Ed Johnson, one of the most astute analysts of education in the nation, has offered a plan to rate the leadership of the Atlanta Public Schools. Please read his linked document. He frequently sends letters to the Atlanta Public School board and they regularly ignore his sound advice. The president and vice-president of the Atlanta board are TFA. The board is determined to disrupt the district and impose charters wherever possible, despite parents’ objections. His following comment describes a rating system for APSL (Atlanta Public School Leadership). Given that we already have ample evidence that corporate Reform is ineffective (see, for example, the $100 million spent and wasted on the Achievement School District in Tennessee), why do leaders of Atlanta persist in their demand for disruption? Because they can.

He commented:

Kindly forgive my intruding with the following long post broken into three parts to offer more perspective, but it’s a desperate situation here in Atlanta. Please help as you see best.

Part 1 of 3 from my “APSL design to rate schools, public design to rate APSL,” emailed 14 November 2018 (original email at https://tinyurl.com/ybk2e9u5):

APSL stands for Atlanta Public Schools leadership. The abbreviation distinguishes understanding the leadership of APS as being different from APS, the district, itself.

The APSL are the currently serving Atlanta Board of Education members, collectively and severally, and the Harvard-trained Meria Joel Carstarphen, Ed.D., as Superintendent.

Right after civil society of Austin, Texas, effectively dismissed Dr. Carstarphen, effective school year end 2014, for imposing school choice and charter schools upon their Austin Independent School District in opposition to the public’s interests, the Atlanta school board’s Superintendent Search Committee, chaired by Ann Cramer, saw fit, for some unfathomable reason, to select Carstarphen as the search committee’s sole finalist.

Consequently, in April 2014, the Atlanta school board approved hiring Carstarphen to succeed Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis. Carstarphen is now in her fifth year as Atlanta superintendent, and APS is now nearly a decade removed from Dr. Beverly L. Hall’s tenue in that position and the history-making test cheating crisis Hall’s behavioristic practices applied to teachers and their administrators spawned.

Always generally busy with some manner of rushed, attention-grabbing, self-aggrandizing activity about “moving forward” with change, but never effecting improvement, the APSL are now busy with “Creating a System of Excellent Schools” under the auspices of their “Excellent Schools Project.” An aspect of the project is the involvement of a 57-person Advisory Committee comprising top-level APS administrators, some APS principals, and mostly other persons said to be representing “the community.”

The APSL Excellent Schools Project Advisory Committee met most recently … on Monday, 12 November 2018. The facilitated work of the committee in this meeting was that of responding to, and giving feedback on, the 18-page DRAFT Excellent Schools Action Framework (“DRAFT”). A scanned copy of the DRAFT, in PDF format, can be viewed and downloaded from my Adobe Document Cloud space, at this link (light blue highlights on the PDF are mine):

https://adobe.ly/2OBJUdj

First, see in the DRAFT that pages nine (9) through 18 present action items to “Rate on a scale of 1-10 your belief that this action will help increase access to excellent schools across APS.”

When, at the end of their Monday meeting and after having concluded their facilitated work, the Advisory Committee asked for input from members of the public present. I was the only member of the public present.

In rising to the floor to speak, I respectfully and humbly introduced myself as someone who has been called “that Deming guy” and then offered this feedback on rating the DRAFT action items:

On a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate every action item zero (0). Unfortunately, your allowing me to deliver just a two-minute monologue is not enough time to explain, why zero. Thank you.”

(Note that in keeping with the APSL practice of legally ending public meetings immediately prior to allowing public members to speak for two minutes maximum, so the APSL will have no legal obligation to dialogue with the public nor to legally include public input and feedback in meeting minutes and in the public record, the Advisory Committee Meeting asked to hear from the public only after having concluded the meeting’s work.)

Part 2 of 3 from my “APSL design to rate schools, public design to rate APSL,” emailed 14 November 2018 (original email at https://tinyurl.com/ybk2e9u5):

Now, be alarmed by the DRAFT. Be very alarmed, if not angered.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because it embodies what students, researchers, and practitioners of continual quality improvement (not “continuous improvement”), such as that of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s humanistic philosophy and teachings applicable to education, readily recognize to be what Deming calls “Evil Practices” and “Forces of Destruction” operating.

