Opinion: Don’t trust school reform to Legislature that dabbles once every 30 years

An expert in school data, Jarod Apperson looks today at the efforts and direction of the governor’s committee charged with reforming how we pay teachers and fund schools.

Apperson has met with some members of the funding committee to present related data. He has also written several pieces for Get Schooled on the education issues.

After reading the Get Schooled blog Thursday where teachers voiced concerns about proposed changes in the state salary model, Apperson sent me an email, “…I’ve thought a lot about the reforms being considered. I’d been meaning to write my thoughts down and seeing today’s Get Schooled article got me motivated to do it.”

A graduate of NYU in both finance and accounting, Apperson is pursing a doctorate in economics at Georgia State University, focusing on education data analysis. He writes the Grading Atlanta blog and serves on the board of the public, non-profit charter Kindezi Schools.

I agree with the central theme of his comments: It makes no sense to rely on the Legislature for a deep-dive reform of education. Lawmakers have neither the expertise to address what are complex questions nor the ability to respond with agility and accuracy to the fast-changing education landscape, witnessed by the fact the funding formula they’re attempting to revise goes back three decades.

By Jarod Apperson

Georgia leaders are now evaluating a change in the way public schools are funded.

Early this year, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed members to an Education Reform Commission tasked with considering how our state educates its students. Led by former University of Georgia President Chuck Knapp, the ERC’s funding subcommittee faces a central question: Should the state Legislature financially incentivize districts to prioritize specific education approaches or should it provide schools funding based on the needs of their students, leaving strategic choices to local leaders?

Our current funding system, introduced in 1985, is complicated but the crux of it can be boiled down to this:  about 63 percent of the money earned is based on needs of the students served while 37 percent of the money is driven by characteristics of the teachers employed, incentivizing schools to hire teachers who fit certain profiles that the state deems more valuable.

A state-level incentive structure makes sense if legislatures are incentivizing schools to do things that lead to greater achievement, but it is inefficient if the state is incentivizing things that don’t work.

The evidence suggests that Georgia’s Legislature is not very good at prescribing education approaches, and the current incentive structure implemented by the state does not align with what we know about the relative value of training and experience.

For example, there is clear evidence teacher experience matters, and year-to-year improvements are particularly dramatic early in a teacher’s career. A fifth-year teacher is substantially more effective than a rookie.

If the state’s incentive structure were strategic, it would give teachers large raises in the first five years. Instead, Georgia teacher earnings grow a paltry $2,036 over that period, or about 1.5 percent a year. That’s measly compared to the early-career salary growth seen in other skilled professions like technology, accounting or engineering.

Rather than paying teachers substantially more as they gain valuable early-career experience, the state offers huge incentives for something that does not lead to greater student achievement: advanced degrees.

In Georgia, it takes 14 years for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to reach the starting salary of someone with zero experience and a specialist degree.  This emphasis on advanced degrees over experience is not strategic. It doesn’t benefit students and doesn’t make teaching a more attractive profession. Instead, the only real winners from this scheme are the degree-granting institutions that collect tuition from Georgia’s teachers.

It is clear the current approach misfires, but the deeper question facing the funding subcommittee is whether the Legislature has the expertise and nimbleness to insert itself in setting strategy at all.  I don’t believe it does.

Just as our state has been poorly served by the current structure, a new plan mandating unproven pay-for-performance or other strategies du jour would be equally misguided.

Instead, the state should set the bar for what students need to learn and fund schools based on the needs of their students, leaving strategic decisions to the school leaders who know more and can react as new evidence arises.

Education is a dynamic profession. We know more today than we knew 30 years ago.  We will know more tomorrow than we know today. Financial incentives in a dynamic profession should not be dictated by a Legislature that revisits its strategy once every 30 years.

Just like we wouldn’t rely on a medical treatment prescribed by a doctor in 1985, Georgia should no longer educate its students based on what a group of legislators thought made sense 30 years ago. Reform is needed, and with the governor’s efforts, there is a real possibility of meaningful change.

Our state should fund education in a way that acknowledges the Legislature’s lack of expertise and takes advantage of the field’s dynamism rather than holding the profession hostage until a group of 236 women and men under the Gold Dome update their consensus once every few decades.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

210 comments
Laurie1113
Laurie1113

The only thing university presidents have proved well at doing is raising tuition costs.  Having one as the head of this commission is setting it up for failure.

