State Board Reports

10/01 - October State Board Report

October State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 10/1/2020


It has been a long time since a State Board meeting was so contentious that it was painful to watch, but we had one yesterday.  State Board member Martha Zoller tried several times to change the tone and get the meeting back on track.  We appreciated her efforts. While disagreements between the State Superintendent/Department of Education and a few members of the State Board are often bubbling beneath the surface, this month those disagreements were obvious and heated. While the main fight centered around testing, it is clear that there are issues beyond testing that need to be worked out between the Board and Department. 

Budget Committee

After a much longer than expected executive session, the first item on the Budget Committee agenda started the wrangling. In what seemed to be a relatively benign item, the committee was asked to approve an additional $10 million in funding to administer the Georgia Milestones for the fall semester. According to the Department, the increase in funding is required because the budget anticipated approval of the waiver from the US Department of Education which would have allowed the state to forego the assessments this year. Since we do have to give them, money has to be allocated. 

Right off the bat it became a fight over funding for the new formative assessment, DRC BEACON. The sticking point was the $1.5 million set aside for BEACON vs the amount of funding and resources that are being provided to the innovative assessment pilots currently under development. Several members of the Board pointed out that more was being spent on BEACON than was spent on the pilots, while the Department noted that because the DOE and Board will eventually have to choose between the pilots, they are staying out of it to prevent a conflict of interest.

As is often the case in a budget, there are competing interests here.  The innovative assessment pilots are federally approved but received no federal funding.  These pilots are ultimately to lead to a replacement for Milestones.  In an unusual move, the federal Department approved multiple pilots for Georgia but the state has to choose one eventually to move foreward.  At the same time, the state -- through legislation and otherwise -- has increased the emphasis on formative assessments.  Formative assessments are given periodically and designed to see where students are as opposed to summative assessments, given at the end of the year or course and designed around finding out how students did.  The accountability system is built around summative assessments. BEACON is part of that shift toward including more formative assessments.

Ultimately, this item was pulled for a separate vote, while the other 15 items of the committee's agenda were added to the consent agenda.

Rules Committee

Following the fireworks of the Budget Committee, the Rules Committee provided a brief reprieve but also foreshadowed the discussion to come. Of note, the approval of the much discussed Health Education Standards were pulled from the agenda. Little explanation was given.

The Rules Committee did move forward the Workforce Ready Career Pathway, as well as the Language Assistance Program for English Language Learners, both of which were held out for a separate vote. 

Also pulled for a separate vote was State Superintendent Richard Woods' proposal to have the Milestones End of Course tests count only as .01% of a student's grade for the 2020-2021 school year, as opposed to the current 20%. Board Member Mike Royal objected to the item being placed on the consent agenda, but agreed to hold further discussion until the full Board meeting.

Full Board Meeting - VIDEO LINK

At times Thursday afternoon, it was hard to tell where they were in the agenda because of the constant discussion around testing. It really came to a head during the Superintendent's report given by Dr. Allison Timberlake and Chief of Staff Matt Jones. Dr. Timberlake provided an update of the assessment program for the 2020-2021 school year, and the innovative assessment pilot. When the Chief of Staff began his update on Governor Kemp's assessment task force, tempers in the room began to flair. Several board members questioned why they were just hearing about this task force, while Superintendent Woods pushed back noting that the task force was the Governor's. 

This discussion quickly became a discussion about the Superintendent's end of course grade weight proposal from the Rules Committee. Board Member Helen Rice voiced her concern that they did not have enough notice on the proposal, while the Superintendent noted they had over a week to look over his suggestion.

To save everyone reading time, I won't go into each and every argument made by each side. Ultimately it boiled down to the Superintendent and a handful of Board Members (notably, all appointed for the first time by Governor Kemp) making the point that the Board supported an assessment waiver for the 2020-2021 school year, and when that was denied the work around was the make the tests count for so little that they would be inconsequential. The other side was a group of Board members who argued that the test should still count for this year, and by removing its importance, the students would not take it seriously and that there should still be a level of accountability.

For those unfamiliar with the assessment system, here is a little background on the issue.  The end of course tests were created in the A+ Education Reform Act of 2000.  They were intended to replace the graduation tests over time.  Since assessment results were often used to claim educators were not doing a good job, there was concern that students would not take them seriously.  They weren't used to determine graduation or anything else.  The first year, the score was put on the transcript then became a weighted part of the student's final grade.  It was set at 20%.  Over 15 years later, here we are. The State Superintendent recommended amending the State Board rule so that this year the End of Course tests would count for .01% instead of 20% of the student's grade.  Their grade would solely be based on their class work. Since these are high school courses, there is an impact on the GPA which impacts class rank and scholarships. No other Milestones assessment impacts the student's grade. 

