Opponent of Opportunity School District: State takeover hurts most vulnerable students

osdbuttonMelissa Ladd is a parent of three and teaches fifth grade at Poplar Road Elementary in Coweta County. Dr. Ladd has a doctorate in the field of school improvement and is a finalist for the prestigious national Horace Mann Teaching Award.

She is also one of three named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit over the language in the Amendment 1 “Opportunity School District” ballot question. The lead plaintiffs —  Ladd, Atlanta parent Kimberly Brooks, and the Rev. Timothy McDonald  — charge the ballot language is “so misleading and deceptive that it violates the due process and voting rights of all Georgia voters.”

In this piece, Ladd responds to amendment backers who contend OSD opponents don’t care about the students in struggling schools. This is one of the strongest pieces I’ve seen from an opponent because Ladd addresses a key issue in high-poverty schools — the relationships between staff and students and staff and parents.

Ignoring the longstanding relationships schools have with the local communities can undermine takeover efforts.  The postmortems on why the Tennessee Achievement School District — on which the OSD is modeled in large part — missed the mark often blame the inability of the charter school operators to win over the community.

A story in Chalkbeat Tennessee noted:

Operators were not prepared for the high level of opposition they would face in Memphis, or the compromises to their models they would have to make to respond to the local district and the community, the report says.

“This has been humbling for me,” said one operator who came to Tennessee from another state. “I’ve learned so much about just how complex education can be in particular landscapes.”

With that background, here is Ladd’s piece.

By Melissa Ladd

Since filing our 41-page legal complaint over the so-called “Opportunity School District” Amendment, proponents of state takeover have lashed out, but they have ignored every substantive argument made in our 41-page complaint. To suggest the ballot language is anything less than deceptive is not an “opinion” grounded in reality.

The language is purposely misleading and endangers public schools. But what I want to focus on here is the vapid claim made by OSD proponents that those who oppose the school takeover amendment rarely talk about “the kids.”

As a mother and a Georgia public schoolteacher, I have dedicated my entire life to enriching and improving the lives of children. I have a master’s degree in reading instruction and a doctorate in school improvement. I have conducted extensive research on the most effective methods to close the achievement gap in reading for public school students living in poverty.

Everything in my experience as an educator has led me to conclude that the Opportunity School District is a bad deal for Georgia students.

So, yes, by all means, let’s talk about the kids.

Who exactly are these children whose future will be bought and sold by the state takeover plan? According to the non-profit, nonpartisan research organization Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the overwhelming majority are minority (88 percent are black) and low-income (92 percent participate in the federal free-and reduced-lunch program).

These children are often hungry, neglected or abused. One young boy in my classroom had 12 rotten teeth that were keeping him up at night — a condition that wasn’t discovered until a routine dental check at school. Another student reached out to the school counselor because her mother was suffering from unmedicated schizophrenia. The counselor made home visits to help the family put together a plan for recovery. Another young girl in my classroom, a victim of rape, did not have transportation to go to a counselor, much less the money to afford counseling. She relied on school resources for help.

The children in these so-called “failing” schools  are suffering from unimaginable chronic stress as result of systemic poverty. As a recent Children’s Defense Fund study showed, chronic stress actually changes a child’s brain chemistry. It severely inhibits higher order thinking skills — the kind tested by the Georgia Milestones Assessment System.

The school is the only stable environment many of these children have. Teachers might be the only hug the kids get for the day. Their school lunch may be the only warm meal they get for the day or the only meal they get, period. We are the last line of defense for these kids, and no one can learn if their basic needs aren’t being met. When you have a congregated population of poverty, you are going to have a struggling school no matter how hard the teacher tries.

The school takeover amendment does nothing to address these concerns, and, in fact, will only make things worse by taking three percent out of school budgets for “administrative operations.”

If we want to see real change in these communities, we need to build relationships. You cannot have an unelected political appointee come into an impoverished area and get the parents to trust what they are doing by firing all the teachers and replacing them with strangers — a very real concern given the new powers Amendment 1 would grant the state education czar.

