State school superintendent: Opportunity School District lost, but reform efforts continue

The anti-OSD forces scored an impressive victory with six in 10 voters rejecting the amendment.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods shares his response to the decisive defeat of Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District.

By Richard Woods

Though Amendment 1 spurred a contentious campaign, the points raised by both sides renewed our commitment to focus on chronically struggling schools and we, as Georgians, cannot allow this focus to wane in the aftermath of the election.

The introduction of the Opportunity School District concept in the Legislature during my first days in office highlighted the need for the Georgia Department of Education to broaden our approach to supporting schools. In the past, struggling schools were primarily served by the School Improvement division. I gave the direction that supporting these schools needed to be a shared responsibility across the GaDOE, with a common goal to decrease the number of schools on the Opportunity-eligible list. We’ve made progress and have been able to work with districts to decrease the number of Opportunity-eligible schools by eight percent.

Since the onset of this campaign, my commitment has been focused on our responsibility of ensuring that schools are not on the list in the first place.

As state school superintendent, I have traveled to schools across Georgia, including some that were on the Opportunity-eligible list. Many factors contribute to the poor performance of these schools — fractured communities, unclear expectations, lack of consistent leadership, inconsistent support, and students who have needs that go beyond pure academics.

What I have witnessed is that each of these schools face unique challenges, and to truly address struggling schools, we cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach. We must look at each school and individualize support to best meet its needs. For that reason, our staff will partner with each of these schools so they have a personal contact to help provide whatever support they may need.

To truly customize and target our support for these schools, we must engage stakeholders. In that spirit, I will be inviting stakeholders from all invested groups –members of the education, business, and faith communities, as well as families —  to participate in a “Solutions Summit” to have candid conversations about these schools and develop a framework where all parties, including GaDOE, have skin in the game. It’s time we stop talking only about the problems that persist in these schools and start developing actionable solutions.

Engaged leadership is essential, both in our struggling schools and districts as well as at the GaDOE. Several of the state’s struggling schools are located in struggling communities. To break this cycle, we must engage both schools and communities in a meaningful way.

We will be organizing and holding a series of community conversations across the state where these schools are located. This will be an opportunity to invite the community in, share our resources and our data, and have conversations to chart root causes and create solutions to address school performance –all with the common goal of supporting our kids.

As superintendent, I am charged with overseeing a K-12 system that educates over 1.7 million students in our public schools, and nearly 65,000 of those students are attending chronically struggling schools. There is a lot of great work happening in a majority of Georgia’s schools, but we must come together as communities to work on behalf of those students whose schools are not best serving their needs.

Bold action and long-term commitment are needed to bring about success. I look forward to working with all Georgians to ensure our students are given the greatest chance for a bright future.

 

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
NikoleA
NikoleA

Is there a schedule of these visits online somewhere?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

This would be an optimal time to let "struggling schools" come forward with proposals specific to their school and their students on what they need in support, what their efforts will focus on, and data to show why they think the support they need will help.  THEN Mr. Woods and our governor and legislature need to provide the funds to try these proposals, over, say, a 5 year period, and then evaluate if the actions have shown any progress.  Sort of like a lab school.  THEN, ideas that have shown to work can be disseminated to all the schools (because virtually all schools have struggling students) as a resource guide.   Of course, it will not be able to happen without the state SHOWING a TRUE COMMITTMENT by funding the proposals, assuming they have valid research behind them.  Otherwise, it's all talk.  And we have had enough of that!


Georgia's usual focus of "on the cheap" such as "we can't afford the CC tests, so we will make up our own" shows the lack of commitment, generally, to backing up what we say with the funds to do so.

newsphile
newsphile

@Wascatlady Also, Deal should stop his efforts to seek revenge and stop micro-managing GA's DOE. 

Donald_01
Donald_01

@Wascatlady  So you let students suffer for 5 years as an experiment?  Are you real?

Astropig
Astropig

Wow. Great to see Superintendent Woods sticking to his principles.It's said that failure is an orphan,but success has many fathers,and his commitment to not give up on these kids says a lot.His renewed commitment to help kids trapped in failing schools reinforces his image (with me) that he's a stand-up guy.


