Experts: Hire committed and visionary leaders for recovery school district. Hasn’t Atlanta already done that?

The experts yesterday at the joint House-Senate meeting on recovery school districts provided a clear summation of what Georgia needs to seek in a leader to oversee low-performing schools seized by the state: The candidate has to be committed to the tenet all students can learn, unwilling to accept excuses, inspirational and smart.

Gov. Nathan Deal is proposing to seize control of some of the 141 lowest-performing schools in Georgia by moving them into a new state-run Opportunity School District. (His plan calls for 20 schools a year to be added, capping his district at 100.)

Of those 141 struggling schools, 60 are in metro Atlanta. With 27 schools on the list, APS has the highest number eligible for Opportunity District takeover. DeKalb County is next with 26; Fulton has seven and Clayton three. No schools from Cobb or Gwinnett are on the list.

The plan would empower the state to run these struggling schools, close them, partner with local school districts or convert them into charter schools. (Georgia law already allows them to become charter schools. APS has 17 charter schools. )

The Opportunity School District would be overseen by a new education czar who would report to the governor.

Deal’s plan hinges on recruiting a charismatic leader to pilot these schools to success. But Atlanta has already done that.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen waves to spectators during the parade featuring superintendent at the homecoming festivities at Booker T. Washington High School. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen waves to spectators during the parade at the homecoming festivities at Booker T. Washington High School. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

And the woman only just arrived. The state ought to give Dr. Meria Carstarphen time to prove her mettle before it starts gathering up APS schools for its Opportunity District.

It makes no sense to put another high-salaried education leader on the APS case when the system has already hired a nationally recognized wunderkind to do the job.

How many visionary, six-figure-salaried leaders does a system of 56,000 students need? Atlanta doesn’t need another school chief for its under performing schools.

So who does need the state’s help? Districts in the far reaches of Georgia without the resources or location appeal of an Atlanta or a DeKalb.

Unfortunately, those remote systems are the least likely to benefit from an Opportunity District.

Over the years, I’ve talked to a half dozen bright young teachers who moved to NOLA to work in or lead the charter schools that arose from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Each of those teachers cited two factors in their decision, the urge to be part of an education experiment never tried before in the United States and the desire to live in New Orleans.

I believe Georgia can entice young educators to metro Atlanta to work in schools taken over by the state. I don’t believe the state will be as successful getting young idealists to move to rural Georgia schools that struggle now with recruitment.

There are good reasons charter school companies focus expansion on urban centers. Rural districts lack two critical elements: Resources and a deep talent pool.

I wrote a Sunday editorial a few weeks ago, in which I raise several issues worth discussing here.

Among them:

While New Orleans presented a compelling and single reform target, failing schools in Georgia are scattered. They are not conveniently clustered for easy coordination. And the lowest performers are alternative high schools. It’s not likely Deal envisions filling his Opportunity District with high schools of last resort.

Tennessee’s recovery district model – the Achievement School District — picks and chooses the struggling schools based on academic need, opportunity for impact, feeder pattern trends and stakeholder input. Of the 23 schools under Tennessee state control, 22 are in Memphis and serve poor African-American students. In three years, ASD — which both runs schools and authorizes charter companies to operate others — has moved math scores, but not reading/language arts.

The main question we ought to ask is why Deal and the Legislature are turning to New Orleans or Memphis for a blueprint for success when they can just drive 20 minutes to Gwinnett County?

A new Wallace Foundation report celebrated Gwinnett as a national model in training effective school leaders and building a pipeline of strong leaders.

A two-time winner of the prestigious Broad Prize for high-achieving urban districts, Gwinnett has a greater percentage of low-income students reaching advanced academic levels than most other districts.

In fact, Gwinnett boasts a better track record with struggling students than the recovery districts Deal is holding out as exemplars. And the county has done so without creating a new state bureaucracy or handing its schools over to private operators.

Why aren’t we looking at successful reform efforts in our own back yard? Can someone explain it to me?

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

89 comments
Concerned educator
Concerned educator

The other question to be asked.  New Orleans RSD is the model?  It does get an A from the Brookings Institution for choice and competition, but it gets a D from the Louisiana Department of Education (up from an F in 2013) and pulls the lowest score among all districts in the state based on test scores and graduation rates.  In fact, does Atlanta really want to model itself after the worst district in the 49th ranked state of Louisiana?


