Why does Gov. Deal want to take over schools? Power, control and money.

In the final stretch, the General Assembly is advancing the Opportunity School District Lite bill . (AJC Photo.)

Dr. Allene Magill is executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a 91,000 member independent educator association. PAGE is Georgia’s largest educator advocacy group.

A two-time superintendent of the year, Magill served as superintendent in Dalton, Forsyth and Paulding. In this column, she questions why Gov. Nathan Deal wants to change Georgia’s constitution to give the state the power to take over failing schools. She opposes his push to create a state-run Opportunity School District.

Expect to hear more about the Opportunity School District as the November referendum draws nearer. Last week, the Newton County Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the Opportunity School District.

By Dr. Allene Magill

Voters go to the polls this November to decide whether the Georgia constitution should be amended to allow Gov. Nathan Deal’s office to create the Opportunity School District. This state takeover of struggling, high poverty schools uses scores from the College and Career Readiness Performance Index to justify the power grab.

The CCRPI derives its scores primarily from student performance on standardized tests. If you’ve been paying attention the past couple of years – and especially the past few months – Georgia’s experience with standardized testing administration earns low marks for reliability. And, low test scores and “failing” schools more clearly reflect the lack of resources in their communities and the poverty level of students and families than the effort of educators.

The Department of Education waived the use of this spring’s Milestones tests in grades 3, 5 and 8 for student promotion and retention decisions by local districts. Districts were also given the flexibility whether to retest students who performed poorly on the tests. Most districts reported they would not take the time or make the effort to retest.

Additionally, due to the adoption of Milestones for the 2014-2015 school year and the problems with the 2015-2016 test administration, scores will not be used to produce a Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) or Leader Effectiveness Measure score for educator evaluations under TKES or LKES until at least the 2019-2020 school year. One has to wonder if the scores cannot be used for student promotion and retention decisions or for educator evaluations, then how can they possibly be valid and reliable enough to seize control of schools from a community and locally elected school board.

Decisions founded in results from standardized test scores increasingly are coming under scrutiny. Test scores – long regarded as objective measures – are losing their status as the cornerstone measurement for all things in education. The problems with testing are many. While many consider issues raised by educators or advocacy groups as “whining” to avoid accountability, the groundswell of testing opt-out proponents from students and parents has gained traction.

The growing movement is based on the negative effects of high stakes testing on students, their instruction and the educators who teach them. The voices aligned against high stakes testing are myriad and diverse. The outcry during the 2016 legislative session came from students, parents, the Georgia PTA, educators and every major education organization in Georgia.

Georgia’s legislators heard the concerns loud and clear. In unusual bipartisan cooperation the General Assembly unanimously passed Senate Bill 364 which significantly reduced the use of standardized tests in educator evaluations and dropped the requirement of using Student Learning Objectives for teachers of non-tested grades and content. Another bill that specifically offered testing opt-out provisions made it to the governor’s desk where it was vetoed.

The desire to further diminish the reliance of important decisions for students, schools, educators and districts and the governor’s vetoes of bills that advanced that cause will fuel even stronger reaction and advocacy in the 2017 session.

The CCRPI was written as a waiver to allow the state Department of Education and Georgia’s schools relief from the overly burdensome and unrealistic expectations of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Congress finally agreed in December to a rewrite of NCLB called the Every Student Succeeds Act, which provided extensive relief to the most onerous requirements for testing and educator evaluation tied to testing. CCRPI is based on old federal law and the state will either adjust to meet ESSA or be scrapped and new state guidelines will be written specifically for ESSA.

Yet, Georgians will be asked to amend the constitution to allow the state to take over local schools based on a potentially outdated achievement matrix and unreliable test data.

Even if you are willing to accept that the tests are reliable indicators of performance and the CCRPI is the best measure of effectiveness, one still has to question why the state needs yet another method to control local schools. The state Department of Education already possesses the power to force change on under-performing schools designated as focus or priority schools.