Enoch19
Enoch19

But the same exact voices that tell us the legislature is incompetent to do their job will tell us that Obamacare, drafted by a similar legislative body with similar lack of experience is the second coming.  These same people will tell us that Dodd Frank, regulating the details of financial services is great legislation and desperately needed.  


Of course public schools are an essential part of the role of the Government while the details of healthcare and the details of financial services are not. 


Bottom Line?  HYPOCRITE. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Enoch19


The Affordable Care Act was several years in the drafting.  It was studied and tweaked in committees in both the House and the Senate.  It had input from the Finance Committee, the Health committee, the health insurance industry and the medical industry.   Similar legislation had been considered and studied for decades.  I would suspect that there was a lot more "expertise" at the national level and among those interest groups that worked on the ACA than there are "educational experts" the Georgia Legislature.  Furthermore, many people who are in favor of the ACA are not particularly pleased with how much input the corporate interest of major players in the drug, insurance and medical industry had in the final product.  


It is not that the legislature in Georgia is incompetent to do their job - the question is, what exactly is their job in this case?  Is it not reasonable for them to seek the opinion and input of those who are actually involved in the industry they are seeking to regulate before making major decisions which will affect the livelihood and futures of teachers throughout the state?


So no, not hypocrisy at all.  Reasoned concern.

popcornular
popcornular

Bottom line, do we really want the least intelligent among us making crucial decisions regarding children's futures?

Starik
Starik

@popcornular I wouldn't call the General Assembly the least intelligent among us... below average in many cases, but smart enough to impose their concept of wisdom, justice and moderation and make a decent living.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popcornular 


And there you go again, insulting the intelligence of all teachers with one broad brush. And yet, you castigate me for having the gall to point out that I am not an idiot....



You are a piece of work.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popcornular @OriginalProf 

No, you were being heavy-handed and obvious with your "humor," as you often are. Sorry, popcornular, Starik was a lot funnier than you were.

popcornular
popcornular

@OriginalProf

A low IQ and inability to recognize wit/humor go hand in hand. He wasn't trying to be witty, I was simply unclear with my statement. You want to see the opposite though, and your mind is simple  enough to convince yourself of anything. $200 please.

I am truly, deeply sorry that education majors have the lowest IQ's of all college students. Can we not accept that and  simply get the best person for the job? Please?

PSW1138
PSW1138

I whole heartedly agree with this approach, and think it should be expanded.  Thus, Congress should no longer have a say in the military's defense budget, but should leave it up to the military-educated folks to decide what is best for the military. We should get away from this old fashioned idea of a legislature being the representatives of the people, and should just let each funded entity decide who will decide things for it. We should just devolve sovereignty away from the people themselves, and unto each field of human endeavour, and the experts therein.  The people should get used to obeying their bettors, and liking it. 


Getting back to reality--I have this strange feeling the education types think they are more qualified to speak about what should be spent on other areas of the budget (State and national) than others are to speak about their own areas. I welcome disclaimers that say, "no, not true", and that education folks will, if given enhanced say in their own areas, will demand others stay out of the areas of others. Thus, businessmen will make corporate tax law, and so on, manufacturers will decided environmental laws, etc. etc. Absent this, the entire premise of this post should be rejected, or modified heavily before further consideration. 


This is a self-governing republic. The people must have a cut, and that cut comes in the form of elected legislative representatives. Deal with it. 

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@PSWallace


Congress does at least ask the Pentagon what they need, and why.  They don't always LISTEN - sometimes jobs in their own districts are more important than what the military wants or needs - but at least they ASK!

redweather
redweather

@PSWallace  "Congress should no longer have a say in the military's defense budget, but should leave it up to the military-educated folks to decide what is best for the military."


If Congress provides any meaningful oversite of the military I'd sure like to see evidence of that.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@PSWallace


Do you not think there is room for a compromise somewhere between the "all or none" approach you advocate? I do not think educators are suggesting that they have total control over educational matters of law and funding - after all, such issues are complex and require knowledge across avocations.  However, it does seem like it would be reasonable to expect that educational experts (by which I mean actually teachers, administrators and superintendents - not necessarily lobbyists) be consulted when making the kinds of decisions that may very well determine one's future earnings, retirement and livelihood. 

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@PSWallace "Thus, businessmen will make corporate tax law, and so on, manufacturers will decided environmental laws, etc. etc."

