Archives for category: Georgia

The Virtual Charter schools of for-profit K12 Inc. have been noted for high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates, and high profits.

The corporation currently operates a virtual charter school in Georgia which is the largest “school” in the state but of course low-performing. Now it proposes to open another K-12 online charter that will eventually enroll 8,000 students. It will be career-focused, so even children in kindergarten can begin planning their careers.

Fortunately, even the charter advocates in Georgia are having second thoughts.

The staff of the State Charter Schools Commission is recommending the denial of Destinations Career Academy, which, if ultimately approved, would become the second largest public school in the state.

The petition is backed by K12 Inc., a publicly traded corporation with scores of online schools around the country. One of them, Georgia Cyber Academy, is this state’s largest public school. It is at risk of closure due to its history of poor academic performance. The company and the school’s board are embroiled in a contractual dispute following recent board decisions aimed at turning the school around. The board has reduced K12’s role in — and revenue from — the school.

Really, how much dysfunction and profiteering should one state tolerate?

 

Peter Smagorinsky is a Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia. He often contributes to Maureen Downey’s blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In this post, he lets his students explain why they were inspired by Stephanie Johns, who teaches at Classic City High School in Athens, Georgia.

As you read about this model teacher, Stephanie Johns, you may realize that experience matters. She has distilled her dedication, love, and concern for her students into a daily practice, which enables her to reach them and teach them.

 

I just finished reading a compelling book about the famed Atlanta Cheating Scandal. It is titled None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators. I found it hard to put down.

It was written by Shani Robinson, one of the teachers convicted in 2015 of racketeering, for changing her students’ answers on a state test, and journalist Anna Simonton. It is Shani’s story, and with Anna’s help, it is a very good read.

Shani was a Teach for America teacher who taught first graders at Dunbar Elementary School in Atlanta. She was one of dozens of teachers and administrators accused of cheating to raise her students’ test scores. Being arrested, charged, threatened, tried, and convicted was an ordeal, which she describes in detail. Throughout this ordeal, she maintained her innocence. She very credibly insists that she never changed her students’ test answers. Her student scores were not counted towards the school’s “AYP” and had no bearing on the school’s rating because first grade scores were not part of the No Child Left Behind dragnet.

She never received a bonus or any other monetary reward. Yet she and other educators were accused and convicted on a racketeering charge (the federal RICO statute that was designed to snare members of the Mafia and other organized criminals). She did not conspire with anyone, she writes, and to this day she insists upon her innocence.

What is especially shocking is her account of the “justice” system. At every step along the way, she and the others who were accused were offered the opportunity to get out of the charges if only they agreed to plead guilty. They got off scot free if they were willing to accuse others. Repeatedly she was told that she had a choice: If you stick with your plea of innocence, you face 20 years in prison; if you confess your criminal behavior, you will get probation, community service, and a nominal fine. Those who were convicted lost their job, their reputations, their careers, and in some cases, their freedom.

Others whom Shani trusted confessed to crimes they had not committed. She insisted upon her innocence and refused to lie to win her freedom. She cannot help comparing the longest trial in Georgia’s history with the cheating scandal in Washington, D.C., where no one was charged and there was no trial or punishment, nor even a credible investigation.

Somehow the whole procedure sounds like a story from the old Soviet Union, but this is American “justice” as practiced in Georgia.

What makes the story even more interesting is the way she connects her personal dilemma with the history of racism and injustice in Georgia and with the manipulation of politics by corporate interests. She notes again and again that the media created a feeding frenzy because of allegations that educators cheated, but were not interested at all in reporting how corporate interests shifted or stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the schools for real estate development or gentrification.

She describes Atlanta’s history as the first city to build public housing, which became home to many thousands of black families, and the first city to tear down all of its public housing, ostensibly to woo middle class families back to the city (and to push out poor black families).

She became disenchanted with Teach for America as she saw its recruits—funded by out-of-state billionaires and trained by TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity– organize a takeover of the Atlanta school board so as to make way for corporate education reform, especially charter schools.

She details the efforts of for-profit Charter Schools USA to open a charter in Atlanta, and the determination of the black community to keep them out.

Hypocrisy?

She writes:

“I tried to keep my cool as I came to terms with the fact that some very bad things had happened in my school district, worked to remain self-assured that my name would be cleared, and attempted to quell my outrage at the naked hypocrisy of some of the public figures who scrambled to condemn educators for ‘cheating the children.’ There were so many ways that children, particularly black children, were being cheated out of a decent life. During the decade that some APS staff members were tampering with tests, most teachers were doing the best they could with few resources for contending with kids who suffered generational trauma stemming from urban renewal, racialized violence, the drug epidemic, mass incarceration, and the obliteration of public housing. Meanwhile, real estate moguls and financiers were finagling ways to line their pockets with the education dollars that should have been going to the classroom.”

The most memorable line in the trial was uttered by the utterly reprehensible Judge Baxter, who said that the cheating scandal was “the sickest thing to ever happen in this town.” Shani wonders if he never gave any thought to slavery, Jim Crow, and the many other attacks on blacks as equally “sick.”

