Archives for category: Atlanta

Ed Johnson is a persistent, tireless advocate for systemic improvement of the Atlanta Public Schools. As a systems analyst, he opposes school choice, which helps some and hurts others.

He wrote the following letter to the Atlanta School Board after watching the Inauguration ceremonies on January 20:

20 January 2021

Inauguration 2021: “America United” and “a Union with Purpose”

“America United

Joseph R. Biden

President, United States of America

…a Union with Purpose…

Amanda Gorman

National Poet Laureate

Dear Atlanta Board of Education members:

We the people will have neither an “America United” nor “a Union with Purpose” as long as you continue to help pursue the ideological folly of school choice and charter schools with the aim of gradually but surely destroying public education and public schools.

The prayer and hope now is that each of you will reach into the deepest recesses of your heart and soul and extract any remnants of wisdom you find there that will lead you to understand that school choice and charter schools ideology is folly and absolutely contrary to there ever being an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose.”

The prayer and hope extend to you also finding the wisdom in your heart and soul to let go foolish Black racialist ideologues, such as one Howard Fuller, so that you may start living up to your sworn Oath of Office to uphold the Atlanta Independent School System as the public good it is supposed to be.

You swore, in part:

In all things pertaining to my said office, I will be governed by the public good and the interests of said school system.”

However, your chairman and known Teach for America alum and Howard Fuller acolyte, Jason Esteves, recently intimated his election to the school board constitutes a mandate to impose his adherence to Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller upon the public good that is the Atlanta Independent School System. 

School choice and charter schools ideology is not of, by, nor for the public good.

Neither is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller and similar others.

Rather, school choice and charter schools ideology is of, by, and for private interests.

And so is Black racialist ideology à la Howard Fuller.  Witness the demise of Fuller’s Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) after private interests cut off their money flow.

If you were to strive to fulfil your sworn Oath of Office, then maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Independent School System, which is more commonly known as Atlanta Public Schools, will stand a good chance of becoming a public good with a purpose.

Right now, the Atlanta Independent School System has no purpose of its own.

Rather, the system has any number of default purposes, where, at any given moment, a default purpose will manifest as any coordinated number of purposes of any number of private interests.

Naturally, in keeping with school choice and charter schools ideology, the relatively new APS Office of Partnerships and Development and the relatively new APS Office of Innovation function, essentially, to steer the Atlanta Independent School System always toward soliciting, aligning to, and sustaining the purposes of varied private interests that aim to supplant public interests.  

So, should you need prayer assistance with reaching deep into your heart and soul to find requisite wisdom essential to we the people ever having an “America United” existing as “a Union with Purpose,” much such assistance is generally available.

You only have to reach out and ask for it.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 |

Ed Johnson, fearless advocate for public schools in Atlanta, obtained a list of the charter schools in that city that received Paycheck Protection Program funding from the first CARES Act. Public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. But charters were, because…they are not public schools!

After reviewing the millions in CARES money that went to Atlanta charters, Ed Johnson wrote to members of the Atlanta Board of Education:

Atlanta Board of Education members:

Some of you are, of course, pro-school choice and pro-charter school, thus serving contrary to your sworn Oath of Office vis-à-vis the Charter of the Atlanta Independent School System.

Nonetheless, hopefully all of you now know and understand the truth that charter schools in Atlanta are not Atlanta public schools, to wit:


·         Public schools must be spoken truthfully of as public schools, and as public goods.

·         Charter schools must be spoken truthfully of as charter schools, and as private businesses and corporations.

·         Partner schools must be spoken truthfully of as partner schools, and as public schools the Board outsourced to private businesses and corporations.

Just three types of school, thank you.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 |

As noted in the link in Mr. Johnson’s letter, here are a few of the big winners of federal dollars (they also received a proportionate share of the meager dollars allotted to public schools, so they were double-dipping in both funds):

  • Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $4,822,200.00, based on the business needing to protect 408 reported jobs, which figures to $11,819.12 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 1670 Benjamin Weldon Bickers Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.
  • The Kindezi Schools Atlanta, LLC, received a PPP loan in the amount of $3,855,982.00, based on the business needing to protect 300 reported jobs, which figures to $12,853.27 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 950 Joseph E Lowery Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30318.
  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $1,850,000.00, based on the business needing to protect 120 reported jobs, which figures to $15,416.67 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 688 Grant St SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.

Unlike small businesses which lost revenue and were forced to lay off employees or close their doors, charter schools never lost revenue during the pandemic. Their stream of government revenue never was cut off. Meanwhile, as they sucked up CARES dollars, hundreds of thousands of small businesses that needed the money went bankrupt and closed forever.

No public school received this large amount of money. The average public school received $134,500 in federal aid in the first CARES Act.

Ed Johnson, a close observer and frequent critic of the Atlanta public schools, writes here about the superintendent’s plans to adopt models developed by Eli Broad and the Waltons to transform the public schools into a business.

Johnson is a believer in the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming.


December 2019

Journey of Transformation: Atlanta schools to “buy” teachers by “price tag”

  • “Thinking about human beings as interchangeable commodities for sale, or abstract units of labor power, would lead merchants and planters to see human capital in much the same way that they saw animals.  And, by the time a young apprentice became a partner, he would feel ‘no more remorse in fitting out a ship for the purpose of trading in human flesh, than he would have done in sending her to catch whales or seals.’”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, location 1153.
Last month, Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Ed.D., gave a presentation to the Atlanta Board of Education Budget Commission on FY 2021 budgeting for what she calls “Student Success Funding,” or SSF.  The Budget Commission is a standing committee of the Board that meets monthly.

At one point during the presentation, Dr. Carstarphen invited the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Atlanta Public Schools system (APS) to more adequately explain a matter that see, Dr. Carstarphen, suggested to enquiring commission members she had already explained well enough (my insertions):

  • (50:30-51:00) “… the way the schools purchase back their positions … we allocate the dollars and they buy their teachers back.  The price tag we put on those teachers is an average salary … and all schools buy back [teachers] at that rate.  What we know, what we’ve seen is that the schools that have the highest needs … have teachers that have either less experience or they don’t have the high degrees and, for whatever reason, they are ‘cheaper.’  … So what we would like to propose is … allowing those schools to buy their positions back at the actual average [value of the price tags we put on teachers] for their school.”
Despite the Board’s decision to non-renew her employment contract beyond the current school year, Carstarphen, by her presentation, makes clear she continues to advance her Journey of Transformation of APS.

When finished—and it can be finished, we must now understand—the journey will have brought APS to a permanent state of being “run like a business” and, in that state,  destroyed as the democratically governed public good is it supposed to be.

Thus the word “finish” must now be understood as signifying something real and consequential.  To continue thinking the word means something rhetorical or non-specific poses a grave risk to ever reclaiming and restoring APS as the public good it is supposed to be.

Entangled actors

In their joint report, The Strategic CFO: A Guide for School Districts, billionaire Eli Broad’s The Broad Center and Education Resource Strategies (ERS) lay out the essence of the matter as related to SSF.

