Will state takeover improve Georgia schools? Not necessarily.

By Ty Tagami

Georgia voters must soon consider whether to approve an enduring overhaul of K-12 education, and they’ll have little information to go on.

The November ballot will ask Georgians to decide whether they want a state-run district that would take over failing schools. A “yes” vote would amend the state constitution, creating change that would last long beyond an election cycle and become part of the fabric of the educational system.

Despite the magnitude and staying power of the proposal, voters will be taking a leap of faith. No other state has done exactly as Georgia proposes, so there is no clear trail to follow.

Many point to Louisiana, since that state launched an ambitious takeover plan that brought profound change to schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Aug. 3, 2015 - Atlanta - Principal Gilberte Pascal high fives students as they tour the school and learn procedures. Monday was the first day of school at the new Kindezi Schools campus in Atlanta. The charter school startup is taking the place of charter school that was shuttered this summer after five years of failure. The new operator, who met with success at the first Kindezi campus across town, has high hopes for this new elementary school, near a homeless shelter and a trashed park in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Aug. 3, 2015 – Atlanta – Principal Gilberte Pascal met new students at the new Kindezi Schools campus that opened in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood this school year. The charter school startup took the place of a failing charter school. Georgia’s proposed Opportunity School District would take over failing schools, and could turn them over to charter operators. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Debates persist about what to take away from the New Orleans experience, but a recent study from Tulane University found that student test scores “shot upward after the reforms,” and that high school graduation and college-entry rates climbed, too.

The lead researcher, Douglas Harris of Tulane, wrote of the study, “We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time.”

That’s where things get blurry for Georgia. Although proponents of the Peach State’s proposed Opportunity School District have pointed at New Orleans as a model, voters may want to focus closer to home, across the state line in Tennessee.

That’s where Vanderbilt professor Gary Henry says Georgians will find the nearest analogy to their school takeover plan. As with Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD), Georgia students would remain at their failing schools, but they would be placed under new administration. One of the options includes conversion to charter oversight.

New Orleans also converted its old neighborhood schools to charters, but Georgia’s proposal differs significantly from what happened there because in New Orleans the old attendance zones were eliminated along with the management. Students could enroll in any city school, so the neighborhood schools ceased to serve only the surrounding homes.

It’s an important distinction because demographic characteristics such as poverty correlate with academic performance, and property values tend to reflect performance, too. Schools in pockets of poverty tend to do poorly, while schools in middle-class neighborhoods typically do better.

The New Orleans takeover district broke that geographic link, but Georgia’s model, like the one in Tennessee, would keep it.

Last year, Henry and others published an evaluation of the Tennessee district’s effect, and said the performance has been uninspiring. He attributes it to a fish-out-of water problem: Charter schools have traditionally operated under a choice model, allowing parents to match student needs to the strengths of a school. That advantage was neutralized when these charters had to take all comers like the neighborhood schools they replaced.

Henry spoke at a recent conference for journalists who cover education, where he said Georgia’s constitutional amendment is based on a strategy that has produced few dividends in Tennessee.

“We’re just not seeing the data that this is helping kids,” he said.

When_States_Tale_Over_Schools_blog_IMG_20160502_163453

May 2, 2016, Boston — Vanderbilt professor Gary Henry (standing) talks about state takeover districts at a conference for education writers

Some schools in Tennessee have improved, but typically it was because they were not actually taken over. Rather, the threat of state intervention inspired a vigorous response from local systems, something that may already have inspired some metro Atlanta schools to act. The phenomenon was clearest in urban Tennessee districts that benefited from an infusion of state grants from a separate turnaround program called the “innovation zone.”

This basically set up a competition between the i-Zone districts and the ASD. The i-Zones saw bigger academic gains, Henry said.

How?

By following a simple recipe: officials raised the pay and lured some of their best principals and teachers to high-poverty schools that had been neglected for years. The turnover rate fell relative to the ASD, leading to greater stability.

