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State measure aims for community involvement

File Photo — Students who attend Harbins Elementary School and their parents take part in the school's instructional fair called Bring Your Own Device, "BYOD" in earlier this year.

File Photo — Students who attend Harbins Elementary School and their parents take part in the school's instructional fair called Bring Your Own Device, "BYOD" in earlier this year.

BUFORD -- During a visit to Twin Rivers Middle School in November, the state superintendent announced a new statewide campaign that aims to give parents, teachers and community members a better understanding and more input into how public education works in Georgia public schools.

John Barge told parents, teachers, students and administrators that the mission of "Georgia's Future. Now!" is to empower local communities to impact education.

"It's a research-based initiative born in the classroom -- not the boardroom -- with living examples of what works for teachers to prepare all Georgia students for college and careers," Barge said.

"It's time to stop tearing down public education and start building it up," Barge said. "There are many things working well in our public schools, and plenty of things not working well, so we need to rally around the successes and build on those and share them with our schools."

The 2013 Georgia Teacher of the Year stood up during the gathering, announcing support for the measure.

"With this, everyone can strive to be on the same page ... it's a tool that will empower teachers to hone their craft," said Lauren Eckman, a teacher from the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon. "This will help involve the whole community. This will make our partnerships stronger with the community, and it will do so with clearer language for everyone."

Barge said the program is tailored to teachers' needs.

"It asks teachers 'where do we need to improve? What needs to change?'" Barge said. "This starts by talking with the teachers. The teachers own this movement."

Also a priority, he said, are the career pathways of students.

"We must make decisions based on those young people and what they desire to do with their lives," he said.

"Georgia's Future. Now," seeks to discover what careers students may be interested in as well as align those interests with the needs of the business community.

Before concluding his visit to Twin Rivers Middle, Barge showed the audience a clip from a Web video series as part of the campaign.

"Modern Teacher," he explained, is a humorous introduction to "a serious discussion about statewide initiatives in public education," which will launch in early 2013 on the Web and feature a full cast of characters who poke fun at changes taking place in public education.

The premiere of each episode will be followed by a roundtable discussion about some of the state's primary education measures: Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, the new teacher and leader evaluation system, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver and Career Pathways.

Barge said "Georgia's Future. Now!" is an effort to "trim the list (of measures), connect the dots and make it make sense."