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PR spin on SAT scores fails to aid education

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POSTED: September 19, 2007 5:05 a.m.
I think I may have hit a truth nerve.
I criticized Gov. Sonny Perdue for his massive public relations campaign on SAT scores. I also called on the people to become more engaged in deciphering the truth from this spin regarding education.
In a press release Wednesday, the governor wrote: “For more than 130 years, Democrats like DuBose Porter and his pessimistic friends presided over an educational system that was failing our students.”
You all know our governor was a part of the 130-year legacy he is bashing. Does he? Of course, but he didn’t think anyone would be fed up enough to take the heat that comes from speaking truth to power.
According to the governor, my calling attention to the massive public relations campaign glossing over the negative results of cuts to education minimizes the work of teachers, students and parents. Exactly how? I think they are doing amazingly well with $1.3 billion less in the state’s education budget.
Overall, the nation’s graduating class of 2007 averaged the lowest math and reading SAT scores since 1999 and Georgia’s average dropped five points from last year. Everybody does worse, but the gap narrows, and in the world of massive PR this is turned into a positive.
The governor, in his press release, stated “Georgia’s minority students are even outpacing their counterparts around the nation with higher scores in most areas of the test.”
That’s great. But this same governor backed and implemented a criteria change for grade eligibility designed to prevent a large number of these same minority students — along with many students in the majority as well — from receiving the HOPE scholarship. Lottery funds are at an all-time high.
The governor wrote, “Thanks to our high school and middle school graduation coaches, our graduation rates have increased by almost eight points.”
I also support graduation coaches, but it is just too soon to calculate its actual effect. If you have to be 16 to drop out and the program has only been in place for one year, how can you take credit for students not dropping out when they couldn't have dropped out yet, even if they had wanted?
If enough light is focused on education, we can begin to see real improvement. While I would not have cut education at a time when our students have to compete in a global market, there are many positive solutions that don’t require more money. However, they will only work if the public is allowed to see the truth instead of the spin.
Reducing paperwork for teachers and therefore giving them more time to teach, making more effective use of our technology to speed learning, shifting the focus of learning methods to reading in the early grades and allowing stronger discipline are just a few of the changes that would move our state forward, without raising taxes. But this won’t happen until we quit sugarcoating reality and start dealing with it.

State Rep. DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) is House minority leader.
 

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