Archives for category: Georgia

Peter Smagorinsky, a professor at the University of Georgia, has decided to write articles about great teachers instead of just railing against bad ideas. This article features first-grade teacher Bynikini Frazier of the Savannah-Chatham Public Schools.

 

She has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl.

 

She meets a profile often seen among people who go into teaching: Her mother and grandmother were teachers, and, as she has said, “It’s in my blood. I was one of those kids who played school with my dolls and my bears. I gave them homework and detention. . . . I remember as a student here at Hodge in fifth grade deciding I wanted to be a teacher, and from then on strived to become that.”

 

Little did those dolls and bears know how lucky they were to be this precocious woman’s first students, homework, detentions, and all.

 

Like so many people who become teachers, Bynikini was an outstanding student throughout her education: Valedictorian of the Savannah Arts Academy’s Class of 2005, summa cum laude University of Georgia graduate in seven semesters, and earner of a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Armstrong State University.

 

She has won many honors, but her greatest joy comes from inspiring a love of learning in her students with hands-on activities, like the beehive that she installed in her classroom:

 

A love of learning is often fueled by passionate engagement, and Bynikini infuses her class with fun, high expectations for academics and conduct, singing and creative thinking. A dancer, she brings such active forms of learning as creative dance into the classroom, just one of many ways she keeps her students on their toes.

 

As reported in articles written about the 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year competition (which post-dates the award year), for which she was a finalist, “her passion for teaching isn’t something that can be easily conjured up — it is a blessing and a calling that has an indelible impact on some of the neediest students.”

 

Her principal, Yvette Wells, summarized her qualities well: “Bynikini’s personality, style and energy set her apart. She is the teacher that parents request for their children because she is willing to do whatever it takes to reach every child no matter what their level, or who they are or where they come from.”

Myra Blackmon, a regular contributor to OnlineAthens (Georgia), here writes about the state’s devotion to failed education policies. If it isn’t working, do more of it:

Blackmon writes:

The clichéd definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. That may be true in some instances, but when it comes to education in Georgia, we have our own special crazy.

While education “reform” is an issue as old as the republic, Georgia’s approaches to it are crazier than any patchwork quilt. We bounce around from one quick fix to the next. We routinely ignore research about what works, and use ideas that have never been tested.

Our legislature tries to micromanage our schools, the governor controls the policy-making state school board and we elect the state school superintendent, who is not required to know anything about education policy or the business of running schools.

We passed a new school funding formula in 1985, adjusted it several times, but never actually appropriated enough money to actually implement it. After 15 or so years of that, our elected representatives decided that there was too much “fat” in the education budget and proceeded to whack away at it.

While piling on new requirements each year, the legislature has slashed some $7.5 billion from a budget that was never fully funded in the first place. We’ve had additional, often severe cuts at the local level triggered by falling property taxes. At the same time, our public school enrollment has grown by more than 246,000 students.

As our student population has grown, we have lost or cut teaching positions. In its 2013 report “Cutting Class to Make Ends Meet,” the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute found Georgia had lost at least 9,000 teachers in four years. And in 2014, we have 2,500 fewer teachers than we had for the 2011-12 school year. The budget cuts have resulted in more than 100 districts with school years shorter than the mandated 180 days. The cumulative reduction in instructional time from budget cuts alone is significant and can produce only a negative impact on student achievement. There are also fewer courses available, thus narrowing opportunities for student growth.

What has been our response to this crisis? First, there was the great outcry about “failing schools,” based on the scores from poorly constructed, invalid tests. From there, we moved on to teacher-bashing, with a loud determination to rid our schools of the mythical hosts of bad teachers. Multitudes of experienced teachers have left the profession and today more than half of new teachers leave the field within their first five years. Surely the bad ones are about gone….

That’s right, we cut money for a decade, complaining all the while about low test scores and then decide to make it all even harder.

