Archives for category: Georgia

Mercedes Schneider, Louisiana high school teacher with a Ph.D. in research methods and statistics, has a dogged dedication to setting the record straight. She knows that New Orleans is not a miracle district. She has pointed this out time after time, yet the media continue to spout the same claims from the advocates of privatization: wipe out public education, fire all the teachers, welcome privately managed charters, staff the schools with Teach for America, and–Voila!–everyone succeeds, no child left behind, an excellent education for all children! The actions are true: the public schools were closed, the teachers were fired, the charters sprouted in every part of New Orleans. But the results didn’t happen. New Orleans is today one of the lowest performing districts in the state. We leave it to students of mass psychology and the media to explain why the national media falls for the narrative repeatedly. Maybe because it is a good story, even if it is not true. Maybe they want to believe in miracles.

 

When Mercedes Schneider read that Nathan Deal, the Governor of Georgia, was coming to New Orleans to see the miracle with his own eyes, she wrote this post. Very likely, he and his delegation will be taken to the schools with selective admissions. They are the Potemkin villages of New Orleans. It is always best to verify before you trust (Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify”). In this post, Schneider shows that most of the graduates of the New Orleans’ Recovery School District have scores so low on the ACT that they are ineligible to receive state scholarships for two-year community colleges. This is sad. The suppression of the facts is also sad. Spreading a failed model is sadder still. The most successful nations in the world have strong public school systems, not vouchers or charters.

For a decade now, we have been told again and again by the national media that New Orleans is a “miracle” district. City after city, state after state, wants to be like New Orleans. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority, which has been plagued with mismanagement and has shown no progress for the students in Detroit. Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager for financially strapped, low-performing Muskegon Heights, and the emergency manager turned the students and schools over to a for-profit charter chain; after two years, the chain decamped when it was clear there would be no profit. Tennessee created the Achievement School District, where the state’s low-performing public schools were gathered, turned over to charter operators, and are supposed to be in the state’s top 20% by performance within five years; the clock is ticking, and there is no reason to believe that the five-year deadline will be met. The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, have been promised to a for-profit charter chain.

 

And now Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal has an idea. He wants Georgia to have a Recovery School District, just like New Orleans. Here is the formula: wipe out public education and replace it with privately managed charters; eliminate any teachers’ unions; fire veteran teachers and replace them with Teach for America. What could go wrong? Note in the linked article that the enrollment in New Orleans public schools fell from 65,000 before Hurricane Katrina to 25,000 or so today. This makes comparisons pre- and post- tricky to say the least.

 

No matter. The boosters are still claiming dramatic success.

 

But along comes Mercedes Schneider, who managed to get the full set of ACT scores for the state of Louisiana. For some reason, the State Department of Education was not eager to release those scores. You will see why.

 

Mercedes wrote more than one post. They are collected here. The details are in the individual posts.

 

She begins the second post like this:

 

 

It is February, and at my high school, that means scheduling students for the next school year. During two of my classes today, our counselors were in my room explaining to students the Louisiana Board of Regents minimum requirements for first-time college freshmen who wish to attend a four-year college or university in Louisiana. These requirement are the result of legislation passed in 2010 and phased in over four years, the Grad Act.

 

One requirement is a minimum score of 18 on the ACT in English and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT in math.

 

Even though Regents also has an ACT composite requirement, one can readily substitute a high GPA in place of a lacking composite.

 

However, that 18 in English and 19 in math is virtually non-negotiable. An institution might be able to conditionally admit some students in the name of “research”; however, there is not too much of this allowed, for Regents states that the two ACT subscores are the most widely acceptable, readily available evidence that a student would not require remedial college coursework in English or math– a rule effective for all Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education effective Fall 2014.

 

Thus, the first graduating class affected by this Regents rule is the high school graduating class of 2014.

 

Remember those numbers: 18 in English and 19 in math.

 

Schneider continues:

 

Some highlights from this data:

 

Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

 

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

 

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).

 

By far, OP Walker had the highest number of Regents 18-English-19-math-ACT-subscore-qualifying class of 2014 test takers (89 out of 311, or 28.6 percent).

 

If the OP Walker were removed from RSD-NO, then RSD-NO would be left with 52 qualifying students out of 840, or 6.2 percent.

