Emotions run high on both sides of governor’s bill to take over failing schools

In nearly three hours of testimony Wednesday afternoon on the governor’s proposal to appoint a fix-it czar to take control of failing schools, the House Education Committee heard many emotional pleas.

“My son came home from school the other day and said ‘Mom, I don’t feel like we are being prepared for college,’’’ said Kiely Clayton, whose son attends DeKalb’s McNair High School, which scored an appalling 44.9 this year on the 100-point College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Under Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal, schools would be eligible for absorption into a state Opportunity School District if they score below 60 three years running. The expansion of state authority and the installation of a special superintendent to run these schools require voters to pass a constitutional amendment.

Should state have the power to seize control of failing schools?

Should state have the power to seize control of failing schools?

Clayton is willing to cede that power to the state, explaining, “These kids are our future, and if we don’t stop now and take time out for them, they are going to be on the corner selling drugs. This constitutional amendment won’t help my child, but it will help children in my neighborhood. Right now, McNair is at the bottom. We need help. I didn’t particularly vote for the governor, but I applaud him for this.”

In contrast, Lisa Morgan, a teacher at DeKalb’s Midway Elementary, also eligible for takeover, spoke in opposition to Deal’s Opportunity District.

“These are my babies you are discussing today,’’ Morgan said. “I do everything I can for my students. Unfortunately, my students don’t stay at Midway. This year, we have 95 fifth graders. I taught only one of these students in kindergarten six years ago. These problems are not going to be solved by the governor appointing a superintendent. Please don’t add another bureaucrat telling me what I need to do for my babies. I know what they need, and I can tell you by name. I am doing what I can. I need resources and help from others as committed as I am to do that.”

So, who is right? Disheartened mother or dismayed teacher?

They both are. McNair needs help. So do teachers in schools challenged with transitory students and children with learning deficits.

The question for the House Education Committee — which votes on the Deal bill Monday — is whether students or teachers will be helped by a state seizure of schools.

Among the questions to consider:

•Does Deal’s bill deliver more administration where instruction is needed?

•Does it make sense to approve a major shift in education control when Georgia districts face a June deadline to choose a new model of governance?

•The governor’s own 33-member ed reform commission is only in its second month of exploring how best to fund schools. Should we wait for its August report?

Historically, state takeovers have not dramatically transformed schools. The experiments underway in New Orleans and Memphis are yielding small improvements, but the schools in the state portfolios are still under performing.

In those places, most failing schools have been recast as charter schools, which would also occur under Deal’s plan. Several speakers advised the House to follow the lead of Tennessee, which prohibits for-profit charter management companies. A few weeks ago, New Orleans officials told a joint House-Senate committee the most successful schools in their state recovery district were started by local educators, the weakest were those overseen by the for-profits.

DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond told lawmakers many schools deemed “persistently failing” by the state are making strides. He said 44 DeKalb schools earned less than 60 on the College and Career Ready Performance Index in 2011; two years later the number fell to 25.

“That is growth and that is improvement,” he said. “And we didn’t have to pass a constitutional amendment. What we did was hire dedicated teachers and principals who are out there working.”

 

Reader Comments 0

57 comments
dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

“I do everything I can for my students. Unfortunately, my students don’t stay at Midway."


Unfortunately?  For whom?   The children who escape from Midway are LUCKY because MIDWAY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS A FAILING SCHOOL.  Midway Elementary's College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) is a horrendously low 47.4 (out of 100).