So, too, does the partnership of ERS and APS, in the joint presentation, Student Success Funding: [APS] A District in Transformation.

Moreover, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A, Student-Based Budgeting Takes Root in Atlanta.

ERS is a consultancy that says it helps clients to maximize—operative word, “maximize”—usage of capital resources, including “human capital.”  But as the Taguchi Loss Function teaches, maximal usage of a resource that is a system rapidly drives down the value and usefulness of the resource to point of it becoming a great source of waste.  In what follows, remain mindful that an individual “human capital” (e.g., an individual teacher) is a system.

And then there is the Walton Family Foundation’s 2017 grant of $350,000 to APS “To support research related to student[-]based budgeting” (my emphasis).  Research?  For what purpose, as related to student-based budgeting?  Maybe to establish the effectiveness of student-based budgeting and to use APS as a guinea pig in experiments to do that?  Was not the effectiveness of student-based budgeting a given?  Again, the APS CFO talks about student-based budgeting in the ERS Q&A noted above.

Thus we have Eli Broad, a private actor, in partnership with ERS, a private actor.  And we have ERS, a private actor, in partnership with APS Leadership, a public actor.  And we have APS Leadership, a public actor, in partnership with the Waltons and Eli Broad, both private actors.  This then means the public cannot know and trust the motives and behavior of any of the actors independently of each other; the actors are entangled.

Innately born systems thinking children learning to picture entanglement

So, how might we model and think about APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, and the Waltons being entangled on the matter of student-based budgeting or, more relevantly, what Carstarphen calls Student Success Funding, or SSF?

Well, on a recent tour of Beecher Hills Elementary School, an Atlanta public school, goosebumps popped up when I noticed on a wall a display showing children were learning to “Organize our thinking using Venn Diagrams.”  (I regret I failed to take a snapshot.)

So let’s take the children’s lead, here, and make and use a simple Venn diagram to organize seeing and thinking about SSF being a common motive of the entangled actors as well as to represent a “finish”-able end to the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS.

We might also recognize that thinking about SSF begs also thinking about a situation like that of Carstarphen having been superintendent in Austin, Texas, but all over again here in Atlanta.

Fortunately, a seemingly democracy-practiced Hispanic citizenry of Austin lead putting an end to her machinations and operating in cahoots with Eli Broad and the charter schools industry, soon enough.

In contrast, however, an apparent consumer-craving Black Atlanta citizenry, intersecting, Venn diagram-wise, with a paternalistic White Atlanta citizenry, is demanding destruction of APS as a public good, both actively and passively, as by silence.  Such Black and White behaviors continue to intersect as Atlanta elites’ old fashioned but still functioning Atlanta Compromise, which lets Eli Broad, et al., know Atlanta is an easy mark, I suggest.

  • “The leading figures in the actual Civil Rights Movement explicitly challenged the idea that the free market could deliver Black people from racism.” (p. 82) …
  • “Corporate education reform favors privatization and ‘free market’ solutions to school governance (‘running schools like a business’ and so on) and is, therefore, necessarily antithetical to the ethos of trade unions and of collective bargaining.” (p. 83)
  • –Brian Jones, Keys to the Schoolhouse: Black Teachers, Privatization, and the Future of Teacher Unions, Academia; accessed 4 Dec 2019.
Similarly, persons that preach a selfish, free market, “by any means necessary” ideology of education for children labeled Black–for example, as do the people of the Black organization known as BOOK (Better Options for OUR Kids), with funding by the Walton Family Foundation, support by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and now propaganda distribution by The 74–are so horribly racially insular as to pose a real and present existential threat to the human development and dignity of the very children they so loudly profess to care about.

But then such racially insular people show it’s not the human development of the children they care that much about.  Rather, such racially insular people show they care mostly about the children developing as a race, a race to forever believe and perpetuate it is oppressed, and a race to forever believe and perpetuate “white supremacy” is something real.  Such racially insular people show they care about developing the children just as Eli Broad and the Waltons and similar others would have it.

Anticipating intended effects

Whether the matter is framed to be about student-based budgeting or Carstarphen’s euphemistically named Student Success Funding, or SSF, some essential effects to anticipate from the superintendent’s Journey of Transformation of APS are:
  • schools turned into and managed as free market performance centers
  • principals turned into and managed as free market schoolhouse CEOs and marketers
  • teachers turned into and managed as free market fungibles to be bought and sold, as needed
  • schools and school facilities opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, to maximize usage of capital; alternatively, the portfolio model by the marketing name, “Excellent Schools”
Thus we might now understand Carstarphen’s response to non-renewal of her employment contract that she has yet to “finish the work” she was hired to do.  We might now understand her Journey of Transformation of APS can indeed reach the state of being “finished,” taking a total of about 15 years, she now says.  And when finished, all schools—public, partner, charter—will be running not just like an ordinary business but running like a conglomerate of businesses on the style of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, for example, capable to generate its own internal market.

APS central office will function as the conglomerate business controlling all other businesses and each individual school will have the ballyhooed “freedom and autonomy in exchange for accountability” to function like a specialized business or branch (i.e., theme school, academy, whatever).  Still, each specialized business (i.e., each school) will be subject to certain common business management practices (think again about the Beecher Hills kids learning to make and use Venn diagrams) that originate with the controlling business (i.e., APS central office) for maximizing performance at that level.

For example, individual businesses (i.e., schools) will be subject to being opened, closed, and sold off, as needed, so as to continually maximize any or all of their financial performance, customer traffic (i.e., school enrollment), consumer satisfaction (i.e., illusory parental school choice), and other matters.  Teachers will be reduced to fungible commodities to be bought and sold at the cheapest, competitive price the internal market will pay, so different specialized businesses (i.e., schools) can also continually work at maximizing usage of the human capital they have bought—all the while generating enormous amounts of squander as well as waste of human potential.

Good, effective business marketing (i.e., lying) required

What the Walton Family Foundation calls “student-based budgeting” is also know by other conceptually accurate names, including student-based allocation, weighted student funding, and fair student funding.  But now comes Carstarphen’s marketing name, Student Success Funding, which gives no conceptual clue about the reality of the matter.

Naming the matter “Student Success Funding” makes for good business marketing.  The nature of such business marketing—and all that such business marketing implies, including manipulating consumers to believe they need something when they don’t, to consume something when they shouldn’t, to not consume something when they should, etc.—keeps with Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves marketing The City Fund’s truthfully named “portfolio model” by the catchy name, “Excellent Schools.”

Carstarphen’s apparent jovial easiness with business marketing leaves no doubt of it harkening back to even when “human capital” was sold at auction based on the financial accounting value, or “price tag,” owners and managers of the human capital had recorded in their “price lists.”  Carstarphen has been repeatedly advised, in public Board meetings, to let go the “human capital” language and remove it from strategic planning.  But she refuses to do that, and now we might see that the entangled SSF actors suggest why she refuses: they all stand to benefit from destroying APS as a public good.

