If flexibility is critical to school success, why doesn’t state extend it to all schools?

From its beginnings in 1999, the modern education reform movement in Georgia recommended greater flexibility for schools.

At a national education summit in 1999, Georgia’s Gov. Roy Barnes joined two dozen other governors and the nation’s business leaders in pledging to give schools more freedom and control over their budgets.

Khushnam Mirza/ SCAD-Atlanta

Khushnam Mirza/ SCAD-Atlanta

A reform commission created by Barnes urged freeing Georgia schools from cumbersome local and state regulations, granting principals control over class sizes, budgets, schedules, hiring, and teacher evaluation – all the factors considered pivotal to remaking schools.

The rationale was schools could not improve without the ability to respond with urgency, agility and specificity to the needs of their particular students.

Everyone concurred: Schools should not be run out of Atlanta.

While he abandoned many of the Barnes-era reforms when he won election in 2002, Gov. Sonny Perdue continued to champion increased flexibility.

But here we are in 2015 still talking about giving schools more freedoms. I used to say the state prefers to give schools flexibility over money. I now realize the state and school districts themselves don’t yield control easily, no matter how much they advocate flexibility in the abstract.

Despite 16 years of discussion, school-based decision-making remains an aspiration rather than a reality in this state.

Yet, flexibility is the linchpin of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to create a super district at the state level to seize control of failing schools and reinvigorate them with new leadership and direction.

Two recent discussions of Deal’s plan brought national experts on state takeovers to Atlanta. And they all had the same message: Without school-based control, the plan is doomed.

“What matters is how much flexibility schools actually have,” said Michael Brickman, national policy director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Speaking Tuesday at an education conference sponsored by Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Brickman said, “You have to make sure there is real autonomy. You can have these policies in place but, if you don’t give these schools the freedom to do what’s right for their students, you are not going to get the results you want.”

One of the models cited by Deal for his Opportunity District is Tennessee’s Achievement School District. Its chief operating officer Elliot Smalley also spoke Tuesday, saying, “Schools get better results when talented leaders and teachers have the power to make their own decisions because they know their schools best. This works better when it is from the ground up, not the top down.”

Earlier this month, Neerav Kingsland, former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, told a legislative committee a key element of successful school reconstitution after Hurricane Katrina was, “Educators themselves running the schools. If students coming into school in September are behind in math, the principal doesn’t need to go to districts for any changes to the existing math.”

If turning around struggling schools starts with flexibility, why doesn’t the state extend flexibility to all schools? I’ve asked that question now for 16 years and still have never gotten a clear answer.

I do know this. At the same time the General Assembly touts school-based autonomy, it also attempts to micromanage schools, passing laws that control how much schools spend in the classroom, including the infamous 65 percent rule that did nothing but increase paperwork for Georgia schools.

In this session, legislative efforts seek to dictate how schools teach AP U.S. history and how they respond to students who want to use the bathroom.

The loud flush you hear is flexibility going down the drain.

 

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

"If turning around struggling schools starts with flexibility, why doesn’t the state extend flexibility to all schools?" Because it's up to the local school district to seek waivers and extend flexibility fo individual schools. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. This is why we have charter schools--to allow for an avenue for an individual school to be able to deal directly with the State Board of Education, or now with the State Charter Schools Commission, to seek and receive school-level flexibility. Districts simply won't grant it wholesale, and most not at all.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"If flexibility is critical to school success, why doesn’t state extend it to all schools? "


What flexibility is given to charters that is being denied to traditional schools?

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@class80olddog None. It's the local districts that deny the flexibility to individual schools and control the seeking of waivers.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@teacherandmom @class80olddog Your local high school can waive seat time only if the DISTRICT seeks the waiver and then extends the flexibility to the school level. This is the crux of the problem. Districts have a chokehold on what local schools are and are not allowed to do. Individual local schools in a district cannot seek a waiver directly from the State BOE. Only LEAS and independent charter schools can do that.

teacherandmom
teacherandmom

@class80olddog Flexibility could mean changes in "seat-time" requirements, changes in how FTE money is spent, etc.  Depending on how the charter is written, the charter school can waive mandatory seat time and allow students to finish courses on their own time.  If a charter school can waive seat time, why can't my local high school waive seat time?