Do your homework and, yes, look to Gwinnett!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Okay everybody, grab a chair. Clayton, move your chair there.  Dekalb, over there.  Dougherty, there.  APS?  Aw hell, just toss it over the rail.

{{raises hand}}

Yes?

Uh, you do realize the ship is sinking, don't you?

ROFLMAO.  In a few years, the next governor will be talking about his "reforms to fix education" and the chair shuffling will begin anew.  Meanwhile, everyone ignores the elephant in the room, which is, the schools on the "recovery list" are majority black/hispanic with many being >90% black schools.  After 60+ years of chair shuffling, the politically correct cannot bring themselves to admit that there is a racial IQ component that cannot be ignored - but ignore it they do.

Or, as the Ayn Rand quote goes, "You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality".

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2


As a teacher of primarily black people for 16 of my 35 years in teaching, I can tell you, and this reading audience, that the problem has NOTHING to do with IQ.  The elephant in the room is slavery and its progeny, racial segregation of ill-perceived "superior and inferior" people.


Instead of desiring to help correct what our nation created, you only want to criticize and cast blame.  In my humble opinion from the words you have written, you lack both wisdom and compassion.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 


You left out my very important word, "ill-perceived" before my words "superior and inferior."


People are not horses.


I rest my case.

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

@MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2  It's not slavery, Mary Beth. Although I do know you love to wish it so.
Here's proof -- women were literally chattel. Women had the right to vote AFTER blacks got their right to vote.
Women STILL have discrimination against them and a harder lot in life yet women are at the very TOP of the education pyramid.
If Mary Beth's theory were true, women would be at the very bottom of the education pyramid. Yet women succeed enormously well in education.
Also, look at Frederick Douglas -- he WAS a slave and he spoke and wrote beautifully and eloquently. He was very well educated.
The black men and women of the 1950s civil rights movement VALUED education. They thought of it as a good thing, something to strive to achieve.
That's not true anymore.
Education is called "acting white" and is discouraged.
Football and nasty vulgar language is valued.
Mary Beth, you're just wrong. You have an agenda and you use this blog everyday to spout your racist diatribes.
I hope you get a life because you need something better to do everyday. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaryElizabethSings

Let's see, slavery ended nearly 160 years ago, segregation ended 50 years ago.  "Superior and Inferior people", your words, not mine.

Tell me, is a Kentucky Thoroughbred "superior" to a Clydesdale?  Not if you're talking about draft horses.  The fact remains there are differences between the races, but the cultural marxists don't want to talk about.  Much easier to point blame to something that happened generations ago and in the end, by ignoring the root cause, they perpetuate the problem.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Wascatlady, Here is what Wilbanks does well -- he recognizes building-level talent, develops it and trusts it.

He also has an effective organization.I pulled together a page a few years ago for the AJC on Georgia's Presidential Scholars and asked each school system to send me photos and bios of their winners.

Gwinnett had their stuff to me in about an hour.

It took other districts three days.

When I was in Leadership DeKalb, we toured a DeKalb elementary school with an amazing principal. A year later, the man was in Gwinnett because he said DeKalb blocked many of his reforms.


class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney  Perhaps he COULD do a lot of good in DeKalb!  "A year later, the man was in Gwinnett because he said DeKalb blocked many of his reforms."  Of course, it also goes back to the BOE of each county.  What good is a good superintendent if the Board doesn't allow him to do anything?

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@MaureenDowney -- Wilbanks attended one of the Deming Study Group meetings back when I was the group’s president.  Beverly Hall never did.  So could that possibly have even a smidgen to do with “what Wilbanks does well?”

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

So,I guess what we should do is move Alvin Wilbanks to ATL schools.  Let HIM solve the problems.  (What I see in Gwinnett is a critical mass of families that expect their schools to work, rather than great leadership, but perhaps I am wrong.)


Actually, I do see an advantage to the Governor trying this:  Given the same students and their families and the same money, can the state move the needle?  IF so, we all learn from them.  If not...some of these know-it-alls will shut up.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady  "What I see in Gwinnett is a critical mass of families that expect their schools to work, rather than great leadership, but perhaps I am wrong."


You are not wrong.