It is also obvious that the superintendent’s carefree morals and ethics about marketing allow her to effectively be okay with the management of schools as free market performance centers, to be okay with teachers as buyable and sellable commodities, to be okay with students as customers, and to be okay with parents as consumers of schools they would choose as if choosing a Happy Meal from a McDonald’s menu price list.

And, most disturbingly, to be okay with continuing to manipulate children into marketing the “APS brand” as entrants in the Superintendent’s Annual Winter Card Contest.  Why any parents would allow their child to be used in this way is puzzling.

Similarly, perhaps following Carstarphen’s lead or command, some Atlanta public school principals have taken to talking about their school as a competitive “brand,” as if doing that is necessary to compete with the KIPP brand, the Kindezi brand, the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School brand, etc.

  • “Two years ago I realized ANCS was a direct competition.  I had to figure out how to make parents see my school as a viable option for parents.  I don’t want it to be a competition about which is better but what fits best for my kid.  How can we make sure that Parkside is a viable neighborhood school of choice?”
  • —Principal, Parkside Elementary School, 29 Aug 2019

Funding Atlanta public schools to improve

However, funding APS as the public good it is supposed to be and budgeting for that is immaterial to the entangled SSF actors—APS Leadership, ERS, Eli Broad, the Waltons.  And let’s not forget Bill Gates.  “What about Bill Gates?,” Carstarphen once asked me in a meeting in the midst of my trying to help her understand the golden opportunity her becoming Atlanta superintendent held for her to not do in Atlanta as she had tried to do in Austin.  To understand that APS needs, has always needed, and always will need, improvement, not one-off turnaround.  Fool’s errand on my part because, obviously, Eli Broad, et al., came to Atlanta with her.

The Austin Chronicle put it this way about Austin’s citizenry seeing her to the exit door:

“[Carstarphen] never understood or cared for the public mood.”
The table below lists and gives a short description of so-called “ERS Principles” the APS Leadership have apparently adopted, as given.  However, not one reference so far discovered even suggests that any ERS Principle represents a fundamental truth or proposition based in reality.  Rather, each principle inscribes, arguably, a statement of belief about free market ideology suitable for marketing SSF.

References about SSF, variously named, warn:
  • SSF is complex (e.g., this by ERS, itself)
  • SSF is fraught with implementation challenges (e.g., this)
  • SSF lacks research-based evidence that it works (e.g., this, which references APS)
  • SSF reproduces racial inequality that undermines funding equity (e.g., this and this)
  • SSF requires principals to be competently burdened “school CEOs” more so than knowledgeable leaders of educational practice and improvement

Open a window onto morals and ethics of SSF

To bring clarity and transparency to SSF in a way that exposes it for what it is, Carstarphen might engage her Accountability and Information Technology Division to model SSF as either or both a data model, so as to expose, as MLK Jr put it, the “interrelated structure of reality” SSF portends; and, a process model, possibly dynamic, so as to expose the interrelated behaviors SSF portends and to have a basis for predicting those behaviors, over time.

Structure and behavior are like opposite sides of the same coin; there cannot be one side without the other side.  An essential component of an SSF Model will be unambiguous and hype- and marketing-free definitions of things and relationships between things modeled.

(My post, Lexical Conventions for Enterprise Data Modeling, is freely available to the superintendent and her administration to draw from, as have some folk at major corporations even in faraway places such as the U.K.  So is my article, Enterprise Modeling: Checking with Reality, as published by Business Process Trends.)

Then, with either or both SSF Models in hand, people might be helped to see the complexity, inequality, absurdity, and various kinds of squander to come from implementing SSF, and then decide to reject SSF before it can be implemented and the damage done.

Even so, and essentially without expense, moral and ethical concerns alone should give pause and reason enough to reject Student Success Funding and instead commit to funding the Atlanta Public Schools system with the aim of starting the system off on a never-ending, unfinishable Journey of Continual Improvement and, along the way, detoxify APS of accumulated charter school industry squander, so the system can get back to being the wholly public good it is supposed to be.

My insertion, original emphasis:
  • “Planters strove for rationalization, standardization, and fungibility when it served their interests. Their ownership of capital [including human capital] gave them the power to commodify as they chose.”
  • —Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Kindle Edition, Location 3511.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 |

Jeff Bryant writes here about the billionaires who corrupted the school leadership pipeline. Chief among them, of course, is billionaire Eli Broad, who created an unaccredited training program as a fast track for urban superintendents.

Bryant has collected stories about how superintendents who passed through the Broad program hire other graduates of the program and do business with others who are part of their network. The ethical breaches are numerous. The self-dealing and the stench of corruption is powerful.

Bryant begins with the story of a phone call from Eli Broad to one of his graduates:

It’s rare when goings-on in Kansas City schools make national headlines, but in 2011 the New York Times reported on the sudden departure of the district’s superintendent John Covington, who resigned unexpectedly with only a 30-day notice. Covington, who had promised to “transform” the long-troubled district, “looked like a silver bullet” for all the district’s woes, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had, in a little more than two years, quickly set about remaking the district’s administrative staff, closing nearly half the schools, revamping curriculum, and firing teachers while hiring Teach for America recruits.

The story of Covington’s sudden departure caught the attention of coastal papers no doubt because it perpetuated a common media narrative about hard-charging school leaders becoming victims of school districts’ supposed resistance to change and the notoriously short tenures of superintendents.

Although there may be some truth to that narrative, the main reason Covington left Kansas City was not because he was pushed out by job stress or an obstinate resistance. He left because a rich man offered him a job.

Following the reporting by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times about Covington’s unexpected resignation, news emerged from the Kansas City Star that days after he resigned, he took a position as the first chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, a new state agency that, according to Michigan Radio, sought “radical” leadership to oversee low-performing schools in Detroit.

But at the time of Covington’s departure, it seemed no outlet could have described the exact circumstances under which he was lured away. That would come out years later in the Kansas City Star where reporter Joe Robertson described a conversation with Covington in which he admitted that squabbles with board members “had nothing to do” with his departure. What caused Covington’s exit, Robertson reported, was “a phone call from Spain.”

That call, Covington told Robertson, was what led to Covington’s departure from Kansas City—because it brought a message from billionaire philanthropist and major charter school booster Eli Broad. “John,” Broad reportedly said, “I need you to go to Detroit.”

It wasn’t the first time Covington, who was a 2008 graduate of a prestigious training academy funded through Broad’s foundation (the Broad Center), had come into contact with the billionaire’s name and clout. Broad was also the most significant private funder of the new Michigan program he summoned Covington to oversee, providing more than $6 million in funding from 2011 to 2013, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But Covington’s story is more than a single instance of a school leader doing a billionaire’s bidding. It sheds light on how decades of a school reform movement, financed by Broad and other philanthropists and embraced by politicians and policymakers of all political stripes, have shaped school leadership nationwide.

Charter advocates and funders—such as Broad, Bill Gates, some members of the Walton Family Foundation, John Chubb, and others who fought strongly for schools to adopt the management practices of private businesses—helped put into place a school leadership network whose members are very accomplished in advancing their own careers and the interests of private businesses while they rankle school boards, parents, and teachers.