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

Seriously?? A Go-Potty bill???


With all the other problems in Georgia, the General Assembly decided they needed to get involved in THIS?



ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@taylor48 @ScienceTeacher671

a policy like what this bill proposes is only justified if the child has a medical condition. One of mine did in 1st grade, and it was easy to coordinate with the teacher to allow her to go to the restroom when needed.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @ScienceTeacher671  When my son was 8 and attending school in Cherokee county (class in a trailer), he was refused a bathroom break and subsequently wet his pants in class.  I found out about it only when I picked him up that afternoon.  The teacher refused to discuss the incident with me, and so did the principal.  I removed my son and his mother home schooled him for the remainder of the year.  The next year he went to a private school.


So what should have happened in this case?  Are things like this why the legislature is going here?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @ScienceTeacher671  "During our work time, the students just flip the card to their number, and they can go without asking me."


Do you teach in  a "portable classroom"?  How does a 7-year old go to the bathroom by themselves, when it is across an unsecured yard to the main building and then to the restroom?

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog @taylor48 @ScienceTeacher671 No, I teach in a building, but do we REALLY need a law to deal with every situation that could ever occur?  I'm sorry your son had a bad experience, but does it require the time of our state legislators?  There's nothing else they need to be doing?  Personally, an issue like that needs to be dealt with by the school board if your principal didn't want to discuss it.  Did you discuss with them the problem of having such young children in trailers?  Did you support additional money for the expansion of the school so they could get rid of the trailers?  And, what happens if a teacher has just taken the entire class to the restroom from the trailer, and then one child (who chose to play rather than go to the restroom asks)?  Should the teacher then line up the entire class to go to the restroom again thereby losing close to 10 minutes of instructional time?  What if that happens 4 or 5 times a day?  Because we all know that kids learn pretty quickly how to game the system.

taylor48
taylor48

@ScienceTeacher671 That law is ridiculous.  I teach seven year olds, and I explain my restroom plan at the beginning of the year.  Basically, I have a flip card system.  During our work time, the students just flip the card to their number, and they can go without asking me.  If a card is flipped to a number, then you have to wait.  During my teaching time, you aren't allowed to go.  So, the state legislature is telling me that I have to let a child go to the restroom whenever they want, EVEN if they miss instruction?  I mean, they can go 6 - 7 times a day (if you count before the day starts and after recess when we do a group restroom break).  How much more does one child need?  And, how will that jive with the rules for the Georgia Milestones that basically state a child can't leave during the testing session?


Yet again, our state legislators prove they should never, ever be in charge of setting education policy in this state.

newsphile
newsphile

Sadly, this decision has already been made.  Deal isn't listening to people who have solutions and who have nothing to gain.  His appointees to the education commission gave us a very clear picture of how this will end.  Deal's friend will be appointed super of Opportunity District, given a bloated salary, and will contract to the for-profit companies who wrote big checks to PACs for Deal's re-election.  Rules will be loosened, costs per student will increase, and for-profit management companies will be winners.  Deal will overlook the lousy track records of some of these companies; they are his friends, after all. 

There are some successful school districts and some successful teachers in GA, but Deal doesn't want to hear from them. If serving GA's students and improving GA's schools were the number one goal, Deal would be listening to and taking advice from people such as the school superintendent of the year. If the decision hadn't already been made,  Deal would gather a group of successful teachers, including some with much experience, to get input from those closest to the issues.  

Deal's arrogance is getting in the way of his making decisions that are best for Georgians.  What a pitiful shame.



Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @newsphile


I've never said that there are no good schools or good teachers.I have said repeatedly that those good teachers and good schools serve a bad system.They are worthy of a better infrastructure to accomplish their goals. You hear what you want to hear,I guess.

Astropig
Astropig

@newsphile


"Sadly, this decision has already been made. "


I certainly hope it has. After reading the selfish interests inside education on these pages,the only flush I want to hear is the current system headed down the drain.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @newsphile Yes, there are some selfish interests in every profession, including yours.  However, to blatantly ignore people who are successful while endorsing flawed programs that are going to increase costs with negative gains is one of the biggest display of arrogant self-interest there is. 

