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Jeff Meadors: Strong leadership is key to school performance

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) has died in the window sill and Georgia’s teachers have gone right on teaching. They have met their share of overnight impostors named whole language, outcomes-based education and integrated math. Now, into the half-century mark of post-Sputnik fear and accountability schools creep out of the decade-long war on them wrought by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its nefarious co-star AYP with a collective sigh of relief. This recovery won’t come quickly and to hope otherwise is a delusion of grandeur.

Some progress in reading and achievement gaps forms the legacy of a misguided, ill-conceived piece of legislation that bipartisan administrations in Washington and Congress failed to reauthorize over and over until the impossible grew nigh: Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) rapidly approached 100.

Yet these gains pale in comparison to damage done by 10 years in the ditch of false labels of failure, public perceptions of doom inside the walls of a place called school, and property values and communities excoriated due to schools consistently labeled as failures. It makes those even remotely interested in public schools wonder what is really going on here? Advocates of House Resolution 1162 know.

Indeed, reporting with the Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index (GCCRPI) should be simpler than AYP. Score cards will make more sense to communities nauseated by the mention of confidence intervals, second indicators and safe harbor, I hope.

But GCCRPI may do more. The index should provide performance data that allow school leaders to more easily identify non-performers at all levels and work toward an end of improved classroom instruction with a focus on teaching, learning, college, and career and workforce development. No one regards non-performers with greater contempt than high quality teachers on the hallway who suffer because of them. And everyone in the building knows who they are, so why doesn't leadership?

The tricky, but necessary, part will be ridding the ranks of school leadership of non-performers first. Make no mistake, as John Maxwell states, everything rises and falls on leadership.

I like what the GCCRPI has the potential to be once revised and edited over time, and I pray that the DOE thinks carefully about tying teacher performance to student achievement without first vetting the performance of school leaders throughout the state.

And in case AYP refuses to come clean on its way out of Georgia, allow me the pleasure. The majority of our schools are not failing. NAEP data confirms. And we must not fool ourselves into believing a new index will work magic unless we also recognize the value of supporting teachers, enforcing strong discipline that is firm, fair and consistent and holding high quality teachers in high regard while examining the performance of school leaders.

If schools handle non-performing leaders first and ensure that schools are safe, then this could be a bridge to somewhere. Schools must earn public trust; otherwise high quality teachers will shut the door and go right on teaching as they did before, during and after AYP.

Jeff Meadors is vice chairman of the Newton County Board of Education and may be reached at jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com