Opinion: The state should allow new school districts. Smaller districts get it right.

In this column, DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester explains why she supports efforts to amend the state constitution to allow new school districts. Jester is a former school board member in DeKalb

By Nancy Jester

Recently, I ran into a fellow Republican for whom I have tremendous respect.  We talked politics, the state Legislature, and education in Georgia.  As always, he was interesting and insightful. While we shared many views, I came away knowing that on some issues of vital importance to the students and taxpayers of our state, relevant data on the operations of education in Georgia are not widely distributed and commonly understood.

Nancy Jestetr

            Nancy Jester

Our state constitution mandates that, “the provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.”  Additionally, the constitution limits the number of school districts to 180 (159 county districts plus 21 grandfathered city districts).

Georgia’s leaders and policy makers should be asking if the very school district structure that is hard coded into our state constitution is serving us well. They should be seeking to maximize student achievement and be concerned with the return on investment for each dollar of public spending. Are academic results maximized and expenses kept in check with properly sized school districts?

Now, no matter what circumstances change, we are locked into the same 180 delivery vehicles – school districts – for education. There is clear and compelling evidence that educational outcomes for students and the cost to deliver education are affected by the size of the school district in which they attend.

Elected officials and policy wonks should rejoice there is clear alignment between getting the best results for children and protecting the taxpayers’ wallets.

So, what does the evidence tell us? Based on studies from multiple states (Washington, Ohio, California, Michigan, and Nevada) we know that larger school districts have a negative effect on student achievement and produce higher costs per pupil than smaller districts. The effects on achievement are even more profound for students in poverty.

  • In a study from the state of Washington: “…large district size is detrimental to achievement…and it strengthens the negative relationship between school poverty and student achievement.”
  • A 1999 California study found: “Controlling for characteristics of the student population and other environmental factors, including class and school size, district size appears to hinder educational achievement…”
  • An Ohio study concluded: “After reviewing previously conducted studies and our own analysis on district size and student performance, we conclude that increasing district size has a negative effect on student achievement. Increasing district size produces a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of students who pass the math section of Ohio achievement tests.”
  • Michigan 2007: ”Based on the model developed for this paper, the most cost-effective size for school districts in Michigan is roughly 2,900 students. Both smaller and larger districts are likely to spend more per pupil, other things being equal.”
  • Nevada 2004: “What recent studies strongly suggest is that size does matter, and that students, teachers, parents and taxpayers are all better off where school districts are smaller in size. A surprisingly robust body of academic literature now concludes that negative impacts of large school districts outweigh the positive.”
  • In Georgia, the 25 districts with the lowest per pupil costs outperform the districts with the highest per pupil costs in achievement metrics by 7 percentage points. The top four largest districts (representing 28 percent of all students in the state) are not among the 25 districts with the lowest per pupil costs. In fact, Georgia’s largest districts are sprinkled throughout the per pupil cost distribution. There appears to be no correlation in per pupil cost and district size.

It is clear that if we are to have a serious discussion about improving the educational lives of Georgia’s children, it must include changing the limitations on the number of districts that are permitted in this state. This discussion should unite everyone who is interested in improving achievement, increasing resources for teachers, mitigating the effect of poverty on children, and protecting the taxpayer.

The only people who should oppose the formation of new, smaller school districts are the bureaucrats, lawyers, and lobbyists that have benefited from their control of this power structure.

In the next legislative session, there will be an effort to allow Georgia to form smaller districts by allowing cities to create new school districts.  I view this as one important step in the right direction when dealing with school district size.

It will be interesting to see how the forces of status quo defend against this existential threat. It will be more interesting to see how legislators respond to the facts.  Who will stand for students, teachers, and taxpayers?

And who will stand for the status quo? We’ll find out in January.

 

Reader Comments 0

172 comments
Numacs
Numacs

Gwinnett (disclaimer: where I teach) is indeed an excellent case study for how a huge school district can work well -- improving students' lives, and carefully trying to manage the funds that they've been given.   It's a shame that the state must instead go to New Orleans to "investigate" how charter schools run by private entities can best infiltrate the public school system.....er, I mean, to see how great school district works to strengthen and fix "broken" or struggling schools -- schools that most always have insane rates of socio-economic struggles to overcome before they'd expect that any kid could even think about the difficult task of learning. And do not preach to me about how wonderful the Drew School is when the issue of charter schools comes up.  The Drew School is wonderful....but it's the Golden Ticket of schools, one that I wish all kids in our state had access to, and one that all kids could attend -- if only all of us had the resolve to fund such a pipe dream. 