Covington’s tenure at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan was a disaster, and the EAA itself was a disaster that has been closed down.

Bryant compares the Broad superintendents to a cartel.

The actions of these leaders are often disruptive to communities, as school board members chafe at having their work undermined, teachers feel increasingly removed from decision making, and local citizens grow anxious at seeing their taxpayer dollars increasingly redirected out of schools and classrooms and into businesses whose products and services are of questionable value.

In fact, Broad superintendents have a very poor track record. They excel at disruption and alienating parents and teachers by their autocratic style. Despite their boasts, they don’t know how to improve education. They are not even skilled at management.

What they do best is advance themselves and make lucrative connections with related businesses owned by Broadie cronies.

The Atlanta Board of Education announced earlier today that it was not extending the contract of its superintendent.

Ed Johnson has been an outspoken critic in Atlanta of the drive for privatization and the behaviorist methods that have been in favor in Atlanta since the arrival of the late Superintendent Be early Hall, who literally drove teachers, principals, and students to produce higher test scores with promises of rewards and threats of punishment. Hall’s tenure ended badly.

Ed Johnson warned about the fruitless pursuit of miracles and quick fixes.

This was his response to today’s news. 

It is the sound of wisdom.

In a surprise announcement, the Atlanta School Board decided not to renew the contract of it controversial Superintendent Méria Carstarphen.

She supports the transformation of the city’s schools into a portfolio district with many charters. It appeared that she had a supportive board because of leadership drawn from TFA.

She served previously in Austin but lost the board majority when voters turned against charter expansion. She has served in Atlanta since 2014.

The Atlanta school board will not renew the contract of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

School board Chairman Jason Esteves said the board notified Carstarphen in July that there was not support for a renewal, but waited until now to announce it publicly so as not to disrupt the start of school.

The board did not release the vote count.

We will learn more later about this unexpected decision.

Shani Robinson is one of the teachers who was convicted of cheating in the infamous Atlanta case. In her absorbing book None the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators, Robinson makes a convincing case that she was railroaded by an over-zealous, unscrupulous and racist prosecution.

In this brief video, she explains what happened. She was teaching first grade, where there were no stakes, no rewards, attached to scores. One of her colleagues falsely accused her to avoid prosecution. The trial was a sham. Many cities had cheating scandals. Atlanta is the only one where teachers were tried (using a “racketeering” statute written for the Mafia) and sent to jail.

The video is part of a collection of over 1,000 videos by Bob Greenberg. Bob calls them “brainwaves.” He is a former teacher turned videographer.

Here are two more “Brainwaves” that Greenberg made with Shani Robinson.

Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black

Teachers Make a Difference

Ed Johnson responds to the Atlanta Association of Educators and explains why he is running for the school board.

I am posting two of his responses because I don’t think you will find any school board candidate in the nation who has responded as thoughtfully as Ed Johnson.

Ed Johnson
Candidate, Atlanta Board of Education District 2

1. What is your concern and goals for the students of District 2?

In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. … We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Because I am practiced in and hold great respect for the profound, seemingly uncommon wisdom the word “interrelatedness” implies and carries, my concern and goals are for ALL children, which obviously includes the children of District 2, as well as the children’s teachers.

Specifically, my overarching goals are to influence and collaborate with school board members in learning to carry out the following two touchstone responsibilities the 2002 revised Atlanta Independent School System (AISS) Charter requires of them and of the superintendent, respectively:

“Adopting district-wide policies that support [providing] an environment for [continual] quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”

“After adoption of policies by the Board, [the superintendent is responsible for] providing a supportive environment for [continual] quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”

The inclusion of these responsibilities of the school board and the superintendent, respectively, in the 2002 revised AISS Charter are a direct result of my intervening with the school board’s Charter Review Commission to protest what otherwise would have been included in the charter, namely:

“Adopting district‐wide policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure for all decision‐makers in the district, as well as for students. These policies must meet or exceed the state policies that provide incentives for progress and consequences for failure.”

Because this blatantly stipulates practicing behaviorism, which has roots in slavery, and because it is totally contrary to, and inherently destructive of, Dr. King’s legacy teaching of “interrelatedness,” my protest before the Charter Review Commission Chairman was:

“Hell, no! You are not going to do this to the children!

Thus my concern simply is that school board members and superintendents we have had over the past nearly 30 years have been either ignorantly or intentionally practicing behaviorism on especially children labeled “Black” and their teachers. The detrimental consequences have compounded over time, with behaviorism having been made a normal “best practice” in educating children labeled “Black,” especially in “no excuses” charter schools such as KIPP and in public schools outsourced to charter school operators—what the school board and superintendent call “partner schools.”

It is way, way past time to elect someone whose maturity and 30 years of learning and experience can help the school board learn to do differently, to do better, to start a never-ending journey of continual quality improvement per the 2002 revised AISS Charter and do it anchored in a public-serving purpose of the Atlanta Public Schools system rather than a mostly “partner”-serving purpose. Elected or not, my goal is to help make it so.

2. What is your knowledge of the community school model, and where do you see it as a part of District 2?

I understand the community school model is that of a school engaged in partnerships with community resources operating to benefit the school and including objectives such a dropout prevention, health screenings and care, adult literacy, and potentially much more. I have observed from afar the popular national demonstration of the community school model, that being McDowell County, West Virginia. And I am familiar with Georgia Senate Bill 30, entitled, Sustainable Community School Operational Grants.

I am supportive of the community school model in District 2 public schools, and in public schools in general, to the extent partnerships contribute directly to improving the schools’ internal capabilities to continually improve so as to eventually not need the partnerships and not compromise any school’s educational purpose. A District 2 public school implementing the community school model will make no difference for teaching and learning by teachers and children if the school has not the internal capabilities to improve in the face internal challenges that would be effectively outsourced through partnerships. Moreover, I am aware some privatizers of public schools have co-opted the community school model to serve their selfish profit-making interests. Accordingly, vigilance is warranted, lest public schools adopt the community school model only to change and acquiesce to external private purposes and agenda just to attain the “carrot” resources and grants put in front of them.

3. Given the data around the charter model, what is your stance on charter schools and funding for those programs?

First, let’s understand, charter schools are not public schools. Charter schools serve private interests first and foremost, inherently. Public schools serve public interests first and foremost, inherently. Charter schools are rivalrous and excludable, as by lottery. Public schools are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Charter schools appeal to and feed on parents’ selfishness. Public schools rely on “All for one and one for all.” Thus the oft stated expression “public charter school” is a contradiction in terms; there is no such thing.