The “reformers” are telling us that the solution to our children’s lack of educational achievement is to make it more difficult. Test them more! Then make it harder next year again! Friends, we are buying this snake oil by the gallon. It’s just plain nuts.

Students in grades 3-5 will spend about 30 hours just taking state-mandated tests this year. And that doesn’t include all the practice tests and test preparation time that further reduces their actual learning time. That adds up to several weeks of learning time that could be put to much better use….
.

And while our schools are limping along on life support, we insist on substituting testing for learning, swapping test prep time for projects and enrichment, and setting expectations so high the failure rate is bound to go up. That is what crazy looks like in Georgia. We could stop it if we wanted to.

Myra Blackmon, a local Banner-Herald columnist, works as a freelance writer, consultant and instructional designer.

http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2014-12-06/blackmon-georgias-patchwork-approach-education-isnt-working

Edward Johnson, a follower of the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, has been an outspoken critic of the top-down, authoritarian methods that ruled the schools of Atlanta under former Superintendent Beverly Hall, whose demands for higher scores produced a massive cheating scandal.

 

Now he is equally critical of the school board’s decision to transition to a charter-like system. Johnson said:

 

“This is Beverly Hall 2.0,” long-time education advocate Ed Johnson told APN, referring to the former Superintendent associated with the APS CRCT cheating scandal.”

 

Johnson was especially critical of the new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, for promoting charter schools; she was superintendent in Austin before she came to Atlanta. And he expressed regret for encouraging his followers to vote for Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who supported the charter proposal.

 

“My voting and encouraging others to vote to put Cynthia Briscoe Brown on the Atlanta school board has turned out to be a great mistake. So I offer my apology to all I had encouraged to vote for her,” Johnson wrote in an email sent to APS Board Members and stakeholders.
“I had hoped, actually believed, Cynthia would bring a greater measure of intellectual, moral, and ethical maturity to the board than would especially the four Teach for America youngsters on the board. Never was there the thought that Cynthia would go along with the stupidity of turning APS into a Charter System or go along with any effort to undermine APS as a public institution, as a public good,” Johnson wrote.
“APS as a Charter System will do nothing but keep the district stuck in a Beverly Hall kind of status quo, but with a difference. Beverly Hall obviously held scant empathy for the adults in APS. Now, even at this early stage, we see a new superintendent who is pushing that lack of empathy down upon the children, and implicitly blaming the children for the superintendency’s failure to learn to improve the district,” Johnson wrote.
“Now it has become inarguably clear that all the rigmarole APS put into deciding to turn APS into a Charter System amounts to nothing more than Cynthia Briscoe Brown and fellow board members (save perhaps Steven Lee) and the superintendent showing they bring nothing beyond the capacity to maintain the status quo, the real status quo, under a different name. The rigmarole has been a colossal waste of time and money that could have gone into engaging all stakeholders in learning how to improve the current state of APS. But that would have required leadership,” Johnson said in his email.

 

Probably the board is not aware that the New Orleans district is rated #65 of 68 districts in Louisiana.

The Fulton County school board in Georgia voted to end its connection with the last two Gulen charter schools in the state.

 

The Gulen schools, one of the largest chains in the country, are associated with a reclusive Turkish imam who lives in Poconos but leads a major political movement in Turkey. Most or all of its board members are Turkish men.

 

The school board based its decision to not renew “on the serious and recurring concerns regarding governance and transparency that have been documented through various audits and reviews,” the school system said in a press release.

 

The school board’s decision was consistent with the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia’s decision in August 2014 to deny authorization of both schools’ continued operation.

 

“Non-renewal of a charter school is one of the most difficult decisions a school district must make and it’s one that we take seriously and with much care,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “After years of opportunities to improve, it has become clear that the governance boards of these schools are either unable or unwilling to be sufficiently transparent in their governance practices to justify their continued funding by taxpayers.”

 

As part of the charter review process, district staff conducts a rigorous cross-functional review of all proposed charter petitions.

