Opinion: If APS wants to help its students, provide more choice than neighborhood school

I ran a blog post a few days ago by Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen explaining why APS hired Erin Hames, former chief education policy adviser to Gov. Nathan Dean and now a private education consultant.

Erin Hames will go from advising the governor on his Opportunity School District to advising APS how to avoid losing its schools to the OSD.

Erin Hames will go from advising the governor on his Opportunity School District to advising APS how to avoid losing its schools to the OSD.

A week ago, the APS school board approved a $96,000 contract with Hames. In her subsequent post, Carstarphen explained Hames will advise APS on how to avert the absorption of its schools into Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District, a proposal Hames helped develop.

Atlanta and DeKalb County have about two dozen schools apiece eligible for state takeover based on chronic under performance. More than 20 Augusta schools also could face takeover, along with about half a dozen in Fulton and several in Clayton.

As the AJC’s education reporters Molly Bloom and Ty Tagami explained this weekend:

The vote is more than a year away, but debate over Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed takeover of failing schools has moved from the Capitol into community centers and schools themselves. It pits Georgia’s cherished ideal of local control of schools and tax dollars against the urgency to improve education via an “Opportunity School District.”

As opponents and supporters line up their endorsements and attacks, school district leaders are racing to get schools off the target list. And teachers and students at the more than 100 schools potentially subject to takeover are facing yet another set of turnaround programs.

In November 2016, Georgians will vote on authorizing the takeover district. The constitutional amendment would shift control of low-performing schools to an appointed superintendent, so decisions about how students are taught and how local tax dollars are spent would no longer be solely up to locally elected officials.

The proposed change to the constitution would allow the state to take over “failing” schools and close them, run them or convert them to independent charter schools. The schools would be part of a new statewide district for up to a decade. This new superintendent, selected by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, would have authority to take local property tax revenue to fund both the schools and the opportunity district administration.

Continuing his drum beat for greater school choice, Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk sent me a response to Carstarphen’s comments. (Delk has been urging greater school choice in Georgia for 25 years and has done legal work for charter schools. He notes most of the work has been pro bono.)

Here is his response to Carstarphen:

By Glenn Delk

Recently, Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstaphen took to her blog to explain the strategy she and the Atlanta Board of Education have adopted to avoid the possible takeover of nearly one-third of APS’s schools, should the voters approve Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District in the November 2016 elections.

She concluded her explanation with these telling comments…”Through all of these efforts and community engagement, we can find a path that ensures that all of our schools remain APS schools.  But that path can only be defined by child-centric agendas and not adult-focused ones…”

If she and the Board of Education truly put the interests of children ahead of adults, instead of hiring high-priced consultants to “…help us navigate the system to avoid the OSD..”, they would vote to allow APS students to use education savings accounts to choose the school which best fit their needs.  The time has come for the Board of Education and its superintendent to stop trying to avoid a state takeover, and instead fulfill what Gov. Deal has called a moral duty to help students trapped in failing schools.

It’s been five years since the cheating scandal first surfaced.  In those five years, the Atlanta Board of Education has spent more than $3.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds to pay for a school system which has, according to the state’s 2014 CCRPI rankings, 31 elementary, 12 middle and 13 high schools, or over 50 percent ranked D or F.

However, those results don’t begin to show the depth of the problem, given Georgia’s low academic standards compared to the national NAEP results.  Keep in mind that Georgia ranks either dead last, or next to last, when comparing our standards to other states, using the National Assessment of Educational Progress results as the benchmark.

According to the 2013 NAEP results, 88 percent of black 8th grade students in APS are not proficient in math, and 84 percent are not proficient in reading.  Unfortunately, APS is typical of the entire state, since 80 percent of all low-income 8th grade students statewide are not proficient according to NAEP.

Another indicator of the lack of acceptable academic achievement by both APS students, as well as statewide, is the recent report by the ACT that only 11 percent of Georgia high school graduates who qualify for free and reduced lunch met college readiness benchmarks on the four major subjects.

Since over 76 percent of APS students are low-income, APS is clearly not meeting Gov. Deal’s goal of having at least 60 percent of entering 9th grade students ultimately receive a two or four-year college degree.

Atlanta is a microcosm of the state and the country when it comes to the issue of giving low-income minority families the same rights and financial means as wealthier families, to choose the best school for their child.  Those residents with the money to do so have bought a house in the right zip codes where their children can attend Buckhead or Midtown schools such as Jackson or Morris Brandon, where less than 10 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, or pay $25,000 or more in after-tax income to attend Lovett, Westminster, etc.

