When State School Superintendent Kathy Cox spoke this past week to the annual conference of the Georgia School Boards Association, her follow-up remarks on her idea to force conformity of school start dates could be summed up like this:
Cox made her hand-wringing suggestion a couple of weeks ago, pondering whether all schools should start the upcoming year at a later date to give more time to crunch the numbers from the recent, abysmal Criterion Reference Competency Tests.
Her theory was that by starting school later, there would be enough time to tally the scores from students who took and passed the summer retest and figure them into each school's performance. That, in turn, would potentially rescue some schools from missing Adequate Yearly Progress standards under the federal No Child Left Behind rules.
Notice: In absolutely none of that is there even a hint that the purpose is to improve students' education. This idea was about nothing but propping up appearances - putting lipstick on a pig.
What's worse, with a delayed school start, educators would have had even less time to work with next year's students as they prepare for testing under higher curriculum standards. This would have meant stealing from future achievement in order to make this year's numbers look better. That might be the current standard for fiscal management in Washington, D.C., but it's an awful way to run schools.
Fortunately, opposition from individual school systems around the state - including swift and unequivocal rejection from Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle, who's had all the school-calendar fights he can stomach - quickly convinced Cox to deep-six the idea.
As all this drama over CRCT and AYP and NCLB and the rest of the bureaucratic alphabet soup demonstrates, top-down mandates from Washington threaten to cripple public education. They might seem closer to home, but edicts from Atlanta are no better.
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