• DRAFT Evil Practices: “Institute performance-based incentive pay,” “Performance-based contract,” etc.
• DRAFT Forces of Destruction: School “Leadership transition,” “Merge” schools, “Close” school, etc.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because its committee of creators and the APSL clearly aim to slink into parents minds and behavior selfish, consumerist school choice and charter schools expansion ideology that says, “It does not matter what kind of school it is – public, charter, or other – just as long as the school is an excellent school regardless of neighborhood.” In other words, the means don’t matter, just as long as one can get the end one wants regardless of the harm doing so will inflict upon others, even children, but just not “my” child.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because it brazenly intends to lead to codifying behaviorism and Taylorism in greatly expansive ways even Beverly Hall did not do. Understanding that Hall’s practice of behaviorism and Taylorism as continuous improvement, with attendant numerical goals and targets for test score gains, is what drove APS to experience the greatest systemic test cheating crisis in U. S. history, then just imagine the damage and destruction the DRAFT portends.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because it is so reductive and regressive in the extreme in going so far backward into the 20th century that it is reasonable to say the DRAFT makes behaviorism’s B. F. Skinner (life, 1904-1990; Harvard Professor, 1958-1974) and Taylorism’s Fredrick W. Taylor (1856-1918) rise from the grave to applaud it.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because, intentional or not, its committee of creators and the APSL aim to seal the fate of current and future generations of Atlanta children, especially those labeled “black,” in being generally submissive and compliant cogs in a “college and career ready,” simplified, algorithm-driven, amoral and selfish and greedy world of corporatocracy (yes, it’s a word; see definition below), when the reality is that the world comprises a completely interdependent and interacting network of systems created by both Nature and man that gives rise to ever greater complexity, unceasingly.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because it offers nothing, absolutely nothing, for working on learning to improve the internal capabilities of Atlanta public schools as a system that aims to prepare all students for complexities that will unfold, and have already unfolded, into the world, including public schools and other public institutions in service to sustaining and advancing democracy to benefit civil society.

Be alarmed by the DRAFT because it signals its committee of creators and the APSL, ironically, do not have even a Martin Luther King Jr kind of Systems Thinking wisdom and knowledge of what a system is nor of how systems give rise to complexity.

MLK Jr: “As nations and individuals, we are interdependent. … That whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. … This is the way our Universe is structured.”

To see an example of an MLK Jr kind of Systems Thinking in action, freely play around with my qualitative simulation of “Why APS cannot improve and why it can,” at this entirely self-contained link, shortened:

https://tinyurl.com/y8gwwqzn

Part 3 of 3 from my “APSL design to rate schools, public design to rate APSL,” emailed 14 November 2018 (original email at https://tinyurl.com/ybk2e9u5):

Atlanta school board members who have no understanding of systems, nor of Taylorism, nor of behaviorism, nor of Carstarphen’s known bent for behaviorism and Taylorism, in the style she practiced in Austin, and now in Atlanta, are an inherent risk and danger to the moral and ethical development, education, and welfare of especially children labeled “black.” They should not be school board members. They should have the wherewithal to know to step down. They simply are not qualified for leadership in the ever more complexifying 21st century.

For this reason, now see in the DRAFT that pages seven (7) through eight (8) present the following APSL Excellent Schools Framework Rating design:

• Exceeds Expectations (also 5-stars or “A”)
• Meets Expectations (also 4-stars or “B”)
• Approaching Expectations (also 3-stars or “C”)
• Beginning (also 2-stars or “D”)
• Needs Improvement (also 1-star or “F”)

But then, in the sense “what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” the APSL DRAFT design for rating the level of a school’s excellence suggests the public might also have a similar design for rating the maturity of APSL quality.

Accordingly, the following design is offered for rating the maturity of APSL quality:

• Great APSL Quality
• Good APSL Quality
• Middling APSL Quality
• Fair APSL Quality
• Poor APSL Quality

Then taking the design for rating the maturity of APSL quality into considering that the APSL DRAFT Excellent Schools Action Framework, and the APSL Excellent Schools Project, clearly signal that the APSL aim to codify behaviorism and Taylorism as well as school choice and charter schools expansion, the rating “Poor APSL Quality” is justified, and so is hereby attributed to the APSL.

Therefore, let it be known: Poor APSL Quality is the situation hobbling improvement of Atlanta Public Schools as a public educational institution and system of public schools.

Moreover, the Poor APSL Quality rating begs asking: What was it in the general minds, hearts, and souls of Austin civil society that came to reject Carstarphen and stand up for public education that seems lacking in the general minds, hearts, and souls of Atlanta civil society that has embraced Carstarphen and is amenable to destroying public education using the rationale that attaining an “excellent schools” end justifies any “school choice and charter schools expansion” means?

Again, freely play around with my qualitative simulation of “Why APS cannot improve and way it can,” as you wish. It will be interesting to vary P.Superintendency (public superintendency) quality and P.BOE (public board of education) quality. See below for definitions of the interdependent and interacting entities the simulation involves.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-81776 | edwjohnson@aol.com