Every now and again, lawmakers under the Gold Dome in Atlanta have the chance to get something right. They have already missed one opportunity when the Senate passed the campus carry bill, House Bill 859, which allows anyone with a carry permit to have a loaded weapon on a public college or university campus -- with the exception of a sporting event. However, classrooms, offices and libraries are OK. Not one college president thinks that's a good idea, but it was approved anyway and now awaits the signature of the governor. Gov. Nathan Deal is being urged to veto the measure.
Along comes Senate Bill 364, sponsored by state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta. This bill sets out how much weight student test scores and other criteria would count toward teacher, assistant principal and principal evaluations. They would be rated on one of four levels: exemplary, proficient, needs development or ineffective.
The sticking point didn't come with the idea of the evaluation, but with the weight of the student test scores, which would have accounted for 50 percent of the evaluation of teachers and 70 percent for school leaders. Senate Bill 364 cuts that to 30 percent for teachers and 40 percent for leaders, levels agreed to by every major education organization in the state.
Senate Bill 364 does something else we wholeheartedly agree with: It reduces the number of tests that students have to take from 32 to 24, and the assessments have to be validated by a third party. And another important point that is particularly pertinent in a county like Bibb where students move between schools often: In order for a student's assessment to count in a teacher's evaluation, the student would have to have been present 90 percent of the time in the class.
This evaluation piece isn't perfect. It's far from it, but it's a start. The bill still faces the House Rules Committee, a vote of the full House and another look by the Senate. Anything could still happen before it's put to bed before sine die.