Opinion: Gov. Deal doesn’t have to look to New Orleans for inspiration. Georgia models exist.

Dr. Jim Arnold is the former superintendent of Pelham City Schools in Georgia. He blogs here.

Today, Arnold takes up a topic of great interest on the blog — Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to get the state into the business of taking over failing schools through the model used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

You can read another view on Deal’s plan here.

By Jim Arnold

Name a state program or agency that you would describe as a model of efficiency, effectiveness and progress. I know. Me neither.

One of the last solutions anybody would come up with that really wanted to solve a problem would be more governmental involvement. So why does Gov. Nathan Deal think that a new state agency disguised as the Opportunity School District would fare any better?

I’m not sure he does. I think Gov. Deal promised himself into an educational corner during the heat of an election and had to come up with something, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal happened to visit on his way to Washington and said, “You should see what we pulled off in New Orleans. We nearly doubled the number of charter schools and things are going so well I might even run for president.”

After Katrina, school choice became the standard in New Orleans. But how do parents choose? (AJC File Photo)

After Katrina, school choice became the standard in New Orleans. Should Georgia copy what New Orleans did?  (AJC File Photo)

But wait a minute. Are things in New Orleans really going that well for education? In the early fall of 2014, the Cowen Institute at Tulane University withdrew its entire report touting the enormous academic improvements for the Recovery School District in NOLA.

Someone ­– gasp — had cooked the books and used selected data to make a report that presented the RSD in a favorable academic light.

Using accurate data comparing the RSD with other public schools in Louisiana shows the RSD charters perform consistently in the bottom third of all schools. The vast majority of charters in Louisiana, except for those with a selective admissions process, are rated D or F by their own state. The RSD we are supposed to emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.

The latest Louisiana DOE testing results puts the RSD at the 17th percentile among all public school districts in the state.

Those schools taken over in New Orleans and converted to charters perform at a rate below 83 percent of all Louisiana schools in spite of the fact a special law was passed that allowed the state to take over failing schools.

Corporate reformers and privatizers of public education have used selective bogus data to promote exaggerated reports of academic progress of students in the RSD to encourage other states to emulate the New Orleans model. Maybe, they believe that if others go along with what’s turned out to be a really bad idea they won’t look so silly all by themselves. Retractions of these reports are rarely mentioned, and the urban legend of miraculous improvements continues unchallenged.

  • Six percent of the high school seniors in the RSD scored high enough to qualify for admission to a Louisiana university.
  • Since 2005, average RSD ACT scores have improved 2 percent to 16.4, among the lowest in the state. This is the model we want? If the goal is to increase the number of charter schools there are simpler ways to do it.  If the goal is to help students in schools struggling to meet state requirements there are better paths to follow than imitating New Orleans or Tennessee and creating what amounts to a new school district in Georgia.

Gov. Deal also says it will take a constitutional amendment to make his plan work. He also said more money is not the solution to the problem of failing schools. Those two statements create a conundrum. Will a constitutional amendment vote, the preparation and advertising and legislative expense it entails plus yet another layer or three of bureaucracy not cost additional money?

Has anyone estimated just how much that might be? What about costs above and beyond what might be available for those failing schools outside the Atlanta area? It might be a good idea for somebody to figure up exactly what the governor’s talking about here in additional expenditures or at least an estimate of new costs and old costs and where the additional money might come from. Yes, additional money.

Don’t kid yourself. Fighting the effects of poverty won’t be free, and the further you go from the city limits of Atlanta the more it’s going to cost. Teachers might move to New Orleans because, well, it’s New Orleans.  Rural Georgia might not have the same attraction, even with all the free gnats you can eat.

Then there are questions about the path itself. A superintendent that reports directly to the governor?  A way to get around educational red tape or a trial run for doing away with our elected state superintendent of schools?

Eliminating rules, laws and regulations that hinder student achievement? If there are rules and laws and regulations that hinder student achievement in any way at any school, why is that rule, law or regulation allowed to stand?

What defense could any legislator possibly have for supporting rules and regulations that inhibit student achievement — unless, of course, those rules and regulations were intended to make things difficult for those public government (pronounced gummint) anti-prayer, anti-God communist schools that use up all the tax money that might be better spent on market-based solutions and vouchers and private schools and more ALEC initiatives?

If the goal is to help students in struggling schools, there are several options Gov. Deal might want to explore before creating an educational tangent to nowhere. Perhaps the first thing might be to talk to Georgia schools superintendents who have developed learning organizations that have shown, over time, educational efficacy.