So, if the state already has a lever to effect change in these schools from a constitutionally empowered agency with an elected leader (the Georgia Department of Education), why does another branch of government seek to override it? Why would a governor want to wrest control from local boards of education and communities? It’s a motivation as old as mankind: power, control and money.

The Governor’s Office through the OSD superintendent will have the power to take over schools, facilities and resources and will have the ability to redirect those resources to for-profit corporations to operate the schools as charters without all of the overhead and capital costs that the local board must fund. A superintendent appointed by the governor and managing up to 100 schools from an office in Atlanta cannot be expected to do any better in turning these schools around than the experienced educators who are on site and working with teams from the district and school to analyze the issues and determine strategic interventions.

That’s especially true if nothing is done to address community issues that leave children and families without the resources or ability to make education a priority. And, contrary to the narrative from OSD proponents, a close examination of the CCRPI data from 2012 to 2014 shows that the OSD-eligible schools as a group showed greater student growth during that three-year period than their “high achieving” counterparts and greater growth than many of the other schools within the state.

OSD-eligible schools are almost entirely composed of poor, minority students: more than 90 percent participate in the free and reduced lunch program and 95 percent are either black or Hispanic. In contrast, the high achieving schools have less than a third of students on free and reduced lunch and only about 25 percent are black or Hispanic.

So, again, as I say to audiences across our state, schools that many consider to be low achieving according to a benchmark are only reflective of the economic and resource challenges of their communities. And, further, educators in these schools are doing incredible work with students who are making significant progress from where they begin but still have far to go. Rather than punish the educators doing the hard work in difficult-to-teach circumstances, our state should do all it can to boost these schools and their communities in partnership with local boards of education instead of through takeover.

The idea of an Opportunity School District only makes sense when viewed from the “opportunities” it provides those who will benefit from wresting power and resources from local communities. It certainly makes no sense for children, communities, educators or local boards of education.

Vote NO on OSD in November.

Reader Comments 0

242 comments
pcrabtree
pcrabtree

Well said. Be aware of the fine print in the bill. From my understanding, if this passes (fine print), all education laws become null and void allowing the governor to privatize the entire state taking away "free public education." The devil is in the details.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The state takeover of schools that are poorly performing and economically impoverished, primarily because of generational poverty and the long-lasting affects of the denial of educational opportunities, as well as economic opportunities, to certain people, caused by slavery in this nation for 300 or more years followed by a Jim Crow segregation system that continued that educational and economic deprivation of certain people, deliberately, in the South, (and as segregation elsewhere in the remainder of the nation) until the 1970s are the basic causes of poorly functioning schools in Georgia today.


One cannot  rectify fully 400 years of deprivation to a certain body of people who have been hurt educationally and economically for 400 years (slavery and Jim Crow, in combination) in the last  50 years.  More compassion and skill, and less judgement of others, are needed.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

P. S.  Vote "No" in November for state take over of Georgia's poorly performing schools.  Put more resources into the Democratic plan of community based interaction with schools on the local levels, to see authentic and long-lasting student growth.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

These state takeover ideas stem not just from ALEC, but from many other right-wing ideological groups who wish to make public education and public service in government nearly obsolete through the takeover of all of those governmental services by private enterprise, for profit for the private functionaries who will use taxpayer dollars to enhance their own personal and private pocketbooks, at the expense of the common good, imo.


And, I must add that the negligence given to people with mental illness in Georgia because of that same reduction of government state services is abhorrent to me.


bu22
bu22

@MaryElizabethSings Beverly Hall, Crawford Lewis, Shirley Lassiter....Public functionaries who HAVE used taxpayer school dollars to enhance their own personal and private pocketbooks unquestionably at the expense of the common good.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @xxxzzz 60% of DeKalb school employees are administrators. In many districts a substantial number of teachers are paid for graduate degrees from ridiculously undemanding, for-profit schools. Many do not know the subject matter they teach, and are generally poorly educated themselves. How do we fix this? 

