School chief unveils proposals

By Greg Gelpi

Unveiling details of Phase II of its Quality Core Curriculum, Georgia Superintendent of Education Kathy Cox on Tuesday outlined a strategy for adhering to President Bush's "No child left behind."

Overhauling the current curriculum, Cox laid out a plan to organize classes from kindergarten through 12th grade so as to avoid "random acts of improvement."

Consulting a diverse range of teachers and educational experts from throughout the state, the announcement was the culmination of a series of meetings, which began July 2, to make the theoretical practical.

"The goal is to stop the random acts of school improvement that have created a loose patchwork of standards that are leading some of our children to fall through the cracks," Cox said.

Electing to build upon the foundation of the existing curriculum, the Curriculum Expert Advisory Board consulted other experts and curricula from other states in evaluating and modifying the curriculum of Georgia.

Using a standards-based system, the board adopted nationally accepted standards in evaluating student progress to "provide clear expectations" from students.

Guiding the considerations of the advisory board were the elements the board felt students should be capable of accomplishing following the completion of a particular grade.

For instance, a student who successfully completes the fourth grade should be able to write three types of essays: an informative report, an essay on a single subject and a longer essay on one subject broken into sections.

The draft, as announced by Cox, also lists the attributes of these essays, such as the complexity of the characters within the essay.

The revamped curriculum will work in conjunction with performance testing.

Demonstrating the values as espoused by the advisory board and the success of performance testing, Mariela Viesca, a fifth grader from Fair Oaks Elementary in Cobb County, presented an essay she had written while in the fourth grade.

The introduction of the curriculum marks one step in the process to institute a new curriculum in the state's public schools.

A draft of the curriculum will be presented to the Georgia State Board of Education in November. If accepted in December, the public will have the opportunity to address the board regarding its concerns.

The Curriculum Expert Advisory Board was borne out of Phase I of the plan to revamp the state's education system. In Phase I, the Leadership Task Force got the ball rolling as the state began its investigation into how to raise the standards of the current curriculum to reach the president's 2012-2013 goal of no child left behind.

The board will tentatively prepare informational packets for parents and instructors this summer before initiating the newly designed curriculum in the fall of 2004.

Members of the Clayton County School Board were unable to be reached for their comments on the proposed curriculum.