Midway ES and McNair High School are both in the school district's Region 5, which covers south Dekalb, the area that comprises the proposed City of Greenhaven.  Every single one of Dekalb's Region 5 Schools are failing -- here is the list of CCRPIs for all of DCSS Region 5 schools:


Cedar Grove HS      61.6

Cedar Grove MS        54.3

Cedar Grove ES        57.5

Oak View ES        51.0


Columbia HS        55.8

Columbia MS        62

Columbia ES        49.1

Snapfinger ES        55.7

Toney ES        47.5


McNair HS        43.9

McNair MS        45.5

Clifton ES        46.2

Flat Shoals ES        49.5

Kelley Lake ES        55.4

Meadowview ES        52.9

McNair ES Dis. Ac.    42.2


Towers HS    55.8

Bethune MS    53.5

Canby Lane ES    47.4

Knollwood ES    53.8

Midway ES    47.4

Rowland ES    52.8


SGAMOD
SGAMOD

I hope the governor can do a better job running schools than he did with the RT3 money.  The following excerpt is the research based on the success of all the money that has been spend in Georgia to help struggling schools.  The link to the full report is here:  http://gosa.georgia.gov/sites/gosa.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/2010-2013%20LAS%20Leading-Lagging%20Indicators%20Report%20110614.pdf


"While some schools have made strides to improving student achievement, most schools have fallen short of the grant’s expectations for dramatic increases in student achievement. The majority of schools had either no statistically significant change or a decrease in the percent of students missing fewer than six days of school during implementation. The same negative effect was seen in regards to student outof-school suspension rates. The majority of schools either saw an increase in the percentage of students suspended or had no statistically significant change. In general, student dropout rate had declines less than one percentage point. Although a good number of schools had statistically significant increases in standardized test scores, the gains largely mirrored gains in the state averages. In addition, graduation rates have remained relatively unchanged in most schools."

bu2
bu2

@SGAMOD 

Didn't the individual school districts decide what to do with that money?  If so, that is an argument for state takeover.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@SGAMOD  It shows that throwing money at the problem has not produced any results. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@NikoleA @class80olddog @SGAMOD  Will hiring more teachers solve the attendance problems?  Will those new teachers magically be able to teach empty desks?  Will those new teachers suddenly buck the educational system and start retaining students who have not mastered the grade level requirements.  I don't think so!

dg417s
dg417s

@bu2 @SGAMOD The state got half and the 26 districts split the other half.

NikoleA
NikoleA

@class80olddog @SGAMOD Or perhaps throwing the money to the wrong places doesn't yield results.  Spend the money to hire more teachers to lower class sizes, pay for targeted tutorials, professional development and parent information sessions instead of more people with clipboards checking off lists and you'll probably see progress.

dg417s
dg417s

I didn't see a penny of money thrown at my classroom. DeKalb spent $1.8 million on Pearson tests - 40% of the questions on the one for my course didn't match the standards. I know Dade County used all of their RTTT money to hire administrators.

BCW1
BCW1

@MrB, nobody said anything about banning anyone!! But we have society issues that are not being address because it is not PC.  So you fix or improve the poverty levels and you fix part of the education problem. My point as a 34 year educator, we are solely expected to fix things and we cant!!!  We cannot teach them to read and write and also teach what is right and wrong and be good at both!!

BeenThere
BeenThere

How about a crazy idea and let the educators do their jobs without the politics demanding so many tests, mandates, and different approaches that change all the time.  Education in this country has been in trouble since the government stepped in and told educators how to do every single thing.  Educators went to college to learn their profession and many have gone on to earn higher degrees.  Why is the public so willing to let people who know nothing about childhood development or education tell professionals how to teach, what to teach, and when to teach it?  I agree with accountability but I think that the students should be given a test the first week of school on that grade levels standards and then given the same test at the end of the year and see how much they have learned.  That would be a fair assessment of the student and of the teacher teaching them each year.  I think if teachers were allowed to teach students would learn.

BCW1
BCW1

Fix society first then fix the schools!!! oh wait that is not PC!!

Mr_B
Mr_B

@BCW1 By all means, then, let's adopt a constitutional amendment banning poverty and child neglect.

MoFaux
MoFaux

If Druid Hills is annexed into Atlanta, that will help education funding tremendously for South DeKalb...NOT!!!