If opponents of the school takeover talk a lot about parents and teachers, it isn’t out of self-interest. It’s because we are the only folks who can truly advocate for the kids. If our children are forced into a state-run system that lacks the checks and balances offered by a local, elected school board, kids are going to fall through the cracks. Some out-of-state, for-profit corporation won’t know these kids’ families, their situation or their risk factors, the way local communities do.

Children are not mere products created by a corporation. They are worth more than just a test score. But if we allow Amendment 1 to pass, our kids will be nothing more than a statistical liability to a school’s bottom line. They deserve better.

So when it comes to Amendment 1, yes, let’s please talk about the kids.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

99 comments
George_M
George_M

I support the OSD amendment. While I absolutely understand that there are challenges outside of the classroom that affect student performance, that can't be a blanket pass for a school that is not meeting standards. I see echoes of the opposition to Common Core in many of the arguments I'm seeing from teachers; the consistent theme is "keep rigid standards of performance out of the classroom." Our community, our state, and our nation can't afford to settle for anything less than excellence. 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@George_M Please explain how standards necessarily equate to excellence as you seem to be suggesting.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Graduation Achievement Charter School is a State Charter Schools Commission school run by political appointees.

It has a CCRPI score of  41 and an F"" rating by the Governor's Office of  School Accountability.

It has been a failing school since 2010 when it began existence as Provost Academy. It has 1500 students a four year graduation rate of  7.7% (bottom 2%)

Funny thing is that it is not on the OSD takeover list, has never been shut down even though it has not met  its charter goals.

It also hides all hiring, personnel, and spending from the taxpayers that pay for the school.

This is the model for the OSD - no improvement, take the money and hide it from the taxpayer.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The Governor's State Charter Commission Schools run by political appointees have chronically failing schools that are not on the OSD list. WHY?


The state has no plan to turn around the failing schools they currently run. WHY?


These chronically failing schools hide all spending from taxpayers. WHY?


If you vote for OSD, you are voting for the plan outlined above. You have to ask yourself. WHY?

Baba Xigmadda
Baba Xigmadda

@AvgGeorgian WE ARE TODAY LIVING THROUGH "THE PLAN" THAT THE LOCAL POLITICAL OPERATIVES SOLD THE PEOPLE, REGARDING THE BENEFITS THEIR CHILDREN WOULD RECEIVE IN EDUCATION - IF THEY VOTED FOR THE "RIGHT PEOPLE" TO PUT INTO POWER OVER THEIR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS.

Do you notice, AvgGeorgian - you keep the "Enemy On Trial" for daring to step in and remove perennially failing schools from the control of the school system that is failing the children.

WE ALREADY KNOW that you believe that "The State Can't Educate These Kids".

I am asking you directly:  WHY are you running a diversionary protection racket for the people in power that the local people believed would fix the situation, only to fail to deliver?

And now you want them to fight with you to stop "the enemy" from doing a take over!   
YOU have no solution to produce for the children who are being injured.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Baba Xigmadda @AvgGeorgian

I just provided you with the state's current ability to improve performance in failing schools(its own), Its failure to hold them to academic standards and the lack of financial accountability for these state run schools.

It is what it is. Just the facts.


This is the state's track record. If you want more of it, vote for it. 


I am for smaller, more accountable government, local control, and transparency in government. The OSD offers none of these.

vincentfort
vincentfort

Ms. Ladd has focused on the central issue- how poverty affects learning. Why don't charter/privatization advocates talk about the impact and propose solutions.  Because to do so would put them at odds with their patrons such as the Walton Family and hedge fund donors who are complicit in creating the income inequality and immobility that plagues Georgia and the United States.

Baba Xigmadda
Baba Xigmadda

@vincentfort @vincentfort  I hope and pray that this is Georgia Senator Fort.


You say that "Poverty Affects Learning".

