Archives for category: Georgia

Valerie Strauss ran this great article by Jim Arnold and Peter Smagorinsky. Jim Arnold recently retired from the superintendent’s position of the Pelham City Schools in Georgia. Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia.

Arnold and Smagorinsky describe the many millions spent on testing, with no end in sight, and ask how that money might be better spent.

They write:

“Last fall journalists exposed the wretched conditions at Trenton High School in New Jersey. Brown water oozed from drinking fountains, rodents roamed freely, teachers and students became physically ill from being in the building, mold covered the walls, roofs were leaking, ceilings were crumbling onto the students and teachers below, streams of water ran down hallways, and morale throughout the building was, not surprisingly, well below sea level. Conditions reached the point where they met the state criterion of being “so potentially hazardous that it causes an imminent peril to the health and safety of students or staff.”

“Governor Chris Christie, however, issued a stop work order that ended an initiative to make essential repairs on this school and over 50 others that were dangerously unsanitary and just plain dangerous, not because of the menace of free ranging, gun-toting ruffians and thugs but because the decrepit buildings themselves required so much maintenance.

“While halting repairs on schools, what the state did invest in was accountability for teachers. No one was accountable for the conditions of the schools until a citizen uprising and news coverage forced a building initiative that fortunately will provide the people of Trenton with a modern facility. But while dodging chunks of falling ceilings, treading cautiously around scurrying rats, and attempting to teach through building-induced illnesses, teachers remained accountable to the standards that Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes can determine their fitness for the classroom.

“We live in Georgia, another state in which schools are grossly underfunded yet consultants and testing corporations are living large off the investment of state funds in holding teachers accountable, regardless of their work conditions or the life conditions of their students. Most schools cannot afford to run a full year, with roughly two-third cancelling 10-30 days every year and requiring teachers to take “furlough” days to make budget. Further, schools in our state have 20th century connectivity infrastructures and technology affordances, limiting the degree to which kids can learn what they’ll need to know to navigate and thrive in our emerging, digitally driven society.

“What we need, however, according to the people making educational policy these days, is not money dedicated to provide a full school year—and many people, evidently unaware that most Georgia schools cannot afford 180 days of school, are pushing for longer school days and years—but a more rigorous curriculum and more tests, preferably more rigorous tests. We use the term “rigorous” ironically given that the rigor of curriculum and assessment are claimed again and again but never established in any clear or responsible way.

“Last year the state of Georgia Department of Education spent a little over $18 million on End of Course Tests in high school and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in lower grades. Plans to replace the CRCT with yet a newer testing regime, Georgia Milestones, are underway to the tune of $108 million. Georgia BOE minutes for the May 2014 meeting report that “the State School Superintendent [has been authorized] to enter into a contract with TBD at a cost not to exceed TBD in State/Federal funds for development, administration, scoring and reporting of a new student assessment system.” TBD seems guaranteed to add significantly to the millions already spent on standardized testing in Georgia….Just assuming that Georgia will spend a nearly $140 million on testing and test development next year—and we are only including End of Course, CRCT, and GMAP expenditures, which are only a few of the tests administered in Georgia—what else might the Georgia education department do with that money?”

Read on to learn their ideas about how those millions might be better spent.

Jack Hassard, emeritus professor of science education ay Georgia State University, describes what happened when a family in Marietta decided to opt their child out of state testing. Their school used scare tactics, threatening to have them arrested. They stood their ground, and the school backed down.

Hassard contacted parents in Texas who told him of the bullying tactics in Austin schools, all intended to raise scores. The Austin superintendent has been hired by Atlanta. Hassard says the Opt Out movement is strong and growing stronger in Texas.

Georgia has just contracted with McGraw-Hill for $110 million to design new tests for Georgia. Hassard says all this testing is unnecessary. Georgia could learn all it needs to know sbout its students either from NAEP or by administering no-stakes, sampled tests like NAEP.

Hassard concludes:

“If high-stakes testing is revoked, we will make one of the most important decisions in the lives of students and their families, and the educators who practice in our public schools. Banning tests, throwing them out, eliminating them, what ever you wish to call it, will open the door to more innovative and creative teaching, and an infusion of collaborative and problem solving projects that will really prepare students for career and college.

“Making kids endure adult anger is not what public education is about. Why in the world are we so angry and willing to take it out on K-12 students? Why do we put the blame on children and youth, and if they don’t live up to a set of unsubstantiated and unscientific standards and statistics, we take it out on teachers?

“The best thing for students is throw the bums (tests) out. The next best thing will be for teachers because without standardized test scores, there will be no way to calculate VAM scores as a method to evaluate teachers.”

Yesterday Georgians voted for state superintendent of schools. The Network for Public Education endosed Valarie Wilson, a former school board member from Decatur. After surveying all the candidates, NPE concluded that Wilson would be a strong leader for public schools and children.

In a crowded field, Wilson finished first with 32%, and will be in a runoff with the runner-up, who received 26% and supports the choice-loving conservative establishment. Choice in the South promotes segregation.

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.

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

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


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

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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 111,164 other followers