 

The published report cited poor governance in both schools that has resulted in the default on a $19 million bond, a self-perpetuating board membership structure that has been dominated by individuals who did not represent the community, a general lack of transparency and associations with individual and organizations now under Federal investigation.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a music educator, a band director, a principal, and most recently, superintendent of schools in Pelham City, Georgia. In this post, he tells the truth: Thirteen years of test, test, test, test have failed.

 

Our kids are no better off then they were before the passage of No Child Left Behind and the siren song of Race to the Top. Test-based accountability has failed, and it is hurting children and undermining education. What is called “reform” is not working. It is actually harmful and bad for education.

 

He writes:

 

Supporters of the accountability movement in public education have had 13 years of test driven “reform” to prove their point. It should be obvious now that 13 years of accountibalism have produced no positive results. If you believe that test scores accurately reflect teaching and learning in our public schools then you also must accept those scores have not shown a positive effect. If you believe the SAT is reflective of student achievement then 13 years of test and retest and test again have been an abysmal failure in serving as anything other than a reliable predictor of family income. In spite of the continued demand for “choice” by the professional accountabullies – those that insist that standardized testing is the only way to hold public education accountable – the only success stories they can point to are the gigantic growth of the educational testing industry and draining millions of tax dollars from public education into privatization efforts. One of the choices that has not appeared in Georgia is that of parents having the ability to opt their children out of standardized testing. As it stands now, parents have few legal options if they decide to opt their children out of the standardized testing craze in public schools.
Public school students are now serving as mass subjects in the “test to distraction” movement. The over reliance on standardized tests at the Federal, state and district level have managed to narrow the curriculum, take time away from true teaching and learning, push out non-tested subjects like music, art, chorus, band, electives and vocational classes, fuel the push to replace veteran teachers with less expensive and less experienced replacements and allow testing and test prep to dominate class time for students and teachers.
District testing calendars in Atlanta Public Schools for 2012 indicate 3rd grade students spent 11.8 hours on state tests and 9 hours on district tests. Students in 7th grade spent 8.5 hours on state tests and 12 hours on district tests. Teachers in those grades calculate the time actually spent by students on testing, test prep and test review is more than double that amount, and some teachers noted that more than 35% of instruction time each year is spent on test review, test planning, test taking strategies, practice tests, preparation for assessment, re-assessment and actual testing….

 

Common Core requirements state that students in special education must be tested on grade level in spite of what their Individualized Education Plan says. This policy, enacted by Secretary Duncan without congressional approval, appears to violate Federal law as written in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While it may be possible to write an opt out clause into a students’ IEP, resistance to this option at the Federal, state and school level may be expected. While the CRCT will be replaced next year in Georgia by a more difficult test, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 will still be required to pass before being promoted. Parents deciding to opt their children out of these tests may use current procedures for parental appeal of retention, but these are cumbersome at best and require the formation of a placement committee consisting of the parents, the Principal and each of the child’s teachers to determine whether or not the student is performing at grade level. The committe reviews student class participation, class work and performance and teacher observations of student learning. The committee decision must be unanimous, and the student may be promoted with the understanding that extra help and support are required for the following year.

 

Whoa! So if a student is brain damaged or has other issues that cause her to read at 2nd grade level when she is 16 years old, she must be given the same tests at those in ninth or tenth grade? What is the purpose of that? Surely that is a violation of federal law. But we have often heard Secretary Duncan say that children with low test scores, regardless of disability, must be held to high standards. He wants all children to take Advanced Placement tests, which will show the power of high expectations, even for those with cognitive disabilities. The man is…the man is…not an educator. He doesn’t even know federal law. He has no common sense.