I would LOVE to see Alvin Wilbanks moved to either APS or DeKalb county and see how he fares.  My guess is that after 5 years, they would still be failing and Alvin Wilbanks would be vilified as an incompetent leader.

bu2
bu2

@Wascatlady 

Agree with you.  You need parents willing to put pressure on the school district to fix problems and not settle.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady


The public, however, must analyze closely the data released by the state when Georgia takes over schools.  How is that data possibly deliberately slanted?  How could that data be explained by analyzing it in depth?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady  I like the data they DON'T give you now.  I have tried to find attendance data on all of the schools.  If you happen to know where to find it, could you please post a link?


Thanks

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog


We must attempt to love, not to judge, others.  Try to exercise historical vision.  All families are not the products of the same situations.  We must help, with compassion and historical insight, as FBI Head James Comey implied in his speech (below).

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

@MaryElizabethSings @class80olddog  Of course we MUST judge others!
We must judge our elected leaders for every decision they make and for every situation they don't address.
We must judge parents. We must say "It is NOT ok to allow your kid to skip school." That's a judgment. That's appropriate and that's the RIGHT
thing to do.
Until YOU are willing to grow a back bone and say to lazy parents that they SHOULD read to their kids and they SHOULD make their kids go to school, NO school will ever succeed. A teacher can NOT teach an empty chair.  

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

@class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady  Yes Class80, attendance data. and you know what else matters? TEACHER attendance data. My children have good attendance but their teachers do not.
The school is frequently taking the teachers out of the classroom for meetings during the school day. My child's teacher has already missed more than ten days of school.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Betsy Ross1776 


I was very successful in my teaching career, Betsy.  One thing I tried to instill in my Advanced Reading students was for them not to think in stereotypes nor to assess others based on stereotypical images. I believe that to think in stereotypes is a simplistic way of perceiving and that perceiving simplistically will bring destruction, not enlightenment, to our world.


Of course, we assess others, and we encourage them to attend school if we assess that too much failure to attend school is occurring, but we do this coming from love not from harsh judgment toward the student and his/her family. I believe Jesus said, "Judge not, that you not be judged."  We must have the humility to understand that "there, but for the Grace of God, could go I."  We are not to be judge and jury of our less fortunate neighbors; we are here to give them understanding and a hand-up so that they can better provide for themselves.  My wise father often said, "A slap on the back gets more results than a kick in the as@."  :-)  I have always found that way of handling students to be much more effective than a setting a harshly judgmental tone with them. 


Please take a few minutes to read the true story of the success I had with Robert, who was dropping out of high school, by extending love, not harsh judgment to him, for his lack of attendance, in the link below.  We must always seek enlightenment through asking "What are the causes of this lack of attendance?" with each student individually, for each student will have individual reasons why he or she is not attending school.  Addressing the deeper reasons with love and with care for others goes a lot further toward success than harsh criticism has been my experience.


https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/roberts-story-love-never-fails/

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Dcdc, You have no faith that any leader of APS ever brings in can make a difference, but the person hired at the state level can?

Why does the state have the magic touch? Why do you believe state action in education will be so much more fruitful? Can you point to any state where school takeover has markedly improved schools?  You can start your research with New Jersey, which pioneered the concept, and then move onto Philadelphia, where it was also tried. I'll give you a plot spoiler: Neither state improved the schools they took over, even with an infusion of new funding that Georgia will not have.

As to the state's ability to hire transformational leaders:

I spent many years covering child welfare, an agency in Georgia that has had more "saviors" hired than any other -- all at the state level by governors.

Spend an hour looking at the history of child welfare, including Alan Judd's recent articles in the AJC and check back with us on the state's track record of hiring effective leaders.

Here's the simple truth on this issue: Saviors aren't the issue, although a strong leader is important. Choosing reforms with research-proven effectiveness and giving them time are the keys. Every new governor who comes to office upends what the guy before him did, We are always starting over in this state and never getting very far as a result.

By the way, listen to this interview with Carstarphen and then tell us you don't think APS should be allowed to stay the course and the state should stay out of the way.

http://wabe.org/post/atlanta-public-schools-superintendent-ready-fix-broken-system


class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney  I agree with a lot of what you say here.  It is NOT just the leader at the top.  It depends upon, as you say "choosing reforms with research-proven effectiveness".  I happen to believe that those reforms should target my trinity of Discipline, attendance, and social promotion.  If Carstarphen identifies these as the major problem areas to be addressed and sets in place programs to correct them, then I think she will succeed.  If she ignores them or clings to the educational "brain-washing" (that says social promotion HAS to be done, that discipline of black children is wrong) , then I believe she will have no more luck than any of her predecessors.