At the end of it all, those in opposition to the Superintendent's proposal offered a solution of their own. Instead of the tests counting .01% or 20%, the test would count for 10% of a student's grade for this school year. 

A vote was held on both proposals, with the .01% proposal failing, and the 10% proposal passing. Almost everyone who voted "yes" on one proposal voted "no" on the other and vice versa. 

The discussion over this issue lasted for hours. There were pointed comments, snapping at one another, crying, and overall a general disagreement with the process. It was not all confined to the meeting, as the Superintendent was quick to release a statement condemning the actions of the board using language that mirrored his response to Secretary Betsy DeVos when the waiver was initially denied. 

It is important to note that the vote on this issue was to POST the potential change in the rule, and that there will be a lot more discussion on this issue before it is all said and done.  State rulemaking requires a 30 day public comment period before the rule is adopted, so the public has a chance to weigh in on this issue.  Check here for the instructions.  The deadline is November 12th.

As for the rest of the meeting, all the items on the agenda were passed by the board, including the testing budget item pulled for a separate vote. 

The next meeting of the State Board will be November 19th. 

08/28 - August State Board Report

August State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 8/28/2020


For the first time since February, the State Board of Education met in person for thier monthly meetings. While in person meetings are usually held over the course of two days, the Board condensed the meeting into one long session on Thursday.

Budget Committee

The Budget Committee started the in-person portion of the meeting, and quickly got off to an interesting start. The renewal of a contract with MetaMetrics Inc for the licensing of lexile measures, and a contract with the University of Wisconsin for administration of ACCESS for English Language Learners. While on its face, both are innocuous contract renewals that in a normal year might be passed along without a second glance, but in the COVID world, there were some concerns on how both of these would be administered if students are taking Milestones or are in person. The DOE responded to those concerns by assuring the Board that they are taking all of the COVID related challenges into mind as they enter these contracts and are looking for ways to be flexible during the 2020-2021 school year.

This theme would follow the entire Budget Committee portion of the meeting, as both Board Members and DOE Staff were fully aware of the challenges facing our schools and districts this year. One major item was the approval of additional CARES Act funds to offset decreases in revenue and increases of the cost of Special Education expenses related to COVID-19. 

Ultimately 18 items from the Budget Committee agenda were added to the consent agenda. 

Rules Committee 

The big news out of the Rules Committee meeting was the approval of a resolution that named which End of Course Tests (EOCT) would be administered in the 2020-2021 school year. If you recall, during the most recent legislative session SB 367 reduced the number of EOCT that would be administered, with the State Board having final say over which tests would remain for grades 9-12. Ultimately, the board decided that the EOCTs for Algebra I or Coordinate Algebra, American Literature and Composition, Biology, and US History would remain.

The committee also approved the standards for the new courses, History and Literature of the Old Testament and History and Literature of the New Testament. This was originally on the schedule for earlier in the year, but was held after several Board members had concerns about the process.

A lengthy, sometimes heated, discussion broke out over the approval of contract amendments for a number of Strategic Waiver School Systems. The oversight role of the board was a the center of the discussion, with some Board members concerned that the Board is not taking an active enough role. Eventually, the contract amendments were added to the consent agenda.

Among other items, the Health standards  and standards for the Workforce Ready Career Pathway were approved for posting for public comment, while the Board gave the Department of Education approval to initiate the rulemaking process for four items. Ultimately, 14 of the 15 Rules committee items were added to the consent agenda, with the EOCT resolution being held for a separate vote. 

Full Committee

There was no Chair Report at this month's meeting.

For the Superintendent's Report, Dr. Stephanie Johnson gave an update on the status of the School Improvement department, specifically surrounding the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Board voted on the consent agenda, the EOCT Resolution, and one legal case. All passed unanimously.

The next Board meeting is scheduled to take place on September 30 and October 1, but the format of that meeting remains to be seen.