 

Jim Arnold writes:

 

I propose two reforms of my own for immediate action by the Georgia legislature:
Allow an exemption from standardized testing as one of the options for “flexibility” for charter system and IE2 applications;
Pass legislation giving parents the right to opt their students out of standardized testing in public schools.
If our legislators really believe in “choice” for parents, they can do nothing less than give public school parents the option of opting their kids out of standardized testing. That would be a reform worth implementing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politicians these days just can’t spend enough on testing. They will starve the schools of money for the arts, librarians, and nurses, while throwing millions and millions for more tests. They seem to be under the delusion that kids will learn more if they take more tests but there’s no evidence for that. (My wish: the people who commission these tests should be required to take the tests and post their scores.)

Case in point: Georgia.

In this superb article, journalist Myra Blackmon writes in OnlineAthens about the testing madness that has caused the state to shell out more than $100 million to McGraw-Hill for five years of tests. At the end of five years, state officials won’t know anything different from what they know now. And then they will buy more tests.

She writes:

“More insanity came largely from the Georgia General Assembly and an unelected Georgia State Board of Education. I’ve lost track of how many education bills have been passed the last few years, many of them mandating testing for teacher evaluation or school “grades.” Other legislation has piled on the paperwork that eats up instructional time. The testing and textbook companies have made out like bandits here, though.

“Everyone professes to hate testing, with the exception, perhaps, of the billionaires and their companies who make more money the more we test.

“Oh, yes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees high-stakes testing as fundamental, and President Obama — whose daughters are exempt from the nightmare — doesn’t seem to care.

“If high-stakes testing is so great, why do the Obama children, as well as the children of Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation funds education “reform” initiatives, and the children of other wealthy elites go to private schools that don’t use such tests? If it’s so great for evaluating school performance, why aren’t private schools all over the country adopting the same practice and touting their test scores?”

And she adds:

“Testing has become absurd. Clarke County teachers have had to spend hours developing tests based on Student Learning Objectives that are not covered by the limited state Milestone and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. According to Clarke County Schools Superintendent Philip Lanoue, district teachers have been required to develop, administer (often several times a year), score and enter the data for some 60 tests beyond what the state provides. But the state doesn’t look at the data beyond the summary data in the cover sheet.

“Contemplating the costs of staff time, lost instruction and implementation is mind-boggling. Little data from the required testing is practically useful to teachers, parents or administrators…..

“High-stakes testing is not about measuring “student growth” or helping teachers do a better job. It is actually a new blunt instrument, used to bludgeon schools to spend limited funds for no good reason, to beat teachers until they are ready to quit and to abuse millions of school children who have little choice.

“We must contain this lunacy before it cripples our nation for generations.”

Jim Arnold, former superintendent of Pelham City public schools in Georgia, has a message for Governor Nathan Deal, who is running for re-election. Governor Deal thinks Georgia needs a “recovery school district,” like the one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jim Arnold says Governor Deal is wrong.

Arnold writes that Louisiana is a low-performing state and Néw Orleans is a low-performing district.

“Louisiana, where Advanced Placement exam results for 2013 are ahead of only Mississippi, is known more for LSU football and Duck Dynasty than public education…..

“The vast majority of charters in Louisiana, except for those with a selective admission process, are rated D or F by their own state. The New Orleans Recovery School District that Nathan Deal suggested we emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
This plan was part of the “bait and switch” campaign in Louisiana to increase the number of charter schools in that state after Hurricane Katrina. Their method was simple: if evidence for the success of charters is required, simply lower test scores, apply charters wherever possible then raise the scores back through whatever test manipulation is needed to “prove” the case.

“The RSD efforts in Louisiana are a miserable failure by any measure. In spite of the promise to return schools to the public after the initial takeover in 2006, not one school in the RSD has been returned to local control after 8 years.

“The governor’s suggestion of studying the implementation of such a model in Georgia speaks more to his lack of a coherent educational policy than to his ideas for educational progress.”

Arnold has some ideas for improving public education in Georgia:

He writes:

“Believe in and support teachers:

1. Poverty is the cause of achievement gaps and the number one obstacle to educational success. Stop the culture of blaming teachers for poverty.