This is exactly what happens now. These groups have the money and power, in our capitalist society, to lobby the legislators and get exactly what they want.  It's one of the reasons that we have such a huge income gap between the wealthy and the poor in the United States. I believe that it is larger in the U.S. than in 70% of all countries around the wold.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

So many angry responses.  I wonder how many of these posters have spent decades of their lives helping the less fortunate to improve their lives, as I did, with joy?  No one makes this world better without love in his heart, and competency/skill in his mind that is joyfully shared with others through a generous spirit-of-higher-consciousness.  We are all one on this planet, under God.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dcdcdc 

My responses speak for themselves, without the need for editorializing. 

I am not a hypocrite.  If I disagree with someone, it is because I disagree with their ideas or their spirit.  Small-minded personal concerns are not where I am.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@dcdcdc @MaryElizabethSings


dcdcdc


It is quite possible to "disagree" with someone without suggesting they are lazy, an idiot, selfish, stupid etc.  Many posters on this blog manage to disagree in a civil manner daily.  Some of them are "liberal".  Some of them are "conservative".  Good  manners is not limited by political affiliation or beliefs. MES did not mention political persuasion.  Only you did.

popcornular
popcornular

@dcdcdc

 'Love the hypocrisy on display for all to see'

All, except for of course, the hypocritical, passive/aggressive narcissistic lost souls whose anger, and ignorance, unknowingly ooze from every orifice.  



Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

I would disagree that "liberals" have the corner on incivility.  Certainly, I have heard a lot of nasty rhetoric from conservative politicians recently.   I suspect if one isolates themselves and just focuses upon "conservative" media or "liberal" media, one gets a rather skewed view of just who are the worst offenders, but there is no lack of blame to go around.

 It takes a lot more effort to maintain one's composure, dignity, civility and integrity in the face of adversity than it does to just sound off and scream insults and accusations.   Sadly, too many decide to give in to their worst natures (myself included upon occasion).  However, again, I do not think that this is something one can just lay at the feet of "liberals" or "conservatives."  I think it is an unfortunate aspect of our baser human nature.  

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@MaryElizabethSings Definition of "angry" by a liberal - anyone who disagrees with them.  Love the hypocrisy on display for all to see

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@popcornular @dcdcdc Don't get me wrong, it's not a surprise - just as the most intolerant people in the country are the same ones who bash others over the head with screams of  "tolerance", etc.  The same with those who accuse others of being racists.  It fits with the accusations of "angry" as well, because someone doesn't agree with her positions.


Hypocrisy knows no bounds, but sadly it seems the "liberal" causes seem to bring out the biggest ones.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Quidocetdiscit 

It has always seemed to me that one should reply to one's political opposite--conservative if one is liberal, or liberal if one is conservative-- as a faculty member replies in the classroom to a challenging student: listen and answer the objective question, and don't get side-tracked by the person's demeanor. But reply to the objective question: don't get hostile and angry at being criticized or questioned.

popcornular
popcornular

@sneakpeakintoeducation

If you ladies concentrated your limited brainpower on teaching, rather than pretend psychology, education might not be spinning in the toilet. 

JTavegia
JTavegia

What ever educational reforms you make must be done at the elementary school level with basic skills and social promotion needs to stop with increased student accountability and funds provided for full-time summer school for students not meeting proper, basic standards. To do less is foolish and we are better than this. Common core is a failure and why would you try and teach statistics and box and whisker plots to 6th graders who don't even know their "times tables"?  Who is responsible for such foolishness?  Did we stop memorizing our ABC's or learning how to spell?  That is what times tables are to us teaching math. 


You cannot have students entering middle school who cannot add, subtract,  multiply, and divide 100 single-digit problems in 4 minutes in each discipline and think they are going to succeed on any level. The new "Foundations of Algebra" high school class for failing 9th graders is proof of that.  Would you send students to middle school and high school who can't read?  Ah, but we do and all too many do not have the proper high school-level vocabulary to meet their needs. Standards are lowered, colleges are doing away with SAT and  ACTs score entry requirements because students can't meet them because it is about the money after all. 