That said, I'm sad to think that the efforts to improve the OSD-eligible schools will probably now fade away and it'll be back to business as usual for the eduacracy.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Ed Johnson said this post will not appear: 


State school superintendent: Opportunity School District lost, but reform efforts continue" Why won't my post show up?  It's this... 

In his very accessible book, Twenty Things You Need to Know, internationally acclaimed educator, author, data expert, and Deming protagonist Donald Wheeler, Ph.D., offers, in the section “How to Analyze Data:”

“To explain why a process behavior chart should always be the first step in the analysis of data from any Observational Studywe need to first define the four basic questions of statistics. These are the Description, Probability, Inference, and Homogeneity Questions. … When we find evidence of a changing universe in a situation where there should be only one universe we will be unable to learn anything from descriptive statistics. When the universe is changing we cannot gain from statistical inference, nor can we make predictions using probability theory.  Any nonhomogeneity in our collection of values completely undermines the techniques developed to answer each of the first three questions.  The lack of homogeneity is a signal that unknown things are happening, and until we discover what is happening and remove its causes, we will continue to suffer the consequences.  … The primary tool for examining a collection of values for homogeneity is the process behavior chart.”

Putting CCRPI school-level average scale scores on process behavior charts quickly and efficiently reveals greatly homogeneous process behavior on the part of State of Georgia system of schools, including both public schools and charter schools, that perform within limits of variation centered on 500, the design average.  Even so, some nonhomogeneous behavior is powerful enough to show up.  On the one hand, a relatively few schools – around 20 -- perform above the upper limit of homogeneous process behavior variation.  These higher performing schools include Atlanta’s Morningside and Springdale Park and some other higher SES schools but not all higher SES schools.  On the other hand, a relative few schools – less than ten – tend to perform below the lower limit of homogeneous process behavior variation.  These lower performing schools tend to be exclusively alternative schools, GNET schools, and youth detention centers; for example, Atlanta’s Forest Hills Academy and North Metro Psychoed, and Sumer’s Youth Development Center.

Critical learning that comes straightaway from performing “the first step in the analysis of data from any Observational Study” using process behavior charts include: 1) GaDOE should be about the business of providing for learning and leading continual improvement of the whole Georgia public schools system, while 2) learning from the few higher performing schools but not messing with them; 3) intervening in and helping the few lower performing schools; 4) understanding charter schools advance academic performance no better than, and often worse than, public schools do; and, 5) it is irresponsible to persist with taking over any “chronically failing schools,” as the OSD would have it.

What 2015 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade School-level Mean Scale Scores Say about Georgia Schools System offers some process behavior charts, and Atlanta school board and superintendent playing a zero-sum game offers some insight into how the CCRPI works to sustain academic performance gaps and to lend a false but political rationale to claiming so-called chronically failing schools exist.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

So now a political sleight of hand, and we quietly slip from castigating “chronically failing” schools to castigating “chronically struggling” schools.Thus still blaming schools and apparently not understanding no school ever created itself.

When used to get systemic knowledge and not just information as by ranking schools, Georgia Milestones Assessment System results make it clear: The only arguably few “chronically failing” or, if you now prefer, “chronically struggling” schools Georgia has tend to be exclusively alternative schools, GNET schools, and youth detention centers; for example, APS’ Forest Hills Academy, an alternative school, and North Metro Psychoed, a GNET school; and, Sumer’s Youth Development Center, a youth detention center.

Maybe one day we will learn the “solution” is simply this, though it’s easier said than done: Commit to learning and doing continual, never-ending IMPROVEMENT of the SOCIAL SYSTEM that comprises Georgia public schools.  No “solution” can be prescribed a priori.  It takes learning into local solutions, not prescribing "solutions" from afar.

redweather
redweather

I would like to know if Mr. Woods participated in any of the discussions/meetings leading up the OSD ballot initiative,

jezel
jezel

Shame on you Woods. Now you have something to say ? Where have you been ? Do you really believe that the Ga. teachers want to hear from a sell out ? It is past time for you to move on.

Astropig
Astropig

@jezel


Superintendent Woods is supposed to work for students best interests,not teachers. He's done a great job. Compared to the circus clown he replaced, he's worked wonders.

jezel
jezel

@Astropig @jezel Woods is the leader of public education in Ga. He has been silent and has failed to lead.