Numacs
Numacs

I am continually amazed at the fact that those who espouse the "we need market-based solutions" argument are the ones who cling most fervently to their smaller-is-better argument.  The smaller school systems in Georgia (most notatbly rural S. Georgia) are ridiculously inefficient because, quite simply,  they usually don't have the local tax base to fully fun their students' needs.  If they were to consolidate -- as any serious set of small businesses would conclude -- they would gain in efficiencies and stop cannibalizing each other for funds (revenue) that they don't have.  Instead, they are constantly parading to Atlanta with their straw hats-in-hand to beg for more funds. In other words: they want the rest of the state to bail them out because they can't afford to take care of their own.  Yet, they are usually the loudest to decry such socialist welfare programs when it benefits individuals.  No...those teenie school districts are instead operated under the flimsy aegis of "local control" because the local powers-that-be want to dictate curriculum for their struggling schools.  Meanwhile, the students suffer. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Personally, I have never understood why the smaller school districts do not consolidate their business functions (i.e. accounting, payroll, purchasing, maintenance, fleet, construction, etc).  That seems to me to be a perfect place to realize economies of scale.   Well, actually, I do understand - that is where the friends and family usually wind up.....

anothercomment
anothercomment

There are no economies of scale in larger districts only Friends and families. If you were every lucky enough to go to a high performing independent school district you would see what Nancy is talking about. It is like send your kids to Woodward or Westminster those are the perfect size school districts. I went to the Public version.

When I post on Facebook about the public school woes down here my classmates can't understand why. Except one, who also lives in the Atlanta area. He keeps fleeing further out in the suburbs in the great white flight. At home our parents have lived in the same district that their grandparents moved to in the 1930's -1950's.

Cere
Cere

@Lee_CPA2 Very true, Lee. For years I advocated for using an outside professional firm for payroll. There are several very competent ones - First Data, PayChex, etc.  And they don't cost taxpayers in the form of pensions on down the road.  Further, I also have advocated to run SPLOST accounting as a completely separate entity, with accounting performed by an outside accounting firm. Seems to me there is a co-mingling of funds when all the SPLOST construction gets mired up in the general budget -- along with the outrageous legal costs associated with construction. Add to that, we now have an army of additional employees working on SPLOST construction issues.  What happens to these people when SPLOST ends? Surely the powers that be will just absorb them into some other made up new highly-compensated administrative job with a nice pension. 


We can never know. No one really shares our books in depth. No one has ever done a forensic audit on DeKalb schools.

Numacs
Numacs

@Lee_CPA2 They don't consolidate because they thrive on "local control".....In other words, they want to dictate policies and curriculum -- efficiencies be damned. All those little local school systems are actually just  little personal power fiefdoms for the powers-that-be. And the argument that "local communities know what's best for their kids" is really just a silly one -- not when most people in the country have come to a consensus on what is best for students, both in regards to curriculum and in classroom management/discipline. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere @Lee_CPA2 

"And they don't cost taxpayers in the form of pensions on down the road."

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

Georgia's TRS pays 85% of teachers' pensions (which teachers themselves have paid into where their funds have been invested for them by Georgia's TRS), and our TRS will continue to do so unless unaware and misinformed citizens lobby to change teachers' pensions as they are now designed. Georgia has one of the best, if not the best, teacher retirement systems in the nation, in terms of NOT burdening the taxpayer.


jerryeads
jerryeads

I suppose. This is not a research base I've spent time with. I worry about districtitis from an experiential perspective. I remember visiting New Jersey districts some time ago - it seemed there was a different district every seven or eight feet. The overhead expenses (admin) weren't bad, but there were no teacher support systems in place either. I also remember several districts in Virginia - we have similar ones in Georgia - in which there simply are no resources. Without adequate safeguards I can imagine the same sort of disasters happening with newly formed districts.

