School & District Management

Ga. Chief Will Brave War of Wits, Words

By Mary C. Breaden — September 02, 2008 1 min read

Georgia’s education system could certainly use a break from some of its critics, especially after a summer’s worth of mandatory classes for 82,000 students in grades 5 and 9 who failed controversial assessment exams last school year.

But sympathy doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon, despite the efforts of state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox.

Her decision to be a contestant on the game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” has drawn more eye rolls than applause from Tim Callahan, spokesman for the 72,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a nonunion teachers’ organization.

“I hate to be a spoilsport,” he said about the scheduled Sept. 5 broadcast. “But [with Georgia] taxpayers dealing with higher than normal taxes and the very high failure rates [on the state test], I don’t think that parents will find this appearance very entertaining or worthwhile.”

The Fox network’s trivia show, hosted by Georgia native and comedian Jeff Foxworthy, partners an adult with a 5th grade teammate, and draws from a host of questions that someone with a 5th-grade-level education should, in theory, be able to answer.

Questions range from categories as easy as 1st grade spelling (“How many E’s are in the phrase, ‘Pledge of Allegiance’?”), to more-obscure lessons of 5th grade science, such as “How many astronauts were on board each space capsule launched during NASA’s Gemini space program?” (By the way, it was two.)

Ms. Cox had no intention of minimizing the challenges facing public education in Georgia by appearing on the game show, said Dana Tofig, spokesman for the superintendent.

“We thought that this would be a good way to promote education in Georgia and to have some fun,” he said.

He added that “the superintendent is well aware of all the issues surrounding education, and an appearance on a TV show doesn’t change that.” No hint of how her contest with the 5th grade curriculum turned out.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 03, 2008 edition of Education Week

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