07/23 - July State Board Report

July State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 7/23/2020


It was a highly anticipated State Board meeting, as rumors and news reports swirled on potential actions the board would take during their monthly meeting. The day before the meeting, reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that the Board would be attempting to set a universal start date for the 2020-2021 school year. Ultimately, this resolution was pulled from the agenda and not mentioned. As an FYI for readers, the idea that public comments could be made was also part of the rumblings.  There is no regularly scheduled public comment period at a State Board meeting except for public hearings related to rule adoption.  If someone wishes to address the Board, they must ask the Chair in writing seven days in advance.  The State Board's bylaws 8-1 covers this.

However, there was discussion on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will have on schools and students. Of main concern was students starting the school year virtually, as well as how districts would Receive an accurate student count if classes are being held virtually. Unfortunately the sound was breaking up during much of this so the majority of it was lost on the audience.

The meeting agenda and links to all board items can be found HERE

Budget Committee

The majority of the budget committee items were in response to the FY2021 budget that passed out of the General Assembly last month.  Specifically, grants aimed at CTAE and GNETS programs were targeted for expanded funding. During the Budget Committee portion of the meeting, Dr. Allison Timberlake provided an update on the alternative assessment pilots that are under development. Due to the pandemic, work on those has slowed causing a need for the Board to approve an extension in the contract. The first evaluation of the pilot is due October 1st.  Dr. Timberlake also noted that this Department will be looking for an extension from the Federal government on the alternative waiver process.

More CARES money was also approved for distribution including funding to make up for the additional funding required for private schools under the equitable services provisions. Ultimately, 27 Budget Committee items were added to the consent agenda.

In the face of some districts electing to start the school year virtually, the board approved entering into a contract with the Georgia Technology Authority. Under this agreement, the Department of Education will have greater access to resources which can help districts and students in need of access to high speed internet.

Rules Committee

In a short section of the meeting, the Rules Committee added 2 items to the consent agenda, the approval of additional private schools participating in the Special Needs Scholarship program, and contract amendments for 21 Strategic Waiver School Systems (combined into one agenda item). 

All agenda items were approved by the Board.

The next State Board meetings are scheduled for August 26-27.   

05/15 - May State Board Report and Legislative Update

May State Board Report and Legislative Update
by Angela Palm on 5/15/2020


The State Board of Education held its monthly meeting yesterday (Thursday) by teleconference. The Committee of the Whole discussed the agenda items and set the agenda for the Board meeting. One legal case had a separate vote; everything else was moved to the consent agenda. A few of the items are highlighted below.

A grant was approved to reimburse 53 districts for some of the high cost of educating special needs students.  When the direct instructional and related services costs exceed $27,000 for an individual student, the state can reimburse the district from 10% of the IDEA funds set aside for state uses.  The grant is just under $4 million to address the $15.6 million requested for 309 students. All help is appreciated to meet the needs of students.

The Board authorized the State Superintendent to receive a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assist school districts in voluntarily testing for lead in the drinking water.  The plan for use of the grant is here.

The Board approved just over $13,600 for travel expenses, dating from August 2018, for the Chief Turnaround Office.  Staff said this is the final round of invoices.  In March, the Board approved $53,894 to pay outstanding invoices for contracted work and $84,680 for travel expenses in 2018-2019.  The Chief Turnaround Officer is currently on a leave of absence.  There was a called State Board meeting scheduled this afternoon for a "discussion and possible action on resolution on Thomas v Department of Education"  which is the lawsuit filed by Eric Thomas, the Chief Turnaround Officer.  It has now been cancelled.

Standards for the financial technology pathway were approved for posting.  Comments received over the last 30 days were positive, 26% were from business and industry.

The Board adopted a resolution approving a few more waivers for the 2019-20 school year. 

Staff presented to the Board a picture of what the ordered 14% cuts look like.  Division managers will now recommend how to take those cuts in their department.  The proposed cuts have to be reported to the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget and the Appropriations Chairmen of both chambers by May 20th. The powerpoint also includes other recommendations and actions taken to downsize. It does not include QBE and categorical grants but those are also subject to the 14% cut.  

Legislative Update 

As you know, this legislative session has been suspended since March 13th.  We are beginning to get some clarity on when it might restart.  Speaker of the House David Ralston has been advocating for a June 11th restart for a while now.  Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan wanted to shoot for a mid-May date which obviously did not happen and now recommends June 15th. Both chambers are working on protocols for working through the rest of the session.  The state budget must be done by June 30th.  In the meantime, there have been two Joint Appropriations Committee meetings and another one is planned Monday.  