THAT said, I can also well imagine greatly improved responsiveness to the community from smaller districts - and that might be a very good thing.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

From TRAGIC:


URGENT REQUEST...The Teacher Recruitment, Retention, Compensation Committee aka TRRCC of the Education Reform Commission meets THIS Thursday. 

The meeting was not on the meeting website page, but there was an agenda posted for it. Hmmmm, were they trying to keep people in the dark? I sent them an email and asked why it was not on there. Guess what, no reply, but it's on there now.

According to the agenda, the meeting will take place from 10-2. This is 2 hours longer than normal. This fact and the agenda scares us.

Will any of you be able to attend? Thanks!!! Easy trip on MARTA!!!

10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
DECAL Hickory Conference Room, Suite 854
Sloppy Floyd Building, East Tower

jerryeads
jerryeads

@MaryElizabethSings  Go get 'em. It's conceivable that some support person just didn't do both. BUT I wouldn't be shocked if they were quiet on purpose.

class80olddog
class80olddog

So if it is wrong to allow cities to have their own school systems, why don't we just take away the "grandfathering" and let Decatur become part of DeKalb?  How would that go over in Decatur?  I expect you would hear a HUGE howl of protest from families who paid big bucks to buy a house in that school district.

If it is good enough for Decatur, why not Brookhaven?

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog Exactly. Isn't about time those of us who care about education for ALL children make it clear that we expect action from the General Assembly on this issue in January.  I, for one, don't give a damn about casinos or any "religious freedom act."  I care about the next generation. 

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

How does a room mom and a deposed board member have any sense of how schools and school systems should be run?




class80olddog
class80olddog

@mensa_dropout I would trust her before I would trust the "Ph.D.s" in education who say the best way to educate a child is to promote them to the next grade level despite their not learning the basics, then keep promoting them until they are several grades behind.

ANyTime
ANyTime

As I read this I thought what many posters had already stated...Gwinnett, the largest district in GA, is doing great!  They've received many national accolades, developed their own more demanding form of accountability for students and teachers, and are trying numerous innovative ideas (changing with the times).  The biggest contributor to their success has been their solidarity at the leadership position.  Too often, this is what is lacking...superintendent "musical chairs", untrained principals (and those who are successful being moved to a district position after 2-3 years), lack of local control, etc.  

The idea of smaller districts can easily be met by a larger district by simply giving more control to the regional superintendents (assuming they are effective), high school clusters, and especially to the local schools who may better know what the school needs than the district.  Release more funds to the schools to spend on what is needed and tailor a school to the community.  Simply saying smaller districts is the answer is ludicrous.  We need effective leaders, teachers, and faculty in the right places.  And while we are at it, put more money back into the schools to reduce class sizes in the most needy areas (low income, high ESOL, etc.).  Regardless of what money is given to schools, the leadership and teaching that takes place at the individual school must be of the highest quality and consistent when success is produced. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@ANyTime 

Excellent thoughts posted, ANyTime.


Let us, also, not forget the Democratic Legislative Plan of Community-Based Schools, which any sized district can accommodate.  The idea is to bring in more targeted and meaningful medical personnel and counselors who will confer with students and their families regarding their emotional and physical needs, as well as adult mentors to aid in the total development of individual students, including tutoring for academic progress, gathered from the community, itself.

Starik
Starik

@ANyTime Gwinnett is where DeKalb was in the 20th century; once DeKalb was the best in the State.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere 

Your remarks above seem to give validity to the speculation within my first post on this thread, thus:

 

"The suggestion of smaller school districts may be an alternative plan to get around having larger school districts not approving more charter school requests than the larger district can afford.  However, the drawback is that smaller districts may not be able to afford more specialists, who help to personalize and to individualize instructional needs of students.


Moreover, this may have a racial or class status bias underneath the surface."


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

I care about every child equally, Starik.  I try to look at the whole of public education in Georgia, not just part of it.  I, also, believe in an integrated society and in an integrated world where we are all one, and all equal children of God. We must model that vision in both our communities and our schools if we are ever to achieve that end.

As I often write, as something in which I believe metaphysically and spiritually, and which I try to live out in reality: Love multiplies and expands; it never divides and shrinks.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik Integrating backward - adopting slave culture as the norm - is not.  I think we agree that the poorest of the poor need special handling to bring them along as far as they can go, but not at the expense of kids and families who want a bright future through education.