Lynn43
Lynn43

@newsphile You are so right.  I have already received lobbying materials from one for-profit company, and this company is a BIG friend of Deal.  I bet they get the contract to run all of them.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit @newsphile  Your statement, "I certainly hope it has" (regarding my comments that Deal's decision has already been made) does not imply that you believe there are some good teachers and some good schools.  It implies the opposite.

For Deal to make such a significant decision without formal discussions with successful teachers and successful school leaders is arrogant, condescending, and demeaning to those teachers who are inspirations and mentors to students. This isn't a game.  This is politics at its worst. 

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @newsphile


Selfish interests in ensuring that we keep our public education system alive and well for ALL those who enter the door. Yes, if that's selfish, I am in that corner.


Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@newsphile


Very good point.  Anyone who is unwilling to admit that there are good schools and good teachers serving in the public domain is obviously serving their own biased agenda.  Before spending a great deal of money and time reinventing the wheel, there should be a real investigation into what is actually working in our public schools and how we can recreate those successes for other students.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

The only thing that vouchers will do is inflate the cost of private school. Opening up real school choice is the option.  Bad schools will close, and new schools will open modeling the schools that families are clamoring to get their kids into.  


The bills being proposed now will only shackle the local schools more.  Really?  I have to let Johnny go potty EVERY time he asks?  If Johnny is not trustworthy, I have to wait for an administrator to come and get him?  WHAT nurse?  Kids have time in between classes to go potty.  No teacher has ever said no to a student who does not regularly ask unless there is a test going on in the classroom.


Speaking of tests; if a child is taking a test, how are we going to let them go potty when we are told that they can't leave the room?  Maybe they could give schools the flexibility to have a port-a-john in every classroom.  THAT would be something the legislators could do with all the money they will save by pillaging TRS benefits. 


Hunter Hill is a very busy man, what with his AP US History Bill, his "Let's rape teachers of their retirement" Bill, and his Beer Bill.  Dealing with the College Board is a lot like Dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles, but I'm pretty sure that they are not all Pinko Commies out to destroy America.  


Milton Man, where are you?  I miss you, <140. I'm looking forward to editing your less than stellar grammar and syntax!!!!


#snowdayedublogtrolling


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@mensa_dropout Funny that those clamoring for vouchers rail against "government handouts" and claim that the HOPE scholarship has resulted in tuition increases (instead of the starving of higher ed by Ga officials), and also claim that the Great Society is responsible for children born outside marriage.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig 


You are making false statements.   Teachers have been clamoring for meaning full change for years.  We get ignored by those in power, and belittled by those in the public.  WE support change, it is just that we support MEANINGFUL change.


Oh, and we actually know what we are talking about.



Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig


Teachers have been clamoring for change that THEY control. They already control most school boards and administrative positions.They are stakeholders, but they don't own the whole thing.Maybe if they would actually listen to the critics every now and again,the surgery done on the system could be done with a scalpel instead of a meat axe.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mensa_dropout  "No teacher has ever said no to a student who does not regularly ask unless there is a test going on in the classroom."


I would beg to disagree.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @mensa_dropout


Compromise and middle ground is simply not possible with an attitude like yours.The OSD is only on the table because the people inside the system like things just as they are and see no need to change. If it does make it through the legislature (by no means assured), I will be happy to see it put on the ballot and pass,like the charter amendment a couple of years ago.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

@Astropig @Wascatlady @mensa_dropout


There is definitely middle ground, but let's look at it from a capitalist perspective, shall we?  I get x amount of dollars from the Gov'met to send my kid to private school.  Said private school says, "Neat!  Thanks!  We got x amount of dollars from the Gov'met!  Now we will charge Mensa and Family x amount PLUS the regular tuition!  SWEET!"

It's totally what I would do if I were a private school.  Guess what else, Astro?  There's no stopping it because it's...get ready...PRIVATE!!!!


School Choice is the only thing that will get the bureaucracy off of its lame rear end and allow for flexibility and doing what is right for kids.  Period.  I've been in the biz.  I am a parent.  I like my children's school, but it's not my first choice.  If I were to have my first choice in public school choice, I would drive my kids about seven miles east and send them to another public school, as there is diversity AND very little F/R lunch.  


So don't patronize me regarding middle ground.