Teachers don’t cause poverty any more than law enforcement causes crime or doctors create disease.

2. Invest in teachers: Restore professional development funds. Professional development should be experienced teachers working with less experienced teachers. Pay great teachers to share their knowledge and ideas in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom. One great teacher working with 3 or 4 others is a powerful tool. Large groups of teachers listening to one “expert” in an auditorium is not.

3. Pay great teachers more to work in high poverty schools: Working in these schools is difficult. Make it worth the effort for teachers that want to increase their salaries and stay in the classroom. Want to attract great teachers to high poverty areas? Pay them to travel and teach there. Want to identify high poverty schools? Simply look at standardized test scores. They don’t tell you anything about teaching and learning but do serve wonderfully to point out the zip code effect of the level of poverty in a given area.

4. Eliminate standardized testing for other than diagnostic purposes: The money saved would be more beneficial invested in teaching and learning than in the autopsy reports generated at the insistence of accountabullies in the name of accountabalism. Allow teachers the opportunity to teach without having to teach to the test.

5. Don’t believe in magic bullets: The answer is not in canned programs guaranteed to produce higher test scores. The answer is in the power of great teachers. Invest in people and not in programs. Success through standardization is a myth. Every student needs and deserves individualized learning at all levels. Educational achievement, like excellence, cannot be legislated.
Technology is a tool for teachers and not an answer unto itself: For every child that learns through technology alone there are more that fail miserably without the intervention and guidance of a teacher. Lower class sizes, eliminate furlough days and give teachers the time and tools to teach.

6. Help prevent legislative meddling in teaching and learning: Unfunded mandates and legislative attempts at applying statewide solutions to local educational issues have done more to hurt public education than to help. Standardization is not a solution unless your goal is to help Bill Gates sell a lot of technology. Georgia teachers can also find a better way than age level to determine educational placement. Children learn at different rates and in different ways. If a child cannot jump a bar 4 feet high, raising the bar to 6 feet does not encourage continued learning and effort. Expecting every child to achieve at the same rate at the same level ignores fundamental differences in human development…sort of like Arnie’s plan to test special education students out of special education through higher expectations.
Top down implementation does not work in education any more than it does in government: Issuing a decree that all children will succeed does not automatically mean that all children will succeed.”

Bertis Downs, a member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education, lives in Georgia. He sent the following comment, which gives hope that the citizens of Georgia will support their local public schools and vote for a Governor who wants to improve them. An earlier post described Governor Nathan Deal’s desire to create a statewide district modeled on the failed RSD in New Orleans (failed because most of the charters are rated D or F by the state and the district as a whole is one of the lowest performing in the state).

 

Bertis writes:

 

 

Some narrative-shifting appears to be going on here in GA I am happy to report (but not resting on any laurels as we are up against the Big Money snake oil nonsense like everywhere else of course)

But some examples:

–from Savannah Morning News, this is good to see, a clear and direct report on the effects of budget cuts over time–

http://bit.ly/1ux1Sjs

–from middle Georgia, Macon’s Telegraph had a recent editorial on education and poverty with a key paragraph:

“During this political season, there is no better question to ask the candidates, particularly those running for state school superintendent and governor, what they plan to do to support the state’s K-12 education system. Then, whoever is elected, will have to be held accountable if they don’t keep their word.”

http://bit.ly/1wt1LaA

–and in Athens news, check out this editorial on our school board and superintendent pushing back about the absurdities of the new testing heavy statewide teacher evaluation system– the Athens Banner-Herald supporting the position of our local educators is a good thing:

http://bit.ly/1q2NpFo
http://bit.ly/1tB14Hp

–finally, here is an interesting piece on the GO PUBLIC film recently screened in Athens:

http://bit.ly/1tQU1dN

Jason Carter has built his campaign on public education issues and slowly but surely the word is getting out that if we want to truly support public schools and teachers in Georgia, Jason Carter is the right candidate for governor. And with the incumbent faltering by the day, his talking points now featuring unabashed support for Jindal-style reform gimmicks like RSD, it’s no wonder the polls are tied and Jason has a serious chance of winning by attracting moderate Republican and independent education voters. Nobody, Republican, Democrat or Independent, nobody likes to see their local schools diminished and weakened, good teachers leaving teaching, and their children’s love of learning sapped away by the high-stakes overtesting being done these days in the name of “reform.” People are realizing the fact that under the current state leadership, that’s what Georgia will continue to get– if Deal gets another term.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia wants a statewide Recovery School District, just like Louisiana. He wants to be like Bobby Jindal. He wants all the low-performing schools turned into charters, just like Néw Orleans.

Won’t someone tell him that most of the charters–excluding those with selective admissions–are rated D or F by the state? Won’t someone tell him that the RSD in Louisiana is one of the lowest performing districts in the state? Perhaps he could invite Charles Hatfield or Dr. Barbara Ferguson of NOLA’s “Research on Reforms” to brief him. Or talk to Professor Kristen Buras of Geirgia State University, who just published a book debunking “the Néw Orleans miracle.” Or read Mercedes Schneider on the Néw Orleans story.

See, Governor Deal has a problem, and his name is Jason Carter. Jason is the grandson of President Jimmy Carter. More than that, his children are enrolled in public schools. His wife taught in a public high school. He wants to improve Georgia’s public schools, not privatize them.

Deal and Carter are tied in the polls. Deal thinks he can win by promising to hand schools over to entrepreneurs.

I’m for Jason.

In this post, Jim Arnold and Peter Smagorinsky dissect the myths and baloney of the reformers. The “reformers” love to talk about the good old days and about how schools were so much better back then. As the authors demonstrate, those “good old days” weren’t good for everyone–especially when there were grown men running around in white gowns and pointy hats. And they demonstrate with solid facts that by every objective measure, the public schools of Georgia are doing a better job now than they were over the past six or seven decades. The “reformers” aren’t solving any real problems by their constant carping about the public schools.

 

It’s Time to Reform the Reformers

Jim Arnold & Peter Smagorinsky

 

Jim Arnold recently retired from the superintendent’s position of the Pelham City, GA Schools and blogs at http://www.drjamesarnold.com/. Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at The University of Georgia whose public essays are archived at http://smago.coe.uga.edu/vita/vitaweb.htm#OpEd

 

“The failure of public education” has become a de rigueur assumption in the public forum on public education, particularly among those who claim to possess the silver bullet for “reform.” The definition of reform signals the need to improve something for the better by removing faults, abuses, and evil ways. For there to be a need for reformers, then, those they wish to reform must be found to be as defective as possible. When the target of reform lacks sufficient dereliction, and a reformer still needs to advance his or her agenda, ideally with consulting fees, then the flaws must be manufactured and propagated as if they are real.

 

Arne Duncan, for instance, often cites such statistics as the need for 40% of college students to require remedial coursework. Carol Burris has shown, however, this canard has no basis in fact, but is a manufactured statistic coming from a think tank, repeated by other think tanks until it became accepted in public opinion. As part of this process of fabricating a crisis, our Secretary of Education has repeatedly promulgated this bogus claim to advance his reforms, even if the evil of shoddy education in public schools requiring remediation by colleges at the taxpayers’ expense does not exist.

 

As part of this perceived need for reform, many people hearken back to the good old days, back before schools began circling the drain. For instance, a Rasmussen poll found that 69% of respondents doubted whether today’s public schools provide our kids with the world class education that the rest of the world is getting. At the same time that market-based reforms are offered as our only means of salvation, the schools of socialistic Finland are provided as a model of excellence.

 

Perhaps this irony is not the only one at work in the public debate about our purportedly failing schools.