As referenced above, agencies have been asked to submit amended budgets with a 14% cut for FY '21.  The House Budget Office prepared some information that helps understand the situation.  Agencies had already had to submit cuts of 6% but QBE and a few other items were shielded from that.  Some of you have noted Governor Kemp's comments on the importance of continuing a focus on education during this and hoped it meant that you wouldn't see the cut.  I hate to kill anybody's hope, so let's just say "hope for the best and prepare for the worst."  He does value the work of educators and knows how important an educated workforce is -- as do the Appropriations Chairmen, Speaker, and Lt. Governor.  If they can minimize the pain, they will, but they have to juggle a number of priorities.

This month's revenue report was ugly and the next one may be worse.  The amended FY '20 budget included $100 million from the reserves, but State Economist Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman said Wednesday that the current projection is that $1 billion to $1.5 billion more will be needed from the reserve fund to close out this fiscal year.  Thankfully we have $2.7 billion in the fund, but that also means the state must move forward carefully.  The bright points in the revenue are online retail sales (up 18%), lottery sales for HOPE and Pre-K, and the "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco.

The unemployment numbers look horrendous and are, but Dr. Dorfman reported that 75% of the valid claims were for partial unemployment.  So many people were still working but for fewer hours.  As businesses open up or add hours to their operation, we should see this begin to change.  When the tide will turn is the mega billion dollar question.  Kelly Farr, Director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, said we might not see the full impact on sales taxes until after Memorial Day.  That's not far away but we will likely be in FY '21 before we know the full fiscal impact of these last months.

Looking forward, Dr. Dorfman expects the third quarter (calendar year) to be bad, probably 10% below his January projections.  The 4th quarter will begin to feel normal but this will take time.  The Governor will need to change the revenue estimate for FY '21 before the Legislature knows how much to allocate.  That will probably happen after the next revenue report, just before the session resumes.

The House Higher Education Committee also held a virtual meeting to hear from the Lottery, the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and higher ed.  HB 444, the dual enrollment bill, has been signed and is effective for  Summer 2020. 

We will end with a salute to the late Sen. Jack Hill.  What a stunning loss.  He was a leader who did not seek the spotlight -- dodged it if he could -- but never failed to make hard decisions and stand behind them.  Sen. Hill was elected in 1990 and served on the Appropriations Committee from the start.  He became Chair in 2003.  While he is strongly linked to the budgeting process, he was also Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee from 1994 through 2002 and was an ex-officio member of the Education Committee much of that time.  He was a calm, shrewd leader, and he is missed. Sen. Blake Tillery has stepped in to Chair Senate Appropriations and sounds like a good student of the Jack Hill School of Appropriations. 

04/09 - April Called Board Meeting Report

April Called Board Meeting Report
by Scott Bierman on 4/9/2020


The State Board of Education held a remote called meeting Thursday morning to handle several items of business between the previously scheduled March and May meetings.

Budget Committee kicked things off by hearing 18 items, all of which were added to the consent agenda. Notably, the approval of the State Superintendent to enter into a contract with Teach for America to provide training to new Teach fo America participants in the Metro Atlanta area, the renewal of several contracts, and grants given to local districts to purchase nutrition equipment. One very important item heard during today's meeting was the STOP School Violence grant, a grant received by the DOE from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council that would go to assisting in preventing and reducing school violence. These, along with all 18 items can be found here.

The real fireworks came during the Rules Committee portion of the called meeting. While 11 of the 12 items were added to the consent agenda without problem, one item caused heartburn among several members. The approval to post the High School Social Studies Elective Course standards was throughly discussed by the Board and DOE staff, specifically around how the standards for 2 courses, History and Literature of the New Testament and History and Literature of the Old Testament, were developed. Several members of the Board pointed out that they were not informed of the process and would like to have been involved, while Superintendent Woods and DOE staff pointed out that they were following the same protocol for all standards reviews. Ultimately, the two courses were pulled from the item and the remaining courses, Sports in America and Intelligence and National security, were moved for approval to post.

The standards of the Commercial Fishing Management Career Pathway were approved, and the standards for the Financial Technology Pathway were approved to post. Franklin County School System requested that their Strategic Waiver School System contract be terminated and converted into a new charter system contract, and Camden County School System requested they be allowed to change RESAs from First District RESA to Okefenokee RESA. Both changes were added to the consent agenda. The list of Local Board Governance Training proposals was approved, including all 49 trainings offered by GSBA. The Rules Committee also moved the renewal of three charter schools, the renewal of state charter schools, and one charter school amendment to the consent agenda. 

There was not a report from either the Superintendent of Board Chair. The Board voted on two items, the consent agenda, and adjournment, both of which passed unanimously. 

