Opinion: Approve the Opportunity School District. Georgia kids need it.

Yesterday, we read an argument against the proposed Opportunity School District. Here is a view in favor of the state takeover district from Michael O’Sullivan, StudentsFirst Georgia state director.

By Michael O’Sullivan

Across Georgia, students are heading back to school for a new year. Parents are packing lunches, teachers are planning lessons, and kids are hopping on school buses and walking into new classrooms.  But the quality of those schools varies dramatically depending on where you live.

Many students will go to a great school that will prepare them to thrive in the 21st century economy.  Sadly, tens of thousands – roughly 80,000, in fact – will return to one of Georgia’s chronically failing schools, something that will impact them for the rest of their lives.

According to Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, 139 of Georgia’s 2,200 schools are considered to be chronically failing.  These are schools that have received an F grade for at least three consecutive years and, in many cases, much longer. Too often these schools reside in our most disadvantaged communities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Science teacher Raven Foster leads her class at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, one of the charter schools in a state-run "recovery" district created after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Ten years later, the governor of Georgia wants to replicate this approach. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Science teacher Raven Foster leads her class at KIPP Central City Academy in New Orleans, one of the charter schools in a state-run “recovery” district created after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Ten years later, the governor of Georgia wants to replicate this approach. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

One year trapped in a failing school is one year too many, but many Georgia students spend their entire education trapped in chronically failing schools.  For too long we have stood idly by and watched these schools fail generations of students.  Thankfully, earlier this year Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Legislature took a necessary step to address this long-standing problem through the creation of Georgia’s own Opportunity School District.

The proposal was grounded in years of research and best practices from across the country.  Nearby states, like Louisiana and Tennessee, have used similar strategies and seen dramatic results. In Louisiana, the Recovery School District was tasked with turning around New Orleans’ public schools, some of the worst in the nation, after Hurricane Katrina.

Ten years later, New Orleans has some of the most impressive and sustained improvements in student performance in the country. Tulane University Professor Doug Harris recently completed an extensive study of the RSD and concluded, “We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time.”

Tennessee’s Achievement School District has the admirable goal of moving the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state to the top 25 percent. Three years in, it is already showing progress.

As a group, ASD schools in their second and third years earned the state’s highest possible growth rating, averaging a Level 5 on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. In fact, according to the ASD, four of their schools “made the state’s ‘Priority Improving’ list this year, indicating they are out of the bottom 10 percent and/or demonstrating outstanding year over year gains.”

The ultimate goal is student achievement and an end to chronically failing schools in Georgia. To that end, it has been encouraging to see local school districts gain a renewed sense of urgency to turn these schools around.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen recently said, “APS does not have a day to waste.” We can only hope that every district in the state with a chronically failing school will feel the same way.

If the Opportunity School District is the mechanism to instill that desire, so be it. And if a district either cannot or will not make necessary changes and the school continues to score an “F” grade on the state school assessment, the OSD will serve as a much needed safety net for those students.

Every parent dreams of sending their child to a great school, but today, too many parents do not have that opportunity.  Thanks to the governor and the bold Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, when Georgia voters go to the ballot in 2016 they will have the chance to say that we will not stand by and do nothing while schools fail year after year.

The OSD is Georgia’s opportunity to give students and their families the education, and future, they deserve.

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Reader Comments 0

118 comments
zzyzx
zzyzx

I will do WHATEVER it takes to prevent OSD from passing... We need to vote NO on this referendum. 


So what you're saying is if a school is failing, the state can come in and take it over, and they have better teachers and better resources to make the school more successful. This has never been successful and just lines the pockets of private bureaucrats... VOTE NO

Teresa Ferguson
Teresa Ferguson

Do you blame the dentist when you have cavities? The teachers I know put in endless hours and go the extra mile when it comes to meeting their students' needs. You can't tell me a politician can come in and teach any better. All this us going to do is cause separation in schools and our kids will be left behind.

What do you do with the rich smart white boy with no respect or manners? What's your solution when you've tried 5000 ways and a girl living in poverty just cannot comprehend? Most teachers have an inner drive to try 5000 more. What will the state dept do for her? What about all of GA's EL's whose parents cannot help with HW because they don't know the language? Then they move every three months? Think a politician can catch them up? What about the children of divorced homes, and your chief concern is if they got something to eat for dinner, NOT did they do their HW. What about all of GA's foster kids who have been scarred so deeply that school is simply a safe place to go...until they have to change schools again due to being thrown into yet another home?

