THE GOVERNANCE DIVIDE - The Case Study for Georgia
Over the past decade, Georgia has developed innovative ways to implement and institutionalize P–16 reform. These efforts made the state a national leader in reforms associated with coordinating and connecting the entire educational experience for students, from preschool to and including four years of college. Because Georgia is at the forefront of these kinds of reforms, the state has experienced both successes and failures that no other state has yet seen. As a regent for the University System of Georgia said,
Things are light years better than they used to be … because this is the structure that ought to be in place… We've got the model. I mean, ours is neat. It should work, it does work, it can work better, and hopefully we'll make it work because, politics notwithstanding, when people come together with the notion of trying to improve education, and you've got the governance structure, that's key. You can talk about things, and you can persuade people, but when there's the power of legislation, [that's important].
Unlike most states engaged in this work, Georgia created state and regional P–16 reforms at the same time. At the state level, it has a statewide P–16 Council, the Education Coordinating Council (ECC), and particularly strong gubernatorial support across the administrations of Governors Zell Miller and Roy Barnes. At the regional level, it has regional and local P–16 Councils. In addition, there are many projects focusing on issues such as teacher preparation, professional development, standards development across the systems, and proficiency-based teaching and learning.
The major initiatives driving this P–16 work include efforts to improve students' academic achievement and college preparation, as well as efforts to keep the "best-prepared" college students in-state. As Chancellor Thomas Meredith said to faculty and staff of the University System of Georgia (USG) on January 28, 2002, "It's time we seized the opportunity to help more Georgians tackle college. We are a long way from where we need to be in that regard. We have to make sure we have the right access, the right programs, and a more-than-adequate amount of resources and facilities. If we don't, Georgians will leave the state for college, and we'll probably lose them for good."1 Meanwhile, state policymakers have made the case that the economic future of Georgia is at stake, because of the need to have a highly educated workforce that can succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.
While Georgia's P–16 efforts have been studied by researchers and policy analysts across the country, little documentation exists about the state's governance and policy structures, their evolution over time, and the effects these changes have had on educational reform efforts. This report, in seeking to fill some of this research gap, explores the past and present of Georgia's P–16 efforts. The Georgia field research was conducted in September 2003. Two central questions that this report seeks to answer are:
- What types of governance structures and related policies enable, or create difficulties for, P–16 reforms?
- How necessary is a P–16 governance framework in order to create and institutionalize P–16 reform?
To examine these questions and issues, this report describes the history of and context for P–16 reform and governance in Georgia. It then presents a summary of major P–16 projects and policies, and an analysis of the state's major P–16 accomplishments and challenges. The report concludes with thoughts about the present and future of P–16 reform in the state. In addition, an appendix provides the key research questions that comprised the interview protocol for research visits to the state.
1. See http://www.usg.edu/pubs/lu/2002/1.28.02.html.