I am keenly aware of qualitative and quantitative data around the charter schools “no excuses” model, such as KIPP, for which data say charter schools do no better than, and very often do worse than, public schools. I just this week drafted a PowerPoint presentation using State of Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) school-level Letter Grades for all APS schools available since 2014. KIPP charter schools operating in District 2 represent nothing remarkable compared to the public schools. The GOSA school-level Letter Grades, quantified, make this plainly clear. Thus my unequivocal position is charter schools are a total and absolute waste, academically, fiscally, and operationally. Our Atlanta public schools can be improved, but not in the presence of charter schools. Charter schools function as a drain on our public schools, much like a sink drain. And much like water that disappears down the sink drain, our public schools will disappear down the charter schools drain, unless we plug the drain.

4. What is your stance for the Excellence School model? Do you feel that each school should have an equitable amount of special needs services?

I am keenly aware of and unequivocally opposed to the so-called Excellent Schools model. The model is the currently serving school board chairman and superintendent’s deceptive marketing to implement The City Fund’s free market ideological Portfolio of Schools “idea.” The “idea” is to treat and manage APS schools like a portfolio of stocks—namely, in order to continually maximize the total value of the stock portfolio, periodically rank the stocks by performance, and then sell off the lowest performing five percent or so and buy better performing stocks.

It is an “idea” that has absolutely no basis in pedagogy nor in research nor in actually intending to improve schools. Purveyors of the Portfolio of Schools “idea” expressly target large urban, heavily Black populated cities, such as Atlanta. The “idea” is given different catchy names in different cities. If implemented within APS, the “idea” must necessarily operate cyclically to identify the five percent or so so-called lower-performing public schools and close them so as to move funding to open new charter schools to benefit privatizers and investors, primarily. Many District 2 public schools will stand to be among those the Excellent Schools model would target, GOSA letter grades data suggest.

More about this matter at these references:

As to the second question, “Do you feel that each school should have an equitable amount of special needs services?,” I believe each school should have the adaptive capability to provide special needs services as might be required of it and to be capable to adsorb demand for such services, within limits. Each public school having such adaptive capability can only be a consequence of the school continually improving in quality. So school improvement is essential, not merely school change.

5.What is your knowledge-base of the charter school programs? Are you familiar with the latest evaluation of the charter school contracts?

APS charter schools represent nothing remarkable compared to APS public schools. Virtually all available measures of school performance are clear about this.

I am aware the school board and superintendent will this coming school year turn a newly constructed facility over to KIPP to operate. It represents yet another instance of them effectively using APS as a pass-thru entity of public funds to private interests. Their behavior is unethical and immoral and reprehensible.

6. Are you aware of the proposed consolidation and closings, and what is your opinion?

To the extent one considers the so-called Excellent Schools model a proposal, consolidating and closing our public schools will be a requirement of that proposal, necessarily. Not at all an opinion but rather a fact, consolidating and closing the public’s public schools signals failure on the part of the school board to abide by the 2002 revised AISS Charter stipulating adopting policies to provide for improving the quality of our public schools. Subsequently, the superintendent fails to provide a supportive environment for improving the quality of our public schools.

An example is the school board and superintendent’s closing Adamsville Primary and consolidating it with L. P. Miles Elementary. Their action was absolutely unnecessary. Later, it was found out they took that action so as to give the Adamsville Primary building and attendant resources to the private Kindezi Charter Schools, although Kindezi Charter Schools did not request the building, the AJC reported.

7. Do you feel administrative autonomy is the best fit for school management?

I am keenly aware so-called administrative autonomy and, in general, the notion of “flexibility for accountability,” packaged profane selling points the school board and superintendent employed to get the public to acquiesce to their changing APS into a Charter System, rather than exercise the courage to commit to improving the district starting with where it was at the time, although as a derisively named “Status Quo” district.

In reality, no one has “autonomy.” Schoolhouse administrators must exist and function interrelatedly (see Dr. King quoted, above) with all others, especially the school’s teachers. Imposing so-called administrative autonomy does not rationally substitute for a school needing the capability to improve. Administrative autonomy merely allows the superintendent to escape the responsibilities the AISS Charter stipulates for her role, so as to then be able to stand back and hold schoolhouse administrators accountable for failures she spawns. Same for the school board. With her holding schoolhouse administrators accountable for results having not contributed at all to improving any APS public schools over the past five years, the superintendent’s recent hiring of yet more “school turnaround principals” exemplifies the absurdity of “doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

8. Do you feel that abolishment of jobs is best practices for ALL students?

Absolutely not. Moreover, it is not a “best practice” for ANY students. Again, the 2002 revised AISS Charter stipulates responsibilities for the superintendent’s role. Not one superintendent responsibility stipulates or even implies abolishing jobs is a best practice. Abolishing jobs as a best practice can only rationally be taken as evidence of the superintendent leading as a “trained” behaviorist more so than as a learned educationist—that is, a professional educator. This way of thinking and leading borrows from General Electric’s Chairman and CEO, Jack Welch. It is much the same as The City Fund’s free market Portfolio of Schools “idea” the school board and superintendent market as their Excellent Schools model. Beverly Hall, with involvement by General Electric’s John Rice, then in Atlanta, did this and we all know the outcome was a massively systemic cheating crisis.

As an “I told you so” footnote, here, my first run for a seat on the school board in 2005 was an effort to prevent the crisis, which was plainly predictable to anyone who had the wisdom and experience to see it coming. The cheating crisis exposed the foolishness and stupidity of “running APS like a business.” Yet, sadly, today, the school board and Superintendent Carstarphen run APS more like a business than even some businesses run business like a business—meaning, to run business in more regressive ways than in progressive ways, especially as related to the education of children labeled “Black.”

9. What policies or actions are questionable that Atlanta BOE has gotten wrong or failed to do in the last four years, such as teachers’ raises, teacher retention, inadequate bus service, overcrowded classes, inexperienced administrators, etc.?

I will here address two critical matters and reference a third. There are more.

Without question, the most damning action the school board took with the hiring of the currently serving superintendent nearly five years ago was to change APS into a Charter System by terms of a performance contract they and the superintendent executed with the state. That “bold action,” as the school board and superintendent proclaimed it, aligned with the superintendent’s “school turnaround” training by Harvard University and resulted in requiring every Atlanta public school be treated as if it were a charter school because the performance contract incorporates, by reference, The Charter Schools Act of 1992. This fact is not commonly known and understood.

Consequently, GO Teams in all Atlanta public schools. GO Teams are meant to be the functional equivalent of autonomous charter school governing boards. Unlike PTAs that are inherently democratic in function, GO Teams are inherently autocratic and authoritarian in function. GO Teams are the means by which the school board fractured their being held accountable for “control and management” of APS systemically per the AISS Charter, so as to then push the fragments of accountability down upon individual public schools and call the fragments of accountability, GO Teams. GO Teams lend credibility to, and provide a ready-made excuse for, maintaining schools segregated by so-called race and other social factors.

From the standpoint of policy, the school board got horribly wrong their new Policy BBBB, Ethics. Because racialist ideology was the central theme of their very first draft of the policy, I heavily involved myself in influencing the final outcome that considers human differences, not just so-called race. To their credit, at the urging of at least three school board members, the final ethics policy reflects my influence, verbatim. For example, although the school board’s Policy Review Committee Chairwoman, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, resisted even defining “ethics” in the policy, the approved ethics policy states:

“The Atlanta Board of Education recognizes equity means the quality or ideal of being just and fair, regardless of economic, social, cultural, and human differences among and between persons.”