Leaders who have learned how to effectively and continuously recruit, employ, develop, and retain teachers, leaders and employees who work to achieve the mission and goals of the organization, and whose mission and goals are focused on student learning and achievement. There are several across our state, and they are not hard to find. These are certainly more deserving of emulation than untested, unproven ideas from elsewhere.

Another suggestion would be to look at the professional learning programs for teachers and leaders in selected schools sponsored by PAGE through their High School Redesign Initiative. Training teachers and leaders to collaborate to create engaging work for students rather than focus on an insistence on conformity has created islands of student learning and achievement in different geographic regions around the state, and deserves at least a look for those looking for a blueprint for educational progress.

Governor, the answer is simple and it’s not one you want to hear. There are no magic bullets and there will be no deus ex machina at the end of your term. The answer is teachers collaborating with other teachers, sharing skills and knowledge and experiences, mentoring and working together to improve student achievement.

It’s going to cost something, and it’s going to require ending the war on teaching. Teachers are not the enemy. They are the solution. Treat them with respect and dignity and you might be surprised at the results you get.

Gov. Deal was right when he said, “We have a moral duty to do everything we can to help these children. Failing schools keep the cycle of poverty spinning from one generation to the next. Education provides the only chance for breaking that cycle. When we’re talking about helping failing schools, we’re talking about rescuing children.”

I hope he means that. It should be easy to tell. All we have to do is see if he decides to follow through on a failed idea from somewhere else or build on one of several effective models grown here in Georgia.

Do the right thing, governor, and you’ve answered your own question of “How’s that working for you?”

 

Reader Comments 0

86 comments
IvanCohen
IvanCohen

When Governor Deal's term is up, I pity the one who will have to clean up his mess. And to find out that his parents were educators, shows just what he thinks of them and their profession.

Antagonist
Antagonist

I fear the only advisors Governor Deal allows to guide him are the ones who only use financial plans to gain his attention. Students are far more than a digit on a financial sheet. A superintendent is not a CEO of a business. His job is far more important than that. Each one of those numbers on the enrollment sheet is a life that needs to be educated for the next generation. Somehow, along the way......that has been totally forgotten. Just ask any teacher who is in teaching for the love of learning and teaching.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Antagonist A superintendent absolutely is CEO of a business--a nonprofit company that is in the crucial business of saving lives. 

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Antagonist @DrMonicaHenson I can speak from personal experience on this. I don't see Gov. Deal, or the First Lady, who is very involved in the education agenda in our state, as impersonal at all in their treatment of students—quite the contrary. Remember that Gov. Deal was a juvenile court justice for many years, and Mrs. Deal was an elementary school teacher. These are two of the strongest champions for Georgia's children that we have. 

When we graduated our first group of cadets from Fort Stewart in the Provost Academy partnership for high school diplomas, Mrs. Deal invited the graduates and their parents to the Governor’s Mansion. These were students who had all dropped out of high school before enrolling in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy program, co-enrolling in Provost Academy. She closed the mansion for the afternoon and took the families on a personal tour herself, serving them lemonade and cookies afterward and posing for photographs with them for as long as they wanted. She told the graduates how proud she was of all of them, and how important it is for them to continue their educations, whether it is at one of the technical colleges or a university. Her care and concern for this small group of kids, all of whom had previously been “throwaways,” was evident in her treatment of them.   

If you ask any of the nonprofit agencies that serve Georgia’s children, I have no doubt they will tell you the same thing: Gov. and Mrs. Deal put the interests of the youngest citizens of this state at the forefront of everything they do.

Antagonist
Antagonist

@DrMonicaHenson @Antagonist  But the impersonal treatment of students is not appropriate. Yes, he is responsible for the financial musts of the school but he/she must never forget the human lives at stake of the teachers and students. Too often both are treated as just things, just x's and o's on a sheet of paper. This concerns me greatly.

sf33
sf33

Thanks for another view. We need all of the information. We need  to understand the views of all the stakeholders  in order to make the best decisions. Top quality education is the key to our future success but we don't need the wrong answers no matter how much they cost or save.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Someone answer this question for me (Maureen?):  What percentage of students fail their EOCT (or whatever replaced it) and have been promoted to the next grade level?

