Archives for category: Georgia

Parents in Georgia sued to block a tax-credit program that has drained nearly $300 million from public schools since 2008. Meanwhile the public schools have had to absorb crippling budget cuts.

“A controversial state program that offers tax credits to people who fund private school scholarships is unconstitutional and robs public schools of much-needed financial support, a lawsuit filed by Georgia parents Thursday argues.

“The group, backed by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, says the student scholarship tax credits violate both the state constitution and tax laws by, among other things, providing indirect public funding to religious schools, giving donors illegal benefits and allowing a publicly funded school program to be run by private groups.”

The Southern Education Foundation issued the following statement:

Statement by Steve Suitts, Vice President, Southern Education Foundation

April 3, 2014

“The Southern Education Foundation fully supports the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program.

“The tax credit program for private schools has drained almost $300 million in tax funds from the state treasury since 2008 while public schools have suffered deep cuts across the state. The first constitutional obligation of the state is to provide “an adequate public education” for Georgia’s public school children.

“This state tax-funded program is administered by self-appointed private organizations that are virtually unregulated. They collect, spend, and distribute millions of tax dollars to private schools. Both tax funded private scholarship organizations and tax-funded private schools are unaccountable to the public for how they spend tax dollars, who receives tax-funded scholarships, and how they are educating children to meet state standards.

“This has been a costly failed experiment that is operating contrary to the state constitution. It is time to end it once and for all.”

There are people who hate public education and don’t care much about any kind of education. Some are legislators. Some have positions of influence in states like Georgia.

Here Maureen Downey writes about the latest legislative assault, which started as an attack on Common Core and grew into something far worse.

As one who has been critical of Common Core in its current form, I want to disassociate myself from this extremism. I think the Common Core should be revised by every state’s best teachers and improved. I think the early grades must be made developmentally appropriate. I don’t believe any set of standards is beyond improvement. I also hope they will be decoupled from high-stakes testing. What is happening in Georgia is legislative meddling at its worst.

Downey writes:

“In capitulating to extremists who consider Common Core the work of the devil and/or Barack Obama, the state Senate passed a bill last week that isolates Georgia from the rest of the nation, sets our students up for failure and reverses the progress schools have made over the last eight years.

“The main intent of Senate Bill 167 bill was to ban the Common Core State Standards in Georgia.

“It no longer does that, which is good considering Georgia has already invested years into putting the standards into practice, training teachers and rewriting curriculum. In a compromise with the governor who didn’t want a Common Core battle in an election year, the bill was changed so it doesn’t ban Common Core, but sets up a review of the standards.

“That compromise explains why the bill passed the Senate so easily last week and with little debate. But senators should have read the 18-page bill a little more closely as it still contains plenty of bad stuff, including a prohibition on embracing any new content or tests that even smack of national standards. Let’s hope that wiser minds prevail in the House and put the brakes on this bill, either killing it completely or rewriting it to get rid of all the mandates.

“The bill still states: On and after the effective date of this Code section, the state shall not adopt any federally prescribed content standards or any national content standards established by a consortium of states or a third party, including, but not limited to, the Next Generation Science Standards, the National Curriculum for Social Studies, the National Health Education Standards, or the National Sexuality Standards.”

“Imagine telling Georgia doctors they couldn’t use any cancer treatments developed by medical teams or labs outside the state. Patients would riot in the streets. So should parents over this piece of legislation.”

Myra Blackmon writes in Online Athens (Georgia) about the legislators who listen to al the wrong people.

She writes:

“….our lawmakers need some new ears, to hear the voices of parents, teachers and people who spend their time and energy in public education.

“They need new ears that won’t hear the twisted “facts,” crazy ideas and pronouncements from wealthy people and others who have a financial interest in dismantling public schools.

“Those new ears ought also to come with new eyes to look at the facts and learn them firsthand, not as they are provided by lobbyists and for-profit education companies.

“Before our legislators can get new ears and eyes that see and hear the truth about day-to-day living for ordinary Georgians, we have to get new feet.

“Those feet will take us to visit our elected officials and tell them the truth. Those new feet will march straight to the ballot box and vote for people who believe Georgia taxes should support all Georgia schools and students; who believe that a strong public education system is the best legacy any of us can leave.”

