With initiatives in mind, Richard Woods sworn in as State School Superintendent

Richard Woods

Georgia’s 22nd State School Superintendent was sworn into office on Monday, and he promises to work on a range of issues beginning with a statewide public awareness campaign.

Richard Woods, a Tifton resident, said he would use his 22 years of public school education experience, and as a former small business owner, to listen to students, parents and teachers and work with the governor, State School Board and General Assembly to improve education in Georgia.

In terms of funding, Woods said he would work to ensure dollars directly support students.

“A critical part of this is creating a funding formula that provides every child with access to a quality education, whether it be a child in Tift County or one in Forsyth County,” he said in a press release.

Woods plans to ask the State School Board for a one-year delay on the use of test scores in the College and Career Ready Performance Index school-grading measurement. Woods also plans to ask the General Assembly to explore ways to diminish excessive testing and for the Georgia Department of Education staff to develop the most effective diagnostic testing system possible.

With teacher focus groups and community town hall events, Woods said the public awareness campaign would also highlight initiatives underway in schools across the state.

“Georgians have a history of pulling together to meet our challenges head on. With great challenges come great opportunities,” Woods said. “There are no greater opportunities than the 1.7 million students and 100,000+ teachers in our classrooms every day. With a collaborative effort, real communication, and the pursuit of classroom-centered and child-focused policies, we can realize the full potential of our great state.”

In a media symposium with reporters last week, Woods backed off some comments about Common Core, which he criticized last year during the campaign.

“My views are well known on the issue, but we’re going to move forward,” said Woods, who later added that social studies and science standards are something the state would control. “At some point in time, I’m going to have my attempt to make my recommendations.”

Woods said he supports Gov. Nathan Deal’s push for computer science to count as a fourth-year core math or science credit. Woods also plans to work with the State School Board to expand this concept by allowing courses such as financial literacy and other career, tech and agriculture courses to count as core credit toward graduation.

One of Woods’ focuses would be to establish and define foundational standards for elementary school students, including a pocket Constitution and pocket Declaration of Independence for fifth-graders.

For teacher evaluations, Woods said he would work to free up administrators to focus on teachers entering the profession or those struggling in the classroom, “while allowing our great teachers to teach and treating them as professionals by allowing content- or grade-level peers from surrounding schools or school systems to provide these teachers with real professional feedback.”

Woods also said he would ensure the right balance between accountability and responsibility.