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@class80olddog Students were required to take the EOCT in order to earn credit for an EOCT class. The EOCT was required to count at least 15-20% of the student's final course grade, depending on the year of the student's entry into high school. It was possible for a student to pass the course without passing the EOCT. Conversely, most districts failed a student, even if s/he passed the EOCT, if the student's overall course grade was not passing. My single-school district did not. If a student could pass the EOCT, then s/he was guaranteed to pass the course. If the overall course grade was lower than the EOCT, then we used the EOCT score as the final grade. This prevented penalizing of students who don't play the homework game but can pass unit, midterm, and final tests. We intend to incorporate the same policy with the Milestones once the cycle enables scores to be returned to schools in time to use them for grading purposes. This year, districts have the option not to count the Milestones scores because they will in all likelihood not be returned to the schools in time for incorporating them into end of year grades.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"Gov. Deal doesn’t have to look to New Orleans for inspiration. Georgia models exist."


WHAT Georgia models?  Tell me ONE school system that is greater than 75% black, greater than 90% Free and Reduced lunch, and has a graduation rate of more than 75% (assuming passing the GHSGT).  Then I would like to know HOW they did it (hopefully not like APS a few years ago).

class80olddog
class80olddog

How are Georgia schools doing?  We have NO idea.  We could use the GHSGT scores but that doesn't exist anymore.  We could use ITBS scores from seniors, but Georgia doesn't use that test. SAT and ACT are not taken by all students. There is NO standardized test given to all students that gives an idea if we are good or not.

class80olddog
class80olddog

By the way, I did not believe the people who kept claiming that Obama was not a U. S. citizen, and I don't believe those who say that the objective of all who propose charters is the destruction of public education.


I also don't believe those who claim that vaccines caused their sons/daughters to have autism.

class80olddog
class80olddog

As I have said many times before, I would love to see traditional failing public schools change and fix their own problems.  Not only that, I have told them what the problems are.  They refuse to see and to address these issues because it would not be Politically Correct (actually discipline students that might be black, come on). 


School choice gives parents an alternative to keeping their kids in the failing schools - for those that want out.



class80olddog
class80olddog

@Antagonist @class80olddog " the teacher is expected to teach all enough to pass each of the standardized tests "


What makes you think that the students in that classroom have passed the "standardized tests"?  Have you not heard of Social Promotion?  Sometimes students could not pass the exit exam for the subject matter three or four grades behind - but they are still in the classroom.  And the teacher has to spend time teaching 2+2=4 when they should be teaching algebra.


And the traditional public schools have shown no interest in solving the problem of social promotion. In fact, it is so bad a problem that the Georgia legislature made a law prohibiting social promotion.  Unfortunately, they left a loophole that school principals have exploited ever since.

Antagonist
Antagonist

@class80olddog @Antagonist  I detest social promotion! Instead of addressing the real problems of the individual child, too many want to stamp a label on them, lump them into a group, and enable failure to fake success. No, distortion of the root problem has gone on far too long.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@class80olddog @Antagonist


Classdog,


The reasons a student may not be on grade level are as varied as the students themselves.  If it is merely a matter of some gaps or a lack of maturity, then another year via retention may be all one needs.  If the child is an English Language learner, and there are no underlying learning issues, then another year will give them further skills to advance (though holding back an ESOL student is VERY difficult.)  However, if the child has a learning difficulty, or is low ability (you might call it low IQ) then keeping them back a year will not help them UNLESS there are support systems put into place to better assist them in gaining skills.   Those "support" systems cost money - money that is becoming very hard to come by in education.  Small support classes, special services, aides, tutoring, pull out services, special needs services all cost money.  And even then, our curriculum is not designed for the child with an IQ of 75, but for the average child with an IQ of 100 or more. so some students will simply never be completely successful at meeting all grade level standards no matter how hard they try.  


Until we recognize this and accept it without using their inability to meet standards as a failure on the part of the child or the school, we will continue to have problems.  All children should be supported, encouraged and pushed to reach their full potential -  to do the best they can do - but we have to recognize that what is a child's best will vary.  


Ironically, the one thing NCLB did that was positive can also be seen as a negative.  By holding all students to the same standards, it forced schools to do all they could for ALL students and not allow schools to ignore the needs of their weakest students.  On the other hand, by holding ALL students to the same standards, NCLB set goals that were unattainable for some children.

Antagonist
Antagonist

@class80olddog  Absolutely right! Disruptive students have more rights than the students who follow the rules and do everything right. Their education is allowed to be disrupted in order to not offend the rights of the disruptive student. Over and over again and time and time the disruptive student is given chance after chance to redo and make up and have a chance at dummied-down make-up classes and requirements which weakens the classes and curriculum. Where are their consequences? Oh, they get a faux-high school diploma!


AP schools are wonderful but many schools are becoming AP schools at the demise of the students who are not AP material. While AP classes have one to ten or few  more students in a class, the curriculum director packs thirty or more into the regular core classes and the teacher is expected to teach all enough to pass each of the standardized tests coming their way or be branded a poor teacher. These classes contain the disruptive students and their rights must be met. All schools must report to the state how many discipline referrals and disciplinary actions that are taken. If a school has too many, why they must be a bad school; so, therefore, there simply won't be many discipline problems, will there, teachers?


