Getting students “life ready” should be a high priority for public schools, and new opportunities for students and teachers are paving that path, according to Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods.
“You hear a lot about being college and career ready, but, for myself, it is about being life ready,” Woods told Gainesville Rotary Club members this week. “I think that’s more inclusive for what we want for our children. For our young people who step into a new phase of life (after high school), we want them to be prepared to take on that next challenge.”
Woods pointed to the state’s Move On When Ready program that allows high school students in grades 9-12 to start taking college classes through technical colleges and schools in the University System of Georgia tuition free.
“That is a growing gem for our state,” he said. “Not only are students graduating with a high school diploma, but now I am meeting students who are graduating with an associate degree with two years of college that’s paid for. I can’t think of a better bargain when we talk about our kids getting ready for life.”
He added that fine arts play a role in getting students ready for life outside of school and said the state Department of Education has a person working with fine arts in the state for the first time in 20 years.
“I think all of our students should be exposed to band, music, dance, drama and visual arts,” he said. “Those are aspects of life which I think reflect a very healthy society. They add critical thinking pieces and open up higher-order thinking in the brains of students.”
Woods said Senate Bill 364, which was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal last year, has given freedom to teachers by reducing the number of mandated state tests.
“Parents realize education is more than just taking a test,” he said. “During that No Child Left Behind era (George W. Bush administration), what education became across the nation and across our state was all about the test.
“We actually dehumanized one aspect we were really good at, and that’s personal relationships in education,” he added. “That part of personalizing education goes a long way.”