There are countless scenarios, but the bottom line is, yes, we should offer ALL of our students the best education, but would I trust a politician hiring some private company over a trained professional who has a calling to educate?

Voters need to educate themselves when it comes to allowing the state to take over. They should also spend time meeting with their students' teachers on multiple occasions and get involved in their child's education rather than always blaming the teachers. Yes, there are bad teachers out there, just like there are bad cops, bad lawyers and bad doctors. But ya know, visit the school sometimes because there are a lot more excellent, caring teachers than you think...those who put in countless hours behind the scenes and go the extra mile to educate our children.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Great article. Thanks for posting and bringing to light the horrific results of the RSD and the truth behind the studies bought and paid for by pro-RSD charter schools. Sunlight is the best disenfectant.

DanDeLamater
DanDeLamater

The overwhelming majority of RSD state charters are ranked D or F even despite a decade of work. The ASD results are so poor the program is trying to take in schools that outperform other ASD schools (a government bureaucracy trying to justify its existence).  Parents are pushing back.  Citizens have figured out the ruse.  Seriously - we all must know that adding layers of bureaucracy in Atlanta will do nothing to affect change in locally challenged schools.  Those schools need resources - real boots on the ground resources - to overcome the cyclical and systemic problems (often poverty) facing students.


Here is a good start on considering impactful change. Notice the absence of duplicitous bureaucracies created to empower and enrich political cronies.


http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/08/19/five-things-successful-turnaround-schools-have-in.html?cmp=SOC-EDIT-FB

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I seem to be blocked from replying to posts. Maybe a technical glitch?


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Where is the tracking of 'failing" kids? A school is a building with a shifting population. It is easy to manipulate school stats by changing populations. Changing populations happens as kids age out of the school level, as people move (like after a devastating hurricane), as systems change the zones, as families make choices, etc. 


The easiest way to improve stats is to distribute lower performers into higher performing schools and vice versa. Well, maybe the easiest is to change the cut scores or just lie.


I think maybe the state should start an ODOD (Opportunity Doctors Office District) to take over doctor offices where mostly poor and really sick patients go. The state could appoint a State Doctor Office Manager and sell charter contracts to business people in exchange for campaign contributions. 


Or, Michelle Ree could share her secret for improving test scores.


What do you think?



JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

What has Carstarphen done in her career that makes her legitimate? She did not leave her last system in such good shape? You and the rest of these snake oil salesmen are full of sht!  As far as career ready, Georgia sold technical education down the river years ago.  Save a child, retire a politician!


You are so far up your own arce,you must be dizzy. You are aware that a political zealot is just another zealot....Right? It will pass in November because the the masses will not vote, and that is what you and the gov counts on. You should call your self politicalpig, not astropig. Is it the high road or the lack of real knowledge of education that stops you from answering the questions?

Astropig
Astropig

This is hilarious(in a sad sort of way). You zealots are basically talking to each other. No new ideas, no addressing the problem of why we need an OSD. That's why we will see this pass. If you would put as much effort into improving these schools as you put into ginning up hatred of reform, things like the OSD would never get to first base.


Can't wait until November 2016!

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

@Astropig I'm asking....not condemning as I really don't know. Is there evidence in this country that this sort of program improves results?

I'm a Libertarian, so I'm inclined to be against centralizing very much. Is there data that could swing my opinion?

redweather
redweather

@Astropig There is nothing remotely funny about the failure of these so-called reforms. What is sad is that people like you simply view this issue--actually every education issue as far as I can tell--in terms of political victory. 

redweather
redweather

@bu2 @Astropig "The evidence clearly shows these schools are doing better than before."


The evidence does nothing of the sort.

bu2
bu2

@Astropig 


They just constantly make irrelevant comparisons, throw out conspiracy theories and ignore (or claim its all made up)  any evidence that shows these things have worked.  The most common is talking about these schools being among the worst in the state.  None of these things have worked miracles and turned a bottom 5% into top 25%.  But the critics ignore that they aren't ranked as low as they used to be.


The evidence clearly shows these schools are doing better than before and none of these critics has been able to make these improvements disappear or given any kind of alternative to improve those schools.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig What you're missing is that OSD opponents are arguing on how to fix the problem. More often than not the problems in a school are a reflection of the problems outside the school. The minority tried to work that as an alternative to the OSD plan, but the majority was hell-bent on the easy solution. Do you think it is any surprise that the schools in DeKalb, for example, are clustered in one area of the county that sees high levels of poverty and transience? Schools like Southwest DeKalb, Chamblee, Dunwoody, Lakeside, and Tucker that have more stability aren't on the list. So, I have to respectfully disagree. People do want to fix the problem and argue that OSD will do little if anything to fix what is really troubling these 139 schools.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig You want a concrete plan to improved the potential OSD schools?