While these parents can exercise school choice, the low-income families, who are overwhelmingly black, whose children attend one of the 68 APS schools where the free and reduced lunch percentage is 98 percent or more, have no such choice.

Instead of trying to figure out how to save the jobs of the adults working for APS by navigating the system to avoid the OSD, the Atlanta school board should announce that, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, any student attending an APS school will be eligible for an education savings account of $10,000 for those students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and $7500 for everyone else.  The funds can be used to pay for private schools, public charter schools, or out-of-district traditional public schools.  Assume that all 38,000 poor students decide to use ESAs, taking $380 million with them to other educational providers.  The Atlanta Board of Education, if it chose, would still have $300 million to educate the remaining 12,000 students, or $25,000 per student.

I realize Dr. Carstarphen and the nine members of the Atlanta Board of Education will never voluntarily adopt my idea.  However, if they did so, they would be fulfilling Dr. Carstarphen’s stated objective of putting the interests of children ahead of adults. By doing so, they would also become the first city in the country to fulfill the real meaning of Brown v. Bd. of Education.

In 1951, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that, when the state provides a benefit such as education, it must treat everyone alike, and that segregating students on the basis of race was unconstitutional. Over 50 years later, by giving Atlanta’s poor families ESAs, the Atlanta school board would be acknowledging that segregating students by wealth, income or zip code, is also unconstitutional.

 

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Reader Comments 0

96 comments
PublicEducationMattersGA
PublicEducationMattersGA

Many have asked where APS received the private dollars to hire BCG.  Here is the answer that has been provided by APS:


"A small group of Atlanta foundations are supporting the BCG study that will help guide the district’s school turnaround strategy through a fund we have set up at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The following foundations are supporting Phase I of this study:

- The Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation
- The Kendeda Fund
- The Nonami Foundation
- The Sartain Lanier Family Foundation"

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Yawn, Mr. Delk makes money off charter schools and wants them to get more tax money - big surprise. He has not informed us of the miracles that the charters for which he does "pro bono" work, have lifted failing, impoverished kids into the "passing" lane with $7500 per child. Am waiting for him to explain the school structure, curriculum, and processes that make these charters so good.


If schools are failing and you want to help kids with charters, just use a district wide lottery only for failing kids. Ireally doubt that most of the reformers want that plan. Any ideas why not?

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

All of the schools targeted for state takeover are in liberal areas - how apropos.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Public Announcement:


Governor's Education Reform Commission
Meeting Dates
August 25, September 24, October 22, November 19, and December 15
                 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.                
DECAL Oak Conference Room, Sloppy Floyd Building, Suite 824, East Tower

Point
Point

So much manure being thrown around about this.  It has not worked in the other states that have been taking over schools districts for more than 10 years.  Communities have less say in what happens in their community,minorities, poverty students and special education students are left out and the tax payers are double billed.  

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

You can give some of these parents all the choice in the world and they won't bother to do anything but go to the school in their neighborhood. Many of these parents won't even take advantage of the free pre-k programs. They won't put their kids in Head Start, which begins as young as 6 weeks old. You are fighting a mindset. You are fighting generational poverty. Instead of offering vouchers and school choice, why not become innovative with the schools in the neighborhood. Most schools in APS have students with serious behavior issues. Nothing, absolutely nothing is being done about it. This plays into why scores continue to be low. Without control, how is a teacher supposed to teach. I would love to see a real performing arts school. One for elementary, middle and high school. I would love to see more focus on careers that don't require a college degree. I honestly believe no one really cares about what happens to these kids. If they did, they'd attempt to do the right thing.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@ATLPeach 

"You are fighting generational poverty. Instead of offering vouchers and school choice, why not become innovative with the schools in the neighborhood."

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

Well-analyzed and well-said.

Intteach
Intteach

We have close to 200 school districts. They all have their own superintendent and layer of central office staff which cost millions. That is money not going directly into the classroom and supporting our students and teachers. So we hope by creating another district, hiring another superintendent and hiring more central office staff and using money that was spent in the classrooms before to pay for these new administrators we will improve education for those children? I guess I just don't get it.

historydawg
historydawg

@Intteach Part of the problem is that the testing apparatus and other and federal- and state-imposed mandates have made some of these jobs necessary, when they were not needed years ago. They have been created by the very folks who war against local school districts. They have created a problem they could argue against.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“I am all for local control, however, we need to try something else, since what we have been doing is clearly not working.” --@WardinConyers

Consider that the “something else” we need to try is continual improvement of Atlanta public schools, which has never been tried.  Well, why hasn’t it been tried?  I suggest the reason is simple enough: continual improvement of anything requires learning and getting knowledge by all involved.  However, all of “what we have been doing” has never been about learning or getting knowledge; it always has been about instituting THE answer. 