What a conundrum!

Antagonist
Antagonist

Yes, Buttercup23. Look at Scott Walker and his great Wisconsin plan. That is exactly what his plan for education is.


Buttercup23
Buttercup23

I'm not an educator, nor do I have children in public schools.  Just an observer watching the destruction of Public Education.  Charters, vouchers, schools choice is the death knell for Public Education.  This is what the Republicans have been trying to do for years, it's on their agenda of government programs to destroy or Privatize.  

TicTacs
TicTacs

Deal like most in upper management, has to be told what to do, what positions to take and almost always has the money angle down.

Astropig
Astropig

@Jefferson1776


Two  candidates for governor made their education platform the centerpiece of their campaign against Deal last year,one in his own party and his general election opponent.Both got walloped at the polls. Obviously,the people that matter must see something about him they agree with.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Jefferson1776  Not so much.  Time will prove that Barge is an honest man who didn't seek funding by PACS who would have owned him.  In the general election, this was the year of the R; the devil himself would have won with the R next to his name.  Many people who voted for Deal have stated they would not do so if they had a do-over. Believing that 53% of the voters agree with Deal is totally inaccurate and naive. 

Antagonist
Antagonist

@Astropig @Jefferson1776  No, I don't think that was the way of the vote. The voters only wanted to vote Republican and vote against Carter and Nunn.

newsphile
newsphile

Bravo!  An article by someone who has actually been there, done that, and who has nothing to gain!   This is rare in today's self-serving climate.  If Deal continues down his current path, it is indeed all about the money - for himself, his family, and his friends. 

Cere
Cere

Great share, Buttercup. This stuff is true. You can't really put in your mind what is happening in many of our schools. I am a big fan of Charlotte Iserbyt (who posted the Anita Hoge video you shared) - former Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education under Ronald Reagan -- turned whistleblower.  I shared a video series created by her on the original DSW blog. She has written a book, "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America" - it's a must read for those of us who value individualism and thought.  Google Charlotte Iserbyt and watch her You Tube videos. You will be floored.

Buttercup23
Buttercup23

Charter schools are nothing but a Republican scam on the American people.  Another way to have the wealthy children private education paid for.  Choice of schools(vouchers) is nothing but a way to destroy public schools.  Everyone needs to listen to this, it is long but well worth the time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc_G5GmigkY

bu2
bu2

@Buttercup23 @bu2 


The tuition program has nothing to do with charter schools.


Charter schools are free public schools open to anyone in that public school system, usually by lottery because more people want in than they have space for.

bu2
bu2

@Buttercup23 @Astropig 


You are confused.


ALL charters are free public schools open to children in the school district.


That doesn't mean they are run by the school district.  That's the point-to use new ideas.  Some are managed by for profit entities, but that has nothing to do with the enrollment.

bu2
bu2

@Buttercup23 

The biggest benefits on charters are for poor minority children like those who go to KIPP Academy instead of their abysmal local schools.  The rich aren't going to public schools, charter or not.  The upper middle class can move or afford private.


All the conspiracy theories that get believed by both sides of the political spectrum make me think the dumbing down of America has already happened.  Certainly the ability to think critically and see beyond your own point of view is rapidly disappearing in the political arena.  People can have different opinions without any sort of conspiracy.  Sometimes self-interest helps shape opinions, but that doesn't mean its sinister.


DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Buttercup23 @Astropig It is impossible for a "for profit" to "own" a charter. All charter schools are public schools. Charters are contracts between states and nonprofit school boards. Those boards are able, like any district board of education, to enter into contracts. Some of them enter in to contract with "for profit" corporations to manage their schools. Those same "for profit" corporations also enter into contracts with elected local boards of education to engineer school turnaround programs, funded primarily by federal School Improvement Grant dollars. 

Astropig
Astropig

@Buttercup23


Charter schools are public schools. They free up funds by spending less per student than "zip code" schools.That is why teachers unions hate them. They want that money for themselves.Private schools are paid for by the parents that send their kids there.You obviously don't know the difference, so how can anyone attach any credence to any other point you're trying to make?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Yep, Jimbo Arnold makes a great point.  This coming from a government employee....

"Name a state program or agency that you would describe as a model of efficiency, effectiveness and progress. I know. Me neither."

Sounds like Jimbo is on board for vouchers, eh?

