Opinion: Georgia won’t improve its schools until it stops teacher blame game

Tim Mullen has taught seventh grade life science in Gwinnett County Public Schools for 24 years and is the author of the book, “Stop Blaming and Start Talking: Developing a Dialogue for Getting Public Schools Back on Track.”  He is a former president of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

In this op-ed column, Mullen discusses House Bill 338, better known as Nathan Deal’s Plan B, which comes in the wake of  the Opportunity School District’s defeat in November.

By Tim Mullen

There is a lot of talk about how Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Legislature are going to address “failing schools.”

“Something must be done to help the students” is the usual rhetoric. A recent AJC article quoted a parent saying his “children are fine”; “he feels empathy for students in under-performing schools”; “you hear about them on the news,”, and “nothing will change if it’s left up to teachers and principals. Somebody needs to step in and help them.”

The governor wants to be that somebody. Last week, we heard about Deal’s Plan B, which echoes his failed Opportunity School District proposal.

I am a teacher. Although I do not teach in a “failing school,” I have heard the same message from parents, media, and politicians for years: “Teachers, it is your fault children are not learning.”

However, problems impacting student performance are not confined to only those schools designated as “failing.” Instead, the problems are complex and in every school in Georgia, but the influences negatively impacting student performance are concentrated in the schools labeled “failing.”

So what really are failing schools?  In order to determine if a school is failing, and why, there must be an articulated and relevant goal that is not met by some accurate measurement. In order to arrive there, we must ask, and honestly discuss, several larger questions:

Why are schools “failing” in the first place? Why do some schools “fail” year after year, while others do fine?

Poverty is a factor, but there’s much more that needs to be in the dialogue, including the impact poverty often has, such as poor nutrition, minimal medical care, environments that deny physical and emotional safety, and an atmosphere that undermines positive academic experiences. Teachers can do only so much when the students come to school hungry, unloved, neglected, abused, and/or homeless.

When students fear for their safety at home, when parents are going through a bitter divorce, or when a single parent working two jobs doesn’t have time to help the child with schoolwork, it will be difficult for the student to focus and learn. In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what we think of as “education,” is a level 5 need, which means the needs of levels 1-4 must be sufficiently met before cognitive growth can occur.  However, the basic needs are not often met in economically disadvantaged areas.

What is the purpose of public schools? Is it to raise and educate children to be good citizens who contribute to society?  If so, what does “contribute to society” mean?  Should the goal of “non-failing” schools be for students to learn detailed standards listed by the Georgia Department of Education, or are there more intangible, yet important factors?

What measures are we using to assess performance, and do they actually measure anything? Schools in Georgia are judged based on the College and Career Ready Performance Index, which is heavily based on student test scores (Milestones, End of Course Tests and others).

If the purpose of schools is to create educated, well-rounded, and successful citizens, let’s define what that is and proceed. However, when the CCRPI and teacher evaluations all need data for comparison, the focus will be on the tests, no matter what anyone says.  Principals and teachers feel pressure for students to perform well on tests. But it is not always clear what those tests are measuring.

The rhetoric about “fixing” failing schools is only political posturing until the real discussion about what is happening in the communities and homes of those students is addressed. EVERY CHILD should have access to equitable education – that was the intent of the Education and Secondary Education Act originally authorized in the 1960’s (now called Every Student Succeed Acts), and that is the  belief of EVERY TEACHER I ever met. However, there are many influences impacting schools that are not being considered by these tests. The teachers cannot fix all of the societal issues plaguing these schools.

It’s time for us to do the hard work of addressing the real issues that impact public education. It’s time for our politicians to stop posturing and engage in an honest and open dialogue on what is happening in schools. It’s time to stop blaming and start talking.

 

Reader Comments 0

159 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"What measures are we using to assess performance, and do they actually measure anything? "

Good question.   Unfortunately, none of the metrics used by schools will render any useful data until they begin including demographic data such as race, gender, and household income, to name a few.

What I want to know is how does the middle income, white male student in GA compare to the middle income, white male student in Oklahoma?  How does the high income, black female student in Birmingham compare to the high income, black female student in Chicago?  And since educators continuously blame low income and poverty as impediments to education, compare the low income black student in Mississippi to the low income ghetto student in New York to the low income white student in Appalachia.  

And here is the key:  if one school system is doing much better at reaching a particular demographic, find out what they heck they are doing differently and try to incorporate that at other schools across the country.

