Education silos: Connect dots and funding so children are better served

Since retiring in July as superintendent of the Gainesville, Ga., schools, Dr. Merrianne Dyer has been consulting in other states through both the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson and the Scholastic Community Affairs division.

Here is a column she wrote on programs that hold promise of breaking down funding and programmatic silos in education.

By Merrianne Dyer

082113rohrer“The real difficulty in changing the course of any enterprise lies not in developing new ideas but in escaping the old ones.” This statement by British economist John Maynard Keynes should be considered as the funding formula for Georgia education is studied and re-evaluated.

Do we have practices in place that systematically analyze and then dedicate funding to overcoming our barriers, or does funding follow formulas dictated by policy compliance?

There clearly is a need to reexamine Georgia’s 1985 Quality Basic Education funding However, if we approach it with the same fundamental idea, we will fail in developing a formula that will best serve Georgia’s schools.

Georgia schools have plenty of “parts,” a multitude of policy, programs, and practices in the instructional realm, from non-profits, the governor’s office and state and federal programs.  The problem lies in that these parts predominantly work in silos and the work and funds are fragmented.

There is a need to focus on systematic organizational management to bring these parts together to plan holistically to leverage funding to address the barriers of our current reality.

Georgia now has the sixth highest childhood poverty rate in the nation, according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey Profile. The Southern Education Foundation reports 57 percent of Georgia’s students are considered low-income.

Eighty-seven percent of the school districts in Georgia serve a majority of low-income students. Since Georgia is a leader in attracting business, many schools also face a higher degree of mobility as families relocate here for jobs. The combination of increasing poverty and mobility presents basic challenges.

Developing children of low-wealth and unstable backgrounds into productive and responsible working citizens is critical in maintaining the social and fiscal well-being in our state. Therefore, our collective focus and concern in Georgia should be on the barriers our children are experiencing and putting comprehensive systems in support to break down those barriers.

Funding policy now follows prescribed and rigid guidelines for individual students with parameters as to how the funds can be spent. We might consider a shift to the new idea of using those funds to create more flexible and differentiated school environments.

For example, braiding the School Improvement and 21st Century funds with state dollars would more efficiently and effectively serve a school rather than expending funds using the “rules” of all three.

Important consideration should also be given to removing the compliance demands from teachers and schools that interfere with their critical work with children and that have not shown they improve learning outcomes.

Recent state policy revisions, like the Georgia Juvenile Justice Code, explicitly call for a comprehensive school-community support system that focuses on prevention and intervention.  However, states and local school districts continue to operate primarily in departmental fragmentation with separate funding streams.

They struggle to develop an established systematic way to collaborate and utilize the resources together.  As states and local school districts explore the way to bring about more holistic methods, promising models are emerging.

Under the leadership of Tommy Bice, state superintendent of schools, and Linda Felton Smith, director of learning supports, Alabama has included a comprehensive system of learning supports for students in its Four Pillars of the Strategic Plan. To put this plan into action, the Alabama Department of Education is implementing a common, state-wide method so the agency and local superintendents can operate in a common framework.

Alabama has training and supports in place in 40 districts and will continue to extend the work over the next three years until all districts are able to sustain and operate in the framework. The process begins with an analysis as to how the state and district are now using program funds and practices, identifies redundancies and waste and then moves to developing a new operational system that focuses on removing and addressing any barriers.

Since the work began, Alabama has seen a 25 percent decrease in their rate of student absentees in the pilot schools.  The work in the learning supports framework has contributed to an increase in the four-year cohort graduation rate from 72 percent to 80 percent statewide.

Louisiana has also done considerable work with this framework and has a method of reducing the rigid funding requirements so that school districts and state departments can braid federal and state funds in education, health and human services. The use of a unified system of learning supports framework reduces financial waste.

The most well-intended policies and practices will never reach full potential if not implemented in a comprehensive and unified system. As we move forward in Georgia, new leaders must realize their work is to mobilize all players:  schools, families, and communities, to guide a systematic process to focus on using the resources we have not to simply comply with regulations but to address barriers and move Georgia’s children forward. It is a matter of both financial and social equity.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"Alabama has training and supports in place in 40 districts and will continue to extend the work over the next three years until all districts are able to sustain and operate in the framework. The process begins with an analysis as to how the state and district are now using program funds and practices, identifies redundancies and waste and then moves to developing a new operational system that focuses on removing and addressing any barriers.


Since the work began, Alabama has seen a 25 percent decrease in their rate of student absentees in the pilot schools.  The work in the learning supports framework has contributed to an increase in the four-year cohort graduation rate from 72 percent to 80 percent statewide."

