. Joe Frank Harris's Education Review Commission. A spokesman for Governor Harris said that the Governor got "103 percent" of what he expected and was very pleased with the bill in its final form.
"It's a better bill now than it was when it was introduced by the administration," said William M. Tom-linson, an aide to the Governor. ''Some of the points have been refined to be even better."
Those refinements included:
Limiting remedial education to students in grades 2-5 who are one-half year behind in school; in grade 9, to those who are one full year behind in school; and in grades 10-12 to those who have failed the Georgia Basic Skills Test required for graduation. Students in grades 2-5 and 9-12 will also be eligible for remedial education if they score in the bottom quartile on national assessment tests.
Establishing a statewide annual testing program that includes a state criterion-referenced test in grades 1, 3, 6, 8, and 10, and a national norm-referenced test in grades 2, 4, 7, and 9.
Phasing in over two years a requirement that districts contribute the equivalent of a 5-mill tax rate to education, so that full implementation will be required in 1988 rather than 1987.
Requiring all new teachers to pass a general-knowledge test, a subject-matter test, an oral and written test, and a performance assessment to receive a certificate. Experienced teachers lacking a lifetime certificate would have to pass a subject-matter test before being recertified, but not a general-knowledge test, as was earlier proposed.
Requiring the state board of education to report quarterly to the legislature on the status of education reforms. The board will have to present most major changes to the legislature for a full review prior to requesting funding. Some legislators had been concerned that the bill did not include enough accountability by the board, which will carry out many of the changes called for in the bill.
"The next big step is to work with the board of education to begin implementation of the recommendations and the law," Mr. Tomlinson said.--lo