These are my words, exactly. Nonetheless, ironically, in the majority “Black” school district that is APS, the school board’s new Policy BBBB, Ethics, institutionalizes regressive racialist ideology, although science shows so-called race is, in reality, just an illusion. Ironically still, the new ethics policy provides for loading school board and superintendent leadership failures to improve APS and to close “opportunity gaps” and such onto so-called race, ethnicity, and other external factors. Arguably, the non-democratic, anti-learning attitude is, “We, the school board, are the reverent authority. So if failure happens, it cannot possibly be our fault. It’s our job to make the hard decisions and hold other people accountable.” This attitude and attendant matters render the school board’s new Policy BBBB, Ethics, unethical.

On the matter of teacher pay and specifically the $3,000 pay increase for teachers, read my position at this reference:

10. Do you feel that the current superintendent should be offered a new contract for 2021?

No, I do not. The superintendent demonstrates being a diehard practitioner of the “school turnaround work” she has boldly and publicly proclaimed Harvard University “trained” her to do. However, neither APS nor any of its public schools have ever needed “school turnaround work.” Rather, the district and its public schools have always needed, and always will need, improvement. But to improve requires learning and being able to unlearn in the face of new knowledge. Persons “trained” for a job will generally seek to apply their training to a problem—that is, make the problem fit their current training—rather than open up to study and learn from the problem and what the problem may be trying to teach.

The superintendent has continually shown having a predilection for deceitfully deflecting, avoiding, hiding, and otherwise refusing to reveal facts that would reflect unfavorably on her personal aspirations. Take, for example, that the superintendent, as well as the school board, refuses to tell the public the fact of what “graduate rate” means. She, and they, refuse to call it by its official name, which is Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). If the public understood what ACGR means, the public would then understand “graduation rate” is an inflated lie. Understanding ACGR, the public might then enquire: “Well, what about Unadjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (UCGR)?” And if the public were to do that, then the public might discover ACGR for Atlanta public high schools appears to have gotten better but only because UCGR got worse. And that happens simply because most high school student loses occur in the earlier high school grades—9th and 10th—thus leaving fewer students in the later high school grades—11th and 12th—that turn out to be the basis (i.e., the denominator) for calculating “graduation rate.”

Improvement cannot occur based on deceit and lies.

11. Do you feel it is a conflict of interest that the chair of the APS Board is an attorney for the law firm that also services the charter school (for-profit) industry?

Yes, I do feel it is a conflict of interest. While it may be legal, it is not ethical. Moreover, the school board chairman and the many other attorneys and lawyers involved with APS seem to have debased the district to the point where law subsumes ethics. For example, it is perfectly lawful that the superintendent refuses to make public counts of students who started ninth grade for the first time at the start of any given school year, so as to prevent the public from determining unadulterated, non-politicized graduation rates. But is the superintendent’s behavior ethical? Ironically, I have learned not one bona fide ethicists serves or serves on the school board’s Ethics Commission; however, three attorneys and lawyers do.

12. Do you support a forensic audit investigation of the Atlanta Public Schools’ Charter School Systems by the GA Department of Education?

Actually, on 30 January 2019, I appealed to both the Georgia Senate’s Youth and Education Committee Officers and Members and the House of Representatives’ Education Committee Officers and Members to conduct a forensic financial audit of the school board and superintendent’s fiscal process and spending, especially spending in the category “Instruction.”

I wrote, in part:

“However, the APSL’s Excellent Schools project is not an excellent plan, as it aims to merely implement the ideological ‘portfolio of schools model’ that serves closing and privatizing public schools, especially public schools serving mostly children labeled ‘black.’

“The collective indication that the financial efficiency of the APSL fiscal process is out of control is only strengthened by the case that GADOE used three-year averages, so as to ‘smooth out variation in the data.’ In other words, although GADOE calculated averages, so as to ‘smooth out variation in the data,’ variation in the three-year averages attributable to the APSL fiscal process nonetheless remained great enough, and strong enough to still show up as detectable non-random variation, or variation due to something special going on.

“Thus the collective indication of the APSL fiscal process being out of control strongly suggests a forensic financial audit of that process is necessary in order to truly answer the essential question of why, at root-level.

“Moreover, any such audit might also take account of academic outcomes due to the quality of Atlanta Public Schools Leadership.”

Once on the school board representing District 2, I will see to it that a forensic financial audit happens.

Atlanta is holding a special election on September 17 to fill the vacant seat in District 2.

This election is crucial, because the current board majority, dominated by TFA alums, is committed to the so-called Portfolio Model, which means an abdication of the board’s responsibility and a proliferation of private charters.

Ed Johnson, a dedicated and well-informed citizen of Atlanta, should be elected. I have known Ed Johnson for years as a person with deep understanding of education and of systems. He believes in steady and thoughtful improvement, not radical disruption that upends the lives of children and communities.

This election could tip the balance on the board.

To understand why Ed Johnson is perfect for this job, read his responses to the questionnaire of the Georgia Charter Schools Association.

Ed Johnson
Candidate, Atlanta Board of Education District 2

Questionnaire by Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA)

1. Briefly share your qualifications for the office of District 2 School Board Member.

My qualifications are exactly those the Atlanta Independent Schools System (AISS) Charter requires, namely:

I am at least 18 years of age
I am a resident of the city and I have been a resident of the Atlanta Board of Education (“Board”) District 2 for at least one year immediately preceding the date of filing a notice of candidacy to seek office
I am a qualified elector of the city
I am not an employee of the State Department of Education nor a member of the State Board of Education


I do not currently hold an elective public office
I am not an employee of the Atlanta Board of Education or any other local board of education
I do not serve on the governing body of any private K-12 educational institution, however grade level-wise constituted

Perhaps this question actually meant to ask, “What personal qualities are you prepared to bring to the Board as the District 2 representative?” Assuming so:

I hold a keen, uncompromised position for the public’s Atlanta public schools system to remain a wholly public good committed to continually improving in quality as a public good essential to advancing democratic practices of civil society ever and ever closer to democratic ideals. Kindly see my bio brief at this link:

2. What is your vision for Atlanta Public Schools and how would you implement it?

Visions alone are insufficient. Visions, as well as missions, must be anchored in, aligned to, and function in harmony with an invariant Purpose.

Although my vision matters less than any visions District 2 communities and Atlanta civil society, at large, may hold for the public’s Atlanta Independent Schools System, which is commonly known as Atlanta Public Schools (APS), my personal vision is for APS to become the wholly unfractured public good it is chartered to be, so it can become Where Authentic Public Education Meets Purpose in service to sustaining and advancing democratic practices ever closer to democratic ideals that benefit all of Atlanta civil society and beyond. For this to happen, having a commonly agreed-to invariant Purpose is essential. Unfortunately, APS has not a commonly agreed-to invariant Purpose. Today, on account of the poor quality of top leadership of APS—Board and superintendent—the “purpose” of APS is whatever any one or more of some 300-plus private actors APS leadership calls “partners” selfishly want the “purpose” of APS to be, at any given moment, in service to themselves.