bu22
bu22

@MaryElizabethSings @xxxzzz 2 of the 5 Gwinnett commissioners at the time were complicit in making the schools overpay for property.  All of APS top management was involved in the cheating scandal and getting bonuses under false pretenses.  The DeKalb superintendent and his construction coordinator were stealing from the district.  All were in office at the same time.  That is 3 of the 4 largest districts in the state, hardly an exception.  Its pretty obvious you did not teach math and statistics.

pcrabtree
pcrabtree

You answered your own question. Poor leadership. Unqualified, sorors and frats, good old boys, personal vendetta ridding goog teachers, etc.

pcrabtree
pcrabtree

For profit without oversight or accountability. Online, fly by night, Not Overly Very Academic, get it? So many loose accreditation.

pcrabtree
pcrabtree

Lose, sorry.....phone self correcting.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings


Democrats ran Georgia for 150 years after the civil war.Most of that time they had negligible opposition from Republicans. Democrat kingpins ran the state as a satrapy,with no fear of being voted out of office.They had power and patronage that Nathan Deal can't imagine.When voters finally woke up (about a generation ago now) things changed for the better and continue to improve (too slowly,but improvement nonetheless). You old mossback Dems had your day.You botched it. Now a new generation of leaders and doers are running things and its delightful to see you suffer the fate of all fallen tyrannies-irrelevance.

pcrabtree
pcrabtree

Schools were improving, closing the achievement gap until Reagan came up with fictitious "A Nation at Risk." Democrats, really? Racism, separate but equal, classism........

bu22
bu22

Even Jay admits the obvious.  He says the takeover is based on two assumptions, the first of which is undeniable, that many schools are failing the children.  Yet some on here deny that first assumption.  Jay is wrong on the 2nd assumption.  The 2nd assumption is that the districts won't do anything without being forced by the state.  And with the extraordinary efforts to avert takeover, that is pretty obviously correct as well.

Astropig
Astropig

@xxxzzz


His entire column is built on a lie-that this is a "power grab". If asking the legislature and then asking the voters for permission to do something is their definition of a "power grab",then they're just as crazy as a outhouse rat.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Sorta ironic that the head of PAGE is whining about "money and greed" all the while they are one of many of the alphabet soup of entities suckling at the public education teat.

Create a perception of crisis and the politician passes laws to "fix" the problem.

Create a perception of crisis and educators flock to groups such as PAGE and GAE to "fix" the problem and protect them from the politicians.


Personally, I am against the OSD.  Another government agency is not going to fix the problem that another government entity helped create.  Leave control at the local level.  


Bottom line is that everyone knows which schools and which demographic is trailing.  The politically correct have tried for sixty years to educate poor blacks and have spent trillions of dollars on that folly.  OSD will be more of the same.

Starik
Starik

@Lee_CPA2 Don't forget that while poor blacks are hard to educate, we whites created the problem by forcing them to immigrate and then treating them to slavery and Jim Crow, preventing any chance to learn and assimilate the important parts of American culture. They're still largely stuck in segregated schools, and taught largely by graduates of segregated schools. Many blacks, like those who have assimilated into American culture and the successful businessmen in the black community have taken advantage of the opportunities of the last 60 years, proving that large numbers of black people can succeed. Until we provide them with a decent education we really shouldn't condemn the poor folks who haven't done well.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

funny.  i recall when there was a lot of interest and comments on this ajc eduacracy blog.  today, there are a handful of posters posting non stop.  almost like a liberal choir singing to themselves, without any else one actually listening.  and of course the occasional outsider who stops by now and then (for free) to laugh at the lala land idiocy.


Amazing how making people pay (who can't figure out how to get through the porous paywall) means that they go away. 


And as usual, the AJC readership continues to plummet.


All the news that fits to print...for the 25 people who still read it.  sad.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@dcdcdc


So dc, you perceive local governmental control, smaller government and less bureaucracy as liberal?


Keep that up and your republican masters will have you promoting Obamacare.

Sam Barber
Sam Barber

@dcdcdc yet here you are, espousing government takeover of local schools while whining about "liberals." Hypocrite much?