Shani Robinson’s appeal has not yet been heard. She may yet be sent to prison. Her book is a persuasive argument that some of the worst criminals in Atlanta were never tried for their crimes against the children of Atlanta.

 

 

The Georgia State Senate, controlled by Republicans, voted not to create a private school voucher program. 

Critics said the program would eventually cost the state half a billion a year, defunding public schools.

Democrats voted as a bloc against it, joined by key Republicans including Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville.

Public school supporters who opposed the bill were astonished.

The fate of the bill by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, stunned the public school lobby, which had been working overtime against it.

“Pleasantly surprised,” was how Craig Harper, executive director of the 90,000-plus member Professional Association of Georgia Educators put it.

John Zauner, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said the legislation would have “fundamentally” changed school financing.

Are you aware that PRIVATIZATION for PROFIT is well underway in schools, city governments, transportation, etc. in Georgia? People are being elected to office with these ends in mind, are financed by for-profit entities and are soft selling decisions to authorize this movement…

Are you aware of the dire effects of allowing the proliferation of this movement to continue to grow in capacity?

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT SCHOOLS…

JOIN US FOR A FREE SCREENING

This feature-length documentary is a free screening and open to the public. No children please as space is limited.

When

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
7:00 pm – Film Screening
8:30 pm – Q&A Discussion

Where

Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center
3181 Rainbow Drive
Decatur, GA 30034

Join the Georgia Federation of Teachers, JEEPAC and the NAACP DeKalb Chapter for a screening of Backpack Full of Cash.
This documentary narrated by Matt Damon, a Cambridge, MA public school graduate, takes an urgently-needed look at how charter schools, vouchers and the privatization movement are threatening the nation’s public schools. In the wake of the 2016 presidential elections and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as well as the installation of a pro-charter majority of the Atlanta Public School Board, BACKPACK is timelier than ever. Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities, BACKPACK takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year, exposing the world of corporate-driven education “reform” where public education — starved of resources — hangs in the balance. Backpack puts a human face on complex social, racial and civic issues confronting educators, students, families, and our communities. Backpack serves as a tool to show how other communities are fighting back against an effort to privatize public education.

The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right.

The film features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.

This feature-length documentary is a free event and open to the public.

This is a story about a photograph taken at a small Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia in 1992.

The photo shows a child in KKK regalia looking at his reflection in a shield held by a police officer, who is African-American. The officer is there to prevent violence. He is protecting the peace and protecting even the members of the KKK.

The photo has been adopted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a pre-eminent CIvil Rights Organization.

Over the years, as you will read, people have debated what the photo says to them.

It reminded me of the song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The title “You’ve Got to Be Taught to Hate.” The little boy dressed up as a Klansman didn’t hate the man holding the shield. But he will be taught to hate by those who dressed him.

Please watch this. Oprah speaks and rallies the crowd on behalf of Stacey Abrams. She is excellent.

Then she introduces Stacey, and they talk. I loved the conversation. I loved Stacey Abrams. She is wonderful. She loves to read (she names her favorite books), she loves to write, she loves to watch television (her favorite show is “The Good Place,” which I’m watching). She talked about the terrible condition of health care in Georgia. It has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Many counties don’t have a hospital. Nine counties don’t have a doctor. Many women who are pregnant don’t see a doctor until the day they give birth. She spoke eloquently about investing in education. Given the audience reaction, I would guess that many were teachers.

I know we are all disgusted with politicians. Watch this show and you will have hope again.

If you live in Georgia, please vote. Please vote for Stacey Abrams. She is inspiring.

I endorse Stacey Abrams for Governor of Georgia, with enthusiasm.

Abrams is running against a rightwing extremist who happens to be Secretary of State and in charge of elections. This guy Kemp is using his position to suppress the votes of African Americans, Hispanics, and other potential voters for Abrams. She has called on him to resign, but of course he won’t.

If you live in Georgia and you want your state to move forward, please vote for Stacey Abrams.

Rachel Aviv reports in The New Yorker about the scandalous segregated schools for students with disabilities in Georgia.

Georgia has a separate system of schools for children who act out, children whose teachers want to get rid of them. Federal law requires that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment, but Georgia ignores it. Children, especially black boys, are warehoused in buildings with ill-trained staff and meager instruction. The schools are part of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS).

An excerpt:

“The first GNETS school, the Rutland Center, founded in 1970, was once housed in the former West Athens Colored School, whose principal promised to teach the “practical duties of life” to the “inferior race.” The concept for gnets was visionary. According to a report by researchers at the University of Georgia, the schools, then called psychoeducational centers, would rely on teachers trained in developmental psychology, ready to “face the assault of bizarre behavior.” They were taught that they might be the “only agent for change in the life of a disturbed child.” Mary Wood, a professor emerita at the University of Georgia, who developed the concept, said that she intended for each program to have a consulting psychiatrist, a social worker, a program evaluator, and a psychologist. But as the first generation of directors retired, in the nineties, “the pieces of the mosaic dropped out,” she said.