I, as an individual Board member, will not have the authority to implement my personal vision or anything else. However, as a Board member, I will seek to influence the Board to catalyze, via policy, the start of a very, very, very long overdue journey of never ending continual quality improvement anchored in Where Authentic Public Education Meets Purpose, as stated above.

3. Please describe your position on charter public schools.

Kindly know I am not a purveyor of any of the miscalled terms “charter public schools,” “public charter schools,” and “traditional public schools.” Without question, such terms are meant to manipulate. Thus I speak only the authentic and truthful terms “public schools” and “charter schools.”

That said, charter schools may be rightfully likened to vampire bats that feed on their victims’ blood but instead feed on the public’s public schools’ various resources, including but not limited to fiscal, physical, academic, and social resources. The thinking that such feeding then means charter schools are public schools is just plain ludicrous. And just as Count Dracula feeds on his victims’ blood after having promised eternal life in an instant, charter schools feed on parents’ hopes with promises of giving their children instant “access” to instant “high quality education,” in instant “high quality charter school seats,” in instant “high quality charter schools.” In Atlanta, such parents targeted by charter schools tend to be those of children labeled “Black.”

Data—for example, results from Georgia Milestones standardized test assessments since the inception of the tests in 2015—are clear that charter schools are not, in general, the inherently “high quality schools” they claim to be. And even if they were, nonetheless, all the wasted fiscal, academic, and social costs associated with having two parallel school systems is morally and ethically reprehensible. Such wasted costs should be going to improving public schools in the manner of the never ending journey of continual quality improvement I mention in my response to question 2, above.

So, my position? Charter schools are an abomination upon civil society. Moreover, our local, state, and federal lawmakers should not be in the business of legitimating selfishness. It’s not much of a stretch to see the connections to selfish acts of shooting up schools, for example, facilitated by easy access to military-style guns. Selfishness learned in one context invariably manifests in any number of other contexts, sometimes “by any means necessary.”

4. What do you think are the three greatest issues or problems facing Atlanta Public Schools? How could charter public schools help address these issues?

There is but one overarching greatest issue and that issue subsumes all other issues: Influence the Board to catalyze “Adopting district-wide policies that support an environment for the quality improvement and progress for all decision makers in the district, as well as for students.”

Charter schools are anathema to realizing this overarching issue, which actually is a role the Atlanta Independent Schools System Charter requires the Board to fulfill, and it never has.

5. What are the specific issues facing District 2? What should be done to address these issues?

The specific, overarching issue facing District 2 is the presence of a concentration of charter schools. Six of 14 schools are charter schools. That’s 43 percent charter schools. Data suggest the outsized presence of so many charter schools in District 2 feed greedily on resources that, morally and ethically, should be going to the eight District 2 public schools.

To address this issue, the Board members be must called to account, both severally and individually, for failing to honor their sworn Oath of Office that begins: “I will be governed by the public good ….” Charter schools are not public goods, so are anathema to Board members’ fulfilling their Oath of Office, and they don’t.

6. Do you support the expansion and approval of more high quality charter schools in the Atlanta Public Schools district?

No. Besides, various data sources are clear: Neither APS nor District 2 has any “high quality charter schools” compared to public schools. The term is a blatantly intentional miscalling meant to manipulate the unsuspecting.

7. Do you believe charter public schools should receive funding and resources equal to that of traditional public schools?

Again, I am not a purveyor of the intentionally misleading terms “charter public schools” and “traditional public schools.” There are public schools and there are charter schools.

Originally, to get themselves established, charter schools sold the public on the idea that they can do more with less, inherently, as if charter schools are automatically and instantly “high quality schools.” Now that the truth is known and the lie exposed, by their own admission, charter schools pressing for funding equality or equity with public schools should be taken as evidence that charter schools are a totally cost-equable, hence totally duplicative, hence totally wasteful schooling structure, inherently, and so should be allowed to die in the open daylight, just as Count Dracula dies when exposed to open daylight, or gets staked in the heart. Once staked in the heart, the stake must never be removed, lest he or it comes back to life.

8. What are your thoughts on the strategic plan APS is currently working on? In your opinion, what should be addressed?

The development of that strategic plan is an essential step the Board and superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, are taking in their process that aims to implement The City Fund’s free-market portfolio of schools “idea.” The “idea” is just that, and it has absolutely no basis in pedagogy nor in actually intending to improve schools, only change them.

The process simply begs disrupting and destroying APS as the public good it is supposed to be by continually closing and replacing public schools with ever more charter schools. The Board and Carstarphen cloak what they do by intentionally miscalling it “Excellent Schools Project.” The several other urban public school districts The City Funds has targeted for privatization do likewise; that is, apply an agreeable though erroneous name that cloaks the privatization agenda.

The Board voted their “Creating a System of Excellent Schools” process into existence by the 5­-3 vote they took during their March meeting, last school year. Sadly, at least one Board member voted not fully understanding the vote, but understandably so, because the Board Chairman, Jason Esteves, had snookered the Board member into voting in favor of the vote, I learned. Indeed, the vote was an extraordinarily slick execution that Esteves pulled off. It can help to have a graphical rendering of the process the Board voted into existence in order to see the full effect of the vote, at a relatively high level. See such a graphical rendering on the next page (or below), and note the thick black-lines trace through the process involving initial development of the strategic plan.

For more about my position and understanding of the so-called Excellent Schools Project, kindly see these of mine:

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Ed Johnson is an adherent of the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, who wrote and spoke about the superiority of Improvement over disruptive change. Ed lives in Atlanta, where the school board and its superintendent believe that they must shock the system, privatize, impose constant disruption. As he shows in the chart below, their approach (the so-called “portfolio model”) has made matters worse. He announces here that he is running for a seat on the board. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have a critic of disruption on a board now dominated by Ex-TFA know-it-all’s?

19 July 2019

“Turn around the turnaround so APS can start improving!”