We see this in President Barack Obama, for whom THE answer is a reward-and-punishment “Race to the Top Competition” amongst the states and adding more charter schools. 

We see this in Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen and her school board, for whom THE answer is Carstarphen’s Harvard training as a “school turnaround” practitioner in the style of Bill Gates, Eli Broad and such others. 

We see this in Governor Nathan Deal, for whom THE answer is to copycat other states’ takeover and eventual privatization of so-called failing public schools.  

And we see this in Glenn Delk, yet again, for whom THE answer is the perverse poverty-sustaining “giving” of choice to the poor. 

They all have THE shovel-ready answer.  Accordingly, none demonstrates the leadership competence to provide for there to arise questions and learning outside their own and where it truly matters.  They all think the role of the leader is to always provide the answer or to formulate the questions for others to answer. 

For them, Carl Sagan makes no sense: “We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.  We embarked on our journey to the stars with a question first framed within the children of our species and, in each generation, asked anew, with undiminished wonder: What are the stars?”

For them, W. Edwards Deming makes no sense: “Without theory, experience has no meaning.  Without theory, one has no questions to ask.  Hence without theory, there is no learning.”

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@EdJohnson 

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."

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

Amen.

luludog
luludog

A slight correction to my previous comment: Superintendent Carstarphen did not use taxpayer funds to retain the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as I stated below. In fact Ms. Carstarphen reported that the funds for retaining BCG were provided "(t)hanks to the generosity of some funders." This rang a bell. Other communities fighting BCG's formulation of plans to privatize traditional public schools by closing "low-performing" schools and replacing them with charter schools operated by for-profit companies protested that the secrecy which shrouded so much of BCG's activities was being justified by the fact that private funds, not public taxpayer-provided funds, were used to retain BCG and for this reason transparency was not required of BCG. See this article: "Ethics Complaint Accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of Violating Lobbying Code," Naked City, 12-04-12:


http://citypaper.net/Blogs/Ethics-complaint-accuses-Boston-Consulting-Group-William-Penn-Foundation-of-violating-lobbying-code/


These groups raised the argument that the private funders of BCG were allies of BCG in the public school privatization movement. So I ask here: who funded the boston Consulting Group to engage them to provide "guidance" in APS's "Ne School Turnaround" program? Wherever BCG appears in the education world, traditional public schools get closed and are replaced by charters run by for-profit companies. Hmmmmm.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

This is actually a program started by the Obama administration and was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The states are just trying to get some federal funding.  Arne Duncan the Secretary of Education under Obama who created a charter program for Chicago while he was the CEO of he Chicago School District loves charter schools.


In other words the people who are going on about voting Democrat and GOP letting private interest take over the schools need to look at their own party.


http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/06/06222009.html


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_Improvement_Grant


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arne_Duncan

luludog
luludog

APS Superintendent Carstarphen's using taxpayer funds to retain the services of two major players from the public school privatization-for-profit movement - Erin Hames and the Boston Consulting Group - makes me think that her real purpose is to facilitate the takeover of so many APS schools under Deal's Opportunity School District proposal. While Superintendent of Austin's public school system in Texas Carstarphen tried to close two allegedly "low-performing" public schools and replace them with charters - a mini-version of Deal's plan. There was great protest from the communities where this happened and she was forced to back off on one of the schools, as I recall.

Who and what is the Boston Consulting Group? They come up with the plans for privatizing, gutting, and stripping public school systems of their so-called "low-performing" schools as only a small part of their massive corporate raider business. Click here for more info:

http://dianeravitch.net/category/boston-consulting-group/

 

 



Falcaints
Falcaints

This presupposes that private schools want to take these children.  Just having the money does not guarantee admittance. 

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

Mr. Delk's APS proposal is a version of his larger privatization/secessionist vision for the entire state. It is hypocritical for him to cloak this in Brown vs. Education terms implying that the Atlanta School Board has any contol over the poverty within its zip codes.


Mr. Delk is a school choice and privatization zealot. The results of his efforts will be to create a new class of "private" public schools for wealthier, whiter communities. Private school parents will get a check from the state to help cover the tuition they are already paying.  Middle class parents in wealthier communities will get a check from the state to aid them in their school choice efforts because school operators love these wealthier communities. There's lots of choice in Buckhead and Sandy Springs and there will be a lot more when these communities get their checks.

