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Meeting focuses on states response to federal education law
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Educators from teachers to supervisors had no shortage of comments and suggestions for items to include in the state’s response to Every Student Succeeds Act at a regional meeting Monday night at Piedmont College in Demorest.

Topics ranged from how to best prepare beginning teachers to how to change the College and Career Ready Performance Index to flexibility for teachers to using physical exercise to stimulate mental gymnastics.

About 70 people attended the second of eight sessions around the state to offer comments and ideas for the state’s response to ESSA — the re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The new law requires that states develop plans that address standards, assessments, school and district accountability, and special help for struggling schools and students,” the state Department of Education website says.

Richard Woods, Georgia’s state school superintendent, termed the state’s response the chance for local school districts to be heard — and to develop a new kind of education.

He said for the first time, the federal government is not requiring “top-down” planning.

For example, he said, testing in schools should be “a coaching tool, not a ‘gotcha’ tool.”

The group divided into five sessions — accountability, assessment, educating the whole child, educator and leadership development and federal programs and support.

Wanda Creel, Gainesville superintendent, led the federal programs group. Creel is a member of the state committee for that area.

Also attending the session were Sally Krisel and Jo Dinnan from Hall County Schools.

The federal requirements included testing each year in third through eighth grades and once in high school, report the performance of schools each year and develop a plan to improve low-performing schools and subgroups.

Group leaders said how those requirements are met is part of what will be in the state plan.

Georgia is “ahead of many other states,” one group leader said, because the CCRPI measures a number of things required by ESSA.

Teachers warned that more and more students have social and emotional needs that must be met before they can be expected to meet test standards. One woman said one test asked whether a student would choose to go to a movie or to the dentist. She said one boy could not answer the question “because he had never been to either one.”

At the same time, teachers agreed the students need to be taught a global view because of the competition from other countries and their students.

Multiple teachers in different groups called for educators to have flexibility in their classes. It is “just insane,” one said, for a teacher who is in the midst of student enthusiasm and attention to a subject to have to stop because 50 minutes — a class length — has passed and go to another subject.

Teachers also agreed students need physical time — exercise periods, walking, using exercise balls — to also respond mentally. One teacher said he improved his sharpness by going to a vertical desk.

After the sessions are held around the state, a plan for ESSA will be developed. That will be posted and comments taken about it in January. The state must submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Education in March.

For those unable to attend a meeting, a survey will soon be announced and posted on the Georgia Department of Education website. Feedback also can be emailed to essa@doe.k12.ga.us.

The DOE website has a section on ESSA at the top of its home page.

Woods urged the group to focus on a person — he cited his youngest niece. Students are different, he declared. He said he had seen elementary students who were “ready to build Saturn V rockets, but some looked as though they had never been out of diapers.”

Regional events