I am not a proponent of letter grades for schools.  However, Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) is, to wit:
“This website provides school reports for all public elementary, middle, and high schools in Georgia. These reports include A-F letter grades based on school performance and other useful information about the school, such as performance on statewide assessments, the make-up of the school’s student body, the graduation rate, and additional academic information.”
So, for those who like to have letter grades for schools, I say: Okay, let’s have them.  Ditto for “heat maps.”
My short presentation, here in PDF and here in PowerPoint Show format (download only), carries the title, Atlanta Board of Education District Schools Cumulative Growth by Quantified GOSA Letter Grades since “School Turnaround.”
The presentation aims to be fairly self-explanatory.  Still, essential points about it are:
  • Baseline year 2014 marks the first year of execution of the Atlanta school board and superintendent’s School Turnaround Strategy.
  • For each year from Baseline year 2014 through year 2018, each schools’ GOSA letter grade A, B, C, D, or F is translated to the numeral 2, 1, 0, -1, or -3, respectively.  A is translated to 2, B to 1, C to 0, D to -1, and F to -3.  This then quantifies the letter grades and, yes, the translation procedure is arbitrary—or might one say, “innovative?”  Alternatively, a compounding procedure might be used instead of this purely additive one.
  • Each school’s quantified letter grades are added such that the running sum is recorded over time, creating a time series.  The first addend, at 2014, is noted and added to the second addend, at 2015, and the sum there noted.  Then the sum at 2015 is added to the third addend, at 2016, and the sum there noted.  Then the sum at 2016 is added to the fourth addend, at 2017, and the sum there noted.  And, finally, the sum at 2017 is added to the fifth addend, at 2018, and the sum there noted.  This then establishes a running record as a time series of the school’s Quantified Letter Grade Cumulative Growth.
The presentation offers plots of Quantified Letter Grade Cumulative Growth, over time.  There is a plot for all schools in the Atlanta Public Schools system as well as a plot of schools for each of the six Atlanta school board districts, with school names listed in a side box.  School names are as known by GOSA, except in one case.

For example, the following plot of Atlanta school board District 1 schools shows, at year 2018, the full range of the schools’ quantified letter grade cumulative growth.  Mary Lin Elementary School marks the positive extreme of the range, at 10 (2, 4, 6, 8 10), while Price Middle School and Thomasville Heights Elementary School both mark the negative extreme of the range, at -15 (-3, -6, -9, -12, -15).  All other school board District 1 schools fall in between these extremes, at year 2018.

Note that the Atlanta school board and superintendent outsourced Thomasville Heights Elementary School to a private operator at the beginning stage of executing their School Turnaround Strategy.  They did so as one of their earliest bold actions aiming to fix the supposedly horribly broken school and keeping the state from taking it over, they claimed.

Interestingly, any one of the plots in the presentation looked at holistically, rather than analytically, offers a basis for predicting the future, if only short term.  An obvious prediction to make is that schools in the mostly northern area of Atlanta serving mostly children labeled “white” will generally continue to stay better or get better, while schools in the mostly southern area of Atlanta serving mostly children labeled “black” will generally continue to stay worse or get worse.  The zero-line in the above plot effectively demarcates north Atlanta-area schools, above the line, and south Atlanta-area schools, below the line.

Why is this bifurcation of public education in Atlanta so persistent?   Why does it keep happening?

Well, consider the Atlanta school board and superintendent’s School Turnaround Strategy is today’s version of the root cause of the matter, as it entails essentially the latest in a long string of school reform quick fixes, change initiatives, bold actions, and solutions meant to instantly fix the broken Atlanta Public Schools system and close so-called achievement gaps, opportunity gaps, access gaps, equity gaps, 30 million words gaps, and all manner of gap.  Such has been the root cause for nearly three decades, starting with the school boards of the permanent superintendents Benjamin Canada, then Beverly Hall, and now Meria Carstarphen.

However, the basic, immutable facts have been, and always will be, change does not mean improvement, bold actions do not substitute for quality leadership, there are no solutions, APS cannot break, and so APS cannot be fixed.

One has only to consider what “solution” means and the kinds of systems to which solutions apply—namely, mechanical systems and mathematical systems, for example, but not, dynamic, idiosyncratic social systems such as public school systems and, yes, children.  Public school systems and children are not the kind of systems where solutions can fix them.  Trying to fix APS is much the same as trying to fix a child, which can only be a most egregious, inhumane, and even evil endeavor.

Atlanta Public Schools can only be improved, continually, never ending.

If one won’t believe me and my having been out in the wilderness for the longest of time yammering and crying about these basic, immutable facts, then perhaps one will believe the billionaire Bill Gates and The 74, which he funds.

According to this recent article by The 74, Mr. Gates seems to have recently cottoned to what some might consider W. Edwards Deming’s “continuous improvement” philosophy.  But, of course, putting $93 million towards his new interest entitles Mr. Gates to claim and declare it as his own Continuous Improvement Model.

However, if one were to examine—better yet, read and study–Dr. Deming’s last seminal works, The New Economics for Business, Government, Education(1993, The MIT Press) and Out of the Crisis (1982, The MIT Press), one will not find the term “continuous improvement.”  One will only find the term “continual improvement.”  The point being, it seems Mr. Gates is dragging public education into yet another experiment without having essential knowledge of what is required.

I am aware some of Mr. Gates’ foundation employees attended a Deming conference a few years ago and so I have always wondered what would come of it.  Maybe we are about to find out.  Hopefully, prayerfully, Mr. Gates will not end up having tarnished or compromised Dr. Deming’s legacy:  “Well, we tried the Continuous Improvement Model but it, too, turned out to be one of our experiments that didn’t work out.  So we will move on to look for the next promising elixir to magically fix all the nation’s failing public schools in poor and minority communities.”

I any case, I hope we can understand Dr. Deming’s continual improvement philosophy posits a way of learning, a way of getting knowledge and wisdom, hence a way of life.  The philosophy does not posit a model that, if scripted and the script implemented and “scaled up,” that then will solve and fix all broken public school systems, or turn them around.

In this sense, the plot above, as in the presentation, shows a failing Atlanta school board and superintendent School Turnaround Strategy poised to keep on failing (prediction, knowledge).

Thus, for me, the time has come to “Turn around the turnaround so APS can start improving!”

Accordingly, I decided at the last minute to seek the now open Atlanta Board of Education District 2 Seat in a Special Election to be held 17 September 2019.

I simply could not walk away—meaning, I had already taken the first step to leave Atlanta behind by first greatly downsizing to a small fixer-upper bungalow and working on it a while before moving back to my hometown, having already jettisoned years of accumulated stuff.  When nearly three years ago I made this initial downsizing move, I purchased the bungalow within the same ZIP code, as intended.  However, I discovered soon afterwards that I had also purchased just a few hundred yards inside Atlanta school board District 2.  What can I say?

If any of my yammering and crying in the wilderness over the years about Atlanta Public Schools needing improvement, not change, have ever resonated, then I humbly ask for your non-funds support, endorsement, and vote according to your civil privileges.

You have all the civil privileges of supporting, endorsing, and voting for me if you reside principally in Atlanta Board of Education District 2.  If you reside principally outside of District 2, you still have the civil privileges of supporting and endorsing me to those important to you but you cannot vote for me.

Because mainly, though not exclusively, at least one candidate funded by The City Fund’s local executive director is in the race for the District 2 Seat, and because big money is just itching for a fund-raising fight, I have committed to forgo soliciting and accepting campaign contributions.  The fund raising fight The City Fund and other big money are itching for won‘t be mine to give.

Really, just think what a blow it will be to big money when someone (me!) gets elected with no strings attached to big money’s purse strings or school privatization agenda!  Someone who has never been bought and sold, and won’t be, to put it bluntly!

Let’s do this!  Let’s “Turn around the turnaround so APS can start improving!”

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 |