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Rep. Davis co-sponsors education reform bill

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

State Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough), and other state lawmakers, are attempting to make the statewide high school curriculum more inclusive of career, technical and agricultural courses.

Davis is co-sponsoring House Bill 186, along with Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), to establish broader education options for students enrolled in courses traditionally considered non-core academic study. The bill would give those courses equal standing as traditional core courses.

The proposed legislation, Davis said, would require the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and the Board of Technical and Adult Education, to develop course standards that incorporate some career-, technical-, and agriculture-education classes, into the high school core curriculum.

HB 186 states that "students who complete a career, technical or agricultural education course that includes embedded standards in an academic core subject area for which an end-of-course assessment has been adopted, pursuant to Code Section 20-2-281, shall be given the opportunity to take such end-of-course assessment upon completion of the career, technical or agricultural education course ...

"Students who successfully complete a course in career, technical and agricultural education ... shall receive course credit for both the career, technical and agricultural education course as well as for the academic core coursework embedded in such course."

A high school student taking a business-application class, for instance, may earn credit for completing a core math class, if it satisfies the state's academic standards for core maths, explained Davis. The student, then, can use the credit to fulfill part of a college admissions requirement.

The state representative said students are currently losing opportunities to take career-, technical-, and agriculture-education classes because many of those classes only count as electives, and not as required core classes. The core classes, he added, take up the bulk of students' high school credits.

Davis acknowledged that HB 186 was partly inspired by his Graduating Everyone Matters (GEM) Act from the 2009-10 legislative term. GEM sought to establish three diploma options for high school students, including the general diploma, the career-vocational-technical diploma, and the college-preparation diploma.

"HB 186 follows the spirit of the GEM Act and creates multiple pathways for Georgians to gain a high school diploma," said Davis, noting his substitute-teaching experience during the 2008-09 school year. He said he realized as a substitute teacher what was needed to improve our state's education system.

"After seeing the difficulties faced by teachers and students, I began working with education and government leaders to find meaningful solutions," he said. "That work ultimately led me to write and introduce the GEM Act during last year's term. I garnered a lot of support for GEM last year."

Davis said he joined several other state representatives, and some state senators, on a tour around Georgia, last summer, for the bipartisan education study committee, commissioned by State House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

He said the study committee traveled to such cities as LaGrange, Valdosta and Stockbridge, and produced HB 186 from its findings.

"Working with Rep. Davis and the Education Study Committee has shown us that we need to put the focus back on the student, and give them options in terms of what it takes to get their diploma," said Rep. Nix, of LaGrange. "We must provide options that lead all Georgia students to success, whether they plan to go to college, technical school, or immediately enter the work force."

Davis pointed out that educators around the state have expressed their support of the bill's concept and intent. "HB 186 will be in the best interest of the students of Georgia," said Calvine Rollins, president of the Georgia Association of Educators.

"PAGE [Professional Association of Georgia Educators] is in complete support of the new pathways initiative in HB 186, and we want to thank Rep. Davis and Rep. Nix for their hard work on this bill," added PAGE representative, Margaret Ciccarelli.

Davis expects the legislation will be reviewed in the State House Education sub-committee as soon as next week, and could be up for a vote on the House floor within the next two weeks.