Starik
Starik

@MoFaux
 Funding isn't the problem for South DeKalb.

straker
straker

It seems the Governor faces two big problems:


1. His Christian fundamentalist base want schools that teach Creationism and trash Evolution.


2. Black voters want their children to score as well as their White classmates on test scores.


What's a poor Governor to do?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@straker  "Black voters want their children to score as well as their White classmates on test scores."


APS made that happen! 

RealLurker
RealLurker

I am somewhat doubtful that a takeover by the Governor will be able to drastically turn these schools around.  However, I have to restate something that I have said many times.  In Georgia school districts get 40% of their funding from the State.  As long as a district accepts money from the State, they MUST be accountable to the State for their performance.  Many people don't like their boss, but as long as they work for that person, they will be accountable to that person.  If interference from the State becomes too burdensome, then the district should not accept money from the State, and try to do their own thing.  I have a feeling that any district that had enough confidence to take on the entire funding and accountability for their schools would not have any schools even close to being on the takeover list.

SGAMOD
SGAMOD

@RealLurker then take the money away but do not attempt to run them  Sink or swim

RealLurker
RealLurker

@SGAMOD I didn't say the State should take the money away.  I only said that if the districts do not like being accountable to the State, then they should stop accepting State funding.  Kind of like a young person who doesn't believe that his parents should be able to tell him what he can or can't do at home.  If he doesn't like his parents rules or interference, he should move out to his own place.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

I wanted to share some good comments being made about this issue on facebook:

First comment: .

I do not understand. How may I expect from the State of Georgia and the Governor to miraculously change the results for these perennial schools when the good principals and excellent teachers in those schools have not yet been able to so far. Where would the responsibility and authority rest when the State of Georgia has the education of children spread across one dozen different state agencies? I don't understand at what point o state failure that the Federal government take over of local schools would occur?

Second comment: 


We are in DeKalb's school district. I can quite assuredly say, no they don't have it under control. But instead of taking control of local schools, maybe we could fix the problem in the districts? Like breaking up the districts that are too large to manage themselves and implementing the recommendations of multiple consultant reviews.

Third comment:

Many do have it under control; many others don't. And too many poor and Black kids are being cheated out of first-rate educational opportunities in those districts that don't have it under control.

EdUktr
EdUktr

As usual, Maureen implies that innovation and reform are still possible within corrupt school systems. Quite clearly they are not. 

Stagnant test scores are convincing evidence of that.

heyteacher
heyteacher

How about assigning the politicos in favor of this plan to the failing schools where they can roll up their sleeves and get to work?  Another layer of administration solves nothing -- we need more soldiers, not admirals.

Astropig
Astropig

I grew up in Tennessee. I still have deep,deep ties there.I grew up and went to school with kids that are now teachers (and not kids anymore,I'll tell you that).The ones that I know have told me that the state takeover is a good thing.They say that in front of their colleagues,they "officially" oppose it because they work with these people every day (and don't want their car keyed in the parking lot), but they think its great. They say that it really hasn't changed their accountability -they have had that every day of their careers-but for the first time,it stops the buck passing from the plushbottom educrats above them. They silently support it because it finally moves accountability up the ladder and puts everybody in the same boat.They feel that they are being listened to a little more now because everybody in their school is accountable,not just them. Of course, Georgia's plan has a few differences from Tennessee's,but the overall result might be worth it.


I know it's anecdotal,but  simply allowing these Georgia schools to go on without taking positive action would be a betrayal of the parents and taxpayers that demand action.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


Tennessee doesn't mess around. Governor Haslam may very well get a bill to sign in the next couple of weeks that will provide vouchers for low income kids in the bottom five percent of public schools to be used anywhere the parents wish. It's in the state senate,and passage looks like a good bet.

bu2
bu2

@dg417s @Astropig 

These schools have been failing for decades.  The state didn't "put us there."  The local school districts did.