Cere
Cere

@Starik @ANyTime You all do realize, this legislation doesn't mandate smaller districts, it simply opens the door for communities who would choose, to run their own school district. If communities are pleased with the way their Gwinnett schools are run, then certainly they can choose not to make a change. However, Gwinnett's good school system should not be a reason to hog tie communities in DeKalb.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Cere MES, don't you have any sympathy for kids who aren't wealthy enough to go to private schools, but have attitudes and abilities that would enable them to go to good colleges?  Why condemn kids like these to bad schools in DeKalb?  What about immigrant kids?  Can you imagine the plight of a kids from, say, Guatemala who get dumped in a ghetto school?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

What I think is that we should grow as a society not to think in terms of "at the expense of" and instead try to improve public education for all in every school in Georgia.  From my experiences in having taught in equal amounts of time in white (and mixed) and black schools, in both the Atlanta area and in south Georgia, there are (and always will be) some very bright students among "the poorest of the poor" (of all races) and some very slow students in all socio/economic and racial groups.


What we should be aware of: 

Incorporating too many charter schools and smaller district clusters, as a current educational fad, not well thought through, can adversely effect the financial resources of traditional public schools in Georgia, thus further dividing people and hurting some very bright students as well as more average students in the remaining traditional public schools because it will be difficult to finance two separate educational systems functioning side by side in Georgia.  Degree, or number of charter/small districts, is important to consider.

Cere
Cere

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings @Cere Most of the immigrant kids in DeKalb go to Cross Keys or Clarkston.  Cross Keys is in the city of Brookhaven. Could it be possible for the city to take over? Or perhaps a joint agreement with Chamblee and Brookhaven? 


Clarkston is currently completely under the control of the top tier DeKalb administrators, with regard to who holds the jobs at the school - not seeking out appropriate leaders and teachers for immigrant students (hint: None of the admin speak a language other than English)

class80olddog
class80olddog

For about half the posters on here, it doesn't matter if a student gets a good education.  All that matters is that schools are "diverse", that SPED students are integrated into regular classes, that rich folks taxes get sent down to the poor areas of town (what are left over after paying for friends and family employment).  All they care about is being Politically Correct.  To hell with learning.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog And for the other half of the posters it's to hell with students who are not like me and mine.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@class80olddog

The purpose of school taxes, and public education in general, for that matter, was that we owe it to the future of our nation to have an educated populace, therefore everyone would contribute toward the education of the whole. 


Mandella88
Mandella88

Wow!  Saint Nancy the Jester's column has brought out all of the old DeKalb Schools Watch Mafia - Cere(ration), AnotherComment, DeKalbInsideOut, and the rest of the Mafia soldiers.  Their Moses has come down off the mountain and its time to gather round!


But I degress.  Let's point out a few issues with Nancy's editorial:


1.  As pointed out below, Gwinnett.  It's the largest district in the state and one of the highest performing.  A.pig said that it was due to Alvin Wilbanks.  Well, if that's true, then the Jester's argument does not stand up.  It only takes a great superintendent, not a small district to make a great district.


2.  The Jester says she is fond of using data.  She is, after all, "a mommy with a calculator" (tears of angelic rapture rolling down my eyes).  If she is big on data, where is hers?  She list information on "successful" districts without citation, and claims that the data is correct.  Unfortunately, it's not.  More than likely, it some anecdotal BS that is not proven.  Cite some data in a research piece (preferably a meta analysis) before claiming its fact.


3.  The Jester is against educational bureaucracies, but proposes to create even more.  Huh? 


4.  She just happened to be speaking to a Republican who is confused on the need to change the Georgia Constitution to create smaller districts.  Perhaps it was some of those same Republicans that ran as far away from her and did not come out in support of her when Deal yanked her interfering self off the school board.  Don't you think that its strange when Fran Millar, one of the biggest educational Republicans in the state and a fellow Dunwoodian has nothing to ever say in support of Ms. Jester?  I wonder why?



Ms. Jester is a DeKalb Commissioner now, so let's see what all she can do to fix that government agency before she starts telling the legislature what they should do about the state constitution. 