I wonder - after decades and decades of drawing upon the valuables (the hopes) of poor people in your district, promising them 'Salvation' if they vote for you and protest along with you - HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU GIVE THEM THE CAVEAT that you are now spewing - BEFORE you accepted their VOTE and their ACTIVISM as the course to their salvation, saying:

"I want your vote, Pittsburgh Community, but I have to level with you - YOUR CONTINUED POVERTY is going to neutralize your vote for School Board, Mayor, City Council member, State Rep, State Senator, Governor and US Senator?"

Now you want to introduce an EXTERNAL VARIABLE to cover your "machine's" incompetence at developing people through the COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS  that you now control.  

My question to you, Senator Fort - Show me the increased SPIRIT OF DISCERNMENT that your constituents now have, that would allow them to consider the amount of "Valuables" they have invested in your Struggle, the TIME that they have stood by your side, yet as they do a bit of Introspection, they realize that they have not substantially progressed and now are EQUIPPED TO DO A FORENSIC EXAMINATION OF THE 'INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO" that they yielded to you to manage and grow.

Now that you are admitting a significant shortfall - how many of them will REMOVE YOU from your perch as "Investment Adviser"?  
(Or are they too dependent on you as their VOICE - fighting the enemy in the legislature- while the real enemy is LACK OF PURPOSE more up close and personal)

ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Baba Xigmadda @vincentfort In our school, a family who does not live in district was given a withdrawl notice.  The child informed her teacher that her mother would be getting a hotel room on this side of town so that the children would be able to continue attending our school.  In the meantime, the child has been staying with a friend who does live in the attendance zone.  That child's mother said there are some days she cannot even get in touch with the first girl's mother to drop her off on the weekends.  Please tell me, how does a child who is living "from pillar to post" manage to come to school and learn?  


My co-workers and I are at school until 4 on most days.  I will say that one may be for meetings, but there is tutoring offered 3 days a week.  


For the past three weeks, students in my school have taken pre-tests and post-tests for the first unit in every content area, plus pre-tests for each area for the next unit.  Because I provide the accommodations this means I am missing a lot of time.  This is so we can say that we are "data-driven."  But where exactly is the time to teach or address deficits?


Finally, who and where are the schools going to get their staff?  I would suggest going to every county's human resource page and notice how many positions are still available-in October!  Some may be enticed to remain at their schools, but I doubt many would be.  With all of that, how exactly are the students helped if there is no one to teach them?

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

My heart and head hurt from reading the comments on the multiple posts about the OSD.  I can tell you that my opposition is ALL about the students.  Several columns prior to this one I issued a challenge (analogy) comparing what we are asked to do in schools to running the Peachtree Road Race.  No one commented.  No one questioned why we feel we are in a no win situation.  It is easier to continue to bash teachers and label schools as "failing" when you don't understand what we are trying to do.  


Our school has a CCRPI score below 60 for the 15-16 school year.  It is a significant drop from the 14-15 school year.  Did we STOP teaching?  Did we decide we didn't care?  Did we suddenly become incompetent?  No, the formula was changed in the middle of the process.  Our students actually showed growth - substantial in some areas, but our CCRPI score still dropped. Seem fair to you?  Want to label my school as "failing?"


One poster says that the opponents of the OSD have offered no plan.  That is not true.  I offered insight into our school and what it would take for our students to reach the goals of success according to the GaDOE/GOSA.  I challenge any of you who want to continually put the blame at the feet of the teachers to come up with a plan to move children two years or more on the academic continuum in 180 days.  Especially when so many of the 180 days are spent on testings.  Don't get me wrong, I am all about assessment - assessment for and of learning should be a part of classroom instruction every day, but if you want to know what has been accomplished over the 180 days, give that standardized test the first week of school and again the last week of school.  


For some posters, it seems to be all about school choice.  We have laws already in place that give parents school choice.  Go read HB 251.  Read Title I regulations to find that parents can request to move out of a Title I school.  So, are you really worried about the poor kids and their "zip code" schools or do you have some other motivation?  