Forsyth and Gwinnett are doing just fine.  APS and DeKalb and some rural districts, not so good.

dg417s
dg417s

@bu2 @dg417s @Astropig Where's the data that these districts have been failing?  Also, and I can only vouch for DeKalb because that's where I work, look at where the concentration of these "failing" schools are - they are not county wide, they are clustered in one area of the county that sees super high rates of transiency and poverty.  Let's work on that issue before we start saying the district is the problem. 

bu2
bu2

@dg417s @bu2 @Astropig 

And how much longer would you propose that those students keep the status quo while problems that have always been with us are made to go away?


APS and DeKalb have far and away the largest number of failing schools.  Gwinnett does far better with poor and minority students.


As I said below, they shouldn't be looking at schools that are showing steady improvement.  But for those who aren't, the district has failed to make a difference and the status quo isn't working.


Its not like the problems at these schools just popped up.

bu2
bu2

@dg417s @bu2 @Astropig 

International Community School has been very successful in DeKalb County with students with challenging backgrounds, like refugees.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig Interesting anecdote, Astropig.  I do like than TN forbids private companies from being awarded taxpayer monies.


It seems to me a very very icy slope, however, when the state takes over individual schools, which disenfranchises the voters of that system.  I think we must constantly be on guard for over-reaching from all our levels of government.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig Like I said, the state put us here, can we really trust the state to get us out?  Over $8 billion has been withheld from what the state said schools should receive over the past decade.  Sen. Fran Millar told a group of educators on February 17 that rather than fixing that problem, the plan is to redefine adequate funding where it currently is.  The governor claims he added money back to education - he hasn't.  He has cut less than he did in the past.  The whole mess about cafeteria and bus driver insurance is another thing hurting the schools - these workers (who make it possible for me to do my job) can stay on State Health Benefits - but the districts have to pick up the cost which means that they cannot deal with appropriate compensation packages to get the best and brightest teachers into Georgia.  I'm not saying "throw money at the problem."  I am saying give the money the law says should be given.  If we still have issues, then let's talk, but let's follow existing law first.

Astropig
Astropig

@bu2 @dg417s @Astropig


"As I said below, they shouldn't be looking at schools that are showing steady improvement.  But for those who aren't, the district has failed to make a difference and the status quo isn't working."


Truer words were never written.Again, I've not seen a competing plan that would address the problems being addressed by Governor Deal.The eduacracy is basically telling the gullible that we should do nothing and somehow things will all work out.But they can wash their hands of the kids that need this help at a certain age and we parents have to deal with the result.


dg417s
dg417s

@bu2 @dg417s @Astropig So how does Gwinnett do it?  They don't give control to an unelected friend of the governor.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Mr.Thurmond,the problem isn't a lack of dedicated teachers and principals, even in Dekalb County  The problem is a lack of dedicated students and parents.  Putting another layer of bureaucracy will not solve the problem.


There ARE things that can be done. They require some additional resources, and a LOT of backbone.  THAT is where YOU come in. Do you have it?


class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady " There ARE things that can be done. They require some additional resources, and a LOT of backbone."


Like dealing with discipline, attendance, and social promotion.

redweather
redweather

Has anyone suggested that this be tried a on a trial or pilot basis with, say, a dozen schools?  Or has that already been done, and I mean in Georgia. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@redweather It hasn't been done in GA,but the proposal is to limit it to 10 the first year.  IT is not being set up as a trial, however.



Starik
Starik

The kids are deprived.  Their home lives, backgrounds and neighborhoods are the reason.  The schools are not responsible for that.  However, if the teachers are as ill-prepared as the students the damage is multiplied.  If the State is willing to put leadership in place with the ability and inclination to fire people there will be some improvement.  If the State is willing to reform the structure of the school and the classroom culture that will help too.

dg417s
dg417s

I go back to my point - the state caused this problem in setting goals for schools. They decided how to define schools as "proficient" and set the goals for AYP before the NCLB waiver and CCRPI post-waiver. Do you really think they're going to fix the problem?

bu2
bu2

@dg417s 

How is setting goals causing a problem?  For many years, there was no measurement and were no goals.  That allowed problems to fester and grow.