Following the allegations of widespread cheating, the Atlanta Board of Education needs new members and independent thinking. The person who fits the bill is Edward Johnson. I have never met him but I have read many of his emails in which he made sense. He understands that school closings are harmful to the community. He understands the necessity for collaboration, not competition.

Here is a good description of the man and what he believes in.

I urge you to vote for Edward Johnson for school board in Atlanta.

I posted before that four TFA alums are running for the Atlanta school board. This seems to be the TFA long-term plan, as Wendy Kopp has often stated: to build a cadre of leaders with a strong network of funders across the nation.

We know what this has meant in Louisiana, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, where TFA-trained leaders have fought for privatization, high-stakes testing, test-based teacher evaluation, and merit pay.

Here is an Atlanta article about what lies ahead if TFA alums constitute a solid bloc on the board and are close to controlling it. It is interesting that some of the candidates do not acknowledge their TFA connection.

The article describes a little-known offshoot of TFA called “Leadership for Educational Equity” (LEE). This appears to be the political action arm of TFA, spinning off groups like “Families Empowered” and “Mississippi First,” both of which advocate for privately managed charter schools. LEE is not transparent. Only members can access its website.

You can see why the far-right, anti-union Walton Family Foundation gave TFA $50 million, and why it is the favorite charity of major corporations. It is a training ground for the privatization movement.

Especially interesting in this article is the analysis by Julian Vasquez Heilig, who has studied the effects of TFA in the classroom.

The following is a quote from the article:

*************

“Overall, the four are a largely pro-charter school group. If all four are elected, TFA alumni will constitute a near-majority voting bloc on the BOE.

So, what does this mean for APS, and how might a TFA voting bloc impact educational policy for APS teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders?

“The first thing is, it’s not surprising you have so many TFA alum running for the School Board.
TFA alums are everywhere but the classroom. Their turnover rate, after three or four years, is around eighty percent,” Julian Vasquez Heilig, an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of the Cloaking Inequality blog, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“It’s a revolving door of temporary labor. It [TFA] perpetuates inequality in teacher quality,” he said.

“It empowers districts to continue a revolving of rookie teachers. What TFA will argue is their five weeks of training in the summer is adequate for their teachers,” he said.

“In recent years, they’ve aligned themselves with the corporate reformer movement. That means vouchers, charter schools, parent trigger, anti-union,” he said.

“You see the Teach for America alum leading out in this movement to corporatize education. What that means, take education out of the public space. They [charter schools] are no longer democratically controlled,” he said.

“What TFA has done over the last few years, is aligned themselves with a variety of faces in the reform movement that are taking democratic control away from communities, and they seek to privatize many functions,” he said.

“The voters have to decide if they like what TFA is selling. If the public is happy with the temporary tourist approach to education, then they’re the right choice,” he said.

****************

I received the following letter, addressed to the Georgia School Board.

Dear Diane,

I know that you do not support the Common Core State Standards, but I also know that you are willing to consider other points of view. Pasted down below is the text of a letter I have written to the Georgia School Board as they reconsider the CCSS at the request of the governor. The letter is also posted at the Mathematics Teaching Community here:

It would be great if you would post this on your blog! Thanks, Sybilla

Dear School Board Members:

I have been teaching mathematics at the University of Georgia for over 25 years and have devoted a large part of my career to issues of K–12 mathematics education. As a mathematics teacher, I am concerned about my profession and about the mathematics learning of students in Georgia. In that capacity, I am writing with comments, which I hope you will consider as you review the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M).

The CCSS-M are the strongest K–12 mathematics standards that I know of.

At the invitation of state superintendents, I have worked on a number of states’ mathematics standards, including Georgia’s and Texas’s. No standards I know of are better than the CCSS-M.

The CCSS-M were developed very carefully with repeated cycles of feedback.

The CCSS-M were informed by previous standards, including Georgia’s, with repeated, extensive input from mathematics education experts who are recognized nationally, and with input from states. The standards were informed by the best available research, including research about mathematics learning summarized in National Research Council reports. I know this because I was an active member of the CCSS-M writing team.

Serious professions deserve standards that are developed nationally.

I think that mathematics teaching is a serious and important profession on par with medical professions, for example. We expect standards for medical practice to be developed nationally by experts based on the available research. Why would we expect something different for mathematics teaching?