Astropig
Astropig

@dcdcdc


"Amazing how making people pay (who can't figure out how to get through the porous paywall) means that they go away. "


I see somebody else caught that.


I laughed myself hoarse when Maureen was posting her daily attacks on the Milestones technical glitches.The same people that handle the AJC's IT department must have set those tests up for the districts.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @dcdcdc So AvgGeorgian, you're in favor of breaking up oversized, over administrated monsters like DeKalb?  So am I.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@sneakpeakintoeducation @redweather

It is no longer just OSD when it comes to Atlanta.  Though perhaps catalyzed by OSD and perhaps aided by Atlanta superintendent’s fondness for the politics of Obama’s school turnaround ideology, folks, including Black folk and a Civil Rights icon, sadly, ironically, have started lining up to feed on public education in Atlanta via charter schools and vouchers and such, just as happened to public education in Detroit.

Some are:

·Better Outcomes for Our Kids (BOOK)

·The Super School Project (XQ)

·University Of Phoenix

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@redweather

Thank you for posting this. I read it this morning and it should be a cautionary tale to those who advocating for another OSD. Unfortunately, every OSD or recovery district has failed to provide real and positive results of the schools they have been allowed to take over. For those who tout that NOLA has improved, there are countless studies to show that it has failed and it has torn communities apart.  

vettedog72
vettedog72

Just look at leadership of DeKalb County school systemwhen it required INTERVENTION! If you don't understand the reason the option needs to be in place you need more education.

dg417s
dg417s

@vettedog72 "Intervention" is no part of this proposal except for the ballot language. This is takeover and surrender of any local control when the governor's friend decides. 

Sam Barber
Sam Barber

@vettedog72 If you don't know the difference between "intervention" and "takeover," you need more education, and not just in the use of commas.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Avg, Pig has the reading comprehension skills of a milk bone. Just realize it's not worth the callouses on your fingertips. There are others who (a) have at least some clue as to what conservatism is, can (b) read and (c) discuss honest efforts at solutions to issues. Save your fingers for those. Maureen has maybe 4-5 loons on here - they're VERY easy to recognize. Leave 'em be and enjoy honest discussions with rational people with honestly rational differences of opinion.

Astropig
Astropig

@jerryeads


So you finally figured out how to send an email? I guess I lose that bet. But,good for you. 

jrwilliams21
jrwilliams21

I say give it to Deal.  I can hardly wait for the bumbling excuse-making when his office fails as well.  BTW-give the same students AND the same resources.  Frankly, I am so sick of reading about this I can hardly read any more.  I retired from Georgia before I planned so I could get out of the tripe.


dg417s
dg417s

@jrwilliams21 You forgot - same resources less 3% to fund the office of the Governor's friend.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jrwilliams21 And the same tests under the same conditions and the same requirement restrictions the rest of schools have to follow.  And, no "we can't provide what your child needs so we'll have to send him somewhere else."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Wascatlady @jrwilliams21 I'm pretty sure the OSD will be like the State Charter Commission run schools and the private school tax credit - no academic or financial accountability.

sast1
sast1

It is the responsibility of local boards of education, superintendents, principals, assistant principals, teachers, and school staff to educate communities about the Constitutional amendment and the deceptive ballot language. If uncertain of how to begin the dialogue, check out GSBA'S OSD Toolkit at the following link: http://gsba.com/advocacy-communications/osd-toolkit/

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

For all you "conservatives" who think the OSD is a good idea, here's a better one.


Since Georgia is a failing educational state compared to the nation,


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



Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


So you don't want the state to intervene,but you DO want Planet Washington to intervene?

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig


You're making no sense because you can't win on the merits of your argument.Now you're just hysterical. 

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig While we're amending the State Constitution, lets amend the thing to allow cities to create new school districts and recreate Milton County.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik Milton County, which merged with Fulton during the depression, could support an excellent school system, with local control.  The current arrangement with separate northern and southern systems divided by the City of Altanta is absurd.