And for all of you posters that like to point out that you went to a northern, midwestern, New England, etc... small district and that it was the greatest thing in the world - GO BACK!  Take your children with you so that they can experience how great life can be.


But I guess that if it was so great, you would still be there.....

Cere
Cere

@Mandella88 FWIW, I comment on just about every post that has anything to do with DeKalb schools - regardless of who wrote them.  In this case, I happen to firmly agree that communities that wish to manage their own school district should be allowed the opportunity to do so (after presenting a respectable plan...) I have long said that this old amendment not allowing new districts to form is outdated and should be removed (in fact, it never should have been an amendment to the state's constitution, IMO).  I have said these things long before I ever even heard of Nancy Jester. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I think what Jester is asking for is a trial to take the poorest performing high school in Dekalb along with its feeder schools and form a small district. The district would then be tracked over 5 years to determine whether this plan will work and at what cost. Surely she is not proposing wealthy areas with high performing kids would break away?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian 

I am not against smaller school districts per se and I can see the value in pursuing some smaller school districts. However, I have tried to play the Devil's Advocate to alert the public to some of the instructional, diversity, and financial downsides of such districts, also.

Moreover, I have tried to raise the antennae of our Legislators, and the public, to the possibility of political agenda maneuvering going on in this proposed new legislation.  By stating that, I am not directly implying Ms. Jester's motivations, but perhaps the political motivations of some who may be influencing her, under her radar.  I used the word "may" not as a definitive but as a question of possibility to keep in mind in the coming legislative session in Georgia, regarding this issue.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian That wouldn't work.  If you take the worst performing HS in DeKalb, you'll find that the kids with ability, academic or athletic, have fled for better-performing schools. 

Cere
Cere

Anyone who has known Nancy for any length of time knows that this is not a new opinion she holds. And it is her own opinion, arrived at from her own research. Nancy is not only a very smart person, she is really and truly all about spending our tax dollars in the most efficient way to get the very best results possible. I personally attended a small school district in Ohio which I used to write about on the original DSW blog. Many of us from the midwest and New England states know these kinds of small districts and small towns. I wholeheartedly agree that smaller districts with more local control can deliver superior results.

That said, just about anything would deliver better results than DeKalb. DeKalb just does not want their top tier schools to be cut away from the total mass as they count on the successes of a very few schools to cover up the terrible track records of others. We once conducted an aggregated study of test scores at Shamrock when it was a middle school (now Druid Hills Middle) - and found that while the school touted an average test score in the mid-70s, in reality, very few students tested in that area. In reality, half or so tested in the 90s and half or so tested in the 50s. So the school was essentially covering up hundreds of failures using the scores of successful students. A pitiful action to be sure, but one that saved jobs for administrators - which was the goal of Dr. Lewis and others. Although this same kind of cover up can happen in a small district, it is much more likely that under-achievers would be identified and helped. 


Someone asked if Nancy had given scores from districts with high poverty. If you had followed her for the last several years, you would know that she often cites small districts with very high free and reduced lunch programs that are successful. Marietta comes to mind. Valdosta perhaps. I can't recall them all, but I do know that Nancy knows. This is her passion and has been for a decade. She works very hard to improve educational outcomes for children. We are very lucky she is willing to devote her life to the citizens of Georgia. She could very easily make quite a lovely salary as an actuary or CFO somewhere.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere 

Valdosta has a lot of work to do in creating school situations which are truly integrated.  Races are still so divided by bias in south Georgia.  Not across the board, but the need is so great to change the dynamic of almost a racial caste system, there, to this day.


Only a decade ago, for instance, tires were slashed of a white student who dared to eat lunch with students not in his racial group.  Sad.  Truly sad, what harm a closed society can do, even if its academics are good.