Move the schools (buildings, teachers,administrators) to a different neighborhood.  That would rest in a near immediate improvement of the school!


And move a Mary Lin into the neighborhood (buildings, teachers,administrators) and see how quickly it joins the "failing."

Astropig
Astropig

@jarvis1975 @Astropig


Good question- New Orleans has been a qualified success.They still have a ways to go, but they are light years ahead of the institutionalized child abuse that was the old NOLA school system. There are ALWAYS areas that can be improved on, but the main problem that the zealots here have is that the NEA and other teacher mafias have pretty much been run out of town and neutered there.They won't be welcome back, if parents have any say in the matter.( Here's a good story from U.S News & World Report that I hope you find neutral enough to be credible- http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/06/30/lousianas-recovery-school-district-is-a-model-for-school-turnarounds)


Tennessee's ASD is still too new to give even an interim grade. They are still in the process up there of identifying and taking over the truly wretched schools and that's stepping on the TEA's toes and lots of "community organizer"-types that have tons of friends and family on the local BOE payrolls. I have a home in Tennesee, I was raised there and still have deep, deep ties there. Like any other reform, the selfish incumbents in the system are ginning up the most vitriolic resistance to the idea.The usual suspects are organized and cohesive in their efforts to undermine it, but a lot of parents feel (like a lot here in Georgia) that there's not a lot that the ASD can do to make their scools any worse,so they are (gingerly) stepping into the no-mans-land between the pseudo-unions and the reformers.The ASD is a work in progress.


Here in Georgia, the OSD has already produced some limited results in the states largest school district. APS has started the process of doing what they can to minimize the number of schools that the state would have to take over if the OSD is approved.It's hard to overstate just how important that is.It took an outsider (APS super Meria Carstarphen) who was not invested in the status quo to tell the little emperors in the eduacracy that some of them were buck nekkid. This has produced lively results, with (again) the usuals claiming to be appalled that the district would hire a consultant to help them avoid wholesale takeovers. These same people claim the OSD is a failure, and we're still 15 months (or so) away from even voting on it,probably two years away from any state school takeover, so their credibility is...Well, lets just say it's suspect and leave it at that.


Like you, I don't generally believe that a bigger government leads to more efficiency or better outcomes, but I'm at the point where I don't see how they can make these schools a lot worse.

Astropig
Astropig

@bu2 @Astropig


" But the critics ignore that they aren't ranked as low as they used to be."


Good point. Improvement is a process,not an event.


The "critics" are the very people that made these schools dysfunctional. They've had decades to screw them up and they expect instant turnarounds? No wonder the public has voted for some pretty radical surgery on the schools over the last few years.


Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


"Move the schools (buildings, teachers,administrators) to a different neighborhood.  That would rest in a near immediate improvement of the school!"


I knew we could count on you to provide a commonsense,practical, workable plan to save these failing schools.




bu2
bu2

@redweather @bu2 @Astropig 

All these articles show how they are doing better than before.  Nothing shows they are doing worse.  The critics just ignore the evidence.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @jarvis1975


If you believe in takeovers, why not just let Arne Duncan take over all GA schools as GA education is failing? Poor poorly paid ASTROpigposter never met a pro repub or pro bidness idea that he wouldn't support.

Mom71555
Mom71555

@Astropig @jarvis1975


I am curious as to your take on Ohio's disastrous experience with charter schools and the corruption that has resulted.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/20/what-ohio-gov-john-kasich-is-doing-to-public-education-in-his-state/


Not to mention the resignation of the education official in charge of charter school evaluations who hid the failing results of charter schools and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been misspent, according to a state audit.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/19/ohios-school-choice-chief-resigns-after-giving-unfair-help-to-charter-schools/


gactzn2
gactzn2

@dg417s @Astropig Imagine the impact on these students when CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS take the helm, and where STRUCTURE is the operational method of CHOICE.  These organizations are not very receptive to parental input and sadly many are fighting for the right to place their children in schools who will enamor the very practices many parents despise.  

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@sneakpeakintoeducation


"No, what is sad is the billions of dollars going into privateers pockets to make a nice buck or two at the expense of our children and not bringing anything of value to the table in terms of real results"


No, what is sad is what the Georgia legislature has been doing for years! 















JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig


"If you would put as much effort into improving these schools as you put into ginning up hatred of reform, things like the OSD would never get to first base."


Funny thing is, people like you never have problem not talking about the funding that never actually gets to Georgia classrooms. The classrooms that don't have books, but are housed in monuments, run by six figure superintendents. 

Maybe, if people like you and our reps would get off your high horse and work with these schools,Real Reform could occur!


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

No, what is sad is the billions of dollars going into privateers pockets to make a nice buck or two at the expense of our children and not bringing anything of value to the table in terms of real results. The honest truth is that just changing from a public school to a privately managed charter school will do very little for the problems some of these kids face in their life.

Once we can admit that and institute real change in their life then improvements in education will follow. This is the success that has been shown when these types of changes have been made, not the phony reforms of privitization.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig


"No new ideas, no addressing the problem of why we need an OSD"


Actually, I have repeatedly made suggestions about what reforms might actually make a difference on this blog, but you simply ignore them because they do not fit your agenda.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig 


 "New Orleans has been a qualified success."


Based upon what?  There have been just as many studies and publications claiming the RSD is anything but a "qualified success" and no, before you make the claim, those studies are not all the product of union backed researchers.


On the other hand, the most recent study claiming RSD is a great success *is* the result of a researcher with strong ties to the charter movement.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Astropig 

Then be astounded. I'm not one of your students trying to kiss your ring.
As I'm sure you can tell, I don't really care what you think.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig @Wascatlady Whichever.  The bottom line is, the students and their problems in the schools to be taken over will not be magically changed by giving them the teachers and facilities that seem so successful in the highest ranking schools (or by other entities such as for-profit,"miracle" companies). Unless you cook the data. There might be a small, short-term bump (as there is with any detergent labeled NEW! IMPROVED!)  but sustained, long-term, absent other changes? Nope.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @Quidocetdiscit


"You draw a paycheck from seeing it that way. "


What a silly statement!  I "see it that way" because I have a background in data analysis and educational research!  I "see it that way" because I do not just swallow what I am told without investigating further and determining WHO would benefit from certain "findings" and "studies".  


You act as though I am perfectly satisfied with conditions as they are in education, and am only in it for the money... which is totally erroneous.  In fact, anyone who has read my posts fully (and not just lumped me in with their personal boogiemen) will know my stance on several education issues is far more nuanced than just "maintain the status quo at any cost" despite your claims. You and I agree on several of the problems that face education.  Where we don't agree is on how to address them.  I see other alternatives that "Well, we might as well throw money at charters since nothing else is working."


So no, I don't "see it that way" because I draw a paycheck.  I see it that way because I have a brain and I use it.


JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig 


I have a background in data analysis and educational research! "


Late/Middle aged male......OCD.....Narcissistic......and thinks the numbers have nothing to do with things like: hunger, abuse, hormones, and never been responsible for educating 35 individual identities. 

Yep!!!!! your the guy that needs to state the facts about educational matters and teachers!

Hey no problem, the subway guy was about child obesity toooooooo.



JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@bu2 @Astropig


Sounds like a friend of mine in elementary school that told his mom he had high F's not to worry!

The data has been proven to be only as good as the writer needed!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @AvgGeorgian @Astropig


I must disagree. The bottom line is that the status quo has been given all the time in the world to bring these schools up to par.They haven't done so. Now the public is (as my dad use to say) "fixin' to get ready to" make some existential changes in the way things are done in these failure factories.I have chuckled all weekend reading the acrid, nonsensical hissy fits being thrown here by the status quo defenders and am more sure than ever that this will pass. 


No, the "bottom line" is that time's up. Failure is about to no longer be an option.

Mom71555
Mom71555

@Astropig @jarvis1975 SERIOUSLY??!!  This is an op-ed piece written by the president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  And this is supposed to be credible??!!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @Astropig You don't have to move the buildings - they have nothing to do with it.  All you would have to move are the students.  Move the Walton HS student body into the Douglass HS system and you would see performance go through the roof.  Same with the Douglass student body - move them to Walton High and you would see Walton on the list of takeover schools.

IT'S THE STUDENTS (AND THEIR PARENTS), STUPID!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @redweather


You see a political victory - I see children who need more help than taking state money from black middle class teachers and giving it to white businessmen and white teachers in predominately black neighborhoods ala N'awlins.