Archives for category: Georgia

Myra Blackmon is one of the most astute commentators on education in Georgia. She writes often for AthensOnline. In this column,she takes issue with the advocates for an “Opportunity School District,” which is on the ballot on November 8.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the state to take over schools with low test scores. It guts local control. As we have seen again and again, state takeovers have repeatedly failed, because the state doesn’t know more than the local school board. The Tennessee Achievement School District, which is a model for Georgia, has not produced any results in its four years of operation. The low-performing schools in the ASD are still low-performing, still eligible to be taken over yet again, but by whom? The Educational Achievement Authority in Michigan has been a disaster.

So why is Georgia following these failed examples? Well, eliminating local control is recommended by the far-right ALEC. ALEC’s goal is privatization, not “rescuing” poor kids.

The proponents of this measure claim that they will “rescue” poor kids from “failing schools,” the usual mantra of privatizers. But the claim is a hoax and a deliberate effort to deceive voters.

Blackmon writes:

These rescuers must have been living on another planet if they haven’t seen their proposed “solution,” a state takeover with no accountability, go down in shame all over the country. They tried it in New Orleans and gave up because it didn’t work. They’ve been trying it in Nashville, and the confiscated schools are doing worse than they were when their “rescue” began. They tried it in Detroit and 11 of the 14 schools that were “rescued” are still failing.

The so-called “Opportunity School District” is among the worst of a long string of dangerous ideas and policies forced on local school districts in Georgia. It is a power grab, pure and simple, moving control of local schools from those closest to them to an unaccountable gubernatorial appointee who, from on high in Atlanta, will dictate local education policies and practices.

The language both on the ballot and in the enabling legislation sounds like a plan for everyone to hold hands and happily work to improve education. But that’s a lie.

These self-styled rescuers of poor children want to turn education over to their buddies in the privatization movement. They want accountability for everyone but themselves.

Rescue, my eye. Keep our opportunities local. Vote “no” on Amendment 1.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist in New York City, crusader for reduced class size and student privacy, lays waste to the charter privateers in this hilarious post!

First came the devastating resolution passed by the national convention of the NAACP, calling for a charter moratorium.

Then came the attack on charters by Black Lives Matter.

And the topper was John Oliver’s funny and accurate portrayal of charter school graft.

But the privateers (or privatizers, as I usually say) continue their assault on public education with propaganda and lies.

In Massachusetts, they claim that expanding charter schools will “improve public education,” when in fact it will drain money from neighborhood public schools and take away local control.

In Georgia, a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November authorizes the creation of a state district that will eliminate local control, like the failed Tennessee ASD, yet says it will empower communities.

This is Orwellian. That means when you say one thing but mean the opposite. Another word for lying. Like saying “reform” when you mean “privatization.”

The Georgia PTA, representing PTAs and a quarter million parents across the state, unanimously endorsed a resolution criticizing Governor Nathan Deal for deceptive language in a proposition that will be presented to voters in November.

A group that represents a quarter million Georgia parents says Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers are being “deceptive” and even “intentionally misleading” with wording they have chosen for November’s constitutional amendment affecting schools. The amendment to the state constitution would eviscerate local control and create a statewide district modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. In Georgia, the takeover district would be called the “opportunity school district.” The Governor says it would “increase community involvement” when it would actually supersede local control and tax districts to pay for schools no longer in their district.

It is a classic case of charter lies, and the Georgia PTA is irate.

Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot would create a statewide school district with a superintendent answering only to the governor. That superintendent would have the power to requisition local tax dollars and to take control of schools that perform poorly on a state report card based on measures such as test results, attendance and graduation rates.

Critics slammed the ballot measure itself as misleading when lawmakers and the governor authorized its two dozen words last year. Now, opponents of the proposed “Opportunity School District,” or OSD, are critical of 14 new words published this week, and are demanding what they feel would be clearer language.

The state leaders responsible, however, appear unwilling to change their wording.

This week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp publicized the “preamble” that will introduce voters to the ballot item. Since many will not have done their research, the language could be influential. It was written by Deal and the two leaders of the state House and Senate, who by law write ballot preambles. The words the three men approved at a meeting in Deal’s office on Aug. 2 introduce the measure this way: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

That, says the Georgia PTA, is simply untrue.

“This deceptive language must not be allowed on the November ballot. … The preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation,” the group said in a statement Friday. “Parental and community involvement is not increased by or required by the OSD enabling legislation.”

PTA delegates voted 633-0 in June against the ballot item itself because, the organization says, the resulting constitutional amendment would take funding from local districts and place their schools in the hands of a political appointee.

Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA, said in an interview that both the preamble and the ballot question mislead with “flowery language” that does not reveal what the legislation would actually do. The ballot question asks if the state should be able to “intervene” to improve failing schools, when the state would actually take them over.