Cere
Cere

@MaryElizabethSings  I hadn't heard of the tire slashing story, but race issues are pervasive pretty much everywhere.  I would challenge anyone to go door to door at say, Lakeside HS, which is said to be 'integrated' and see if the actual classrooms are so.  My experience there showed that although the overall student population is diverse, there are pretty much all white students in gifted, orchestra and AP courses. Mostly African-American in general classes. No one has ever bothered to go there to see if it's really that way. They prefer living on that river in Egypt. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere 

I went to elementary school and half of jr. high in Valdosta.  I went back there for my first year in college.  My parents moved back to Valdosta and lived there until they died in 2000 and 2007.  When I came back from NYC, in 1970, I taught in Valdosta (Lowndes County Schools) for a year and a half before coming to DeKalb County.  I have visited Valdosta off and on all of my life and have witnessed the progression of racial groups over the years, including within the last 5 years.  I keep in touch with friends and family from South Georgia to this day.  I am not simply referring to the school system, but to the social networks of the whole community over the years.  South Georgia has a long way to travel to match the interaction of blacks with whites everyday in the Atlanta area.  That is not to say that there is not kindness and friendship of a certain nature between the races in south Georgia.  I am talking about breaking through long held social norms of social interaction which is harder to do in small towns because of peer pressure not to think differently than the majority thought (and where almost everyone knows your thoughts and actions).
.

Cere
Cere

@MaryElizabethSings Michael Thurmond always likes to talk about his education in a small school district outside of Athens, GA. He talks about segregated proms and other racial divides. However, he does talk with high regard for his home and his upbringing. His early education seems to have served him well, having become a lawyer, the Labor Commissioner of the state of Georgia and the superintendent of DeKalb Schools. So much of what people accomplish comes from inside themselves and family support, however, a good school filled with dedicated teachers can be the thing that makes the difference. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere @MaryElizabethSings 

I tried not to judge as a teacher.  My focus was on helping every student who came within my parameters, and every family into which they were born or placed, as I worked to help students and the community in which I worked.

Cere
Cere

@MaryElizabethSings  That's good. Glad to hear it. Many teachers do the same. That was my point. And teachers should be highly compensated for it - not trained to aspire to become administrators so they can make more money. Small districts can function with fewer administrators and their communities can insist on paying teachers well, in order to attract and maintain the best. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

It's absolutely true that the 180 seems like an arbitrary cap and should not prevent new districts from being formed; however, I must say I find Ms. Jester's evidence to be quite sketchy.   1)  What are the exact sources of the research she cites?  2)  Why the old research studies?   One cannot hinge their support on 15  year old studies - the world has changed since that time.


I'm sorry, but we need a more persuasive case here.   She's not going to convince anyone, even if it's clear that we shouldn't be bound by artificial caps.   Also, it's funny how she glossed over the language that I've been harping on for 4 years now, the part about "the provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia."   How about focusing on the word "adequate?"  Shouldn't it be "quality?"

Cere
Cere

@living-in-outdated-ed  I agree with your issue on the term, 'adequate'. Believe it or not, 'adequate' is a common term used to describe our government's commitment to educating our children. Apparently, we are good with 'adequate' future citizens. The federal government is the leader in using this term. In special education the term is the generic, indefinable, 'appropriate' - IDEA charges states with providing a 'free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment'.... not exactly a lofty goal is it?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@living-in-outdated-ed Sketchy is correct - Jester seems a misguided and uneducated zealot (I base this only on her lack of research sophistication evidenced by cherry picking phrases from "research" and posting a date with the statement. So now you can paraphrase me as proof of her lack of understanding, like this - "Jester appears to be a misguided zealot with a lack of research skills, 2015"

Cere
Cere

@AvgGeorgian @living-in-outdated-ed I'm not seeing your point here. Are you saying that Nancy is off base and that all school districts should be large - or large ones are more successful - or that we should keep the old amendment as is? Or is your point that you simply don't like Nancy? Hard to tell what you mean here. Seems you are just interested in bashing Nancy Jester. Do you have a better plan for improving education in Georgia - a state that has lingered at or near the bottom for decades in outcomes for students? Do you have an opinion as to improving the high rates of poverty in this state? Just curious if you have any ideas on anything... love to hear them. Personally, I gave up long ago when I realized that beyond a shadow of a doubt, education has become nothing more than a multi-billion dollar business and jobs and contracts program and that few who administer or 'discuss' education really care much about educating children.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One benefit of smaller systems is that they allow closer watch on their spending, hiring, and prioritizing, which should appeal to many voters.  There also is a feeling of greater buy-in and input.