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Outstanding article.  This is exactly what I was writing about years ago on this blog when I mentioned that having public charter schools not aligned with public school districts would create too much instructional, assessment, and financial fragmentation in education in Georgia.  My argument was for more, not less, cohesion in all of the school districts in Georgia for the purpose of serving all of Georgia's students well and with cohesion.


It is not surprising to me that 57% of Georgia's students are in poverty.  And, our Republican ALEC-dominated legislature has believed in cutting our "government" public schools' budgets by 5 billion dollars in the last 8 years.  This must change.

dean_leeper
dean_leeper

"Sorry Ms. Dyer. Your insightful article went over our heads so I guess we'll just ignore the content of your article."

eTalker
eTalker

This society has always implemented policies and procedures to educate as few students as possible.  We spend so much energy on trying to prove that certain people just can't learn.  We attribute it to their wealth, number of parents, shoe size, etc.  Any child can learn but not everyone can teach any child.  Far too often people get JOBS in education and lack what is needed to educate the children they are hired to teach.  So, they come up with a study that confirms their notion that "those" people just can't learn.



Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@eTalker


What policies are you talking about?  Providing a public education to every child is actually more than many countries do, so I am not sure what you mean about educating "as few students as possible."  


Some factors do indeed make it much harder for a child to learn.  It is harder to learn if you are hungry.  It is harder to learn if there are no quiet spaces at home to support studying.  It is harder to learn if your parents do not speak English.  It is harder to learn if you are expected to take care of younger siblings.  So yes, those types of students are harder to teach because they need more support from the teacher and the school.  A teacher may be perfectly suited to "educate" the students they are hired to teach, but if you give them a classroom of students who are struggling to learn for one reason or another, even the best teacher will not be able to help them all.  There is a tipping point.  I have been in education long enough to know that  once the number of struggling students in my classroom passes a certain percentage, my overall effectiveness with ALL of the students is reduced.  Throw in some of the behavior disorders that tend to accompany frustrated learners, and you have a very real problem.  Just blaming it on "bad teachers" is the easy way out and serves to shift focus away from how parents, culture, politics and other societal factors impact student success.

redweather
redweather

@Quidocetdiscit @eTalker  "I have been in education long enough to know that  once the number of struggling students in my classroom passes a certain percentage, my overall effectiveness with ALL of the students is reduced."


That bears repeating, especially when the subject is teacher evaluations.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Ms. Dyer complains about the "rules" attached to funding - does she not see that a lot of those rules are coming from the Feds?


As far as poverty - I came from a poor family and succeeded, because even though poor, my family valued education.  It is not the poverty, per se, it is the REASON for the poverty.  When the reason for the poverty is uneducated mother, who gets pregnant as a teen, uses drugs, and is not married to the "baby daddy", then you can pretty much bet that the child of this poverty is at great risk of failure.  But schools should not be saddled with trying to fix the POVERTY - just make rules to try to fix the SYMPTOMS (attendance, discipline).  And when you add the one thing that schools DO control - social promotion - the SCHOOL has pretty much doomed the student to failure.  Do schools not see this?

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog  There's poor, and then there's dysfunctional.  The distinction, however, tends to get glossed over these days.

popacorn
popacorn

Poverty does not make one dumb. Being dumb makes one poor. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Quidocetdiscit @popacorn  So how do you combat that (low birth weight due to poor pre-natal care)?  We already offer programs for pre-natal care and they are not used by many.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn


Well, begin smart while being poor makes it a LOT harder to reach your full potential.  


Plus, there are some cases in which being poor CAN "make one dumb" - or at least, less intelligent.  The poor are less likely to receive pre-natal care, which can lead to low birthweight and poorer nutrition for the fetus, both of which can affect intellectual development.  Poor families are more likely to live in homes that still have lead contamination due to lead paint, which can also slow intellectual growth.  Being poor means less access to educational opportunities which allow for the development of higher intellectual skills.  


Of course all this is a lot less pithy and does not make nearly as nice a bumpersticker as your little quote.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog @Quidocetdiscit @popacorn


I think we need better programs to reach out to the poor and help them take advantages of the programs out there.  Too few of them are aware of the help they can receive.  I hate for schools to take on additional responsibilities, but perhaps in the evenings, schools could function as community centers in which the poor could find access to the assistance they might need.  Just a thought.

popacorn
popacorn

Plenty of programs.Plenty of help. Plenty of food. But if you're too lazy/dumb/irresponsible to find it and get it, you get what we see today. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Quidocetdiscit @class80olddog @popacorn  Or maybe the answer is to have programs designed to make sure that girls who cannot take care of pregnancies and babies do not get pregnant!  First step is to eliminate programs that ENCOURAGE pregnancy (welfare).

