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Students can help shape state education policy
Superintendent looking for advisory council applicants
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Find a Student Advisory Council application in your high school counselor’s office or on the Georgia Department of Education website. Applications are due Sept. 17, with the first meeting set for Oct. 25.

State Schools Superintendent Brad Bryant is looking for advice.

In the tradition of past superintendents, Bryant opened the application process this week for the Student Advisory Council. High schoolers from all districts in Georgia can apply to the council and meet in Atlanta three times during the school year to talk about graduation rates, graduation test scores and classes.

"I know that former Superintendent Kathy Cox really enjoyed working with her advisory councils and learning from the advice of students," Bryant said. "I believe it is important to take the feedback of these students into account as we make statewide policy decisions that affect their futures and prepare them for college and career readiness."

This year's application asks students to write a brief response for one question.

"The No. 1 goal of the Georgia Department of Education is to increase the graduation rate. In 2010, Georgia's graduation rate rose to approximately 80 percent, up from 63 percent in 2002," the application reads. "The primary task of the 2010-2011 Student Advisory Council will be to develop a plan to continue to increase the graduation rate. What specific suggestions/ideas do you have to improve the graduation rate?"

Last year, Taylor Bishop, who graduated from North Hall High School in May, represented Hall County Schools, and Veronica Leon, who graduated from Gainesville High School in May, represented Gainesville City Schools.

"During the first meeting, we were put into groups and came up with a way to decrease dropout rates," Bishop said. "Each group had something different, and Superintendent Cox presented them to the Board of Education."

Bishop said she enjoyed sharing problems and solutions with the students across the state.

"You could give students ideas and go back and make your own school a better place," she said. "I talked about our academic program, Renaissance, which rewards grades and attendance and gives students something to work for."

Leon said she remembered one school held a raffle for a car to encourage higher graduation test scores.

"If you get a certain score, your name would go in the hat," she said. "Schools have different incentives, and some weren't as cool as others, but it was interesting to hear what was going on in those other school systems."

One student, for example, talked about the struggle of switching to a four-day school week.

"She talked about how everyone said it was so great, but it was difficult for the clubs and sports because they'd still have to show up on Monday even though school wasn't in session," Leon said. "Also, a lot of parents didn't have a place to send their kids. We got to know what was really going on."

Applications for this year's council are due Sept. 17, and Bryant will host a meeting Oct. 25. The newly elected superintendent or a deputy superintendent will hold the Jan. 24 and March 7 meetings.

"I think it'll be interesting to work with different superintendents," Leon said. "It'll be more insightful for the students because they get to talk to Superintendent Bryant and then get to meet the new one, and the superintendents will get helpful ideas."

Leon said she enjoyed meeting the students across the state with different backgrounds.

"It was a diversity of people," she said. "Also, I felt like we had a say in what was going on in our system, when we usually don't get to say what's wrong. I felt like Superintendent Cox was really listening."