KINGSTON — Georgia’s superintendent of schools lives in a single-story, woodframe home here surrounded by five goats, two horses, two dogs and a gray cat.
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The state of education on Barge’s watch
John Barge took office in 2011 after a career as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He also had a stint working in technical and agricultural education for the Georgia Department of Education.
So far, his tenure has seen increases in standardized test scores, a recalculation of the state’s graduation rate, a move to a national core of academic standards and the implementation of a $400 million federal education improvement grant.
Barge has been praised in education circles for arguing for increased funding for schools, but some have strongly criticized his opposition to the charter schools constitutional amendment voters approved in November.
Barge said Georgia’s graduation rate— 67 percent — is unacceptably low; but added that the state is still graduating more students today than it ever has before. Barge has touted Georgia’s status as the only state in the nation that saw improvements on the SAT, the AP, the ACT and the math, reading and science portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Georgia is adhering to new, more rigorous academic standards now shared by 45 states. Using funds from the $400 million Race to the Top federal education grant, Georgia is also implementing a new evaluation system for teachers and principals. A portion of the grant – the portion tied to the new evaluation system – has been placed on high-risk status by the U.S. Department of Education, which objected to changes Barge has made. Barge said the high-risk designation will likely be removed this year.
Rep. Brooks Coleman, the Duluth Republican who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said Barge has worked with legislators on a system to emphasize college and career readiness and on a new evaluation system for teachers and principals.
“I think he has a vision with where he wants to go,” Coleman said. “I think he’s been very inclusive. I’ve been very pleased.”