“The key ingredient to school turnaround,” Henry said, “is teacher recruitment and — let me underscore this three times – teacher retention.”

Henry knows Georgia well, having previously worked on education policy at Georgia State University. You can catch his talk in person: He’ll be speaking about the Opportunity School District at the University of Georgia’s State of Education conference this fall.

Reader Comments 0

49 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No


“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in citizens' subpar paychecks in order to improve citizens financial performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No


Hint - In both of the above, you get no choice in what happens to your money.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The NOSD Charter Miracle, or “Will you people please learn some research skills?”

Should be the headline: NOSD charter schools produce fake gains with rigged standardized testing data, but still are below state average and don’t produces ACT scores for college entry:

The academic improvements that followed were considerable. Students test scores in New Orleans have risen significantly since Katrina, though they are still lower than the state average. Researchers from Tulane University, The Data Center, and The Hechinger Report recently released a study of New Orleans public schools' transformation since 2005. It found that the percentage of students who are proficient on standardized state tests overall rose 27 percent between the 2004-2005 and 2013-2014 school years. However, the average ACT score was still below the minimum required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana. http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/08/proceed-with-caution-lessons-from-new-orleans-char.html

Should be the headline: A whole different group of kids about 10 years apart scored better on different tests with rigged passing scores:

The reasons for these improvements are not completely clear, as the study notes. Other factors besides the school reforms may have played a role, including increased funding, other policies aimed at helping low-scoring students such as No Child Left Behind, and the effects of students having studied elsewhere while displaced before returning to New Orleans. http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/08/proceed-with-caution-lessons-from-new-orleans-char.html

What a joke. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

In the picture, how many smiling faces?How many smiling faces of a child?How many smiling faces of an adult?Why just the one smiling face of a child, the young girl’s?Could it be because the young girl feels safe to interpret the smiling adult’s interaction with her as momentary permission to smile; otherwise, the blank-, emotionless-, compliant-, nonassertive-, amenable-, easily controlled-, indoctrinated-, beaten down-look on every other young child’s face (save the one whose face isn’t visible in photo) is the norm?

The picture disturbs me, viscerally.  Very likely an omen of consequences to come from state takeover of public schools, mainly in areas of Georgia represented here.  Indeed, “[f]olks who are not following the issue and don't know the questions around the efficacy of state takeovers will almost certainly vote yes to this question” to have the omen visited upon their very own children and grandchildren.  And then vicious, uninformed narratives such as “[i]t does not matter who you put in charge of the school(s) if you do not have students and parents who value an education...” will become even more vicious and uninformed.

ABBA72
ABBA72

It does not matter who you put in charge of the school(s) if you do not have students and parents who value an education....

newsphile
newsphile

After seeing all the comments about NO's success, I want to point out the simple reason that many schools are seen as non-failing now versus then.  The criteria for measuring a failing school in NO has been lowered significantly.  Yet, some continue to tout the NO experiment.There is no magic fix for schools. Teachers must be competent and dedicated (most are);  administrators must support teachers so they are allowed to do their jobs (many do); parents must let the school do its job without interference and require their children to do what students need to do to be successful (many do); students have to attend, behave, and do their schoolwork (many do). 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

If looking for a healthy balance, the NO model is the way to go.

http://tinyurl.com/gnm9g94

See the little fella in the blue and gray striped shirt (left)?

He's not into the change in NO. 

Solution?

Ignore him.


redweather
redweather

Unless Republicans turn against Deal on his Opportunity District plan because of his recent vetoes, this is going to happen. I don't think the so-called education establishment has the votes to defeat this. Then it's all about implementation.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@redweather I was conversing last night with someone on Twitter about why I believe this will pass and it's the same reason almost every referendum question on Georgia ballots passes -- the sponsors get to choose the language.  

Folks who are not following the issue and don't know the questions around the efficacy of state takeovers will almost certainly vote yes to this question: 


“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?

