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Legislators need a little schooling

Hold onto your wallets and get the women and children off the infield, boys. The Georgia General Assembly is in session and nothing is off the table.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that the members of our state Legislature are, almost to a man - or woman - hard-working and well-meaning. I am sure they have somebody's best interest at heart in every suggestion and decision - and the state's as a whole, in most.

But sometimes they just come up with some stuff that doesn't make a lick of sense. They mean well. They do, bless their hearts, but sometimes a clue is something they just have to struggle along without, especially when it comes to education.

In case you haven't noticed, Georgia's achievements in education seem to lag behind much of the nation. The most publicized area, of course, is that most often misunderstood monster known as the SAT. For years, we were listed at the bottom of the national barrel in average SAT scores. We recently moved up a notch or two - or, more accurately, a state or two fell below us.

But the average SAT score is a misleading statistic. The Scholastic Aptitude Test is designed to predict how well a student is likely to do in their first year of college. It was never meant to be used as a tool to compare the achievement of a particular school or county or state.

Yeah. Good luck selling that notion. I mean, it's true - but good luck selling it. John Q. Public wants a way to keep score and "our school averaged 1,060 while your school averaged 980" is a cut-and-dried score. Only thing is, my school may have encouraged every student to take the test and you may have coerced your underachievers to stay at home on the day the test was given.

Georgia may be ranked near the bottom in average SAT scores, but a much larger percentage of our students take the test. If we only tested our top 20 percent - like some of the states ranked ahead of us - we would fare a lot better in comparisons.

Simply put, the SAT is not the end-all to end-all when it comes to deciding how well our schools are doing. That said in defense of our system, we do have lots and lots of room for improvement, and with the No Child Left Behind Act firmly ensconced, there is more and more pressure on our schools, our teachers and our students to accomplish more and more - which is, of course, an admirable goal.

But many of the methods to which we are forced to adhere add many tedious and time-consuming tasks to our already daunting day.

In other words - we ain't got time, now, to get everything done.

Enter the Georgia General Assembly with a suggested solution to our education dilemma: fewer days of school.

Now, that's Georgia logic at its finest. We aren't accomplishing as much as we need to, in great part because we don't have enough time to get done all the things we need to do and still teach an expanding curriculum with any degree of depth - and we have introduced into the Legislature a bill that would allow local school systems to just knock 10 days off the current calendar.

Now that's just ridiculous.

Reps. Charles Martin of Alpharetta and Ron Stephens of Garden City introduced the bill on Thursday. They said that the school year is just too long and that summer is too short. Well, I won't disagree with that, but taking away 10 days of instruction isn't close to being the answer to that problem.

I really don't think Martin and Stephens are real clear on what we do in a day of school - and I know for a fact that I don't have 10 to spare in my AP U.S. History class.

In the past 10 days, for example, we have covered about a 40-year period of history, eight presidential administrations and two major wars. I barely have time to teach my kids about Teddy Roosevelt, and some years we have to leave Abraham Lincoln out altogether. (Not really, but you get the picture.)

Take 10 days out of the English curriculum and those students would have to learn about just Romeo - with no mention of Juliet. Take 10 days out of geography and the Soviet Union would still be in existence - as far as our students are concerned. Take 10 days out of science instruction and the kids might not get to learn about the theory of evolution.

Oops. Nevermind. Bad example.

Honesty compels me to admit that I don't know enough about math to know what might be omitted in that curriculum if we had 10 less days to teach. I do know enough about math to understand that trying to teach students more in 6 percent less time doesn't add up.

Hopefully, the majority of Georgia legislators can do the math, too, and let Stephens know that he will just have to find another way to bring August tourism back to the Georgia coast.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.