Two school superintendent candidates were recent guests on the “Mornings unPHILtered” show. Kira Willis, who is running as a Libertarian Party of Georgia candidate, and Brian Westlake, a Democrat, came on the show.
Willis is married, lives in Roswell, and has worked teaching English in classrooms in middle and high school for 17 years.
Asked by show host Phil Boyum about removing the focus on testing, Willis said there are just too many, including the “Criterion Referenced Competency Test,” “End-of-Course Test,” “Georgia High School Graduation Test,” and “Check-Point Tests.”
Teachers are pressured by their administrators to ensure their students do well on the tests, she said. Therefore, they often teach to the tests rather than teach to the subjects. For instance, eleventh-graders are tested 11 times during the school year.
Willis said the federal government gives no more than 10 percent of the costs to fund public schooling. She said meeting federal regulations in order to get that funding make the costs greater than the benefits.
Willis said she doesn't like “Merit Pay,” for it would encourage the teachers to stop collaborating, because it pits them against each other as to showing whose methods work best.
Willis said while Georgia is 27th in spending for public education, it’s graduation rate ia much lower. Boyum added that Georgia is also 16th in teacher pay.
Asked about Charter Schools and non-traditional “tracks,” Willis said the college-track isn't realistic for many students. She said she is a proponent of choice.
The communities, and the schools, know what they need, and added that it is not, and should not be, the state's job to mandate which track, or what courses, the students must take.
Concerning “Integrated Math”, Willis said if she had been required to take pre-calculus as a senior she would have never graduated from high school. Many students just don't need such a high level Math course.
Democrat Westlake appeared next on the show. Originally from Florida, he served in the United States Marine Corps, at first, and then after leaving the service went back to college to earn his teaching degrees.
He and his wife moved to Georgia some 13 years ago. Westlake has been teaching social studies now for 10 years, and quickly became convinced that the state school system needed good, strong, leadership.
Asked about the focus on testing, Westlake said with little if no input from those who teach in the classrooms, the state department of education made many bad decisions, such as using standardized tests and moving to a one-size-fits-all single college-track in high schools.
Questioned about AYP, Westlake said that in 2007 every one of the 50 state “Teachers of the Year” in the United States sent a letter which they had all signed criticizing the use of AYP, which they said arbitrarily punishes or rewards different school systems.
Westlake said AYP is federal legislation, and must be adhered to, at least as long as the federal monies that go with participation are accepted. He said on the state level, there are several things we can do about the AYP.
First, he said, we can do an audit to see how much money we are actually spending on the tests and how much money the AYP is bringing in. Secondly, we can determine if we are working towards those goals that we want our schools to achieve by adhering to AYP.
Asked about “Merit Pay”, Westlake responded that he doesn't believe it's a good idea. He said that right now schools in the state of Georgia have three years to release a teacher if that person can't do their job.
Westlake said that by going to a one-track curriculum, many students are being denied options that they need. Charter Schools, he said, were supposed to be schools where students could think outside of the box, but some are now privatizing the public school experience.
“Integrated Math,” Westlake said, has been an immediate failure, and is called by most educators a huge mistake.
“Mornings unPHILtered” airs live Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on statesboroherald.com and also simulcast on WWNS-AM 1240 on the radio. You also can listen anytime at BoroLive.com on statesboroherald.com