( ) Yes

( ) No[5]



trifecta_
trifecta_

@MaureenDowney @redweather 

Face the facts, Maureen. It will pass because parents have lost patience with failing schools and those making excuses for them.

It's really no more complicated than that.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @redweather


Once it passes,does it really matter why? What does it change if people are too lazy and unmotivated to research it?Most reforms (on the left and the right sides of the political spectrum) happen because a dedicated core of believers push until they see success.There are always bystanders that don't know,don't care. We can't let those people guide public policy.


I don't care if people think that they'll get free beer for voting yes.I'm in favor of it and hope that it passes-whatever the voters reasons.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney @redweather I just voted against it.  I so badly wish there could be an asterisk, at least, attached, which says:  This means your local school tax money will be spent in a way determined in ATLANTA if your school is chosen!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @MaureenDowney @redweather


You just voted against it? The election is in November.


As for the wording being chosen by the sponsors,who exactly would you "anti" people let choose the exact phrasing? You seem to imply that the side that is opposed to these type amendments be allowed to control ballot language. Elections determine this stuff,so when you win a couple of elections,you can choose the ballot questions and phraseology.



dg417s
dg417s

@MaureenDowney @redweather If the ballot language said that your local tax dollars would go to the unaccountable superintendent of the OSD (as it will if this passes), it would fail. Let's be honest - the state DOE can already "intervene" to assist schools where the students struggle. Until the building is falling down around you like in Detroit - the school is not "failing." Students are struggling - but you don't want to place the blame on the kids or your neighbors working in that school, so it's easier to dehumanize the problem.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @Wascatlady @MaureenDowney @redweather Why are you so opposed to transparency in the ballot? I would say the sanctity of our elections depends on it. If people read the actual amendment (not the ballot language) and then still truly believed that OSD was a good idea, so be it. Why can't we put that on the ballot and let the people decide? In the mean time, I will continue to educate people as to what will really happen - and I think if people knew what that was, they'd vote no..... but again, if you don't mind your tax dollars being taken and you have no say, no vote against it, and whatever happens just dumped on you.... by all means vote yes.

Mr_B
Mr_B

Aside from the question of whether state operation of a school district would be any more effective than local control, which seems highly unlikely to me,given the caliber of our legislature: we have yet to come up with a reliable metric  for what constitutes a "failing"  school. Low graduation rates are easily jacked up. Low standardized test scores can be increased, but at the expense of critical thinking skills.  We have sacrificed anything that approaches cultural or interpersonal literacy in pursuit of goals that fit neatly into bar graphs and scatter charts, and we have failed to prepare a generation of human beings with the skills they need to interact with one another.

jezel
jezel

" State takeover".....Georgians you are being played. Create a problem and sell the solution....eliminate local control ...divert attention from the obvious..........


Some pseudo intellectuals thought the reform up....but the average person should be able to see through it.

Theresa Pinilla
Theresa Pinilla

Will OSD improve our schools? Not bloody likely. State control has yet to succeed. Anywhere.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Well, maybe if a Katrina would come through and we could ship many of our most problematic students off, and make sure they are too poor to return...

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

" 'The key ingredient to school turnaround,' Henry said, 'is teacher recruitment and — let me underscore this three times – teacher retention.' ”

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


I would agree with that.  The opposite is now occurring.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Sadly,  we have to try something.  


We've tripled - 300%! - per student funding (even after accounting for inflation) over the past 30ish years, and gotten nothing in return. 


Nothing.  Seriously.  What other industry in the country would be allowed to keep operating with that record?  They would have been hauled before congress, berated, and the leaders thrown in jail for squandering so much of the tax payer's money.