Haygood fears the OSD will become a “profit hub” for charter school corporations, since the OSD superintendent would be able to convert OSD schools into charter schools. “There’s nothing in that legislation that improves schools,” she said. “It’s just about the money.”

Senate Bill 133, the legislation that would take effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment, lets the state take a school building and responsibility for its students while forcing the local district to pay for certain facility costs. The local district would also have to turn over local and state tax proceeds for the school’s operation and for the OSD administration.

The language is false, fraudulent, deceptive. It is ALEC-inspired. And it will turn children over to corporations.

Georgia’s K12 Cyber Academy rakes in millions yet gets poor results for many of its 13,000 students.

The state’s largest “school” collects $82 million a year, but the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement gave it a D for poor performance.

Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation, yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students.

Georgia Cyber Academy students log onto online classes from home, where they talk to and message with teachers and classmates and do assignments in a way that will “individualize their education, maximizing their ability to succeed,” according to an advertisement. But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.

The charter school’s leaders say they face unique challenges, with large numbers of students already behind when they enroll. They have plans to improve results but also claim the state’s grading methods are unfair and inaccurate. However, the state disagrees, and if the academy cannot show improvement soon, the commission that chartered the school could shut it down.

Since it opened with a couple thousand students in 2007, the academy has grown to become the state’s largest public school, with students from all 159 counties. In the 2015 fiscal year alone, it reported receiving $82 million in state and federal funding.

The academy earned a “D” for 2015 from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The academy scored near the bottom in the state that year for “growth,” a measure of how each student did on standardized state tests compared to others with similar past performance.

The graduation rate of 66 percent lagged behind the state average by 13 percentage points. Reading ability in third grade, a key marker of future academic success, also lagged, with 47 percent of its students able to digest books on their grade level versus a state average of 52 percent.

The State Charter Schools Commission, established in 2013 as an alternative to going through a school district to start a charter school, authorized the academy in 2014-15. The commission requires its schools to meet annual academic, financial and operational goals in three of the first four years of operation. The academy, which had operated for seven years under the Odyssey Charter School in Coweta County before obtaining its own charter, did not perform as required in its first year as an independent school. It scored one out of a possible 100 points on the academic portion of its evaluation, which assesses performance, mainly on standardized tests, compared to traditional schools. The results for 2015-16 are still being calculated.

There have been similar reports about virtual charter schools from other states, most recently from California, where the K12 operation is being investigated by the State Department of Education and the Attorney General’s office.

CREDO at Stanford reported that a student attending a virtual charter school lost 180 days of learning math and 72 days of learning in reading.

If the K12 school were a public school, state authorities in every state would have shut it down by now.

The burning issue is why don’t they?

Jack Hassard, emeritus professor of science education at Georgia State University, warns his fellow Georgians about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will allow the state to cancel local control.

This is Governor Nathan Deal’s so-called “Opportunity School District,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed “Achievement School District.”

Read the language of the proposed amendment:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No

If we posit that the state of Georgia does not know how to improve student achievement in “chronically failing public schools,” then what is the amendment really proposing? Let the state take control of schools away from their local school district and give them to out-of-state corporate charter chains. Even though this was tried and failed in Tennessee, let’s do it in Georgia too.

Jack Hassard, professor emeritus of science education at Georgia State University, notes that Georgians will vote in November on whether to create a special district for low-performing schools, modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District.

If it passes (and who is against “opportunity”?), that means the state will gather together its lowest-performing schools and hand them over to charter operators, most from out of state. The charter operators will have years to demonstrate their stuff. If (and when) they don’t, the schools can be given to other charter operators.

In November when we vote to pick a new president (topic for a future post), citizens in Georgia will vote on a ballot amendment to the state constitution. If passed, this amendment (Senate Bill 133) will create a school district (Opportunity School District) that would authorize the Governor’s office to supervise, manage, and run a new school district made up of schools from across the state that have been determined to be failing, based on scores on standardized tests.

The state calls it the “Opportunity School District.” Hassard calls it the “Misfortunate School District.”

In what sane world would policymakers choose a model that has been tried and failed?

Georgia’s elected officials have chosen charter schools as their way to improve education. Thus far, their bet has not paid off.

A new report from the State Charter Schools Commission finds that charter schools perform about the same as public schools. This is similar to the conclusions of many states and districts and studies. Charter schools are free to choose their students and free to push out the ones they don’t want. They are free from most state regulations and are lightly supervised. But there are few differences in performance between the charter sector and the public schools. Some might argue that test scores should not be used as the yardstick of quality, but low test scores–and the promise of raising them–was the rationale for creating charter schools. So, it is duplicitous to make excuses for their inability to bring every child to high levels of proficiency, as they once claimed they could do.

A new report about the performance of schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission finds a mixed bag, with 15 statewide charter schools neither excelling far ahead of nor dragging far behind the traditional public schools against which they’re meant to compete.