But our poorest will be left standing in their zip code with a check in their hand with no place to spend it.What's left of the APS when this secession happens? What happens to the students who most need the best Georgia can offer?



Moderate_line
Moderate_line

Since I was kid all I have heard reform after reform when it comes to education and the same problems exist. The right wants more testing and teacher's pay tied to performance. The left complains about racism and poverty which to me sounds like more like reasons than solutions. There are several countries that out perform us in education.


If poverty and race are a problem why does a country like Vietnam out perform the US in Math. Norway probably the richest countries in the world and very socialistic to boot barely out performs the US and performs below the OCED average.


The solutions which are proposed by the left and right are both failures. More money doesn't work and more testing doesn't work.

gapeach101
gapeach101

Why should a student attending a high performing public school be eligible for any voucher? Even within APS there are high performing schools. .

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Hey, Mr. Delk, how many private schools charge less than $10,000 per year?  So where would these 38,000 kids go?


How about we refine your proposal?  Give a voucher for $15,000 to each free lunch kid, but nothing to the non-poor!  If you really mean you want the poor to have choice, let's give them a chance at real choice, and not worry about the middle class and up kids--their parents will take care of them!


If that is your REAL intent, that is.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jarvis1975 @Wascatlady Remember, Delk's proposal does NOT operate on the basis of an increase in taxes.  He merely says to reallocate current money.


And where would they GO to get out of the "tax base?"

bu2
bu2

@MoFaux @Wascatlady 

The 2,500 difference is roughly the amount of extra money Title I schools get per student.  So the federal money goes with them, not just the local and state money.


MoFaux
MoFaux

@Wascatlady I agree that the $2500 difference seems odd.  I think a better balance could be struck than either of your proposals.  $15k sounds about right for those in poverty.  But, nothing for the middle class?  That's just as bad in my opinion.  Not sure why some of you posters think someone making $60k and spending 25% of that on education is somehow an elitist or rich.  They could use some relief too, if this plan were being seriously considered.  Now, if you're making $250k/year, you don't need assistance; I think we can all agree on that.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

@Wascatlady Yes. Tax the mobile middle class and higher, and give them nothing for it. They'll likely stay in the tax base.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jarvis1975 @Wascatlady  And he will be able to say, quite sanctimoniously, that "those people" must not care about their children because they did not find a way to use that $10,000 to buy a private school education for their kids!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady 

Some of us could use more authentic empathy for the less fortunate.  "Walk a mile in my shoes." Some will always blame the victims.  Eases their own lack of care.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jarvis1975 @Wascatlady Keeping the middle class and higher, or rewarding them, is NOT Mr. Delk's thesis sentence.  He SAYS he wants to give choice to poor APS kids.  OK, so give them each $15,000 or $20,000 so they might afford a private school.  (Of course, we know tuition is only a part of the cost.  There is transportation, uniforms, lunch, fees, etc)


However, if Mr. Delk wishes to give bennies to those who presumably can afford (some sacrifice required) private education, and he knows that $10,000 won't cut the muster anyway, then the $7500 for non poor is evidently actually his goal.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I note how few private metro Atlanta schools on the list (Google Atlanta Private School tuition) of some 40 have even kindergarten tuition under $10,000.

straker
straker

Mary - "the people of our Nation could stop blaming society's victims and start taking personal responsibility"


That blanket statement goes way overboard. There are only SOME Americans who blame "society's victims" and seek "personal greed rather than reaching out to others in real need"


Most of us reach out in the taxes we pay to fund social programs.


Its up to Congress to "develop programs of real substance"


If those in power choose to waste our tax money in useless Middle East wars, recent history shows there is little or nothing we can do about it. 


I voted for Obama because I wanted us OUT of Iraq and Afghanistan. That has not happened and is not likely to happen regardless of who our next President is.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@straker 

You are correct that I should have used the qualifying words, "too many of" before I wrote, "the people of our nation."

Please know that I simply wanted readers of this blog to read my thoughts and my replying to your post seemed a central position for achieving that purpose.

Actually, my words were not addressed to you to be taken personally.  I felt your post was somewhat ambiguous in terms of your point-of-view, but I wanted to respond several around you who had posted thoughts contrary to my own.

