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ASK THE EXPERTS

Suggestions for HOPE appreciated

POSTED: August 25, 2010 4:00 a.m.

I want to thank all of you who responded with suggestions for saving the HOPE Scholarship programs. It’s the most responses I’ve gotten on any subject from you during my 10 years as your state representative.

  

Your responses help me as a member of the House Higher Education Committee in formulating HOPE Scholarship future funding. 

  

The same week I wrote about funding HOPE scholarships, Lumpkin County School Superintendent Dewey Moye wrote that students need to learn personal and fiscal responsibility. Many of you commented that the students of today will be our leaders of tomorrow, and that we need leaders who have risen through their own merits. 

  

We want to make sure that students who receive the HOPE scholarship earned it through their excellence in academics. It is a goal that should be strived for and accepted with pride.                   

  

What follows are some of the best suggestions you made to fund HOPE scholarships.

  

Someone wrote: “The HOPE scholarship is a huge motivator toward excellence, and God knows we need more of that. It is time we stopped the foolishness of all this ‘correctness.’”

  

Here are a few more of your suggestions:

  

“Students taking a remedial math or English course should not receive HOPE.”

  

“A truly outstanding student will have taken AP (advanced placement) courses.  Students who have not taken an AP course should not receive HOPE until they prove that they can maintain a ‘B’ average in college.”

  

Others suggested:

  

“Home-schooled students must wait until the end of their first year to collect HOPE (if they maintained a ‘B’ average), so why shouldn’t others.”

  

Another response was similar: “Since so many students lose their HOPE scholarship at the end of their first year, maybe it should be changed so that students would be eligible when they maintain a B average after completing a certain amount of hours in college — let the students prove themselves first in college before the scholarship funds are given to them.”

  

“Make the SAT part of the formula for HOPE scholarships.”

  

One person put a lot of thought into an analysis and offered this suggestion: 

  

Since high schools are inflating the grades for students who otherwise would not be HOPE eligible, a penalty clause should be associated with the scholarship. Any high school whose graduate fails to maintain a B average in college should have its state funding reduced by the amount spent on the HOPE scholarship. 

  

This person suggested that if HOPE scholarships are worth $10K, the reduced funding from the Georgia Department of Education to a high school should be $10K times the number of students dropping out. In short, if Dawson County Schools had 10 students drop out, state funding would be reduced by $100,000.

  

If Lumpkin County Schools had 5 students drop out, state funding would be reduced by $50,000.

  

“I’m thinking if it were possible to hit the pocketbook of the individual schools, it might improve the teachers and administrations attitudes in each and every high school in Georgia to do the right thing,” he said.

  

As the Legislature and the Department of Education study the HOPE programs, other education problems are surfacing.

  

Several scandals have recently come to the forefront involving those who supervise the systems. Administrators and teachers have been accused of changing test scores and fraud. One system demoted or fired principals for spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for books, which they had authored. 

  

The cheating scandal seems to be most prevalent in the Atlanta Public Schools with at least 12 districts being investigated. The allegations state that teachers have given correct answers during the testing period, and that teachers and administrators erased wrong answers and filled in correct ones after the students had turned in the tests. 

  

Some school administrators, pressured by the federal No Child Left Behind requirements, see cheating as the only way to avoid sanctions. Under the law, “failing schools must offer extra tutoring, allow parents to transfer their children to higher performing schools, and fire teachers and administrators who don’t pass muster.”

  

The pressure to increase achievement is enormous. This pressure on the administrators comes from all sides — from No Child Left Behind requirements to parents desiring the HOPE scholarship for their children.

  

However, it is time for us to be honest about educational progress in individuals and in systems. 

  

We have plenty of time before the next HOPE Committee meeting, so if you have additional comments and ideas, I still want to hear them from you.

  

Once again I want to congratulate Sallie Sorohan for her efforts in getting the “no texting while driving” bills passed this past session of the General Assembly.

  

The laws have been in effect only since July 1, and articles in several newspapers quote local police and state patrol officers as commenting that cell phone usage while driving has decreased. In July only warnings were issued, but starting Aug. 1, tickets have been issued which carry fines and points.

  

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; phone, (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net.

 

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