At the elementary school level, most of the charter schools performed as well as the average traditional school in 2014-15, says the report by Georgia State University, which provides significant detail about the performance of each school. In general, by middle school, the charters were performing as well as or better than average. High school was a mixed bag.

The Charter Schools Commission was established in 2012 by a state constitutional amendment and began working in 2013. It authorizes a subset of charter schools, with local school districts still the lead authorizer for most (the local districts work with the Georgia Department of Education, a separate entity from the Commission).

As of December, 91,000 Georgia students were attending 441 charter schools, including 97 “start-up” charter schools, 18 “conversion” charter schools, and 326 “charter system” schools in 32 charter systems, which are regular school districts that have signed charters with the state, according to a recent Education Department report. The number of charter systems is growing, though.

Here is a link to the full report, written by Professor Tim Sass of Georgia State University.

Georgia plans to create an “Achievement School District,” based on the failed model in Tennessee. It promised to take over the state’s lowest performing schools (in the bottom 5%) and move them in five years to the top 25% in test scores by turning them over to charter operators. But the schools it has turned into charters have remained mired in the bottom 5-6%.

Molly Bloom of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes here about the biggest theft in the brief history of charter schools in Georgia. That state is in the process of expanding the number of charters and is considering creating an “Achievement School District,” modeled on the failed ASD in Tennessee, in which low performing schools are turned over to charter operators.

Here is the story of Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter School.

A $12,000 charge at a strip club. Thousands of dollars spent at Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead. ATM withdrawals of hundreds of dollars at a time.

The charges to Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter School should have raised eyebrows. For the top state education officials and corporate executives on the school’s board, they should have set off earsplitting sirens.

Instead, the charges continued for years, siphoning more than $600,000 in taxpayer dollars that should have been spent on students.

Christopher Clemons, the school’s founder, has been charged with fraud and theft in the largest such case in Georgia charter school history.

Clemons left Atlanta after the losses were discovered.

He left a rented townhome strewn with Hermes boxes, lease paperwork for a new BMW, used boarding passes and a Rolex receipt.

He left the school so financially troubled that board members closed it.

He left nearly 200 children with few options.

And he left a cautionary tale for Georgia’s growing charter school movement. Latin Academy, with its all-star board and experienced leader, seemed on track to thrive. But behind that facade of apparent success, the school spent millions of tax dollars with little public scrutiny and operated with a lack of public input foreign to many traditional public schools.

Latin Academy’s academic performance ranked in the top 25 percent of all Atlanta middle schools in an area where neighborhood middle schools are better known for hallway chaos than academics.

Clemons is presently in jail in Colorado, awaiting extradition to Georgia.

In the last decade, the number of students in charter schools has tripled to 91,000, with more growth expected. In addition, the legislature allows entire districts to have “charter-like” freedoms, which means deregulation and freedom from oversight.

Expect more scandals, fraud, corruption, and theft. If men were angels, there would be no reason for oversight or regulations.

Could someone explain why deregulation is supposed to create better education?

Governor Nathan Deal responded to corporate threats to pull out of Georgia by vetoing a far-reaching bill that would have made discrimination against gays legal.


The bill would have given legal protection to anyone who refused service to a gay couple, and government officials who refused to issue marriage licenses would have been protected. The theory of the bill was that it was intended to protect the religious liberty of people who do not approve of gay marriage or of gays in general. Public services could be withheld, based on religious convictions.


Companies such as Disney, Salesforce, and athletic organizations had threatened to withdraw their businesses from Georgia to protect their gay employees. If Apple had any business in Georgia, it would surely have left too, since its CEO Tim Cook is gay. There were even concerns that the Super Bowl might be shifted away from Atlanta. Corporations don’t join these protests because they have gay executives, but because they want to be able to hire the talent they need.


There is the additional problem that if states can pass laws saying that people can refuse to serve customers or clients based on their religious principles, then some might choose to discriminate against Catholics, against Jews, against Muslims, or against any group that offends them. Such laws cannot stand and are best not passed, or if passed, quickly vetoed. They will not be upheld by federal courts in any event.





The state legislature in Georgia is nearing the passage of legislation that would reduce the number of mandated tests and reduce the role of tests in teacher evaluations.


Legislators are responding to complaints about the sheer quantity of tests. They also recognize that the state’s test-based evaluation has caused high attition, especially among new teachers.


Not everyone was pleased with the reduction in testing pressure:


“Some still oppose the rollback in Georgia, including the group StudentsFirst, which pushes for better public schools and more alternatives to them. At a hearing in the House last week, Georgia director Michael O’Sullivan said research supports the use of test results in a third to a half of teacher job reviews, and Ryan Mahoney, regional director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said students need to get used to taking tests since they’ll be taking them to get a driver’s license, to gain admission to college and to get a job. “Tests are a part of life,” he said.”



Unfortunately, the same proposal adds tests for children in first and second grades, “to be sure they are on track.” On track for what? For taking standardized tests in third grade. Can’t trust their teacher’s judgment. Tests know best.