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A viable option for better schools
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Forsyth County News
Those responsible for the administration of education at the state level in Georgia — lawmakers, the state Department of Education, the governor — take a cookie-cutter approach to the problem.

Forced to deal with a broad diversity of demographics, economic conditions, cultures and learning challenges in way too many school districts, they opt for a one-size-fits-all approach to public education.

And as anyone knows who has ever purchased one-size-fits-all garments — they don’t. At least not well.

The end result is a state educational system that has as its foundation policies, rules and mandates that all school systems are expected to follow in order to reach minimum standards of achievement. Minimum being a keyword in the equation.

Too often the end result is a level of mediocrity that makes it unlikely that Georgia students will be able to compete and excel as adults in an increasingly global economy.

The state’s Investing in Educational Excellence Initiative, IE2, provides an opportunity for school systems looking for more than the status quo to achieve a measure of flexibility in educational programming.

IE2 lets local school systems, with state approval, deviate from mandates in a variety of areas in order to improve student performance and better adapt to the needs of a particular community.

The Forsyth County school system has taken the first of several steps toward the signing of an IE2 contract with the state. If the contract is ultimately approved, the school system will be able to set its own rules in a number of different areas so long as the end result is student achievement that meets elevated state benchmarks.

With an IE2 contract in place, the local system will be able to address specific needs and concerns on a per school basis, rather than trying to force cookie-cutter solutions.

Already there is criticism that the process has advanced to this point without more specific data available for what it means for individual schools. Those criticisms are premature; once the state approves the contract, then the plans are developed for the specific schools.

IE2 is designed to allow flexibility, not educational anarchy. There are sufficient controls in place to assure that school systems do not stray too far from
acceptable norms.

IE2 can only work if there are rigid standards of accountability. Frankly, students in school systems with an IE2 contract should be held to a higher standard than those whose potential is limited by the unwillingness of local educational leaders to step outside the status quo with ideas for doing things better.

With an IE2 contract in place, the burden of responsibility for student achievement rests more heavily upon the shoulders of local decision makers. We’re comfortable with that, and think our school system will be better for it.