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"Georgia now has the sixth highest childhood poverty rate in the nation, according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey Profile. The Southern Education Foundation reports 57 percent of Georgia’s students are considered low-income."

But yet, Obama issues an Executive Order that will guarantee even more low income, third world invaders into our neighborhoods and schools.  Go figure....

BTW, it is not "poverty" that is driving down schools, it is low IQ, which also is a determiner of poverty.  And the death spiral of American society continues. So yeah, bring on more third worlders...

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Dyer is complaining that schools have to keep money separated.  I.e., if funds are issued to schools for a particular purpose, they cannot be placed into a general fund and used as administrators see fit.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Lee_CPA2


Third world invaders?  


Comments like that make any valid point you might want to make less likely to be taken seriously.


EdUktr
EdUktr

If relative poverty were the reason for poor academic achievement, students in places like Shanghai certainly wouldn't be leading the world in math and science. 

This writer is just another liberal using the poverty scapegoat to excuse poor performance in traditional public schools. And to plead for yet more income redistribution.

Part and parcel of liberal policies repudiated by voters on November 4th:

http://tinyurl.com/md4q8e3

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@EdUktr @Quidocetdiscit



Perhaps you should read this report by The Atlantic - just one of several which suggest that the pisa scores out of China are not all they appear to be:


http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/12/on-those-stunning-shanghai-test-scores/67654/


Students in China are only given equal and free access to education for nine years.  After that, it becomes a competition with only the *best* students or the ones with money being allowed into higher education.  This makes for fierce competition, bribery, suicides, etc.  especially since there is no social safety net in China so, the one child is meant to support aging parents.  I have taught students from China.  The tell of being told they were "stupid" and other abuses such as "beaten" by teachers if they did not score well on tests.  Professors I have spoken with tell me of graduate students from China who have incredible test scores, but very little ability to think creatively or critically.   This supports my experiences with students who come from China into my classroom.  They often have very advanced skills in mathematical calculations, but have difficulty applying those skills without direct instruction as to what to do.  They are the product of a system that focuses almost exclusively on "teaching test taking skills."  Although that seems to be the push in the US these days, I am not sure we want to emulate the Chinese approach to education. 

EdUktr
EdUktr

@Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr

I too have years of teaching experience in East Asia, and saw firsthand how individual dedication to learning—not excuses—produces results. 

Scapegoating poverty is a growth industry among American liberals stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge that the welfare state has destroyed the black family, and is well on its way to doing likewise across society. 

Children are and will continue to be the victims.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@EdUktr @Quidocetdiscit


I am not making "excuses".  After over 20 years in the classroom, I am well aware of the problems facing our schools - and I know American students in general lack the motivation of many of the students in other countries.  I doubt very much you would see many American students risking their lives to try and get an education as you do in other countries. 


On the other hand, if I could "beat" my students when they did not do well in class, I assure you they would also be more "dedicated" to  learning.... (Not that I would want to, by any means.)  


I do not think it wise to "dismiss" poverty as being an important determinant in how students do well in school.  Do you think it is purely coincidental that those districts who have lower poverty levels in Georgia also tend to have the highest test scores, or that those with the most poverty tend to have the lowest scores?  Being poor does not "cause" one to do poorly in school, but there are numerous factors that of along with poverty which DO have a strong impact on student achievement.  It is not a "liberal" plot to try and address this... dismissing the link between poverty and school achievement is shortsighted.  


And I am not sure how pointing out a link between poverty and student achievement is somehow equated with "unwillingness to acknowledge the welfare state"?  Are you saying that without social services somehow poverty would magically disappear?  You did  say you had taught in East Asia- so in places like China and India with little to no social services are there no poor people?  No homelessness?  No starving people on the street?  Is that what you are claiming?

EdUktr
EdUktr

@Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr

My earlier post pointedly noted the demise of the black family, as a result of the welfare state (in its present form). 

In fact, if there's one factor more responsible than any other for the gap in test scores between Atlanta and Shanghai—surely it's the 73% illegitimacy rate among blacks. Along with rises in illegitimacy among other groups.

This president has callously squandered the chance of a lifetime to candidly address that situation and impact the lives of generations. Shame on him and his apologists.


Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@EdUktr


You must not know much about the educational system in China.  The students who are acing those tests in Shanghai are NOT representative of the general population in China. Nor do they represent the urban poor.

BearCasey
BearCasey

@EdUktr  Since 1980, income has been redistributed upward.  Ahhh, November 2016 and Hillary beckons!