03/26 - March Board Report

March Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 3/26/2020


Usually, State Board of Education meetings take place over two days, with committees meeting one day followed by the entire board the following day. However, during a time when nothing is normal, the Board had to alter their plans and have the board meeting on only one day. And instead of a meeting in Downtown Atlanta at the Twin Towers, this one took place via Skype call and live streamed on YouTube. 

It was an abbreviated meeting, with a limited agenda. There were five items from the budget committee, one grant amendment, one new grant, two items related to the restructuring of the Chief Turnaround Office, and recurring contracts.

The Rules Committee heard two items, the first being the adoption of the Four Year State Plan for Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and to submit the plan to the US Department of Education. The most notable news from the Rules centered around COVID-19 response and waivers being given to local districts in response to the current health crisis. Superintendent Woods recommended, and the board approved a long list of statutory and regulatory requirements to be waived for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year. Of note the Department applied for, and has been conditionally granted by the US Department of Education, a waiver that would remove the requirement for mandatory state assessments for this school year. Below is the full list of statutes and State Board Rules that are being waived for the current school year, with more information on each at this link.

Each action item was pulled for an individual vote, and each item passed. Following votes, the Board received updates on how the State Schools are dealing with COVID-19 school closures, as well as how the current health crisis is putting a hold on the standards review.

The next Board meeting is scheduled to take place May 13-14, and hopefully by then we will be able to reconvene at the Twin Towers for an in person meeting. 

Shortly after the Board meeting concluded, Governor Kemp issued an executive order closing K-12 schools through April 24. Schools would be scheduled to reopen on April 26, but the Governor has the ability to move that date again if necessary. 

Waived Statutory and Regulatory Requirements 

Awarding Units of Credit and Acceptance of Transfer Credits/Grades: O.C.G.A. §20-2-159.3; O.C.G.A. §20-2-159.4 (c); SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.15(2)(d)(3) and (4), and (2)(h) • Career Education: SBOE Rule 160-4-8-.08 • Categorical Allotment Requirements: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-167, 20-2-184.1 • Certification: O.C.G.A. §§ 20‐2‐200, 20‐2‐201 • Class Size and Reporting: O.C.G.A. § 20-2-182; SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.08 • Competencies / Prescribed Courses: O.C.G.A. §20-2-142 • Comprehensive Health/Physical Education Program: O.C.G.A. §20-2-277(a)(1); SBOE Rule 160- 4-2-.12(2)(b) and (g) • Direct Classroom Expenditures and Expenditure Controls: O.C.G.A. § 20-2-171 • Educational Programs: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-154(b), 20-2-154.1, 20-2-156 and SBOE Rule 160-4-2- .38, SBOE Rule 160-4-5-.01(2)(d) • Georgia Virtual School Funding and Tuition: O.C.G.A §20-2-319.1(b)(2) • Graduation Requirements and Seat Time: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.48(6)(i) • Organization of Schools / Middle School Programs / Scheduling: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.05(2)(c), (d), (e), and (g) • Personnel Required: SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.22 • Promotion and Retention: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-283, 20-2-284; SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.11 • Scheduling for Instruction: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-160 except to the extent it relates to funding, 20-2- 168(c)(1) • School Day and School Year for Students and Employees: O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-151, 20-2-160(a), 20-2-168(c); SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.02 • Statewide Passing Score: SBOE Rule 160-4-2-.13(2)(d) and (f) Student Assessments: O.C.G.A. §20-2-281; SBOE Rule 160-3-1-.07 

02/21 - February State Board Report

February State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 2/21/2020


The State Capitol was abuzz this week, as not only was the General Assembly back in session but the State Board of Education met for their monthly meetings.

The Rules Committee started things off on committee day by taking up 8 action items, including State Board Rule 160-4-2-.48 which provides for an alternative diploma for students enrolling in 9th grade for the first time in the 2008-2009 school year and subsiquent years. Also of note was the adoption of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Career Pathway and the approval to post the Commercial Fishing Management Career Pathway. Both very cool opportunities for students! Under the new committee structrure, the Rules Committee took over the responsibilities of the former District Flexibility and Charter School Committee. Under this new responsibility, the committee approved two charter school renewals, and approved one amendment to an existing charter. 

Budget Committee followed the Rules Committee by quickly moving through their agenda. The committee heard 14 action items, highlighted by AP Teacher Training Grants. It was also noted that the Department was able to find savings by renegotiating a handful of its various contracts.