I vote to give her a few years to see what she can do.


And, no, I don't think the State will do any better with ANY school system unless THEY address some of the root causes of failure.

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney 

None of the reforms work unless you get buy-in.  You have to change the culture in some districts or schools.


Great school districts (and businesses and athletic programs) stay good because of a culture of excellence, regardless of demographic changes and leadership changes (as long as the leader isn't bad).  My former school district is still recognized as one of the best in that state, despite being 40% white instead of 95% white and less upper middle class and more middle middle class.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@MaureenDowney Maureen, as long as the "solution" is the same monolithic massive public school approach, where one size fits all, then I absolutely have no faith in any APS or DCSS leader to bring about positive results.  And the "savior" leaders in the past in these systems have done nothing to change this approach.


Until we accept that it's idiocy to expect young at risk boys to sit at a desk and listen to boring lectures, then we are destined to fail.  Only an approach that is tailored to this very specific set of kids will make a positive difference.  And we've seen that only small focused schools - run either as a charter or a private school - can make this happen.  


And it's clear - without any question - that APS and DCSS can't make that happen.  So time for someone else to step in.

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

@MaureenDowney  Here's why the State can do it but APS cannot, Maureen Downey -- APS is racist. APS will only hire black candidates.

When a racist district cuts out over 70% of the population based on race, APS ends up getting what it gets, a superintendent whose top credential is the color of his or her skin.
This is also what's wrong with DeKalb county schools.

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

@MaureenDowney  No, don't stay the course. Carstarphen, when she learned that Mayor Reed  would not give APS the deeds to schools to sell -- what did she do?
Anyone?

Carstarphen HIRED MORE CONSULTANTS!
Yes, let's see how that star addresses problems -- by spending more money on the central office.

AND she has already spent the emergency fund!
In seven months she has spent millions and millions and has nothing to show for it.
She texts, she tweets, she smiles and gives interviews with lots of catchy sound bites that media types love to quote...but she has done nothing.
And we have nothing to show for it.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

"The state ought to give Dr. Meria Carstarphen time to prove her mettle before it starts gathering up APS schools for its Opportunity District."


And of course, Maureen would have written then when Beverly Hall (and her predecessors) arrived as well.  And she will write it again when the next APS or DCSS "savior" arrives on the scene.  But since those systems are dysfunctional, a leader will have only limited success no matter.


So fortunately we have a gov who isn't willing to accept excuses, and is willing to take dramatic steps.  I'm looking forward to hearing of the thousands of at risk kids who make it out of our current Urban Public School hexx holes, and better their lives due to a better educational environment.  


Meanwhile, all of you who care more about our "Public School System", and "Evil Profit Hungry Corporations" than about the success of the individual student - you are the problem.  And thank goodness we have a state govt that is willing to care more about the kids, than the "system" - unlike you all.

Astropig
Astropig

@dcdcdc


We all know in our heart of hearts that this is about control. The eduacracy is not about  to give up 100 schools and their funding and their political clout and everything else to an outsider that they don't control. It would be far better if everybody would just be honest about that.


Nathan Deal is no saint.He's a politician and a pretty good one.But I believe that he believes that this is something that needs to be done for the students of these schools.He's even said publicly that if there is a better plan out there,put it on the table and lets discuss it. All we've gotten from the educrat cartel is a million reasons why his plan won't work,while they can't explain why theirs doesn't. I say that from what I've seen of the schools so far mentioned,there is simply nothing to lose by trying something bold and different.


And as for letting reforms work,the press and the apologists have been waiting almost 50 years for a great society to emerge from their theories and we're further away from utopia than ever.

newsphile
newsphile

This sounds like pay back to the for-profit charter school management companies and private school supporters who donated heavily to Deal's campaign.  We heard him say that if you fund his campaign, he will return the favor. He and daughter-in-law made a lot of promises. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@sneakpeakintoeducation @RoyalDawg


I will go further to state that profit-making has NO place in public education.  Whenever profit is the main focus, then there will be too much priority on competition, not cooperation.  Whenever profit is the main focus, and competition is the outcome, then cut-throat tactics surface. Cut-throat tactics have NO place in the public education of children.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

How cynical! Perhaps this is a plan to benefit children instead of adults?

