Standards and Accountability: Georgia receives a high overall grade in this category. The state has clear and specific standards in English, mathematics, and science in all grade spans. It also has clear standards in social studies/history at the high school level. But Georgia relies heavily on multiple-choice questions to measure student performance. The state uses extended-response items solely on its English exams.
The strength of Georgia’s assessment system is that its tests are aligned with its standards in every core subject in elementary, middle, and high school. Georgia is one of only 12 states to have English, math, science, and social studies/history exams aligned to state content standards for every grade span. The state holds schools accountable for results by publishing school report cards and assigning ratings to schools.
Georgia is one of 14 states that provide assistance for and impose sanctions on low-performing schools, and reward high-performing or improving ones, as part of the state accountability system. Consistently low-performing schools, for example, may be reconstituted as charter schools, or their students may transfer to higher-performing sites.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: While high school teachers in Georgia must complete majors in the subjects they will teach, middle school teachers are not required to do the same.
The state does not set time requirements for student teaching or other clinical experiences for future teachers. In addition, the state is one of only 12 with alternative-route programs that do not require their participants to pass a test or complete a minimum amount of coursework to demonstrate subject-knowledge expertise before they become responsible for their own classrooms.
The state performs better in the area of teacher assessment. While Georgia does not use performance assessments, such as observations and portfolios, to evaluate the skills of novice teachers once they are in the classroom, the state requires a solid core of initial-licensure exams. The state is one of 16 to require basic-skills tests, subject-area tests for both high school and middle school teachers, and subject-specific-pedagogy exams.
Georgia also has professional-development standards, pays for professional development in every district, and provides both licensure and financial incentives to teachers pursuing certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. However, the state fails to require and finance mentoring for all new teachers.
School Climate: Georgia does not perform well on many of the indicators assessed in the school climate section. For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress background indicators find Georgia schools perform poorly in areas such as student absenteeism and parent involvement. And like Florida, its neighbor to the south, Georgia has a low percentage of students attending small schools compared with other states.
But Georgia gains some points because the state will administer a survey on working conditions to all school systems for the first time in spring 2005. The purpose of the survey is to assess teachers’ perceptions of school working conditions in regard to staff development, resource allocation, time management, and school leadership.
Equity: According to Georgia’s wealth-neutrality score, state and local funding is heavily linked to property wealth. The state ranks 44th out of 50 states on this indicator, meaning that, on average, wealthy districts have a good deal more state and local revenue than property-poor districts. Georgia does a little better on the coefficient of variation, ranking 25th of the 50 states at 12.6 percent, which suggests moderate variation in spending across districts compared with other states. Georgia ranks 31st on the McLoone Index, which compares the total amount spent on students in districts below the median with the amount that would be needed to ensure all districts spent at least at the median.
Spending: At $7,923 in the 2001-02 school year, education spending per pupil in Georgia is $189 above the U.S. average. That’s also a 6.5 percent increase from the previous year. Almost 46 percent of the students in the state are in districts spending at least the national average. The state scores a 97 percent on the spending index, meaning that even though about half the state’s students fall below the national average for per-pupil spending, they do not fall very far below. Georgia spends 4 percent of its total taxable resources on education, which is just above the national average. Over the past decade, the state increased education spending an average of 3.4 percent a year, after adjusting for inflation.