Wilson, Woods draw contrasts at education forum



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ATLANTA (AP) — The candidates hoping to lead Georgia's education agency agreed that students are tested too often, but Democrat Valarie Wilson and Republican Richard Woods shared different strategies for addressing that during a candidate forum Monday.

Woods, a former Irwin County educator and administrator, said tests should be divided up during the school year as benchmarks rather than given at the end of a school year. He called for more personalized testing options instead of standard exams.

Wilson, a former board chair of the City Schools of Decatur, said the state should take an inventory of all the tests student take and talk with districts about which are valuable. She also said the state should hold off on evaluating teachers using tougher exams planned to roll out this year.

The two squared off at the Atlanta forum hosted by the state's largest educator association.

The clearest difference between the two candidates remains their take on Common Core, a set of national math and English standards developed by the National Governors Association and adopted by Georgia lawmakers.

Wilson said she doesn't have an issue with the standards but would give teachers more support implementing them. Educators have asked her to stay the course, she said.

"What they are saying is, please allow us the opportunity to be successful with these standards," Wilson said.

Woods said he opposed Georgia adopting the standards because they were not specific to students here. He has previously said they should be reviewed but stopped short of calling for state lawmakers to withdraw.

"We need to have a very precision-type evaluation of the standards themselves and make sure that they are age appropriate, content appropriate and that we can actually cover them during the year," Woods said.

The office is open after sitting State Superintendent John Barge's failed primary challenge to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Wilson and Woods said whether Deal or his Democratic challenger Jason Carter win the governor's race, communication between the constitutional officers is essential to moving forward.

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Kathleen Foody

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