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@RoyalDawg


If it was to benefit the children he wouldn't be instituting failed reform policies that haven't worked elsewhere in the country. If that is the case then we look at who is benefiting and the clear answer is the charter industry. Not cynicism, just fact.


ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@MaureenDowney 

Are you advocating in this post, as some commenters seem to think, that the Governor should consider Dr. Carstarphen for the Opportunity District Czar position?

I don't read the post that way. I read it that you are saying give her the chance to do her work before letting the Governor take her schools away. 

EdUktr
EdUktr

@ProHumanitate @MaureenDowney

Let Dr. Carstarphen show progress with the schools remaining in her charge—and other assignments might well recommend themselves.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

."We must resist the lazy shortcuts of cynicism and approach him with respect and decency.”  - FBI Director James Comey

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


All too often, I read disappointingly cynical posts on this blog regarding black students and their parents.  AJC columnist Jay Bookman has this evening posted an excellent column regarding the reflections of FBI Director James Comey on the present state of police cynicism and why that is true and how it must be overcome.  Comey's words are sensitive and thoughtful, as well as impacting.


Bookman, in one sentence, mentions a comparison between cops and teachers in that they both must work with the "failures" in society.  I have realized that cynicism is a coward's path and is not productive in solving problems.  All must have hope and a way out.  Teachers and cops both enter their professions in order to be of service to others.


I urge all readers of this blog to read Jay Bookman's "Thank You," column to FBI Director James Comey at the following link:


http://jaybookman.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/12/to-fbi-director-james-comey-thank-you/


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To all:

On Gwinnett’s demographics: What’s pointed out by the folks who study Gwinnett's success is that the system has not lost ground despite a large and rapid demographic shift. Despite higher poverty and ESOL numbers, Gwinnett has maintained performance.  All indicators are that Gwinnett will continue to do well even as its population continues to change.

That is what makes the district notable.

As to those challenging what Meria Carstarphen has done in her six months, let me cite the comments made yesterday by the former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans when questioned about the academic performance of schools in the state takeover district.

A state senator noted the average ACT score in New Orleans before Katrina was 14. Now, a decade later, the average score in the recovery district is 16, a rise of two points. Former CEO Neerav Kingsland agreed the district was still a long way from excellence, but stressed improvement takes time.

“We have gone from an F to C minus," he said.

Those of you who believe I am canonizing Carstarphen miss the point. She is everything Deal wants in a recovery district superintendent and she is already here. Let her do her job before balkanizing her district.

Will she succeed? I have no idea. She is working round the clock and she is getting good reviews from many people, but that is no guarantee. She has to be here long enough to see her reforms take root.

Georgia lost ground from jumping from one reform to another before the first had time to seed. Sometimes, we jumped from one to another and then back to the first.


Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney


"A state senator noted the average ACT score in New Orleans before Katrina was 14. Now, a decade later, the average score in the recovery district is 16, a rise of two points. Former CEO Neerav Kingsland agreed the district was still a long way from excellence, but stressed improvement takes time.

“We have gone from an F to C minus," he said.


...But it is  demonstable progress.How can we be assured that with no changes at all that the score in the old system would not have gone down? By my math,that 2 doesn't look like a big number,but it is a 14% increase.And if your child went from an "f" to a "c minus",would you tell them that they had failed, and that maybe they should just give up? Or would you encourage their progress and shoot for a higher grade?

EdUktr
EdUktr

@MaureenDowney

Wonder how the illegitimacy rates within Gwinnett and the City of Atlanta compare? Would a vast difference in the percentage of single-parent households surprise anyone beyond Maureen?

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Wascatlady @MaureenDowney   Many people from NOLA were evacuated to Texas, GA, and other states and settled there.  Their children are attending school elsewhere.  There has been a significant change in the make-up of student populations pre and post Katrina. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney  "Georgia lost ground from jumping from one reform to another before the first had time to seed."


You mean like with Common Core?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady



"he candidate has to be committed to the tenet all students can learn, unwilling to accept excuses, inspirational and smart."


And before Maria C we had Bev Hall.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Sorry, class 80, I just read your post at the bottom.