Cox: Full story hasn't been told

By Greg Gelpi

While many schools haven't made Adequate Yearly Progress, that is deceiving and doesn't tell the whole story, State Superintendent of Education Kathy Cox said.

Cox made a presentation on the federal No Child Left Behind Act Saturday in a public forum hosted by the Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education at the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center.

Cox said media coverage of schools' progress in meeting the standards set forth by the act hasn't told the complete story.

Many schools have made the grade on performance tests, but have struggled in getting the required 95-percent participation on the tests, she said. Schools may have passed the test, but been labeled as not making Adequate Yearly Progress because of truancy.

"We know that you can't teach kids who aren't there, and teachers have been screaming about this for years," Cox said.

By 2013, 100-percent of the state's students must perform at grade level. About 64-percent performed at grade level this year.

"There's not a single state that can stand before you tonight and say to you with a straight face that they are educating every student well," she said. "We believe we can do it better and faster."

Cox said education has undergone a change at the state level similar to the changes undergone within Clayton County. She said the state has a new governor, new members on the state board of education and a new state superintendent of education.

"We really had to pull together as a team," Cox said.

Clayton County's new superintendent Barbara Pulliam, who was at the forum, complimented Cox on the presentation.

"I'm already excited about coming here to work, and now that I've seen the state superintendent of education I'm even more excited," Pulliam said to Cox during the question and answer session.

Part of the change at the state level includes an overhaul of the state's educational curriculum, which is now open to public comment.

"The curriculum role out is probably the single most important thing over the next four years and longer," Cox said.

Parents don't want a mess of numbers and letters, one parent said. They simply want to know how to help their children get an education.

"They are not interested in the acronyms," Nicole Brodie, the assistant director of the District Seven Parent Teacher Association of Georgia, said. "They are not interested in the data."

Cox used the forum as a way to show the numbers and acronyms, but also as a way to break them down into everyday language.

Improving education does more than help students. Education is crucial to the economy of the state, Cox said.

Merck, a large pharmaceutical research company, chose to locate in North Carolina after considering Georgia, she said. One reason was because of the educational strides made by that state.

"In order to stay competitive with attracting business, we have got to tackle the public education issue," Cox said. "Out students must be prepared to do something after high school. Many of them aren't."

Every student must be ready for some form of post-secondary education, yet many students don't even make it through high school. In Clayton County, between 18 percent and 24 percent of those 25-years-old and older do not have a high school degree.

Only four states have a higher drop out rate than Georgia, she said.

Attending the town hall meeting were Clayton County Board of Education members Ericka Davis, Barbara Wells and Allen T. Johnson. Senior administrators, including interim Superintendent William Chavis and Deputy Superintendent Bill Horton and a crowd of more than 100 area residents.