Some repeatedly refer to "incompetent teachers." On numerous occasions, I have said I would put my faculty up against the wealthiest schools in our district.  Having experience at many levels - local school, district, state DOE, university - I can say without hesitation, that our faculty could teach at the highest performing school in our district and raise test scores.  I can't say that the same would happen if the teachers from the high performing schools came to our building.  Not that they are not good teachers, but my teachers have honed their craft and implemented the strategies necessary to work with children with limited vocabulary and even more limited life experiences.  


Here's the bottom line - how do you define "failing?"  Do you make your judgments on standardized test scores alone? Keep in mind that as our schools improve, the state average increases, and we are still chasing the magic numbers to get the green flag on CCRPI.  


Is it about parent involvement?  I'd like to hear your plans on how to increase it.  We hold meetings at 6:30 AM and 6:00 PM, we provide transportation to meetings, we use social media and text to contact parents, we offer conferences by SKYPE, we help parents sign up for $10 a month internet service, we teach parents how to work with their children on math and reading. Even with all these opportunities, some parents have never been in our building.  They never respond to requests for conferences. You can't MAKE parents do the right thing. 


I am all for school improvement and education reform and change, however, I don't see how a superintendent sitting in Atlanta and overseeing up to 100 schools can possibly do something that the GaDOE Dept. of School Improvement can't do (if funded and given the authority).  School improvement has to be "feet on the ground" work.  You have to inspect what you expect if you want to implement change.  How is this superintendent going to do this?  


I can't vote for something that has no plan behind it.  Taking over a school is not going to make it successful if there is not a plan for how to evaluate who and what is in place and how to implement necessary changes.  As a principal of a Title I school, I can't spend a penny of Title I money with describing what is purchased and how it will be used - not even when I am purchasing school supplies.  But I am being asked to vote for something that will take money from a district with no explanation of how it will be used. 


We already have a duplication of services between GOSA and DOE and now we are going to create a new Office of School Improvement because a single superintendent can't do this job.  She/he will need a full staff and at least one specialist in each building to help with the reforms.  Which budget will be cut to provide this staff?  Where will this new school district administration be housed?  More offices, furniture, etc. - out of which budget?  Someone will have to interview all these new teachers that will be hired.  Do you think the superintendent will do that?  How will this bureaucracy be any different that what some of you call the "bloated" district offices we currently have? 


Too many unanswered questions to vote yes.


Rant over.  Opinion stated.  

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@jezel @elementary-pal I don't believe that is the intention, but when you look at the schools on the list, most of them are high poverty/high minority schools.  We are continually asked to differentiate for students but there is no differentiation for schools.  


jezel
jezel

@elementary-pal Elementary pal....you and your school have been " set up to fail " . It is very obvious to me.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I hope they win and get the amendment off the ballot. Not for the status quo. Just don't want to follow TN LA.

RolleTheorem
RolleTheorem

First of all, Dr. Ladd is too invested up in the system to be considered objective. She is not an independent investigator without a dog in the race, and in my business we don't start at conflict of interest. We start at the appearance of conflict of 

interest.


Second, if we assume that in fact the school s in question are in fact schools with student populations that are wrapped in poverty, it is clear that local control cannot fix them, because these schools are now a normalization of broken furniture, broken dreams, and standard pipelines to prison.


Take these schools out from under local control. Give them to the state where the budgets can be implemented objectively to solve problems that are identified at an objective level and the results can be assessed objectively.


We are sick of petty school bureaucrats who glorify themselves by building empires of the backs of our children. At least we have already learned to justify it when it is done by "big government."

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

And those in the charter industry who put profits before children are not entrenched in their ideals? If poverty is one of the main issues within these dchools, how does putting in a charter system address that and fix that? The answer is clear; it doesnt. How do we know? It's been tried and failed before. The author has studied school improvement and has clearly and articulately explained why it won't work.