“In the two-thousands, funding was cut, and the psychologists who remained seemed to be given free rein. One mother learned that a school psychologist was planning to subject her daughter, who had post-traumatic stress disorder, to fifteen hours of “experiments” devised to provoke misbehavior. “If I go to a mechanic with my car and my car is not doing the problem that I brought it there for, the mechanic can’t diagnose it,” the psychologist explained, at an administrative trial in 2005. “That’s the same situation here.” Over the years, a few parents became so suspicious of the program that they sent their children to school wearing recording devices. On one tape, a teacher could be heard giving a child what someone in the room called a “be-quiet hit.” On another, teachers laughed about how they had put a student in a seclusion room because they needed a break. In 2004, a thirteen-year-old student hanged himself in a Time Out Room, an eight-by-eight concrete cell that could be locked from the outside.

“Leslie Lipson, a lawyer at the Georgia Advocacy Office, a state-funded agency that represents people with disabilities, said that she first learned of the gnets system in 2001, when a mother called to report that her son was put in a seclusion room nearly every day. “It’s all little black boys at this school,” the mother told her. Lipson researched the mother’s claims and then rushed into her boss’s office to tell him that she’d discovered an “insidious, shadow education system.” She said, “I thought I was Erin Brockovich. I was, like, ‘You are not going to believe this! There is an entire segregated system in Georgia! Can we shut this down immediately?’ I was talking a thousand miles a minute, and my boss waited for me to take a breath. He was, like, ‘Um, yeah, these schools have been around since before you were born.’ ”

“Lipson studied the history of the schools, some of which were established in buildings that had housed schools for black children during the Jim Crow era. At a time when there was an outcry against court-ordered integration, gnets became a mechanism for resegregating schools. “It became a way to filter out black boys, who at younger and younger ages are perceived to have behavioral disabilities,” she said.

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (idea) requires that students with disabilities learn in the “least restrictive environment,” a loose term that may mean different things depending on the race or the class of the student. Nirmala Erevelles, a professor of disability studies at the University of Alabama, told me that, “in general, when it comes to people of color—particularly poor people of color—we choose the most restrictive possibility,” sending students to “the most segregated and punitive spaces in the public-school system.” According to Beth Ferri, a disability scholar at Syracuse University, idea provided a kind of loophole to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in schools. Now racial segregation continued “under the guise of ‘disability,’ ” she said. “You don’t need to talk about any race anymore. You can just say that the kid is a slow learner, or defiant, or disrespectful.” Ferri said that idea “treated disability as apolitical—a biological fact. It didn’t think about things like racial or cultural bias.”

“Data obtained through records requests reveal that the percentage of students in the gnets program who are black boys is double that of the public schools in the state. Most of the students in gnets are classified as having an “emotional and behavioral disorder,” a vague label that does not correspond to any particular medical diagnosis. A teacher who worked for five years at a gnets program called Coastal Academy, in Brunswick, told me, “We always had a sprinkling of middle-class white kids, maybe two or three, but they didn’t stay long. Everyone made sure they got out. It was the black students who were trapped there. They came in first grade and never left.” Coastal Academy occupies a lot that once held an all-black school, originally called the Freedman’s School, and the percentage of black males in the program is three times that of the districts that the school draws from. The teacher, who worried that she’d lose her job if she were identified, said that public schools in the area would “send the African-American kids to us for doing things like saying the word ‘shit’ in class or pushing a chair in really loudly. They would never, ever—never in a million years—attempt to come at a white parent with that.””

THe next Governor of Georgia must address this scandal and comply with federal law. The state’s obligation is to act in the best interests of the child.

Ivy Prep Gwinnett Charter School is not reopening. It was once held up as an example by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal as proof of the charter school success story. Charters come and go like day lilies.

“Ivy Preparatory Academy, a once-esteemed Gwinnett County charter school, will not reopen next year, and signs point to permanent closure.

“In a unanimous vote on August 16, 2018, the school board reluctantly decided to end all planning efforts to reopen,” says a statement from a spokesman.

“The decision was reached after “an exhaustive” review of the financial situation that led the charter school’s board to conclude that reopening next year, as a former director and the board had previously told parents would happen, is not “a viable option.”

“The decision marked a sharp turnaround from early in the decade, when the all-girl school became a symbol of the charter school movement. Girls, in their iconic green blazers, filled the halls of the state Capitol to lobby lawmakers.

“In 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal used the school in his argument for passage of a constitutional amendment for charter schools, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it was “a great example” of superior performance relative to traditional public schools.

“Voters were convinced, and that November they changed the constitution to create the State Charter Schools Commission.

“For a time, the future looked bright, as Ivy Prep expanded to DeKalb County, opening a second campus. Then, last year, the AJC revealed problems at the Gwinnett campus, where the academics were slipping, enrollment was plummeting and costs were outpacing revenue.”

The students were abandoned and left to find another choice.