Archives for category: Georgia

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.

 

 

If you have not read Rachel Aviv’s “Wrong Answer” in The New Yorker, drop everything and read it now.

Aviv tells the story of the Atlanta cheating scandal through the ideas of one man, one teacher, who cared deeply about his student. Step by step, he got sucked into the data-driven obsession with test scores, thinking that if he raised the children’s test scores, it was a victimless crime. He knew that his students had needs that were even greater than their test scores, but the law’s absurd requirement that scores had to go up year after year drew him into a widespread conspiracy to falsify test scores.

One day will we look back on the Atlanta cheating scandal as the wake up call that made us think about how successive administrations and members of Congress have given their approval to laws and goals that hurt children and warped education? Or will we continue on the present path of destruction?

Bertis Downs is a native of Georgia and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He writes:

This is the best electoral news in a long time– Georgia Democrat Valarie Wilson won the runoff for state school superintendent, and it wasn’t even close: http://bit.ly/Us7qNi I am proud to be one of her supporters.

And on the Republican side a longtime educator, Richard Woods, won in a squeaker– he had strong support from the Tea Party for his opposition to Common Core, which many on the right consider a federal intrusion into what should be local decisions.

Valarie Wilson’s decisive win on the Democratic side is significant for Georgia, and it fits into a developing narrative that Money (doesn’t always) Mean Power, at least in the intersection of politics and schools. It’s great to add Georgia to the list of places where big, out of state, corporate reformist money did not beat a genuine pro-schools candidate who will fight for strong and effective public schools for all– Seattle, Los Angeles, Bridgeport, Newark, Indiana, over and over this pattern is being repeated. Diane Ravitch’s blog and the Network for Public Education are key ways to get the good word out. I guess people like Bloomberg, Huizenga, Rhee, DeVos, Broad, et al have millions to spend (ahem “invest”), but all those $6,300 (+/-) check-writers from California and New York and elsewhere must be feeling a little ripped off this morning. Campaign disclosures, especially when analyzed and broken down on Diane’s blog, are a beautiful thing in a democracy! http://bit.ly/UoWuQC. And I guess, in a way, money does in fact talk– despite Valarie’s opponent’s decision to play down her involvement in the so-called choice movement, the extent of her out of state support, and the fear that she would indeed “dance with who brung her” if elected, likely helped propel Valarie, who raised virtually all her support here in Georgia.

And on the Republican side, and let’s be realistic– Rs generally beat Ds lately in GA– Richard Woods is a solid candidate who believes in public education and is not in deep with the corporate interests looking to privatize our schools. Either way, whatever the outcome in November, Georgia will not have someone really bad running our schools, and that is a relief. I am confident that Georgia’s next superintendent — whether Wilson or Woods — will address and improve the shortcomings of our schools while celebrating and replicating what works in advancing teaching and learning in our classrooms, supporting teachers and helping them improve, and restoring funding cuts that have reduced our school year and increased our class sizes. And if we are really lucky, the next Superintendent will courageously start the long walk back from the absurd amount of standardized testing being forced on our children and our schools, and back to sane and effective assessment and evaluations that help Georgia attract and retain quality teachers. As has been said, a teacher’s working conditions are our childrens’ learning conditions. I look forward to a superintendent who knows this. (And it would of course be really great if that Superintendent could serve under a Governor who shares their view of public schools– see, e.g. https://carterforgovernor.com/issues/)

The results in Georgia send a powerful message that what the people want, Republicans and Democrats alike, is pretty straightforward: good public schools where they are proud to send their children. And the selection of the fall candidates, Richard Woods and especially Valarie Wilson, is a clear rejection of the status quo of the false cures and nice-sounding quick fixes offered by the well-capitalized marketers of “school reform.”

Bertis Downs

Valarie Wilson won the runoff election to be the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s State Superintendent of Education.

The Republican primary was too close to call.

Valarie Wilson was endorsed by the Network for Public Education as a true friend of public schools. Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, was supported by the hedge fund group Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and the pro-voucher American Federation for Children.

Tomorrow is an important run-off to select the Democratic candidate for state superintendent of Georgia.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, who has worked as a member and president of the local school board in Decatur and has served as president of the Georgia School Boards Association.

Fortunately one of the members of the board of directors of the Network is Bertis Downs, a native of Georgia. He wrote this column to explain why he will vote for Valarie Wilson tomorrow.

Bertis Downs, who cares deeply about the children of Georgia, writes:

“A few years ago, I decided to give up politics, since politicians often disappoint, and many politicians seem to have only one issue once they get elected—staying in office. So all the time and effort and money I used to give to political campaigns, I decided to devote to the single most important issue I care about—improving and effective public schools. If we don’t get that part right—educating our children—then what kind of society can we really expect in the future? Well, it did not take me long to realize that if you care about education—the teaching and learning that goes on in the classroom—then you’d better pay attention to politics. I began trying to connect the dots and to figure out the often massive disconnect between policies passed by politicians in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., and the ways our kids’ schools operate.”

“I discovered that what passes as “education reform” is often just a combination of policies that diminish and weaken public schools; boost heavily-marketed “alternatives” like charter schools and voucher programs; revolve around standardized testing with high stakes attached; and then misuse the results of those tests. These policies are taking their toll on morale among our best and most effective teachers, and the people pushing these policies rarely have a dog in the fight. It doesn’t really affect them personally—it’s just politics to them.

“I support groups and individuals, including politicians, who have the same goal I do: good schools for all kids. That sounds simple, but it’s tough to achieve. Schools are complex organisms and have a hard job, given the realities many of their students face when they leave the school grounds.

“Schools cannot be improved with smoke and mirrors and bumper-sticker solutions. “School choice” surely sounds good, and the word “charter” seems to have almost magical connotations to some people. But a good school—public, private or hybrid—shares a few things in common: great teachers who are dedicated to their calling of teaching, who are supported by and learn from each other, who teach in reasonably-sized classrooms and are in a school community that is sufficiently-resourced with adequate facilities and technology, with a rich and varied curriculum, including arts and physical education, and are part of an involved and engaged community of parents and others who support the mission of the school.

“While I recognize that we are not there yet, I think it is important to discern what level of government—local, state or national—is holding us back and making our public schools’ job more difficult every day.

“In my view, the test-driven reforms that started under President George W. Bush but have accelerated under President Barack Obama are most responsible for the current state of play. (Of all the issues, why do the Democrats and Republicans have to pick this one to agree on, and get it so wrong?)”

He concludes:

“As for the runoff for state school superintendent, I strongly support Valarie Wilson, a Decatur parent and former school board member who also has statewide experience as chairwoman of the Georgia School Boards Association. She brings an engaged parent’s perspective, believes in the mission of our public schools and supports the teachers and students who teach and learn there every day. She will work to protect and advance our schools, and she does not subscribe to the false cures and easy-sounding fixes offered by the reform crowd, who have placed their bets elsewhere.

“Wilson knows what it takes and will do everything within her power to make all Georgia schools effective for every child. She will be a fierce advocate for our teachers at a time when they need it the most. And she will do so as a parent, not as a politician taking the careerist’s view.

“I look forward to a time when our state leaders are as focused as our local teachers and administrators on the promise of public education: Each child prepared for life. Wilson would be a great start on that path, and depending on how the “top of the ticket” does in November, she just might have a chance to win the general election. “

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