MILTON MAN!!!! Where are you, dude?

HallcoTeacher
HallcoTeacher

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit Just because administrators were once teachers does NOT make them teachers. When we say teachers, we mean career teachers, people who see teaching as an end not as a means. It's a profound difference really.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@class80olddog @mensa_dropout olddog is correct. I've dealt with teachers like that in my administrative experience. They don't last long with me, and there aren't large numbers of them but they're out there. You'd be surprised at the number of people who have gone into teaching because of the hours, the summer time off, the desire to have the same work schedule as their kids' school schedule, the state pension, state benefits, and other reasons that have nothing to do with a love of children and a desire to help them succeed. There are some people who really don't like kids at all that go into teaching.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Legislators: Give parents tuition vouchers and the marketplace will quickly solve many of education's most intractable problems. 

And save taxpayers' money, too.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@EdUktr

Please provide evidence for your claims that tuition vouchers will 1) solve intractable education problems; and 2) save taxpayers money.

Tuition vouchers have done nothing of that sort in Milwaukee after over 20 years of implementation.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@EdUktr

In the absence of any evidence, I think I've figured out the likely justification for your argument!


1) the "intractable education problem" that might be solved with vouchers is to allow parents to attend a school with fewer "undesirable" classmates

2) without that taxpayer parent having to pay full private school tuition 


In other words, "I'd prefer that my kid go to private school with a more homogenous student body, but I can't afford it so a voucher would save me money!"

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@EdUktr @ProHumanitate

There was nothing race-baiting in my comment except in your mind.

Plenty of parents want their kids to be in schools with other students who have been similarly prepared, take their studies seriously, and have parental support. That has nothing to do with race.

What it does have to do with is the fact that society consists of kids and parents who do not fit that mold. Our kids will inhabit a world with all of those people. And they will have to decide what to do about it.

I grew up here in GA but went to high school in CT. That high school was not particularly racially diverse, but was very economically diverse. I learned a lot from the burnouts, the cutups, kids who transferred to technical high schools, the latchkey kids with one parent at home, the kids who were abused that either my family or my neighbors took in, etc. It was a small town and there was a spirit of looking out for all.

And I still received a great high school education and went on to college and post graduate at top institutions.  

Kids need to be aware of the variety of experiences, and not be sheltered in a bubble.


EdUktr
EdUktr

@ProHumanitate @EdUktr

Race-baiting to defend the failed status quo is reprehensible. 

But also common. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel found out yesterday even he isn't immune.

ByteMe
ByteMe

In this session, legislative efforts are under way to dictate how schools teach U.S. history and even how teachers respond to students who want to use the bathroom.

Because some legislator in southwest Georgia knows exactly how to deal with "those people in Atlanta" who want to run their own schools.  If it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"The rationale (for greater flexibility) was schools could not improve without the ability to respond with urgency, agility and specificity to the needs of their particular students."

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


This statement holds true today, and it will always hold true, imo.  The reason the state is not granting this flexibility to public "government" schools in Georgia is because of a rigid political ideology, imo.  Just like not accepting Obamacare, in some states, is because of a rigid political ideology.

AJCkrtk
AJCkrtk

On Monday, the Senate Education & Youth Committee held a hearing on the Governor's OSD plan, and Georgia Superintendent of the Year Phil Lanoue spoke to the Senators in opposition to the Governor's plan for these and other reasons.  See his thoughtful letter, http://bit.ly/1JyR2TK  Superintendent Lanoue is one of four in the running to be National Superintendent of the Year.


Also, we should remember that all the schools districts in the state of Georgia are in the process of developing contracts with the state to operate with flexibility in exchange for accountability.  These contracts are to be completed by next year and will take effect in the 2016-17 school year.  There is no need for the Governor to impose the Opportunity school District at the same time, thereby wiping out local system flexibility and replacing it with state takeover.  Let the school systems complete the new system already created.  




ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@AJCkrtk

Agreed! 

Arguably, one of the better features of the flexibility models is that the DISTRICT must demonstrate to the state how they are pushing more autonomy down to the school level. As Maureen notes, districts aren't always so keen on giving up top-down control, even if the state were to grant flexibility more broadly.

Give this time to work before considering a state takeover district.