Astropig
Astropig

@elementary-pal @Astropig @dcdcdc


Yes,Chattanooga specifically.Chattanooga State and UT-C take a lot of Georgia students,and a lot of them need remediation,although I'm not aware that they have broken down the exact percentage of Georgia "line crossers" that need it.The college president at CSCC says that it is high for all incoming freshmen.Presumably,that means that there isn't a world of difference.

whoknowz
whoknowz

@Astropig @elementary-pal @dcdcdc The percentage of GA students requiring remediation has been dropping.  According to the dashboard for high school graduate outcomes at the Gov Office of Student Achievement, 9.2% of the class of 2014 required remediation in English, 17.5% in Math.  That was a drop of 7% in each category from the class of 2007.  The reason students need remediation are numerous and don't all fall on the performance of the school.

If you're interested, the dashboard is at https://hsgrad.gosa.ga.gov/

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @elementary-pal @dcdcdc Interestingly enough, there aren't any schools from Dade, Walker, Chatooga Counties on the governor's naughty list, so they won't be taken over. I doubt they would be even if they are on the list - it's not profitable for a charter organizer to go into places like that.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@dcdcdc  Nothing?  really?  That seems so strange to me.  I spent all day yesterday watching children participate in promotion ceremonies - and will do the same today.  My students aren't NOTHING.  They are well mannered, well prepared, and determined children.  They are moving to middle school with a solid foundation for reading, writing, and math.  They understand computer program and how to read music.  They know the importance of exercise and physical activity.  They have been taught the responsibilities of citizenship and can talk about the different branches of government.  They can write an opinion based on research and can present a speech in front of an auditorium full of people. So, I beg to differ.  Is our system perfect?  Far from it.  But there are many great things happening in our schools. 

Astropig
Astropig

"Many point to Louisiana, since that state launched an ambitious takeover plan that brought profound change to schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina."



Louisiana started their RSD about two years before Katrina made landfall. Schools were so bad there then that they saw little to lose by radical change.


Also, New Orleans teachers recently had a clear shot at unionizing to return to the old ways of doing things and said no in the most emphatic way-


http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/15820408-172/no-union-at-lusher-charter-school-teachers-vote-it-down


And in Tennessee,of course the teachers orgainizations along with "community leaders" (Think Al Sharpton in training) have done everything they could to gum up the works.Still, Education Next had this to say about the ASD-


Tennessee Achievement School District

The great majority of Tennessee schools in the bottom 5 percent are located in Memphis, and each year the ASD selects a few more of them for inclusion in its portfolio. Concurrently, the ASD runs an application process through which potential school operators are vetted, then matched with schools, hewing close to the recommendations of a community-based advisory council.

While the ASD continues to manage five schools directly, it’s moving in the direction of greater independent management: During 2014–15, the ASD portfolio held twenty-three schools, eighteen charters and five direct-run. Six more will be added in the 2015–16 school year in Memphis and one more in Nashville, bringing the ASD student population to 10,000. All of the new schools will be run as charters.

The ASD set out an explicit, ambitious goal: to take schools in the bottom 5 percent and move them to the top 25 percent in proficiency, not growth, within five years. And of course, intense scrutiny has followed. According to the ASD’s own second-year report, three of the six schools in its initial (summer 2012) cohort are on track toward that ambitious goal. The ASD reports modest gains across grades 3–8, and more impressive gains in high school, with ASD students far outpacing state-level gains in algebra, English, and biology. And among the schools using the “phase-in” approach (taking over schools grade-by-grade), schools averaged a twenty-two-point gain in reading proficiency on the state assessment, and a sixteen-point gain in math last year. But that method is in jeopardy since Shelby County Superintendent Dorsey Hopson announced that he would end the shared-space arrangements needed for ”phase-ins.”


And finally, my favorite "citizen journalist",Mike Antonucci, recently reported that the NEA (which is a real union,with corruption and rented politicians and everything) will spend "up to" $1.5 Million in Georgia to defeat the OSD -


http://www.eiaonline.com/2016/05/09/nea-sends-1-5-million-to-fight-opportunity-district-initiative-in-georgia/


The betting here is that the first $100K or so of that will be spent on polling to see if the amendment is going to pass and if so,that's where the "up to" part comes in.They'll just jawbone and call Nathan Deal names for 5 more months in the AJC for free.If it looks like they have a chance of defeating it...They'll call Nathan Deal names for 5 more months in paid ads.

