Attempts at reforming the public education system in Georgia are not new. Even just looking over the last 20 years, numerous reform efforts have been introduced as a means to improve educational outcomes among the state’s youth. Some of these ideas have had a better effect than others, yet as a whole they have not achieved the level of progress Georgia has hoped for. While modest gains have been made in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for eighth grade students and the graduation rate for high school students has risen since 2002, Georgia still has a grade of C-Minus overall and one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.
Below is a list of reforms that Georgia has tried since the introduction of the Hope Scholarship and the charter school law that was passed in 1993. Comparing these reforms to the two graphs that follow demonstrates that achievement among Georgia’s eighth grade and high school students has been relatively stagnant compared to the amount of money spent to improve education over the last two decades.
1993 – HOPE Scholarship created and funded by lottery. Charter school law passed; only public schools can convert to charters; commissioned by local and state board.
2000 – A+ Education Act mandates end-of-course assessments and Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in core subjects.
2001 – No Child Left Behind and Title I grants public schools with high percentages of students receiving free or reduced lunch additional federal funding.
2005 – Georgia Performance Standards implemented as a result of Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) reform to align with national standards.
2008 – HB 881 creates the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. Qualified Education Expense (QEE) Tax Credit Bill passed (HB 1183).
2009 – American Recovery Reinvestment Act; Georgia received almost $2 billion dollars to invest in education. HB555 requires local schools systems to grant charters within the district access to unoccupied buildings at no cost.
2010 – As a result of Common Core State Standards initiative, Georgia adopts new content standards in language arts, math, science, and social studies.
2011 – HB881 Georgia Charter Commission declared unconstitutional; 16 charters, 15,000 students impacted. QEE Tax Credit Bill amended (HB 325) creating student scholarship organizations (SSOs); individual and corporate taxpayers can contribute to SSOs in exchange for a state tax credit.
2012 – Amendment One passes and Georgia Charter Commission is reinstated. College and Career Performance Readiness Index (CCPRI) conducted “study year” of public schools’ performance.
2013 – Tax Credit Bill amended (HB283); cap increased to $58 million. Career Clusters curriculum implemented in schools.
2014 – Students are to take Georgia Milestones instead of CRCT and EOCT. Charter schools reach a total of 315.
- 77 start-ups
- 31 conversions
- 207 charter system schools
- 16 charter systems
- 13 state commissioned specialty schools
- 13.5% of total student population
Total Spending vs. NAEP Scores
Total Spending vs. High School Graduation Rate
It seems that Georgia will have to do something different than what has been attempted thus far if we want to experience real gains in educational outcomes among K-12 students – something different than pumping more money into the current system, aligning state curriculum to national standards, or allowing only a limited number of parents and students school choice. We need greater options that ensure tax dollars are well spent and students’ educational needs are met. Only then will be begin to see a more dramatic increase in the number of high school graduates who are ready for college, career, and life.