Do not leave this up to the legislature as when you read the legislative updates and what they are considering changing in their committee meetings and hearings, they are not worried about what is truly important.  I don't even think they know what is wrong. It is not even on their agenda. At least not yet. 



jaggar1
jaggar1

@JTavegia Absolutely agree! I can tell you the main problem we have in all schools, the administration, The system is built around the CCRPI scores. We are not allowed to hold children back, because we will get penalized. We are not allowed to write behavior referrals, because we will be penalized. It is all about the administration and how well the school performs. In addition, the ESOL  and Title I schools will not hold kids back. The ESOL families do not help their children at home and refuse to learn the language to help their children. The same is true about students at Title I schools. We should NOT be sending children from k to 1st or 1st to second grades, if they can not read. Period! Let them sit in that grade level until they have a solid foundation. Administration sends them on regardless of how many times we beg to hold a child back. It is the parents fault if their child is not advancing, because the parent refuses to make sure the child is doing homework, studying math facts and reading. The problem with education is legislators sticking their nose in an area they know nothing about, the administration, and parents! If this new pay system is approved, we will have no one going into the field of education. Most teachers are leaving by their 5th year. The pay is horrible, and we are treated with total disrespect! The whole system is a big mess. The teachers would love to do their job effectively and efficiently, but we are shot down at every turn by people who don't know what they are doing.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@JTavegia 

Have you ever seen a parent try to teach a 6 month old baby to walk?  It will never work.  Some babies walk at 10 months and some walk at 15 months.  The same is true with their verbal skills in that the range of development is varied and that different children will have differing spurts of growth.  That is why educators must understand child development.

Regardless of how often you try to cram certain verbal or mathematical skills into all students who fail (even in summer school), you will not be successful until the child is "ready" to absorb those skills, mentally, emotionally, physically. Obviously, too, a student without the necessary prerequisites of skills can not absorb more complex skills without that background knowledge.


Hard as it is for some to accept, time is the variable which must always be adjusted to make our public schools successful for every student.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@jaggar1 

"Period!"

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

Simple answers to complex problems will never work.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@MaryElizabethSings @jaggar1  Not every problem is complex. Recognizing when a simple solution is appropriate is part of wisdom. Looking for shades of gray in every problem means that no problem is ever solved.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Were in English. My mother said the rapidly learned English, even though for her first five years she spoke only German.

CSpinks
CSpinks

The State of Georgia provided me salary increases based upon my performances in college and university classrooms rather than on the efficacy of my performance in my own public school classroom.


How much sense did that make?


How much sense does such a system of teacher compensation continue to make?

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Right, we should leave it up to the same people who got us in our current mess.  Yeah, that makes sense....to the eduacracy


Meanwhile us taxpayers and parents are expecting actual results.  Those pesky results.  Not bogus feel good plans of the day that do nothing for students


But keep complaining about outsiders butting in, while delivering awful results.  Im sure that approach will work

gactzn2
gactzn2

@dcdcdc How can "parents" expect results if they send children without the minimum requirements for learning? Not you necessarily- but those are the issues teachers grapple with in the perimeter.  Stop being so short-sighted.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dcdcdc 

You are "lumping" all educators together in your thinking.  Education in Georgia needs improvement but it will be those educators with sophisticated knowledge of instruction and child development who will help to improve that educational process for the future of our state.  No one besides these particular educators have that expertise. 


 Also, racial integration of our schools has occurred only since 1970. That has been a major upheaval in schools that was long overdue to have occurred.  I was proud to have been a part of that healing and just process of racial integration in Georgia's schools and in helping so many students, who had been left behind for generations, to succeed.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Teacher24/7 

Your comments are excellent.  They contain the very complexity of thinking of which I had been referring, earlier.  You are on target in your thinking.  Therefore, you can explain well to the public what the solutions must be.  There are no simple answers to complex problems. We must deal with the complexities with which we are faced in our society to solve these problems.  Educational institutions absorb these societal complexities but the solutions to society's problems must embrace more than educational solutions.  Pope Francis has shown us the way.  Will we listen?

1Robert
1Robert

@MaryElizabethSings @Teacher24/7 One way to start helping these problems is to quit admitting non English speaking children into public schools.  Another would be to stop the policies that have given us so many children that have no father figures but we will not,  We will continue to see politicians reward bad behavior by making life as easy as possible for slackers.  Ask any teacher what type of student they would like in their classroom and they will take the well mannered kid from a family that wants the child to learn.  America has been a breeding ground for low lifes for such along time the offspring is doing more harm to public school than any other factor.  Their are easy answers, if the child is disruptive kick him/her out and arrest the parent if need be.  It can be complex if you want to ignore the biggest reason our education system is tanking.