The full Board met Thursday morning, and it looked to be a routine meeting. However, during a presentation by Department of Education Chief of Staff Matt Jones things became heated as he recieved pointed questions from a couple of board members regarding the transparency of the ongoing mathematics standards review process. Jones defended the process, pointing out they are following the process that was used the last time the standards were updated, while the board members encouraged the DOE to keep the Board in the loop during the process.

Superintendent Richard Woods used his report time to recognize Dr. Curtis Jones as the 2020 Superintendent of the Year, Kersena Wing the 2020 National Principal of the Year, Laura Ross the 2020 National School Counselor of the Year and Dr. Terrilyn Rivers-Cannon the 2020 National School Social Worker of the Year. There was also an update on school nutrition, school improvement and the previously mentioned math standards review. 

Former State Board member Kevin Boyd was recognized for his service on the board, and Allen Fort, Superintendent of Taliaferro County Schools was recognized for 45 years of service to public education.  

The Board voted on three items; the consent agenda, the board rule on alternative diplomas, and adjournment.

The Board will hold their next meeting March 25-26. 

01/17 - January State Board Report

January State Board Report
by Angela Palm on 1/17/2020


The State Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting and Committee meetings Wednesday and Thursday of this week. 

They welcomed three new members:

  • Martha Zoller, a talk host with the Jacobs Media Corporation in Gainesville, will represent the 9th Congressional District
  • Phenna Petty, a recently retired CTAE Director in Murray County, will represent the 14th Congressional District
  • Sally Lyons Nabors, a payroll manager at Alston & Byrd, will represent the 13th Congressional District

Lisa Kennemore was re-appointed and begins a new  seven year term.

Rules Committee 

The Rules Committee is now chaired by Dr. Butch Mosely.  The State Board has streamlined their work by eliminating the Charter and Flexibility Committee and adding those items to the Rules Committee agenda.

The Committee moved to put all items on the consent agenda for the Board meeting except the two rules being adopted.  Those are always held out for a separate vote.  The rules being adopted will be listed below under the Board meeting.

Amendments to the graduation rule are being initiated to include a waiver recently received from the U.S. Department of Education. The state has been approved to include a state-defined Alternate Diploma for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. It will be standards-based and aligned with the requirements for a regular diploma. Students entering ninth grade for the first time in 2020-2021 and meeting the criteria would be the first group to receive the diploma.

Standards for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Career Pathway are posted for public comment and review.

The Carrollton City charter system agreement was amended to align with the accreditation timeline.  Cobb and Schley County Schools amended their Strategic Waivers contract to include additional waivers.  The Berrien Academy Performance Learning Center's charter was renewed for five years.

They chose Dr. Lina Milan from the Governor's recommendations for the State Charter Schools Commission.  She will serve a two-year term.

Budget Committee 

The Budget Committee is now chaired by Jason Downey. 

The contract for the Annual Data Conference was removed from the agenda.  All other items were moved forward to the consent agenda for the Board meeting.

The Committee of the Whole met to build the consent agenda for the Board meeting then adjourned for the State of the State address.

State Board Meeting 

Scott Sweeney started his term as Board Chair.  The Board approved the consent agenda and adopted two rules:

 Changes made to the rules were due to legislation passed last session.

The Board received a budget review from Chief Financial Officer Ted Beck. The amended FY '20 budget reduces the Department's budget by $12.5 million, and the FY '21 budget by $18 million.  The program cuts were not as bad as they had expected, but operational reductions were $1 million more than they expected.  The reduction to the central office this year was 8-9% and will be 10% next year. Cuts to the Chief turnaround Office were more extensive.  The amended FY '20 budget cuts almost $600,000.  The FY '21 budget was cut by $600,000 and transferred all staff except the Chief Turnaround Officer to the School Improvement department.

The Board moved to go into Executive Session at that time.

The next meeting of the State Board is a called meeting later this afternoon.  The purpose is to go into Executive Session for personnel concerning the Chief Turnaround Office.

The next regular meetings of the State Board will be February 19-20.

12/13 - December State Board Report

December State Board Report
by Angela Palm on 12/13/2019


The State Board of Education held its regular monthly meetings December 11th and 12th.  The agendas are available online and are linked below.

Rules Committee 

Most items on the agenda were moved to the consent agenda.  The Student Attendance rule is being amended to clarify that local boards can designate attendance at a non-school sponsored event an excused absence. The Student Enrollment and Withdrawal rule is being amended to incorporate legislative changes from the 2019 session relating to enrollment of students in military families and the withdrawal of students to be home schooled.