Anita Tucker
Anita Tucker

@RolleTheorem The current bureaucracy, the Office of School Improvement needs to be equipped to successfully turn "failing" schools around.  We do not need another bureaucrat to be appointed by the governor to come in and save the day.  The additional 3% that would go to the state to run the Opportunity School District  will actually deplete funds needed at the schools.  Say No to Amendment #1, make the Office of School Improvement effective (audit/review) = path to improving schools.

Local control and local school tax dollars belong locally.  We need to use our resources wisely, don't turn them over to an unaffected corporation whose sole purpose is to turn a profit.


nick1234
nick1234

The reason this debate always stops is that no one discusses anything past "bad teachers" and evil "charter schools". We have been on this talking point for 20+ years and what has it got us. Statistics show that  your child can go to the worst school in the world, but if you are involved as a parent your children will do fine. 


The social problems that Dr. Ladd listed cannot be ignored and are the real issue to failing schools. But all we talk about is bad teachers and charter schools. If we keep it us, the OSD can pass or fail and it will not make a bit of difference. 

jezel
jezel

@nick1234 " bad teacher "...." failing schools "....are ploys.

gogevux
gogevux

If we want to see real change in these communities, we need to build relationships. You cannot have an unelected political appointee come into an impoverished area and get the parents to trust what they are doing by firing all the teachers and replacing them with strangers — a very real concern given the new powers Amendment 1 would grant the state education czar.  





http://tinyurl.com/fastincom49

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

The State saved failing schools in Clayton, Warren, and Dekalb counties.  SACS was about to pull accreditation which would have sunk these systems and it was due to complete incompetence of their elected school boards.

The State doesn't want to run school systems.  It just wants to ensure they don't fail.

newsphile
newsphile

@RexHavoc "The state saved failing schools in Clayton, Warren, and DeKalb counties."  You are correct, the state already has the authority to save schools.  The state has "failed" to do so in the schools that are now classified by the state as failing.  In effect, the state is now saying it has "failed".  Follow the money and the power-grab; that's what makes OSD different.

Courtney2
Courtney2

So much jibber jabber.  The TRUTH is most people could not name their local school board member.  FAILING schools should be forced to require a quality education or risk having the state come in.  Kids should not suffer so not to offend any local official or bureaucrat.  Vote YES!

Astropig
Astropig

No defense above ^^ of  the status quo in these schools-because there is none-just more fear and arrogance from someone with a direct stake in keeping these kids in the bondage of ignorance and poverty.


Whenever I read these faux-concerned propaganda pieces,I'm more convinced than ever that the OSD is the way to go.If this person and her cohorts really cared about these kids and these schools,they wouldn't have let them get into this state of disrepair.It took our governor and legislature's focus on these schools shortcomings to awake these people from their neglect.


Again, I will remind my many friends on the far left fringe-criticizing the governor's plan is not,in itself,a plan.

Astropig
Astropig


Just to be clear-^^ means the article.I really agree with Courtney here.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig I would agree that the ones doing most of the posting have much to gain and are sometimes also arrogant.  I'm counting the number of times Astropig has posted.  Must be paid by the word. 

KCN96
KCN96

@Astropig  The school that Dr. Ladd teaches at is not in danger of being taken over. She teaches in Coweta which does not have any schools on that list.

Most of the list of potential schools to be taken over are in the Atlanta Public school system...


ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Astropig Did you read Elementary Pal's post?  Do you think this is just fluff or an aberration?  It's not.  I'm not sure what your experience has been but I can tell you about mine and that of the many teachers I know at schools similar to mine.  

Astropig
Astropig

@Michellegrenada


You can also earn BIG MONEY by being an out-of- the-state educrat making a brief career stop in the metro ATL area and advocate "local control" of failing schools! Then you can skip town for another lucrative job far,far away.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Are you against free-market forces? If so, you must be equally outraged by the huge compensation packages that the charter industry pays to consultants. Even better, the huge profits made by the private charter management companies. Now, there's a whole lot of money and fraud in that area. If you're going to vilify someone for making money, then be honest and acknowledge it happens on both sides.