EdGraham
EdGraham

Atlanta Government Schools, of their own volition, will never allow choice.  The unions won't stand for it.  As I've said before and I'll continue to say, if you send your child(ren) to Atlanta Government Schools, you are guilty of child abuse.

popacorn
popacorn

@EdGraham

So many of them are essentially abused by having only one parent at home, and then abused again at school.And we wonder...

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Unions in APS? That should be the headline since there are no unions in our public schools.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation


"That should be the headline since there are no unions in our public schools."


And a BIG shout out to whichever legislative session made sure that this is the case! If Georgia had teachers unions, we'd NEVER even discuss reforms and educational improvements. The union mafia would never allow it.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @sneakpeakintoeducation


And yet the states who do have teacher's unions also have the best educational systems while the "right-to-work states almost always have the worst. You might have forgotten that unions are responsible for many of the great things we can enjoy in our society


1. end to child labor

2. helping women in their fight for the right to vote

3. The 40 hour working week

4. Holidays

5. Safe working conditions

6. Weekends off



I am assuming that your hatred for unions also means that you don't like the above.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig


There is no evidence in existence that shows that unions have ANYTHING to do with school performance.There are dozens of factors that determine that. 


Roosters crow every morning just before sunrise.Clearly, they are responsible for this daily event.


You're just a rooster raking credit for the sunrise.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @sneakpeakintoeducation  And yet you still cannot agree that unions have some merit for improving the lives of those they serve. Yes, it's funny that you admit that there is more than one factor that goes into successful schools but when it has been shown that the schools that are deemed as failing serve children in poverty or low SES circumstances your solution is to put the schools into the hands of privateers whose first and foremost duty is to ensure larger profits for the shareholders. It has been proven that providing good working conditions for employees and wrap around services for the poor does improve learning. We need look no further than Finland to see that it is a worthwhile enterprise rather than the tried and failed policies of privatization..

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation @Astropig


Then go to Finland.You'd have middle class families move to get into better schools,so it won't hurt you one bit to pack your (really) cold weather gear and head for the frozen north. Get cracking.


Unions are organized crime, pure and simple. You must be in favor of crime.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @sneakpeakintoeducation


Moot point and argument that unions act in any criminal manner when the rise and fall of the unions can be linked to the rise and fall of the middle class in America. Arguing that you are against unions is the same as arguing that you are against all the things I listed above including child labor. I am appalled that you would want to go back to a time when children worked in factories and were killed doing so. Also, arguing against tried and true methods to improve our schools when you argue for a failed system of privatize not because it's better, it's just about directing money from a public service to enrich those who want to line their pockets shows your motives and where your heart lies. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @sneakpeakintoeducation


"There is no evidence in existence that shows that unions have ANYTHING to do with school performance.There are dozens of factors that determine that. "


And yet you seem to think failure has only one cause - bad teachers and "educrats".

historydawg
historydawg

@Astropig @sneakpeakintoeducation We still haven't discovered who is supporting astropig, for no one with a job could harass, mislead, and spread ignorance SO often on this board if they contributed to society in any way. But I am sure this retirement and/or 7-day weekend was naturally provided by market forces. Willful ignorance to history is so tiresome.



MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

To all, About reaching the proficiency level on NAEP: 


Proficiency on NAEP is a very high level of performance, so high that some research has shown few students even in countries we hold out as models would meet it. Proficient requires performance that exceeds grade level.


The late Gerald Bracey, a longtime critic of NAEP, addressed the issue in this essay: 


http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=5096


At the press conference announcing the report, an incensed John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, declared: “It is unconscionable to me that there is not a single state in the country where a majority of 4th and 8th graders are proficient in math and reading.” He based his claim on the 2005 NAEP assessments.

Podesta could have saved himself some embarrassment had he read the recent study by Gary Phillips, formerly the acting commissioner of statistics at the National Center for Education Statistics. Phillips, now at the American Institutes for Research, had asked: “If students in other nations sat for NAEP assessments in reading, mathematics and science, how many of them would be proficient?”

Because we have scores for American students on NAEP and TIMSS and scores for students in other countries on TIMSS, it is possible to estimate the performance of other nations if their students took NAEP assessments.

How many of the 45 countries in TIMSS have a majority of their students proficient in reading? Zero, said Phillips. Sweden, the highest scoring nation, would show about one-third of its students proficient while the United States had 31 percent. In science, only two nations would have a majority of their students labeled proficient or better while six countries would cross that threshold in mathematics.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

@MaureenDowney It's an economy of scale though. No matter if the bar is set too high, relative performance still puts the state at 48th or worse.