Approval to post the revised K-12 Health Education Standards of Excellence for public comment and review was pulled from the agenda for further "tweaking."  It wasn't so much the standards themselves as a philosophical difference between some State Board members and the staff as to how much "for example" type information should be included in a standard as opposed to having it all in supplementary material.  The staff and those who worked on the standards chose to keep them as simple as possible to avoid having to update them frequently when terminology and/or current concerns change. Some Committee members wanted to be sure that it is as easy for teachers as possible so they should have examples to be clear what they are being asked to teach.  On the other hand, there was concern that too many examples in the standards moves it close to being considered by some to be the curriculum.  State Superintendent Richard Woods suggested the staff send the Committee a sample of one standard and the related supplementary material so they can see more clearly the rich material that would be included with the standards. They may have a called meeting to approve the posting.

State Supt. Woods, as requested, also provided the Committee an update on the meeting of the Citizen Review Committee for the math standards. The Committee asked for meeting notifications and a list of participants.

Budget Committee 

The Budget Committee did not have an agenda for the meeting, but the items are listed on the agenda for the Committee of the Whole.  All items were placed on the consent agenda for the Board meeting. Committee members asked when they would have an evaluation for the Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading grant.  They may have a report by February. There was also discussion around the Systems of Continuous Improvement competitive grants from the School Improvement Division.  Some Committee members asked why the funds were for professional development and "things" instead of for more teachers and smaller classes. The grant, however, is for one year so the district must be able to sustain any additional programs or personnel created with the grant. 

District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee

This Committee did not have a separate agenda either but the action items are on the agenda linked above for the Committee of the Whole.  Both items were approved and moved to the consent agenda.  The Union County charter system contract was amended to add the College and Career Academy to it.  The local start-up charter for Utopian Academy for the Arts, a K-5 school in Clayton County, was approved for July 2020 to June 2025.

First Priority Act Committee 

There was no mention during the meeting of the just-before-Thanksgiving report that an internal audit is underway of the Chief Turnaround Office, although Richard Belcher, the WSB reporter who broke the story, was present.  Dr. Eric Thomas, the Chief Turnaround Officer, recognized Dr. Jimmy Stokes and Rosemary Vaughan, members of the Turnaround Advisory Council, and thanked them for their support.  He also thanked Carol Lewis and Leslie Myles from Communities in Schools and Cecily Hirsch-Kinane from Public Education Matters for their support.  All received a token of his appreciation.

Dr. Thomas' report to the Committee was similar to previous ones.  This month he included information from the recent NAEP report.  

Committee of the Whole 

Students filled the State Board room yesterday morning.  The very talented choir of the Stilwell School of the Arts, a Title I Distinguished magnet school in Clayton County, started the morning.  State Supt. Richard Woods then recognized winners of a recent competition.  For Constitution Day this year, he asked students to submit art celebrating either the U.S. or Georgia Constitution. All the winners were recognized, and we have some extremely talented student artists.  Rockdale County seemed to be the district with the most winners.  

Departing State Board member Larry Winter offered the inspiration.  He also asked Catoosa County Supt. Denia Reese and the principal of Heritage Middle School to present their H2O program, Heritage Helping Others, to the Board.  The school leaders wanted to start a giving program to help instill in the students the responsibility of participating and helping in the community.  It was an impressive effort.

The consent agenda for the Board meeting was built from the Committee reports.  The Superintendent's Report included recognizing Dr. John Marshall, a Milken award winner from Valdosta.  In one of those "it's a small world" moments, State Board member Dr. Butch Mosely said he was Dr. Marshall's father's high school principal. 

Chief of Staff Matt Jones updated the Board on the review process for the math standards. They hope to have a draft of the standards for the Board to approve for posting in May or June.  The Citizen Review Committee met last week and will meet again in April after the Teacher Working Committee and Academic Review Committee finish. Their meeting was facilitated by the Carl Vinson Institute.  A report of that meeting will be posted after Christmas.  A press release on the Citizen and Academic Review Committees will probably be released next week.  Updates on this process are posted here. The powerpoint linked above also contains more on the timeline and process.

State Board Member Mike Long began the tributes to Larry Winter for his 14 years of service.  Dr. Kenney Moore, director of the State Schools, thanked him for championing the state schools.  Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who appointed Mr. Winter when he was Governor, sent a letter thanking him for his service.  Former Governor Nathan Deal and Mrs. Deal also sent letters.

