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Big news for schools despite break
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Forsyth County News
As hard as it is to believe, it’s less than a month before students make the trek back to their classrooms and the 2009-10 school year begins.

Those “lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer” just don’t seem to last as long as they used to.

Though the students have been on vacation, it has not been an uneventful summer break for public education in Georgia. In fact, two significant issues this month are likely to have long-term impact on public education statewide.

On July 1, new legislation went into effect giving parents and students in Georgia a limited form of school choice, one based on the availability of space at the school of preference and the ability of families to provide their own transportation in the event of a student transfer from one school to another.

Forsyth and Gwinnett counties are exempted from the new school choice law because of their IE2 contracts with the state, which allow them to waive certain state regulations for a period of five years as long as they can show improved student performance without adherence to the state mandates.

While not immediately an issue in Forsyth, it will be interesting to see how well the new school choice law is accepted statewide — assuming, that is, that it can survive what are almost certain to be future legal challenges.

Due to the state’s current economic conditions, many school systems have not grown as rapidly as was expected, and as a result some have surplus classroom space in some schools. If the volume of students looking to transfer is a tidal wave it could have major implications for school quality and long-term educational planning in the state. If instead it’s a trickle, we may learn that school choice was more popular as a political slogan than a political reality.

The second major event for Georgia schools this summer was the revelation that officials from at least four elementary schools in the state were so concerned about student performance on the mandated CRCTs that they erased wrong answers and replaced them with correct ones to improve scores.

Afraid of what the scores might show if left unaltered, those charged with keeping the kids from cheating then cheated themselves to make their schools look better.

None of those schools was in Forsyth County.

Gov. Sonny Perdue summed up the findings of an investigation into the four schools by saying, “The evidence is overwhelming.”

There is no rationale nor viable defense for such behavior. Those responsible should face the immediate and permanent suspension of their certification to work in public schools, and where possible criminal charges should be pursued.

Given the CRCT scandal, maybe it is a good thing that another school year will soon start. We could use some positive news on the public education front to replace the sour taste left behind by the repugnant actions of officials at a few schools in Georgia.