jaggar1
jaggar1

@Teacher24/7 @gactzn2 @dcdcdc This is why we need to stop entitlements. Did you know that 49% of the births in the US last year were paid for by Medicaid. The taxpayer!  These are the Title 1 kids whose parents can't feed them, give them proper medical care, and don't give them the tools needed to be successful. If we stopped encouraging women, who can't afford to have children to birth babies, maybe we could turn this around. Entitlements are an open gift to be irresponsible. WE continue to have to be politically correct when we need to say enough is enough! 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@1Robert 

"non English speaking children," "no father figures," "slackers," "low lifes"

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

I would rather have all of these children in my classroom than you, Robert.  Your heart is full of judgment, not compassion.  This world is going to become more and more global.  Try to understand the spiritual truth that all of us are equal children under God.  Try not to judge but to nurture others.  Listen to words and heart of Pope Francis.  He has the most needed message for those of us in the 21st century of any other person on Earth, imo.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@jaggar1 @Teacher24/7 @gactzn2 @dcdcdc


Totally agree about the entitlements - If we reduce entitlements to the wealthy and corporations by more progressive taxation, higher minimum wage and  more benefits for workers, we will get the money from consumers into the economy by way of jobs. Better pay and better benefits will replace the need for direct assistance to the poor.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@1Robert @MaryElizabethSings @Teacher24/7 

This is the world we have, and the children we have to educate. It's ridiculous to suggest that we "quit admitting non English speaking children into public schools." So you prefer a country full of adults who only speak Spanish, or Portuguese, or Mayan, or Urdu? I suppose you also are suggesting that only children with fathers who live with them should be educated in our public schools.


Stop blaming the children for their parents' mistakes!

sim_namore
sim_namore

@dcdcdc  47th, 48th, 49th, 50th.   Take your pick.   Georgia has yet to learn that we get what we pay for.  Were this understood, who knows--we might rocket to 25th!   Georgia does everything on the cheap--and they always have.  Keep to the cheap--that's the Tea Party plan.   I'm a tenured professor in the humanities at our largest state university and I am among those who teach our teachers.  I am earning less (in numeric $) than I was 12 years ago (thanks to the legislature's priorities); that is, I earn roughly 60% of a public school teacher's salary.  I have more university training than your surgeon and it was just as expensive.  Recently, however, I was forced to tell my superiors that if they wanted my research to continue, this salary thing must be addressed.  It wasn't.  So, I quit writing.   No pay, no play.  Got it?   By the way, you made no fewer than ten grammar errors in your posting--you must have gone to school in Alabama.  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@sim_namore @dcdcdc 

Right on!...however, if you've stopped publishing, you must know that you will probably get saddled with many more students in several more courses per term, even if you are tenured.

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@gactzn2 @dcdcdc

These "awful" results that you are referring to are more of a reflection of our society than our schools. In addition to educating children, schools are required to promote healthy nutrition, routinely provide social services to students through the acquisition of supplies, medical care, and outside counseling services, and are being held accountable for student attendance. The reason that we have to do these things are that we have students and families that are homeless and/or in poverty and we have students that are dealing with severe family and/or psychological issues. Schools aren't the cause of these things, but certainly have to address them.

 Our society is a lot more transient than it was in the past. Students move around a lot and they have gaps in their learning. Our society is also more global now rather than community based. Many people/families today don't have the social supports that they once did to help with their daily struggles. For example, there often isn't anyone to help when a student misses the bus, when a parent has to work late and a child is home alone, or when the family experiences financial difficulties. In addition, our society is more diverse, thus making our student population more diverse. We are dealing with way more English Language Learners than we have in the past. These are just a few of the ways that our society has changed in the past couple of decades. These changes affect the results of schools when you measure them via standardized tests.

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@AvgGeorgian @jaggar1 @Teacher24/7 @gactzn2 @dcdcdc 

Absolutely, AvgGeorgian! 

The middle class and the working class pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than the upper class. I really hope that one day the middle class will realize that the enemy is not the poor that are receiving government assistance, but actually the upper class and big business. As long as we keep fighting amongst ourselves, we won't have the energy to affect any real change. 

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@1Robert @MaryElizabethSings @Teacher24/7 

1Robert, 

Many times the non English speaking students are some of the hardest working students in my classroom. Their parents may not be able to help them at home, but this doesn't mean that the parent doesn't support their education. It's a challenge, sure, but one that is worth taking for the kids that can't help their circumstances. Yes, we do want well-mannered children from a family that wants the child to learn. More immigrant families, single parent families, and families of low income status fall into this category than you seem to believe possible given your comments.