 

Sobering.

 

Notice also that the average ACT composite scores of those meeting the Regents 18-19 requirement (column G) are all above the 18 that LDOE focuses on as a minimum mark of success.

 

Clearly the theory of “raise the bar and achievement will rise” is not playing out in the New Orleans RSD when it comes to meeting the Regents minimum requirement of an 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT.

 

No miracle here. Only more data that Louisiana Superintendent John White wishes he could hide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Johnson is a deeply thoughtful man who is devotedto the systems thinking of W. Edwards Deming. Like Deming, Johnson believes that the path to improvement requires changing the system, not blaming teachers or dissolving the system. Thus, he says Governor Deal’s plan to turn Atlanta into a charter district and/or to create a statewide district akin to Louisiana’s Recovery School District or Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Johnson says such plans are an acknowledgement of local failure, an admission of defeat.

He wrote this today to every local and state official:

February 16, 2014

To date, I am unaware of any communications from the Office of Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools, informing the Atlanta taxpaying and public school communities of the superintendent’s position on Governor Nathan Deal’s designs to create, in Georgia, a New Orleans-styled recovery school district.

Surely, the communities need and deserve to know, given the extreme nature of Deal’s RSD designs that target 25 percent or so of APS schools for state takeover.

By his RSD designs, Deal obviously implies he believes APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen lacks the mettle to lead improving APS as a system.

But then, also by his RSD designs, Deal implies he, himself, lacks the mettle to provide for Carstarphen and other Georgia public school superintendents to learn to lead improving their district as a system.

On the other hand, just as Deal implicates himself, Atlanta school board members and superintendent implicated themselves as lacking the mettle to improve APS as a system of the common good when recently they decided to turn APS into a Charter System. Both they and Deal demonstrate the Systems Thinking concept “Shifting the Burden,” if not “Addiction,” in the sense of being overly dependent on trafficked symptomatic solutions and averse to engaging the usually hard work of drawing out local fundamental solutions.

Deal’s RSD designs should come as no surprise, for they are but the state’s “Charter System” and “IE2” on a wider and more depraved scale. Just as the depravity of Deal’s RSD designs encompass APS as a Charter System, the depravity of President Obama’s Race to the Top Competition encompasses Deal’s RSD designs.

Deal has targeted schools for state takeover based on nothing more than district-level College and Career Readiness Performance Index scores below 60 on a 100-point scale, it has been reported. But, arguably, CCRPI scores offer no learning value or usefulness beyond merely ranking schools and districts for today’s political purposes.

And, of course, a systemic disruption of APS by Deal’s RSD designs will rob Carstarphen of ever being able to claim, in a rational way, that any manner of increased APS performance resulted from her leadership.

Consequently, one might think an essential question Carstarphen has already asked and can readily respond to, with respect to CCRPI scores, is: Will eventual state takeover of 27 or so APS schools fundamentally relieve needing to improve APS as a system?

Since one might reasonably surmise no, it will not, it is incumbent upon Carstarphen to state, and stake, her position on Deal’s RSD designs with supporting data, and inform the public, accordingly.

After all, data-driven decision making is what APS does these days, isn’t it?

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA
(404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

“There is no difference in culture between the things that actually count.”
–W. Edwards Deming

Cc: Atlanta Superintendent and School Board Members
Cc: Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia (via Domestic Contact Form)
Cc: Senate Education Committee Members, State of Georgia
Cc: House Education Committee Members, State of Georgia
Cc: City Council Members and Mayor, City of Atlanta, Georgia
Cc: Atlanta community organizations
Cc: Atlanta Journal Constitution and other media

Anthony Cody will speak on February 4 at 5:15 pm at the University of Georgia Chapel.

Cody is an experienced educator, a fearless blogger, co-founder of the Network for Public Education, and author of the recently published “The Educator and the Oligarch,” about his public debate with the Gates Foundation.

Georgia’s recently elected State Superintendent Richard Woods wrote a terrific letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, explaining patiently why federal testing mandates are defective. The letter was printed in Maureen Downey’s blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Superintendent Woods sounds like a veteran educator, which he is. He pulls no punches. This is what he wrote:

 

Dear Secretary Duncan,

 

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) comes an opportunity to address the valid concerns of students, parents, teachers, and communities regarding the quantity and quality of federally mandated standardized tests.