If the geographic area is not too wide, some resources can be shared, such as psychometrists.  And a smaller system does not require so many assistant superintendents, area superintendents, and other "helpers," allowing more of the funds to be available for the classroom.

redweather
redweather

@Wascatlady Maybe, maybe not.  People manage to misappropriate funds even in small systems.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady 

Also, nothing was sadder to see in South Georgia in the 1970s than how fear held students back - when small private (often church) schools sprang up in order to care for the needs of certain white citizens who felt their children would be deprived by going to school with black kids in the newly integrated schools. 

Ironically, what their children were often deprived of were many specialists, many resources, and teachers who were sophisticated in instructional principles.  Sad, especially because when their children transferred later to integrated public schools, they were often behind their peers in academic (and social) expertise.

bu2
bu2

@MaryElizabethSings @bu2 @Wascatlady

My spouse was down there and hardly remembers any.  Certainly not beyond elementary level.  They were mostly groups of parents putting together schools.  Many of which don't exist anymore.  There was competition.  The good ones survived.  Lesser ones didn't.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@bu2 

I worked directly with a couple of students whose parents placed them in a private church school at that time/place.  The church teachers were basically unaware of individualized instruction and unaware of the continuum of curriculum skills through the various grade levels and how to maximize individual student growth (shortest amount of time to accomplish the greatest degree of mastery learning on that curriculum continuum) through pinpointed instruction tailored to remediate and correct the students' specific instructional weaknesses. The church teachers were good people who had tried to help but small class size does not equate necessarily to instructional knowledge. Their knowledge of instruction was sorely lacking so that they had no idea how to pinpoint instructional objectives to specific children based on test data to maximize growth.

People can have differing experiences and be equally correct per their own experiences, thus your wife's experiences and my own were different but both of us have valid experiences to share. 

I worked with the administrators in the local public school, using their books, workbooks, skill charts, and end-of-level tests in reading over a two week period to get these two students basically on grade level work by the time they re-entered public schools that fall in 4th grade.  After I had worked with them one-on-two for two weeks that summer, these two students flourished and continued improving in their traditional public school, graduating from high school with their peer group years later, and both graduating from college, after that.  They have often told me that I changed their lives that summer.  They would have been lost had they remained that summer church private school although it was smaller than the traditional public school there. Pin-pointing instruction is a sophisticated task for professional teachers who have been trained in that skill, not for well-intended but instructionally unaware teachers.

bu2
bu2

@MaryElizabethSings @bu2

So you are discussing "one" church school.  Your original comment struck me as a back-handed stab at churches for sponsoring opportunities to stay in segregated schools.


There were lots of those schools founded after integration was required in Georgia, but I don't believe churches sponsored very many.

Cere
Cere

@MaryElizabethSings @bu2 In DeKalb, there is a very large charter school that operates inside the New Birth church using public funding. There used to be an in house Christian school in the building, but somehow, it fizzled out - while the publicly funded charter school (Leadership Prep Academy) grew and remains. Interestingly, our current board chair, who before being elected to the DeKalb school board, served as an elder of sorts at the church at the time, and actually negotiated a $10,000 a month lease for LPA with DeKalb schools for New Birth. The agreement is signed by him as a rep of New Birth. The lease continues today, and has increased I am told. 


It's the old saying, "Follow the money!" And to think that here they have us all arguing about creating small independent districts.... lol. Fools are we.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cere @MaryElizabethSings @bu2 

I know that area well.  New Birth Church had done much to help improve the academic standing of students in that area before I retired in 2000 with the DeKalb County Schools.  I supported their work in helping tutor students in reading after school hours.  This is an example of Community-Based Schools (and the extension into the black community, especially), which can benefit the growth of black students who have been held back for generations because slavery and Jim Crow created situations whereby black families were not able to pursue literacy, either through law, as in slavery, or through a lack of public funds to their segregated schools, as in Jim Crow.

Cere
Cere

@MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady Same is true in South Carolina and Alabama.  The South is very much still a hotbed of racial inequity. I like to share the story of when I used to play ALTA tennis. I played for a public course team, but we often played against high end private clubs. I used to conduct my own private 'survey' asking the moms at these very expensive Atlanta clubs where their children attended school. They all attended private school. Every single one. Further, when I asked about their assigned public schools, these mothers could never even tell me the name of their local school. It's not on the radar of the privileged class. They don't spend a minute worrying about education.