 

We went to Southern schools back in those halcyon days. Nostalgia buffs might recall scenes such as this one from those misty times of yore on the occasion of efforts to integrate The Varsity restaurant in Athens, Georgia:

kkk

Given that opposition to school integration often was more violent and virulent than were such responses to allowing Black people to each a hot dog at The Varsity, perhaps those great old schools from those good old days might benefit from a closer look. Let’s consider the public perception of US public education over time.

 

In 1996 E. D. Hirsch called for a return to a traditional approach to public education in “The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.” In 1983 “A Nation at Risk” told us of the apparent failure of our system of public education. The Educational Testing Service discovered in 1976 that college freshmen could correctly answer only half of forty or so multiple choice questions. In 1969 the Chancellor of NY schools, Harvey Scribner, said that for every student schools educated there was another that was “scarred as a result of his school experience.”

 

Admiral Rickover published “American Education, a National Failure” in 1963, and in 1959 LIFE magazine published “Crisis in Education” that noted the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik because “the standards of education are shockingly low.” In 1955 Why Johnny Can’t Read became a best seller, and in 1942 the NY Times noted only 6% of college freshmen could name the 13 original colonies and 75% did not know who was President during the Civil War. The US Navy in 1940 tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60% of the HS graduates failed. In 1889 the top 3% of US high school students went to college, and 84% of all American colleges reported remedial courses in core subjects were required for incoming freshmen.

 

And in the years before the American Revolution, “Undereducated, overworked, short-tempered male schoolmasters often presided over the schools. Corporal punishment was a euphemism for outright brutality against children.” Women were not allowed an education until the Industrial Revolution took hold, a century before they could vote.

 

So much for the good old days.

 

And so much for the perception that education is perpetually in decline, if actual statistics inform the conversation. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that educational attainment is continually on the rise. Here’s their table providing decade-by-decade figures for high school graduate rates.

 

HS Graduates (total %) Whites Blacks

1940 38.1 41.2 12.3

1950 52.8 56.3 23.6

1960 60.7 63.7 38.6

1970 75.4 77.8 58.4

1980 85.4 89.2 76.7

1990 85.7 90.1 81.7

2000 88.1 94 86.8

2010 88.8 94.5 89.6

2013 89.9 94.1 90.3

 

Georgia lags behind these national averages, as the following table shows, yet still continually graduates increasing numbers of people at the high school and college levels:

 

HS grad Bachelor’s Advanced degree

or more or more or more

1990 70.9 19.3 6.4

2000 78.6 24.3 8.3

2006 82.2 26.6 9.2

2009 83.9 27.5 9.9

 

Going back a bit farther in time, in 1940 17% of adults in Georgia had completed high school; in 1946 5% of Georgians attended college. We’re doing quite a bit better these days, even as public rhetoric and perception suggest the opposite.

 

But you can’t frame our current situation as a crisis in need of reform if all trends are positive. So, the Georgia Department of Education claims that state graduation rates are below 70%, in spite of statistical evidence to the contrary. We cannot ascertain their motives, but they do seem to feel that charter schools and Teach for American are the answers, even if the question remains opaque. Like Arne Duncan, they appear to require a manufactured crisis of the sort revealed by David Berliner, Gene Glass and colleagues in order to come to our rescue.

 

Long ago Darrell Huff exposed how people lie with statistics, helping to explain the sort of smoke-and-mirrors statistical manipulation at work in much of the educational policy world. For example, in determining graduation rates, states are allowed to count only those HS graduates each year who are awarded a diploma within a 4-year course of study. GED’s don’t count, but special education students do, and count against graduation rates, as do students who graduate by persisting through difficulties such that they take more than four years to complete their degrees.

 

Schools, like any complex social institutions, require continual maintenance and rethinking; we hope that in our careers as teachers and school administrators we contributed to that challenging project. But the current “reform” movement, we believe, is not solving actual problems, and in contrast is manufacturing new ones with each dedication of funds to corporations instead of schools. Reforming the ways of the reformers would make better sense to us.

 

 

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