Residents of Houston County got a chance to speak directly to Georgia school Superintendent Richard Woods on Tuesday.
For the first stops of a public relations initiative, Woods toured Veterans High School and held a town hall forum at Warner Robins High School.
One of the main themes of Woods’ talk at the forum was the need to customize the educational process for each student as much as possible.
“I think every child is unique,” he said. “I like to look at every child, really, as individual works of art.”
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Part of the realization that “one size does not fit all” in education means taking a closer look at the structure of the core subject paths, particularly at the high school level. For example, Woods said that computer science might be more relevant as a science option than one of the traditional courses if students want to work in the ever-growing technology industry.
Another facet is decreasing the emphasis on and changing the approach to testing. Woods said the current model is more of an “autopsy” approach as students’ knowledge is measured at the end of the year, instead of a “diagnostic” method that would measure growth throughout the year.
“So we are looking at how we test and what we test,” he said.
He also addressed a question about the Opportunity School District proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal and approved by state legislators, which would allow a state agency to take control of schools that score poorly on the College and Career Ready Performance Index. While Woods said he had no opinion either way on the proposal, he approved of local-level governance and would make it a priority to correct the “perpetual state of struggling” in some schools and districts.
“My job, if this were to come to fruition, is to put that organization out of business,” he said.
The proposal will be put to a statewide vote in 2016. Like with issues of teacher pension and benefits, he urged educators to make their voices heard by voting and contacting legislators.
“Teachers, you can and should have a large voice,” he said.
As part of his tour of Veterans, Woods stepped into several classrooms, including Rachel Sealy’s Advanced Placement World History class.
In addition to testing and foreign language options, one student seemed interested in the real-world application of her studies. Necole Hilton said that public-school offerings lacked training in topics like bills, taxes and personal banking.
“These are the things that help me when I go out and talk to ... legislators and people that fund things like this,” he said of the students’ suggestions.
Woods noted that such topics once were taught in school but had since fallen through the cracks.
“It is something we are talking about,” he said.
He was led by first-year Principal Chris Brown, who was glad Woods took the time to meet with students, teachers and administrators.
“It speaks volumes, I think, to his initiatives,” Brown said.
Woods’ trip around the state is ongoing and includes a stop at Macon’s Springdale Elementary on Friday. He said he hopes the knowledge and connections he makes through that effort as well as the Department of Education’s work throughout the year can help make Georgia known as a state that excels in education.
“We have the resources, the personnel, the commitment to meet the educational needs of all our students,” Woods said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter @MTJTimm.