The presidents of all the major national mathematical societies have expressed “strong support” for CCSS-M.

This includes the presidents of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and all the members of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences.
See

http://www.nctm.org/uploadedFiles/New_and_Noteworthy/CBMS%20Support%20Statement%20for%20CCSSM.pdf

Having standards does not imply losing autonomy or creativity.

Some of the most creative contributions to art, music, and literature, occur within a framework. Mathematics itself operates within a framework and is full of brilliantly creative results. The CCSS-M allow for creativity and autonomy within a framework.

The CCSS-M need time and support to implement.

Right now, mathematics teaching and learning (at all levels) are not as strong as they should be. The CCSS-M can help us focus on where we need to go. Implementing them will require time, learning, and collective effort. Let’s use the standards we have and work together to make mathematics teaching and learning in Georgia strong and vibrant.

A copy of this letter is posted at the Mathematics Teaching Community, online at

https://mathematicsteachingcommunity.math.uga.edu

where teachers of mathematics (any level) may post comments.

Sincerely,

Sybilla Beckmann
Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics
Department of Mathematics
Boyd Graduate Studies Building
200 D. W. Brooks Drive
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602

sybilla@math.uga.edu
706-542-2548

http://www.math.uga.edu/~sybilla/

Teach for America has always said that its long-term goal
was to train future leaders who would take a significant role in
shaping education policy. That is happening. Such alumni as
Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman (state commissioner in Tennessee),
John White (state commissioner in Louisiana), and Eric Guckian
(education advisor to the extremist Governor of North Carolina) are
using their power to promote privatization of public education and
to attack the teaching profession. In Atlanta, four
TFA alumni are running for school board
and have a good
chance of winning. “Incumbent Courtney English (at-large Seat 7) is
a TFA alum. So is Matt Westmoreland, who is running unopposed for
the District 3 seat being vacated by Cecily Harsch-Kinnane. “So is
Eshe Collins, who is running for the District 6 seat being vacated
by Yolanda Johnson; as well as Jason Esteves, who is running for
the at-large Seat 9 being vacated by Emmett Johnson. However,
neither Collins nor Esteves mention TFA in their extensive campaign
biographies which appear on their respective websites. “Overall,
the four are a largely pro-charter school group. If all four are
elected, TFA alumni will constitute a near-majority voting bloc on
the BOE.” The linked article suggests that the four will advance a
pro-privatization agenda. At some point, TFA will be recognized as
a crucial cog in the rightwing effort to destroy public education
and dismantle the teaching profession.

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/jul/30/state-school-chief-responds-us-doe-plans-withhold-/

A few days ago, Georgia announced that it was dropping out of PARCC, the Common Core testing consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Education. State officials said the state could not afford the technology or the cost.

The U.S. Department of Education was swift to respond. It wrote Georgia to warn that it is withholding $10 million from the state’s Race to the Top funding. Maybe the timing was a coincidence. Maybe not.

The state says it needs more time to fix its educator evaluation system before it can be implemented, but the Feds insist that Georgia must start evaluating teachers and principals based on test scores without further delay.

Now for a dose of reality. Research does not support any part of Race to the Top. Research shows that tying educator evaluations to test scores produces narrowing the curriculum, gaming the system, teaching to the test, cheating, and score inflation. The most “effective” teachers teach the most affluent students in the most affluent schools. The least “effective” teach the poorest. Research shows that over 100 years of trying, merit pay has Never worked. Teachers are doing the best they know how; they are not holding back and hoping for a bonus or a biscuit.

Race to the Top will someday be remembered in the history books as a Grand Detour, when ideologues gained control of federal policy and used an economic crisis to dangle money in front of the states so they would agree to implement failed policies.

All of this will change, but not until there is wiser leadership in Washington, wise enough to banish Race to the Top and recover a common sense approach to education reform based on what children and schools need, not what misguided politicians demand.

The U.S. Department of Education is prohibited by law from interfering in curriculum, but Secretary Duncan was itching to get the Common Core standards adopted. First, he said that states would not be eligible for a share of $5 billion in federal stimulus funds unless they adopted common college-and-career-readiness standards. Wink, wink, almost every state agreed to adopt the Common Core.

