A public relations campaign is underway in Georgia — spearheaded by the State Board of Education — to paint the state’s public schools in a more positive light. The education system in the state has been buffeted by bad news over the past several years, including cheating scandals, student retention problems and sub-par test scores. Now, thanks to some privately raised funds, the BOE will endeavor to show parents, lawmakers and educators that when it comes to the public education system, there’s a lot to celebrate, too.
For those who might criticize the effort as a poor use of money, Georgia Superintendent John Barge explains that in recent times the megaphone has been chiefly monopolized by those bearing bad news, and that the system also needs to let people know that they might have been getting a biased picture of the education system in Georgia. The campaign will also be used to communicate the efforts that the Board of Education has undertaken to improve student outcomes in the state.
The campaign has a website, gafuturenow.org, where, starting next year, viewers will be able to see actors portraying teachers poking fun at themselves in an attempt to relay positive developments in and explain upcoming changes to public education.
Some of those changes include Georgia’s move to a common core of academic standards that is shared by more than 40 other states in the country; a new teacher, principal and school evaluation system; and a new emphasis on making sure students are prepared for post-high-school careers, as well as college.
The campaign will include a web series which will be called “Modern Teacher,” and the trailer is already showing on the website. The trailer cost about $15,000 to produce, but Barge was quick to reassure that no tax-payer funding was used for its production — the Georgia Foundation for Public Education raised the money from various private sources. It will cost about $150,000 to complete the web series, and the foundation is already running fundraising initiatives to cover the cost.
On Nov. 6, Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to make sure the state could continue to authorize charter schools, which supporters describe as an alternative to failing traditional public schools.
In promoting the amendment, supporters often ripped public education, saying the state needed more charter schools to give more parents a way to escape poorly performing traditional public schools.
Barge said that the public education campaign was already in the planning stages prior to the closing days of the charter push when the rhetoric got particularly heated. Barge admitted that while the campaign, which will be called Georgia’s Future. Now! will be highlighting the positives steps that the system has taken in the previous years, some of the bad press it has gotten over that time has been deserved. But the negative press didn’t give enough of an airing to the fact that Georgia students have also showed gains in SAT and ACT scores, as well as in reading, mathematics and AP scores — the kind of information that the publicity campaign is designed to spread.