Astropig
Astropig

@Lee_CPA2


Watching liberals advocate smaller government is like watching atheists put on a Christmas play.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

Dr. Arnold makes a good point.  



The "reformers" are always going on about the need to "restructure" public schools to best serve every student, but what is the one thing they fail to do over and over again - actually take the time and make the effort to identify those public school districts that ARE doing a good job and find out what it is that makes them successful.  


Why do they need to go all the way to Tennessee or NOLA to look into charter systems which have both successes AND failures, or about which data is still being collected, or which show mixed results when we have systems and schools right here in Georgia (public, charter, private, virtual, etc.) that show positive outcomes year after year, often with diverse student populations?  Why not use the schools here in Georgia to investigate best practices?  What are successful systems doing?  What are successful schools doing?  Look for schools that serve large low SES populations and are doing a good job with those students, and find out what is working!  What changed could be implemented that would lead to meaningful change?  How do we meet the needs of a diverse population without leaving some students behind?


The fact that this logical, easy to manage approach seems to be left out of every recent discussion about "reform" by those in power, can only lead me to conclude that actually improving the schools is NOT the ultimate goal. The goal is to undermine public schools and replace them with other models that allow for the generation of profit for the business class.


The same thing behind much of the push for more and more testing.  


It really isn't about "accountability" - that is just the buzz phrase to get the public to buy in.  It is about money -LOTS of money being generated for huge testing companies and their investors.


And yes, I know I will be dismissed by certain individuals who will latch onto my comments about the "business class" and distill my entire argument down to "liberal hatred of the wealthy".   However, I doubt very much they will actually address the question of why no one is willing to look into those schools and systems that ARE being successful - and yes, Virginia, they DO exists, despite the overarching rhetoric about "failing schools" that attempts to project failure upon ALL public schools.



EliasDenny
EliasDenny

Hooray for someone having the guts to call out our gov.

redweather
redweather

Well, would anyone care to refute Jim Arnold's numbers regarding NOLA?  Inquiring minds want to know.

bu2
bu2

@sneakpeakintoeducation @bu2 @redweather 


Again, compare 2014 to New Orleans before. This is just Dr. Arnold's essay again saying they aren't as good as you would like and most school districts are better.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @redweather


Even a report by Tulane University had to be withdrawn because of fallacious reporting on the effectiveness of NOLA.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/16/oops-never-mind-why-a-major-university-retracted-report-on-charter-schools/


In addition, lawsuits are being filed because the district failed to provide equal educational opportunities to students with disabilities


Here is another report showing that the superintendent is playing with the test scores to make the data look favorable.


http://www.geauxteacher.net/2014/07/john-white-and-lde-break-law-again.html

redweather
redweather

@bu2 @redweather  There have been hundreds of articles published by the Times Picayune about NOLA's RSD and many of them are not so sunny as the one you link.

bu2
bu2

@redweather @bu2 

You asked for numbers, not opinions.  That article has numbers in a nice easy to read chart, including some data on the demographics.  New Orleans was 67 of 68 school districts in Louisiana before Katrina.  They are doing much better even by Dr. Arnold's numbers, let alone the 38 of 70 in this article.

bu2
bu2

@redweather @bu2 

And this was the first article I found that had numbers.  I didn't cherry pick.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @redweather


The truth is that the numbers have been "cooked" to make it look like there has been improvements in the schools. When you lower the cut score, as has been done in NOLA, it looks like there has been gains when none exist.


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @redweather


It doesn't matter;they are failing. Almost all NOLA schools would receive a D or an F on the scale the reformers like to use to measure success. Hardly worth shouting about, is it? 


Also, see this report on the dismal figures of the ACT scores that the superintendent didn't want released because it confirms that the system has not been improved. It's all smoke and mirrors at the expense of our children but not for the privateers who just happen to get rich in the process of creating RSD's.


https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/in-this-post-las-class-of-2014-act-scores-for-all-schools-statewide/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/to-georgia-lawmakers-loui_b_6692800.html

edubb
edubb

The problem is not the school. The problem is the communities and though poverty is a small part of this problem it is what comes with the poverty. Low self-esteem, drugs, high alcoholism rates, etc. makes it difficult for most students to be motivated. Poverty should be the greatest motivator as it was for so many of the greatest generation. Out of the depression and WW2 came a group motivated to work and build a life for their families. What is going to motivate the poor communities of today when they get free cell phones, free or reduced housing and other amenities? Clinton's welfare to work program was headed in the right direction but it has definitely been derailed. Only knowing that social welfare will end except for the sick and unable will result in a positive change. Community work programs tied into benefits would be a good start.