Online Athens: Teachers need less testing, record-keeping, more time to teach, says state school superintendent
State School Superintendent Richard Woods heard something he’d never heard before as he campaigned for the job last year — experienced teachers advising younger folks to consider a profession besides teaching. Half of new teachers leave the profession within five years, he said.
“Right now I think we are giving them shackles and anchors,” he told a small group of teachers and administrators at Athens’ Cedar Shoals High School Monday. “I think you have been given too much at one time, and you are overloaded.”
Woods is in Athens for the winter meeting of the Georgia Association of Education Leaders, and took time Monday for brief tours of Cedar Shoals and Gaines Elementary School.
At Cedar Shoals, Principal Tony Price touted the Clarke County School District’s adoption of the tough International Baccalaureate curriculum framework and the school’s partnership with the University of Georgia’s College of Education. Cedar Shoals’ UGA professor in residence, education professor Sonia Janis, actually teaches a ninth-grade social studies class in addition to helping Cedar Shoals teachers and teaching UGA students who are aiming to become teachers.
Woods took time Monday during a lunch at Cedar Shoals to answer questions from teachers, and said teachers are spending too much time on state-mandated testing and record-keeping, and not enough time teaching.
“I don’t want you to be data collectors. I don’t want you to be compliance officers. I want you to be teachers,” he said.
The state’s embrace of standardized testing as a way to measure not only students, but teachers and administrators, is pushing the state more toward standardized education, as opposed to the personalized model of education he favors, Woods said.
“Our kids are not manufactured parts. I think we should view them as works of art,” he said.
One teacher agreed with what Woods said about experienced teachers advising youngsters to choose a different path.
“I have a daughter that goes to Cedar Shoals High School, and she wants to be a teacher, and I say, ‘You might want to think about something else,’” the teacher said.
One teacher asked Woods to state his core values.
“I have a Christian background,” Woods said. “Living by the golden rule and being very servant-oriented. Kids first, that’s first and foremost.”
Woods said he hopes to strengthen fine arts programs such as art and music in schools. As the state legislature cut funds for public schools over the last several years, many reduced or eliminated funding that would have been used to hire teachers in those culturally oriented subjects.
But now, in Woods’ first month in office, the state Department of Education is actually looking at hiring a fine arts director, he said.
Because of the heavy emphasis on testing the arts have been “grossly overlooked,” he said.
Woods went on to say he wants to emphasize literacy from kindergarten through fifth grade, and he asked teachers for feedback about the state’s education system.
“Just jot down your top three things that would improve education and let me know,” he said.
Georgia's State School Superintendent
Richard Woods has over 25 years of pre-k through 12th grade experience in public education. > Read Full Bio