The Chair's Report included a presentation from the Arthur Blank Foundation updating the Board on its funding of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation's character building curriculum.  The Blank Foundation has now extended this funding to other states.  They also updated the Board on the Georgia SHAPE program, begun under Gov. Perdue.  The FitnessGram, the field assessment of a student's aerobic capacity, has shown that 108,000 middle school girls do not score in the healthy fitness zone on aerobic capacity so a new initiative is being created.  It is designed by girls for girls focusing on out of school activities and reimagining middle school PE so girls want to take it.  The Foundation is investing $5-7 million over the next five years in this initiative.

State Board Meeting 

The Board adopted the agenda and the consent agenda.  The members elected their officers for the next year:  Scott Sweeeney, former local board member from Cobb County, will be Chair.  Jason Downey, former Bibb County local board member, will serve as Vice-Chair.

A Board member suggested they speak openly about the investigation mentioned above into the Turnaround Office to make it clear that this is a collaborative effort and the investigation should be done right and expeditiously.  As one would expect with any process underway, there was no discussion of the issues.  State Supt. Woods was asked to discuss the topics he included in his presentation at the GSBA/GSSA conference last week, and he did so.

The meeting was adjourned.  The next meeting will be held January 15th and 16th. 

11/08 - November State Board Report

November State Board Report
by Scott Bierman on 11/8/2019

GSBA-CWO Header 

The State Board was back in Atlanta for their monthly meeting following last month's Board Retreat in Augusta. 

Despite rumors of a fire drill, the Rules Committee kicked things off with 4 items on their agenda, most notably the amendment to State Board Rule 160-3-1-.07. If you recall from the September meeting, this item would allow students in AP courses to substitute the AP exam for the end of course exam, ensuring that AP students would not be double tested. Also considered were the standards for the College Readiness Composition Course and the Elementary and Middle School Computer Science Courses, and the list of Local Board Governance Training Providers. 

In Budget, the committee took up 23 items, with one item pulled from consideration. Among the items heard was the approval of the FY20 Title I, Part A, 1003 School Improvement Rural Resource Competitive Grants, which will be giving over $3.5 million in grants to LEAs with schools identified as Targeted Support and Improvement and Comprehensive Support and Improvement. The list of schools that were awarded grants can be found here. The committee also gave approval for the DOE to enter into a contract with The College Board for May 2020's AP exams. 

The First Priority Act Committee heard an update from Dr. Eric Thomas on the work he has done in the first cohort of schools in program. He noted that some of the schools he has worked with have seen improvements in CCRPI and Climate Star Rating. 

There was no District Flexibility and Charter Schools Meeting this month.

As many of you know, each full State Board meeting starts off with an "inspiration", a presentation that outlines something great happening in our state. This month's was especially important as Jack Griffin, Founder and CEO of FoodFinder spoke to the board about combating food insecurity in Georgia. The website and app he created to fight food insecurity, FoodFinder, geolocates users and gives them a list of local soup kitchens and food banks. With the approximately 450,000 food insecure households in Georgia, his app could go a long way in easing some of the needs of our friends and neighbors.  

The Superindentent's report was a JOYous occasion. Superintendent Woods recognized Joy Hatcher and JoAnn Wood of the Department of Education for being awarded the President's Award from the Georgia Council for Social Studies. 

Joy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), and Donovan Head, Deputy Director of GOSA, gave an update of the teacher listening session that were held earlier this fall. They noted that the main concerns expressed by the teachers were surrounding the Milestones test, as well as the teacher pipeline. 

The last item of the Superintendent's report came from Dr. Caitlin Dooley. She outlined the work the DOE has been doing on the dyslexia pilot, including the development of a dyslexia handbook that will be out later this month.

Before voting, CFO Ted Beck gave a brief update on the the Amended FY20 and FY21 Budget Request. If you recall, the Governor asked each agency to make cuts to their budgets for FYs 2020 and 2021. The detailed budget request can be found here.

The Board took 11 votes on the day; approval of the agenda, the consent agenda, the budget, State Board Rule 160-3-1-.07, and six individual legal cases. Of the six legal cases, two were reversed, two were reversed and remanded, one was affirmed, and one recieved the distinction of being both affirmed and reversed. 

The Board will hold its final meeting of 2019 on December 11 and 12, one week after the 2019 GSBA/GSSA Annual Conference.