 

As Georgia’s School Superintendent, I have a constitutional duty to convey those concerns and provide ideas on how to move my state and our nation forward. Georgia recently entered into a $108 million contract to deliver federally mandated standardized tests to our students. That figure does not include the millions of dollars spent to develop and validate test questions and inform the public about the new tests.

 

This adds to the need for an audit to provide information on the number of tests and loss of instructional time our children endure, as well as a cost/benefit analysis on our current national testing model. As a nation, we have surrendered time, talent, and resources to an emphasis on autopsy-styled assessments, rather than physical-styled assessments. With the reauthorization of ESEA comes an opportunity for a real paradigm shift in the area of assessment.

 

Instead of a “measure, pressure, and punish” model that sets our students, teachers, and schools up for failure, we need a diagnostic, remediate/accelerate model that personalizes instruction, empowers students, involves parents, and provides real feedback to our teachers.

 

We need greater emphasis for a federally supported but state-driven formative assessment model that identifies the strengths and weakness of students, coupled with a less intrusive, student-sampled or grade-staggered summative assessment model for the purposes of state-tostate comparisons and world rankings.

 

Our broken model of assessment is too focused on labeling our schools and teachers, and not focused enough on supporting our students. Our current status quo model is forcing our teachers to teach to the test. We need an innovative approach that uses tests to guide instruction, just as scans and tests guide medical professionals. Oftentimes, we hear teachers called professionals because they have the knowledge and skill set to reach the needs of their individual students, yet in our accountability measures we have not supported or given value to diagnostic tools and tests that teachers need to fully utilize that knowledge or those skills. We must find a balance between accountability and responsibility.

 

We must give our teachers the tools and trust to be successful or our current path to hyper-accountability will continue to set our students and teachers up for failure. Teachers should not view tests as tools that tie their hands as professionals, but as tools that help them grow in their profession. Students should not view tests as tools that can strengthen barriers to be promoted or to graduate, but as tools that help them overcome those barriers. Schools should not view tests as tools that can doom them to failure, but as tools that serve as a compass pointing them down the path of success.

 

Testing must be a tool in our toolbox, but we need more rulers and fewer hammers. As Georgia’s School Superintendent, but more importantly as someone with 22 years of Pre-K through twelfth grade experience in education, I strongly urge you to take this moment in history to listen to the concerns of your constituents – parents, teachers, and community members – and reform the federal standardized testing requirements for the betterment of our children. I look forward to working with you to move education forward.

 

 

The latest state report in Georgia found that student performance across both public schools and charter schools was stagnant, no doubt a reflection of the failure of test-based accountability. At some point, do you think policymakers will decide that all the time and money invested in testing has been wasted?

 

Georgia’s public schools took a step backward academically, an annual state report card released last week found, and many charter schools did not escape the lower marks.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of the data found about three of five charter school grade clusters had lower scores on the state education department’s 2013-14 College and Career-Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) than they did the prior school year. Grade clusters are separated by the elementary, middle and high school levels.
The index shows several charter high schools are in trouble or need improvement. Three charter high schools were 50 percent or more below the statewide high school average for academic achievement. Academic achievement — how students fared on state end-of-course and standardized tests — accounts for up to 60 points, more than half the CCRPI score. In all, 15 of the 24 charter high schools reviewed by the AJC had academic achievement scores that were below the statewide high school average….

 

There was some encouraging news from the recent CCRPI findings for charter schools. Middle schools with data available were four points better than the state average. Elementary charter schools were on average five-tenths of a point better.

 

The data reviewed by the AJC showed charter high schools were on average three-tenths of a point below the statewide average.

 

Conversion charter schools, schools that began as traditional public schools, fared about as well as startup charter schools, the AJC’s review of available data found.

 

Is this why the Waltons and other billionaires poured money into Georgia’s state referendum on charters? Is this the education revolution they expected? A four-point gain in middle school; five-tenths of a point better in elementary schools; three-tenths of a point below the state average in high school?

 

Much ado about nothing, other than destroying the public’s belief that public schools belong to the public and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to cash in.

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.

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