State Superintendent on “funny math,” and other education issues at GOP meeting
By Eileen Steinhauer
More common sense, less Common Core and a child-centered approach were the themes at last week’s education forum hosted by the Pickens County GOP and featuring Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods.
A small, but informed audience listened to Woods’ take on the state of education in Georgia and got to ask questions of the recently elected state superintendent.
“Students need a strong foundation in reading and math,” said Woods. “Education should not be a one size fits all approach. We need to personalize, rather than standardize, education.”
Woods was elected State Superintendent in 2014. He campaigned on a platform that opposed Common Core and overuse of standardized testing and continues to hold true to these opinions.
Common Core, a set of educational standards used in over 40 states, was chosen by the state of Georgia in 2012. Recently, the standards underwent minor changes to math and language arts, which are the only two areas Georgia adopted Common Core, and were renamed the Georgia Standards of Excellence.
Common Core has become a hot topic nationwide during the past year, with numerous groups complaining about the tests associated with the Common Core standards and the complex methods now being taught in mathematics.
Woods has gone on record calling some of the mathematic techniques now being taught “funny math.”
On Thursday night, he said he is concerned with the techniques being taught in math, especially when he hears stories about college-educated engineers who are not able to help their children with their homework.
Woods also said that he believes that there may have been a communication issue between the state Department of Education and schools when it came to teaching math.
“Teachers started pulling all of these different methods to teach math,” said Woods. He went on to say that Georgia testing does not require that a student master a certain way of finding an answer.
“We need to teach math the way students learn,” said Woods. “Discreet, or traditional, mathematic formulas are fine.”
Another issue that Woods broached was teacher retention.
Woods, who is a former teacher, said this is the first time that he has repeatedly heard veteran teachers advising others not to go into the field of teaching. He also said that by year five of new teachers’ careers, Georgia has lost 50 percent of the work force.
“Teachers do a wonderful job and we need to rely on them.”
Woods also discussed the fact that teachers are facing a lot of accountability now, which is not a bad thing; however, when 50 percent of their evaluations as teachers is based on a test given on one day, there may be a problem with the formula used to hold them accountable.
One suggestion Woods made was to change the 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation that is based on the test be moved to professional development.
“Teacher experience should matter,” said Woods. He went on to say that he was certainly a better teacher in year 14 than in year 1.
As discussed during his campaign, Woods also addressed standardized testing in schools.
“We have tested way too much in Georgia,” said Woods. “We are to the point where the test, not the child, is driving education.”
Woods ended by saying that he believes that Georgia’s “brightest days are ahead” in education and urged parents and community members to stay up-to-date on education in Georgia by following the Georgia Department of Education on Facebook and the website (gadoe.org). He also encouraged people to contact their local and state senators and congress men and women with concerns regarding education and new legislation.
Pickens County GOP Chair Ron Thompson announced that the local GOP will be awarding a $500 scholarship to one deserving Pickens High School senior in 2016.
“This is the first of what we hope will be more scholarships,” said Thompson.
The GOP is also hosting a weekly, nonpartisan discussion on WYYZ on Saturdays before Georgia football games. The discussions are open forum. Local restaurants are pairing with the GOP to sponsor the discussions.
As “strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment,” as described by Thompson, the GOP will also be holding a raffle for a gun at Rocco’s Pub on December 7.