MOULTRIE -- Colquitt County schools will begin the third and final year of the America's Choice/Georgia's Choice program this fall, much to the delight of some faculty and administration and much to the disappointment of others.

The program, which highlights new ways of teaching the "three R's" -- reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic -- was put together by the non-profit National Center on Education and the Economy.

Bob Lumsden, Georgia's Choice state director, said while 104 schools participate in the program statewide, Colquitt County's district is the "most committed."

Lumsden said Georgia's Choice's goals are simple: set clear expectations, have the curriculum match the expectations, make schools professional workplaces and encourage parent and public engagement.

So, asked Lumsden to the crowd of around 250 educators at Withers Auditorium Tuesday, why do it?

"Because we get good results if nothing else," he answered.

One slide in Lumsden's presentation showed after one year of the Georgia's Choice program in one district, writing scores rose dramatically, math scores rose slightly but reading scores dipped a bit due to an emphasis on writing, Lumsden said.

Despite results, some teachers, especially veteran educators, are not fans of Georgia's Choice.

The main reason, they say, is the relentless focus on results and the increased workload that shrinks a teacher's ability to write his or her own lesson plan.

Superintendent Leonard McCoy said the "common language" Georgia's Choice gives to all the county's educators is its greatest advantage.

McCoy said when he arrived in 2000, the school system was like "a country with 13 regions speaking 13 dialects."

He also praised the system for being research-based.

"I am so appreciative that we have a research-based method ... based upon proven methods of how you teach children." Methods, McCoy said, that teachers aren't instinctively born with.

"Learning doesn't occur by accident," he told the crowd. "And those that think they know how to teach a child by intuition rarely do."

He admitted the increased workload has drawn the ire of some of his employees. He said, though, the teachers who find their burden is heavier are probably using the Georgia's Choice methods in addition to what they've used in the past instead of in lieu of them.

"I know there have been some who have been asked to do too much too quickly with too little information," McCoy told teachers, one of whom responded with a muffled, "Amen."

Added McCoy: "When we see our high school graduation test scores rise up dramatically from where they are now, when we see SAT scores not just reach the state average, but the national average," then teachers will agree that the program was worth the extra work.

Not all teachers are critics of the system, however.

Three teachers talked to the audience, praising Georgia's Choice, saying it had shown results in their classrooms.

One teacher, Norman Park Elementary's Michelle Daniels, brought two students with her, Jenna Hagler and Mary Jo Moxley, both of whom talked about how the system had increased their love of reading.

To contact intern Mitch Kimbrell, please call 985-4545 ext. 223.

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