Build­ing a stronger ed­u­ca­tional foun­da­tion

The Covington News - - OPINION - JOHN BARGE STATE SU­PER­IN­TEN­DENT Dr. John Barge is the Ge­or­gia State School Su­per­in­ten­dent.

With the hol­i­day sea­son upon us, most Ge­or­gians are think­ing about cel­e­bra­tions with fam­ily and friends, hol­i­day break and, of course, gifts. This hol­i­day sea­son, I am en­cour­ag­ing Ge­or­gia par­ents and grand­par­ents to give the most im­por­tant gift you can to your chil­dren — the gift of ed­u­ca­tion.

In the early years of a child’s life, this gift in­volves read­ing with your chil­dren, play­ing with them and en­cour­ag­ing a love of learn­ing. As they go through school, Ge­or­gia’s teach­ers will work hand-in-hand with you to build upon the foun­da­tion you have es­tab­lished to pre­pare your chil­dren for success.

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion is work­ing to put all stu­dents on a path­way to col­lege and ca­reers, no mat­ter what they choose to do af­ter high school grad­u­a­tion. We are sup­port­ing teach­ers in their pur­suit of con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment of their craft and unit­ing busi­ness, com­mu­nity and state lead­ers be­hind a com­mon goal of im­prov­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia. We want to make ed­u­ca­tion work for all Ge­or­gians.

As we strive to pre­pare Ge­or­gia’s chil­dren for col- lege, the work force and life, I en­cour­age fam­i­lies to also think about es­tab­lish­ing a strong fi­nan­cial foun­da­tion for chil­dren to en­sure their ed­u­ca­tion can con­tinue af­ter high school grad­u­a­tion. We want ev­ery child in Ge­or­gia to have the op­por­tu­nity to achieve his dreams, and in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive, global job mar­ket, ed­u­ca­tion is one of the most im­por­tant tools we can give.

It’s been a busy year with many changes for Ge­or­gia’s pub­lic schools, from the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Com­mon Core Ge­or­gia Per­for­mance Stan­dards to the con­tin­ued roll out of the state’s new teacher and leader eval­u­a­tion sys­tem. We want to chal­lenge our stu­dents and el­e­vate our teach­ing meth­ods to meet the de­mands of the 21st cen­tury econ­omy. We want to not only test knowl- edge, but teach stu­dents how to ap­ply it in real-world sit­u­a­tions.

We are also work­ing hard to get our new Col­lege and Ca­reer Ready Per­for­mance In­dex ready. The in­dex will let teach­ers put their fo­cus back on the child in the class­room in­stead of just wor­ry­ing about the test — be­cause there’s so much more to accountability than a test score. We want to put the fo­cus back on the chil­dren, which will ul­ti­mately lead to im­proved stu­dent achieve­ment and more stu­dents pur­su­ing their pas­sions in life.

While the thought of sav­ing for a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion can seem over­whelm­ing, re­mem­ber that you don’t have to save the en­tire amount. The dream of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion for your chil­dren is within reach — the key is to start early and save reg­u­larly. Sav­ing small amounts over time can pro­vide chil­dren with the fi­nan­cial foun­da­tion they need to sup­ple­ment schol­ar­ships, grants, loans and other fi­nan­cial aid. Even if your child is in high school, any amount you save to­day will make a dif­fer­ence to­mor­row. There are many gifts you can give to a child or loved one, but how many of them can help make that child’s dreams come true?

When you open Ge­or­gia’s Path2Col­lege 529 Plan for some­one or con­trib­ute to an ex­ist­ing Path2Col­lege 529 Plan ac­count, you help build a foun­da­tion that can shape the dream of higher ed­u­ca­tion and open the door to a world of op­por­tu­ni­ties. It only takes $25 to open or con­trib­ute to an ac­count, and on Path2­Col­lege529.com, gift givers can sim­ply click on Give a Gift and start mak­ing a child’s col­lege dreams be­come re­al­ity. It doesn’t have to be lim­ited to the hol­i­days: there are cer­tifi­cates for Christ­mas, Kwan­zaa, Hanukkah, birthdays, new ba­bies and many more.

So this hol­i­day sea­son, as you fight the crowds in the stores to find that per­fect gift, please re­mem­ber that while the gift of an ed­u­ca­tion is not some­thing we can wrap up and put un­der the tree, it is one of the most valu­able gifts we can give to the chil­dren in our lives. By work­ing to­gether to build strong in­tel­lec­tual and fi­nan­cial foun­da­tions, we can help stu­dents of all back­grounds and abil­ity lev­els achieve their dreams.

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