Astropig
Astropig

@Mack68 @Astropig


But they're not going back to the old system that existed before. In NO, its still pretty much a charter school universe.The world hasn't ended,kids are getting educated.The boogeyman stories have proven false.

Mack68
Mack68

@Astropig And now, Louisiana has dissolved the RSD and returned the schools in New Orleans to local control. And not because student outcomes have improved.

trifecta_
trifecta_

Voters will approve this new initiative not only because of the successes related in the above article -- but also because decades of failed "reforms" have demonstrated that the education establishment doesn't have answers.

Shaking up the system is obviously working in Louisiana and will be made to work here. Even if adjustments prove necessary. 

It's time to move onward.

Astropig
Astropig

@trifecta_


It's interesting to me that all of these King Educrats can "predict" what's going to happen with such clarity,but can't "predict" any successful ways to fix the system we have in place now. The only thing that most voters have to go on is the ongoing failures of these schools.Their records are there for all to see. Predictions are cheap. We tend to remember the ones that come true and quickly forget the ones that don't.


We went through the same scare campaign before the Charter School Commission amendment fight way back in '12. It was going to "re-segregate schools"...It would destroy the public school systems funding...Charter operators would take over entire districts...The list of lies,nonsense and just plain deception was remarkable.None of those things came to pass.That should make voters wary of the scare stories they'll hear this year.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @trifecta_ I would argue that "king educrats" CAN tell you what would improve schools.  It is just that the things that would cause dramatic improvement cannot be FORCED onto communities and families.  That old personal autonomy and free will thingy.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig @trifecta_


" It is just that the things that would cause dramatic improvement cannot be FORCED onto communities and families.  That old personal autonomy and free will thingy."


Then why does the eduacracy  fight choice and parental empowerment so fiercely? Choice is the diametric opposite of force.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@trifecta_ @Wascatlady We can MAKE test scores improve.  We can use invalid, unexamined tests and declare victory by changing cut scores.  We sure have done it in the past!

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig @trifecta_


"There really is no magic pixie dust."


A strawman construct of the failing eduacracy. No responsible public official has ever said that any school reform would perform magic.Quite the contrary,real reform and improvement  is hard work,with disappointments,setbacks and false starts.Improvement is a process,not an event and every realistic observer realizes that.

AJCkrtk
AJCkrtk

You accurately portray what is going on in Tennessee, which is the type of district most like what is proposed for Georgia.  But to allow people to think that Louisiana has been even a moderate success is inaccurate.  "Today, fewer schools are technically considered “failing;” however, the criterion for “passing” has also been altered. In the aftermath of Katrina, schools that earned 87.4 points on a 200 point scale were deemed failing and were taken over. But now, after changes to the district’s standards of success, schools with at least 50 out of 150 points can receive a passing grade.18 In other words, the threshold for passing dropped from 43.7 percent to 33.3 percent."  See https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/National Takeover Ed Report.pdf


Chanda RobertsWhite
Chanda RobertsWhite

If OSD is approved, these secret leadership team should be held to the same rules and standards that ALL schools are forced to work with. It is quite unfair to have requirements, the school fails under the requirements, then you being in your friends and exempt them.from the same requirements, it is wrong.

Michael McIntyre
Michael McIntyre

The legislature (and the people) should definitely listen to the folks at Vanderbilt's Peabody School of Ed. Top-notch research done there on the myriad problems faced by public education -- as well as some rational suggestions for dealing with them.

Brittany R. White
Brittany R. White

It is difficult to change a school without really looking into the community to see the factors affecting that school's achievement. Until the State is willing to do this, their overall efforts will fail.