If the school districts can't figure it out, maybe someone else can.


I do agree they shouldn't take over schools showing progress.  The whole point is to get these schools fixed.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @dg417s


the problem is that the "fix" to governor proposes has been tried and has shown to fail while, at the same time, those states has been starving the public schools of money while enriching the charter operators and their CEO's (i.e. Louisiana Minneapolis). There is less accountability to the public with his proposed system, from the top down. Why would we want to go this failed route? Power, money, friends in high places because it's not really about the children. 


What we do know is that the school that are considered failing have one thing in common; they serve a high population of students who live in poverty, are transient, are ESOL, and sometimes all three together. We cannot educate our way out of poverty. Sure, there are a few anecdotal stories of people who have beat the odds but they are few. We know what it takes to help these students but the investment would be controversial; wrap-around services including healthcare, housing, and raising the minimum wage.  

bu2
bu2

@dg417s @bu2 

Fair criticism, but the problem didn't start with the goals.  The goals were triggered by the problems.

bu2
bu2

@sneakpeakintoeducation @bu2 @dg417s 


Rather a defeatist attitude.


The poor may be running a long race with high heels or with a tie restricting their breathing, but they can still succeed. 

dg417s
dg417s

@bu2 @dg417s Setting goals isn't a problem, but if you want to look what the problem is - the people setting the goals are so far removed from the schools and don't take input about what is really going on, there is no way for them to set proper goals.  Think of it like this - a huge problem with communism is that the central planners didn't have the right information to make sure that the consumers had products that they desired.  They set goals without information, and the system crashed.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s


@bu2 - be realistic. A good piece of research shown below confirms that a child's brain shows the same damage as that of a stroke patient when they are malnourished in the younger, developing years. 


http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-12-07-childrens-brains_N.htm


Remember, we are only talking about food and not the lack of appropriate shelter, safe environment, clothing, the security of having parents at home, drug or alcohol abuse etc....  I never said they can't succeed but you are asking way more of the students who have probably he least ability to achieve because of such insurmountable problems.  But, hey guess what Little Johnny, now you go fill up your stomach on calculus and Shakespeare; that'll keep you warm at night. 


You are being deliberately ignorant if you think that the effects of poverty can be overcome by the governor creating another level of school bureaucracy rather than address the problems of poverty.  


bu2
bu2

@sneakpeakintoeducation @bu2 @dg417s 


If its done right he gets rid of some bureaucracy, not adds some.


And you are assuming all the poor are malnourished in the early stages of life.  They aren't facing the same issues starving children or refugees in Africa or Asia face.  There are programs to help infants and toddlers if their parents take advantage of it.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s @bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s

It's disingenuous on two fronts; 1.  to suggest that if the takeover is done right it will mean a positive outcome when we already know that the takeover strategy has not shown favorable results for anyone but the charter industry, and 2. that the parents of children in poverty will get help if they seek it.


We know what has been happening to those in poverty; they are labeled as moochers, takers, leeches on society and the welfare programs to provide a little bit of relief are being slashed to the bone and the republicans are still looking for more ways to cut back. There are many who would have benefited by the Medicare expansion through the ACA but that was denied by our governor. These are things that would know would improve the welfare of the neediest children so please do not patronize me by suggesting that all would be well if only the parents would get help from these programs. Furthermore, malnutrition is just one area that affects the growth and cognitive development of a child but, again, it is just convenient to ignore that also. 


The governor will add another layer of bureaucracy who is not elected by the public; so we are asked to give up our democratic right to elect our officials. When we allow positions like these to be filled and failed policies to be put in place we can only come to the conclusion that the governor and his ilk are repaying the "kindness" of those who helped to fatten their campaign coffers. Thus, we see the shift of the responsibility of our elected officials to represent their communities to representing those who donated money to their campaigns funds.


