Georgia is a little late to the Mad-Hatters’ Reform Tea Party, but its Governor Nathan Deal is rushing to catch up. At the last election, he changed the Constitution so that the decisions of local boards could be overturned, to authorize a charter school where it was neither wanted nor needed. That is an assault on local control, engineered by the corporate minds at ALEC.
Now Governor Deal is pushing a constitutional amendment to create a Georgia Opportunity School District, akin to Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which did not meet its goals of raising low performing schools into the top 25% in the state by turning them into charters.
Fortunately there are wiser heads in the state. One is Phil Lanoue, the superintendent of schools in Athens, who was chosen as national superintendent of the year by his colleagues in the American Association of School Administrators. Phil Lanoue will be one of the keynote speakers at the national conference of the Network for Public Schools in Raleigh, NC, from April 15-17, 2016.
Without mentioning the looming battles and conflicts that reformers dearly love, Lanoue writes about what really works to improve schools.
He calls for an end to “the blame game” and advises:
The Georgia Vision Project (gavisionproject.org) was developed by researchers and educational experts, with the support of the Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Georgia School Boards Association. The impetus for this work is one we must all rally behind – to “offer recommendations which will transform the current system into one that is relevant for today’s children and youth.”
The alignment of our work with Georgia’s Vision must continue with fidelity to be shared across our state, with communities and agencies on board as well. We have a solid framework for improving our schools. For this to occur, we must stop the blame game. This is not an effective strategy, and needs to end if we are truly going to see the shifts we all hope will happen.
The metric for which we assess our students and school performance must change as well. In schools today, we should show success by demonstrating collaboration, innovation, creativity, communication and helping ensure the health of our children. However, the end game today for our students is simply a number from a score on standardized tests. These tests mostly evaluate someone else, like a teacher or administrator, or something else. We know this, but the conversations do not change and that is a major disservice to our children.
We can be much more effective if we build collaboration with multiple agencies to stabilize the often turbulent lives of our students. It can be done, and we have many examples of success across this state and country. However, building the supports we need across all aspects of our community can only succeed with a laser focus on children’s needs from birth to postsecondary education. To improve public education we must share and overlap resources. No single agency can do the work alone in supporting and educating our children. We must work together with a common focus on learning at high levels for all children.
We have a framework, as well as many examples of success. The major obstacle at this point is our decision to do this work together as Georgians. We are stronger than the sum of our parts, and together is the only way we can enact the changes that are needed to propel our state to the next level.