Then the Secretary awarded $350 million to two consortia for the purpose of developing tests of the Common Core (which of course he had nothing to do with).

Last, he offered waivers from the absurd requirements of NCLB but only for states that went along with Common Core.

Not so fast: some parents are in revolt against the deluged testing, and some states don’t have the technology and can’t pay the heavy costs.

Georgia just dropped out of the PARCC consortium. Below are the stated reasons:

July 22, 2013 – State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia is withdrawing from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test development consortium.

Instead, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) will work with educators across the state to create standardized tests aligned to Georgia’s current academic standards in mathematics and English language arts for elementary, middle and high school students. Additionally, Georgia will seek opportunities to collaborate with other states.

Creating the tests in Georgia will ensure that the state maintains control over its academic standards and student testing, whereas a common assessment would have prevented GaDOE from being able to adjust and rewrite Georgia’s standards when educators indicate revisions are needed to best serve students.

“After talking with district superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, lawmakers and members of many communities, I believe this is the best decision for Georgia’s students,” Superintendent Barge said. “We must ensure that our assessments provide educators with critical information about student learning and contribute to the work of improving educational opportunities for every student.”

Georgia was one of 22 states to join PARCC several years ago with the aim of developing next generation student assessments in mathematics and English language arts by 2014-15.

“Assessing our students’ academic performance remains a critical need to ensure that young Georgians can compete on equal footing with their peers throughout the country,” Gov. Deal said. “Georgia can create an equally rigorous measurement without the high costs associated with this particular test. Just as we do in all other branches of state government, we can create better value for taxpayers while maintaining the same level of quality.”

Superintendent Barge was one of the state school chiefs serving on the governing board for the consortium, but he frequently voiced concerns about the cost of the PARCC assessments. The PARCC assessments in English language arts and math are estimated to cost significantly more money than Georgia currently spends on its entire testing program.

Superintendent Barge also expressed concerns over the technology requirements for PARCC’s online tests. Many Georgia school districts do not have the needed equipment or bandwidth to handle administering the PARCC assessments.

As GaDOE begins to build new assessments, please note that our Georgia assessments:
· will be aligned to the math and English language arts state standards;
· will be high-quality and rigorous;
· will be developed for students in grades 3 through 8 and high school;
· will be reviewed by Georgia teachers;
· will require less time to administer than the PARCC assessments;
· will be offered in both computer- and paper-based formats; and
· will include a variety of item types, such as performance-based and multiple-choice items.

“We are grateful to Georgia educators who have worked hard to help develop our standards and assessments,” Superintendent Barge said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them to develop a new assessment system for our state.”

——————————————–
Matt Cardoza
Director of Communications
Georgia Department of Education
2062 Twin Towers East
205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 651-7358
mcardoza@doe.k12.ga.us

http://www.gadoe.org

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“Making Education Work for All Georgians”

In a recent post, I criticized Alabama for setting goals based on race, ethnicity, and disability status. I said it was unAmerican. Our goal as a society is equality of educational opportunity. There is something repulsive, to me at least, in saying that schools will set targets based on the color of children’s skin, their parents’ income, or other factors. We know that not all kids will end up at the same point by the end of each year, but we should not predetermine what we expect. I think the goal should be to treat each child as a unique human being and be sure they have the opportunity and resources they need to get a sound education.

But I must apologize to Alabama. Other states have similar race-based, ethnicity-based, disability-based goals.

Apparently they do this to satisfy the requirements of the federal government, either NCLB or the Obama waivers.

Why is the government setting targets for test scores? A standardized test should be used–if at all–diagnostically, to identify what kind of extra help students need. Instead, states are trapped in stale NCLB thinking. It hasn’t worked for 12 years. Why expect that tinkering will fix what is inherently wrong?

Stop measuring with a broken stick. Standardized tests are one indicator. Turning them into the be-all and end-all of schooling is wrong. It corrupts education. It causes otherwise thoughtful people to expect more of the tests than they can deliver. We need better goals than test scores. By relying on them so much, we sacrifice qualities that matter far more and debase schooling.

This is accountability run amok. This is the kind of policy that should be openly discussed and debated. We cannot allow it to be institutionalized and made permanent. It is an embarrassment to our democracy.

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