“We cannot afford to send our kids off to (college) any longer without a clue in the world what they want to do and spend
thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to help them find out what they want to do,” Barge told Adairsville and Bartow County business leaders on Thursday.
Barge, who lives in eastern Floyd County, was just recognized as one of the 100 most influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine.
He said that Georgia can do a better job of helping students find out what they want to do.
“As we implement our Career Pathways initiatives, we also must implement a really solid career education program, and it starts in elementary school,” Barge said. “We have Career Days in our elementary school. Let’s bring some focus to it.”
Barge said that career awareness ought to start at the elementary level and career exploration should take place in middle school. By the time a student enters high school, Barge said, he or she could start to really focus on an area of his or her own personal passion.
Barge used Georgia’s graduation rule as an example. Four sciences are required for graduation.
“I know that 80 percent of my seniors are going to find the easiest science class in the book because it’s their senior year,” Barge said. “If you know you’re going to be a nurse or a doctor, would it not make sense for that fourth class to be human anatomy and physiology or an Advanced Placement biology course? That’s what a Career Pathway does.”
Barge supported the initiative by pointing out that research shows many dropouts overwhelming self report they drop out of school because they find it boring or irrelevant.
Barge also said that if Georgia educators do not adapt to changing technology that the classroom will become even more irrelevant.
“With technology, we have to change what we are doing,” Barge said. “They (students) don’t need us for information. What they do need us for is that relevance piece and that character piece.”
Responding to a question regarding curriculum and the HOPE Scholarship, Barge suggested that the state might have set the bar for HOPE too low. He said a problem is that students who want the scholarship to go to college don’t take some of the more rigorous courses intentionally because they know they have to have a certain grade to get that scholarship.
“Yes, we’ve opened up the door and allowed more students than ever before to go to college, but we probably have students not taking the best course selection,” Barge said. “If we want to push excellence, is a 3.0 grade point average, which is the lowest you can have before you get a C, good enough for a full college scholarship?”
The superintendent said that the impact of voters’ approval of a charter school amendment would depend on the number of schools that are approved by the new state charter commission.
“You could create a really high need for new state revenue because those dollars are new state dollars that are above and beyond what QBE is,” Barge said. “You’re looking at the potential for significant money, new state dollars that we have to come up with from somewhere to fund that piece.”