Again, to suggest that children of poverty will educate their way out of their circumstances is naive at best. Our officials are not looking out for their interests but that of those with fat wallets. We know what works and by changing the management structure at the purportedly failing schools and removing more money from our public schools will do nothing to help our neediest students. If you can prove otherwise, as they say, show me money. 


bu2
bu2

@sneakpeakintoeducation @bu2 @dg417s 

Takeovers have done well in New Orleans and other places, when done right.


Lots of people have educated their way out of poverty.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to name a couple of high profile examples.

Maybe part of the problem is attitudes in the school districts that certain children can't succeed and the districts and some of the teachers lower their expectations.


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s


I asked for proof and you show me none. Take overs have not done well in NOLA; they have been a failure for many of the students and the communities there.When the superintendent needed to make it seem like there had been success, he had to lower the test scores to show improvements and gains. And even so the schools in NOLA, who now educate a different demographic than pre-Katrina, are mostly rated D and F on their rating system. An yes, as I said before, some people do have the ability and the support network to do well and overcome the hurdles that poverty brings but they are called outliers and are not the norm. Are you suggesting that everyone in poverty  can attain the heights of president?


We do know what doesn't work: handing public schools over to the charter industry.

We do know what does work: providing wrap-around services and support outside the school.


Choosing the former instead of the latter is insanity. As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result  is insanity (not verbatim).  



bu2
bu2

@sneakpeakintoeducation @bu2 @dg417s 

There's another Maureen blog on New Orleans, I believe by the former Pelham superintendent.  The blogger said New Orleans didn't work because they were still in the bottom 3rd or so, but that was a vast improvement from next to last in the state.  The facts are in that thread.


As for charters-KIPP anyone?  Some charters are enormously successful.  Some aren't.  Those that fail get closed.  Public schools that fail continue indefinitely usually managed by the same people.


You're wedded to the school district hierarchy, so nothing I say will change your mind.  And again, if you actually work for the schools, your attitude about poor student's potential IS part of the problem.  Many of the most successful people started out poor.  Getting out of poverty is a very strong motivation.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s


Re; Kipp; they are no silver bullet and when you peel back the layers of their supposed success, you see a different picture. For one, the attrition rate is high, much higher than the public schools. They don't teach the same demographic of children that the public schools do. They are less transparent and accountable to the public.The children lean in a drill and kill type of atmosphere. Is that what you are advocating? You want that for your own child or just for other people's children?

Thanks for your care and concern regarding my employment. I agree that setting high standards is important but you also have to be realistic and understand that the student coming from a background of poverty is going to have to overcome so much more than the student who lives in affluence. As an analogy you can't have two trains leave the station; one with all the fuel it needs together with all the gear it needs and carrying half the load of the other train, which also happens to have less fuel, to get to the same destination at the same time or at all. To ignore or deny the huge burden that those who live in poverty carry is just ignorance.

Please tell me if you work in the school system and what your role is. I'd love to know what your teaching experiences are and how you have come to your conclusion that poverty isn't a factor in our schools. 

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@bu2 @sneakpeakintoeducation @dg417s

First, you are wrong if you believe that NOLA has been a success; they can adjust the data to make it look like it is (lowering the test score to show improvement where none exists) but is that the route you are advocating?  Unfortunately you are unwilling to and unable to accept that you cannot educate your way out of poverty and since we know that the schools that are deemed to be failing are those with high levels of poverty, any program you put in place will not produce the magic results you hope for. It's been tried and almost every attempt has failed. You have to deal with affects of poverty first so that the child who comes to class is ready to learn in the best way they can. Maybe you don't want to accept this because you also understand that such a program would take money and time. 

Here is a peer-researched paper on the effects of the takeover in NOLA

http://www.pyramidparentcenter.org/articles/14_WarningforCommunities_BRE_2013.pdf


Here is an article on the effects of the takeover in NOLA and the mistruths about school choice

https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/how-school-choice-has-failed-louisiana-especially-new-orleans-parents/

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