Education letters 01/18

Shorter summers will benefit poor students

My first reaction to the myopic approach of the General Assembly to public education is: Put your money where your mouth is. But, that would be too simplistic (and possibly impossible).

One change that will help underprivileged students — who are now the majority — do better in school is the modified school calendar, which has already being implemented in Cobb, Clayton, Cherokee, Henry and Fayette counties.

Children from middle- to upper-class homes have an advantage: These children retain “school skills” over the long three-month vacation. Children from lower social class homes do not.

Gains that both groups make during the school year are similar. When school resumes, both groups do not begin school with the same level of “school skills.” The same thing happens each summer, and catching up is almost impossible. Hopefully, the modified school calendar will help.

Dr. Marie L. Borim, Woodstock

Let’s base all state pay on performance measures

I see where the governor’s latest scheme to demotivate the state’s public school teachers is tying pay to students’ test scores. Brilliant, but why stop there? Teachers are, after all, state employees, just as the governor and lieutenant governor. My proposal is to also tie their pay to several indicators.

For instance, if the state’s unemployment rate increases, their pay decreases because they are not “fostering en environment that creates jobs.” If the tax collection rate dips, so does their pay. Not by a one to one ratio but by a conservative factor of 10 — meaning that for every 1 percent of job or tax rate loss, their pay immediately goes down by 10 percent.

Job or tax income increases will result in a 2 percent increase in pay for every 1 percent increase since they are supposed to be creating jobs and upping the state’s tax coffers anyway.

Every single time that an interstate highway in Georgia is shut down, inconveniencing drivers and costing companies money, the state’s DOT boss loses $10 grand. (Gee, using irrational measurements as pay for performance factors is really fun.)

Anytime there is an election recount, the secretary of state loses $100,000 (‘cause elections are really important and there should never be need for a recount).

These are just my “before my morning coffee” ideas. I’m sure I’ll come up with more once Juan Valdez has poured me a big ole cup. Say, speaking of Juan ...

Bruce Burnaman, Woodstock

Is there a fair way to gauge performance?

Efforts to tie teacher pay to student performance are good in theory, but the question is: What constitutes student performance? Standardized tests may be valid, but how will we evaluate professionals who, for example, at the high school level, don’t teach in areas covered by state-mandated tests — foreign language, the arts, PE/health, or career technology?

It would be a shame to evaluate a career technology teacher on the performance of students in academic courses because many students focused on career technology stay in school solely for the opportunity to learn a trade that they can put to use right out of high school. That is not to say that employers don’t value academic skills in their trade-trained workers, but it would be unfair to evaluate a career technology teacher on core academic criteria.

Michelle Hutchinson, Marietta

Emphasis on education is good for AJC and state

The AJC should be commended for putting a major emphasis on education on the Editorial page every Monday. Maureen Downey examines interesting and stimulating educational issues with her weekly column, Learning Curve.

As a retired educator, I look forward to reading her well-thought out and researched opinions. I don’t always agree, but I’m always willing to consider what she says and to take the time to respond with an e-mail.

Education must be kept in the spotlight in all decisions by national, state and local government.

Jerry Schwartz, Alpharetta

Georgia Tech should fess up to rampant crime

The alarming stream of burglaries, shootings and home invasions around Georgia Tech means it is time for Tech to educate students about the potential hazards of attending the university.

Having attended Tech, I know firsthand that the university keeps the crime data under wraps until one becomes a student.

Only then does the student receive the constant crime alerts, which warn of dangerous activities in the area around campus. The university should be required to warn all incoming students about the hazards beforehand.

As it is now, once they are enrolled at Tech, students are often petrified at the very thought of staying on campus late to study or to work on a project.

The situation can be especially terrifying for students coming from faraway countries and cultures who may not speak fluent English or who arrive with the belief that the United States is a land without very much crime.

It should therefore be Georgia Tech’s legal duty to inform all incoming students of recent trends in criminal activity before they arrive on campus. Will Lance, Atlanta

DeKalb raise appalling during a budget crisis

According to the AJC, projected budget cuts by the state Legislature mean “teachers will almost certainly see more furlough days and schools could cut days of instruction.” Yet, the DeKalb County Board of Education felt it appropriate to give superintendent Crawford Lewis a pay raise from $240,000 per year to $255,000 per year.

This year, DeKalb County teachers had to forgo pay increases, saw contributions to their retirement reduced and were furloughed. Schools have had to sacrifice both teacher and paraprofessionals.

My daughters are in college now, and I no longer have a direct affiliation with DeKalb schools. However, as both a DeKalb taxpayer and an admirer of the hard-working professionals who taught my daughters, I am appalled at this dereliction of fiduciary responsibility by the school board. If nothing else, common sense would have dictated that this was irresponsible and demoralizing.

Paula Humer, Dunwoody

If we must accept guns, so should Legislature

In the face of data that illustrates our society suffers a higher level of violence than other countries and the prevalence of firearms increases the severity of casualties, gun advocates put forth the malarkey that more guns mean less crime.

Georgia Legislature has an opportunity to show courage and commitment to this hypothesis by removing the metal detectors in the Capitol and allowing business to be conducted as the rest of us experience it when they adopt the new firearms proposal that would allow guns in most places, including schools.

Otherwise, I’m not convinced the legislation makes sense.

Peter S. Morgan, Jr., Roswell