Astropig
Astropig

@sneakpeakintoeducation


Public school fraud is massive.These local school boards wink and nod at it because they were in on it until they turned the pork barrel over and started eating at the other end.All of them are former teachers,principals or assorted hangers on that are trying (desperately) to protect the money machine that they have created.That's the essence of this debate.

Bette C. Holland
Bette C. Holland

Keep sending this to your friends neighbors and family!!!!!

jezel
jezel

As I read the comments I always think to myself.....It is so evident that many of you folks have never taught school....so how can you pretend to know what is best for kids and how we educate them.

Starik
Starik

@jezel I went through public school. My kids did too. I know some of the the flaws in the system, particularly less than competent teachers. I have a right to my opinion, and no financial stake in perpetuating the current public school system. Teachers do.

redweather
redweather

@Starik @jezel It grates on me when people like you turn to this "financial stake" argument. Your cynicism is on full display, and cynicism will never get us anywhere.

jezel
jezel

@Starik @jezel You may not have a personal financial stake....but money is the driving force behind the reform....not education.... not kids.

KCN96
KCN96

@jezel @Starik  i agree.

why does the Governor want control of the schools..follow the money. All these for-profit charter schools...wait i said it for-profit! I taught at one. It was amazing what resources we lacked and yet the owners had a yacht, a helicopter oh yeah they kids did not attend any of their hundreds of schools..they went to private school that says a lot!

Starik
Starik

@redweather @Starik @jezel Continuing to hire and retain unqualified teachers will never get us anywhere. Too many Teachers, especially teachers' organizations, are about the teachers, not the kids.

MicheleInGA
MicheleInGA

Teachers put up with low pay, long hours, students with all kinds of problems, nasty parents who make excuses for bad behavior, parents who just don't care etc. You really think the teachers are doing it because they're just thinking of themselves? Give teachers the respect they deserve.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@Starik @redweather @jezel Let me tell you, if it weren't for the kids, most of us would have left a long time ago. 


But let me ask you a question...in your profession, would you continue in the same position for 10 years while your salary went down, your cost of benefits went up, you were constantly being bashed because you weren't a miracle worker, and everyone who had ever walked in an office thought they knew how to do your job better? 


I have a PhD (from a major research university) and 26 years of experience and my income has yet to recover from furlough days and pay cuts.  So, while I deserve to make a living like anyone else, I sure as heck don't do this job for the money.  It is ALL about the kids.  


ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Starik @jezel Because you went to public school does not make you aware of what it is like to actually BE in the public school.  It's kind of akin to saying that because you have been to the bank for a number of years that you know how to operate a bank.  You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, but you are discounting the experience of a large number of people because you seem to believe that we have some vested interest in "perpetuating the current" state.  It's absurd.  As I have posted, I am after school three days a week for tutorial. My co-workers have been reduced to tears because they are constantly being told they are not doing good enough- not only by bystanders like you but their administrators.

General Concern
General Concern

I'm going  to translate this--"yes, they're incompetent at the local level, but they are *our* incompetents." One can certainly understand the emotional appeal. Whether one needs to acquiesce to is another thing entirely.


As a practical matter, in regards to "corporations" and firing "all" the teachers---exactly how many teachers do you think are chomping at the bit to teach in ButtF**k, Eqypt, with some corporation as the head? Probably not a ton. So I think the jobs we are talking about are the non-teacher jobs. How about you guys of the education adminstration establishment just accept that you produce, or get superseded?


Starik
Starik

@Nondescript Name  For too many current teachers the alternative "profession" is running a register at Wal-Mart.  The computerized register calculates change for them

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik @Nondescript Name Nope. I worked a summer at McDonalds, though, and we had to calculate change in my head.. I've seen a number of "educators" who would have trouble with that.

ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Nondescript Name I really want to know who they believe is going to staff the schools once taken over.  Charter schools have higher rates of teacher loss than traditional schools.