Matt Cardoza, GaDOE Communications Office, (404) 651- 7358, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Follow DOE on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Superintendent Richard Woods
It’s true there
are no silver bullets in education – no single change that will set every
student on the path toward success. What’s needed, instead, is a holistic
approach. We must focus on the whole child, on each child, and all the
interlocking elements necessary to equip them with the skills they need.
One of the most
essential changes we can make on behalf of Georgia’s students is renewing our
commitment to literacy and K-5 foundational skills. The ability to read on
grade level by third grade, along with proficiency in math by fifth grade, is
the first crucial step toward future academic attainment. We have to get it
right in the early grades if students are going to achieve later on.
Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal have, through
their advocacy, laid a firm foundation for an increased focus on literacy.
Partnerships with the Get Georgia
Reading Campaign and Georgia
Public Library Service are game-changers in this regard as well. For the
first time, a network exists that is expanding the capacity of Georgia’s
education system and allowing educators and communities alike to explore new
methods of increasing literacy.
At the Georgia
Department of Education, we’re working each day to leverage these resources to
the very best of our ability and the maximum benefit of Georgia’s students.
We’re working closely with our Regional
Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to help train and equip school districts
with the tools necessary to make improvements in the classroom. Our Striving
Readers grant provides funding to schools to ensure all children – birth to
12th grade – are able to read on grade level and communicate effectively with
by this grant have shown strong results, and we plan to apply for grant funds
through the LEARN Act
to expand and strengthen our efforts in this area.
Through our agency
strategic plan, we’re setting a course to raise and develop viable academic
standards and increase the percentage of K-5 students with a strong knowledge
of foundational skills and concepts.
have focused on providing tangible tools for students, teachers, and parents –
teacher resources to daily
text reminders for parents of four- and five-year-olds. During the summer
of 2016, we donated more
than 100,000 books to students across the state, and students read another
200,000 books through free
access on their digital devices.
Our efforts are
moving the needle in the right direction. We’ve seen increases in the number of
4- or 5-star rated schools for climate, the number of third graders reading at
or above grade level, the number of schools increasing their rating on the
state’s readiness index, and the number of schools implementing Positive
Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) with fidelity.
Still, more is
needed to place students on the right path toward reading proficiency. We’re
currently working on a statewide literacy plan, through which we’ll:
• Leverage data across agencies to
match needs to local assets
• Utilize school literacy planning
templates and support materials to augment school improvement plans
• Design and adopt a reliable, valid
early screener to identify students in need of additional supports
• Design and adopt a reliable, valid
diagnostic measure for literacy (this would be used for formative assessment,
• Produce updated professional learning
focused on literacy across all content areas
• Create virtual field trips to support
students’ comprehension and background knowledge
crucial to have an accurate measurement of students’ grasp of foundational
skills. Senate Bill 364 helps us make progress in this direction: it eliminates
eight high-stakes tests and places a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy.
The bill supports formative assessments for literacy and numeracy in grades 1
and 2, which gives us the opportunity to show how assessments can be given and
used in a diagnostic way that truly informs instruction, rather than a
high-stakes, limited-return testing model.
In the short
term, we’re developing tools and supports to help districts use the literacy
and numeracy assessments they’re already administering to ensure their students
are on a path to proficiency in reading and math.
In the long
term, we’re working to change the culture of testing by creating interactive
activities that gauge students’ literacy and numeracy skills throughout the
year, instead of a high-stakes, primarily multiple-choice assessment that takes
place at the end of a grade or course. This shift will show that we can engage
students and remove the high-stakes, high-pressure culture of testing while
delivering more timely and useful data to teachers and parents.
are joined in this work by a host of partners who care deeply about Georgia’s
children and their ability to live, learn, and lead in the future.
with the State Board of Education to reaffirm our commitment to literacy and
K-5 foundational skills. I ask Georgia’s districts and local schools - who
are doing incredible work on this front already – to join us in this pledge and
make K-5 foundational skills a primary focus of the curriculum. Together, we
can give students the skills they need to move confidently into the future.
Richard Woods, a 22-year public school
educator and former small business owner, is Georgia’s School Superintendent.