That is the type of work the federal Dept of Education should be conducting.  But no, we're worried about which bathroom to use.


My guess?  When you stratify the data in that manner, most schools across the country will be very similar.

Teachertim
Teachertim

@Lee_CPA2 I have seen a few comparisons - apples to apples.  Georgia is up there and competitive when scores compared fairly.


Teachertim
Teachertim

Good conversations - kind that must occur if real and sustainable improvements are ever going to happen with schools. How do we get the public, elected officials, parents, teachers, students, and media on-board?


Starik
Starik

When we say "poverty" do we really mean "culture?"

Teachertim
Teachertim

@Starik Yes - The kids coming to school have so much baggage from their community, home, and attitudes that make it hard for them to focus on learning science or math.


Starik
Starik

@Teachertim @Starik My experience as a parent included a DeKalb County high school, middle class in nature and located in a mostly white area. Some upper middle, some lower middle and most in the middle.  One black area, well established, and some apartments that over 30 years morphed from white to mixed to black and some Hispanic. The school was, before The Change, about 50% white, 30% black and 10% Hispanic and Asian. Now it's 10% white and 14% limited English; almost entirely black. The school once had a staff that was competent and caring; some still are. 


So where did all these black kids come from? Initially it was kids from ghetto black schools who wanted a real education, or their parents did. Then came the seriously deprived who were transferred by DFCS or probation officers, or because their parents didn't much like their friends in the old neighborhood...gangs. Whites and Asians who could move, did. Whites and Asians who could access private schools, even low quality online schools, did. Some dropped out. 


Private schools, good ones, are not accessible to many. What about the immigrant kids who are dumped into a black-culture school?

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

Poverty is a factor, but there’s much more that needs to be in the dialogue, including the impact poverty often has, such as poor nutrition, minimal medical care, environments that deny physical and emotional safety, and an atmosphere that undermines positive academic experiences. Teachers can do only so much when the students come to school hungry, unloved, neglected, abused, and/or homeless.

... poor nutrition;

... minimal medical care;

... environments that deny physical and emotional safety, and,

...an atmosphere that undermines positive academic experiences

Who is to blame for these points you try to underscore? 


Teachers can do only so much when the students come to school hungry, unloved, neglected, abused, and/or homeless.

Again, what is your answer to these points you make?

Teachertim
Teachertim

@MichaelHannigan Key words:  Teachers can only do so much. We have them only 6 hours a day and do not have near the influence their homes, community, family, friends, social media, movies, ... have on them


Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

If she is seeing" a different side" of your child, I have to ask if YOU are the one, along with the SPED teacher, who is hindering your child. Having a learning disability may affect handwriting, but being "messy" is something every child can learn not to do. LD kids can learn to be reasonably neat-- I taught them and am not a SPED teacher- in a classroom. And you need to remember that your child is NOT the only child in that classroom. If you are expecting the same level of individual attention that a SPED teacher gives, you are not going to get it in a general ed classroom when there are 30 other students in that class who also have problems and no resource teacher to help them.

quickdigits
quickdigits

you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

"What measures are we using to assess performance, and do they actually measure anything? "

Let's remember how this whole testing/accountability hot mess started. It started, decades ago, with horror stories about high schools graduating students who had been passed on year after year and entered adulthood functionally illiterate and/or innumerate.

This caused the public to view, correctly, the schools those students attended as lacking in integrity.  Since those schools often served poor minority students, the public also correctly perceived this as a problem related to racial and economic justice and fairness.

The causes may be many, but public educators brought the "accountability" movement on themselves by attempting to paper over educational failures as successes.

BruceWeaver
BruceWeaver

Do you think maybe it is time to admit that public education is a failed concept? 

In many communities the school system is a thinly veiled jobs program ( see the Atlanta Public Schools for instance). Were these systems to undergo the scrutiny of even a basic business enterprise many of the employees would be discharged as inept or unnecessary to the mission.

The sad fact is we are surrendering our children and their future to those least capable to teach!

Starik
Starik

@BruceWeaver No, because in many places public education is working.  The problem, in the Atlanta area anyway, is the way we have handled racial integration. You see what happened in DeKalb and Clayton and Atlanta. These systems have become mostly segregated by race again now, and segregated schools are separate and unequal.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Starik

"These systems have become mostly segregated by race again now, and segregated schools are separate and unequal."

And, just HOW, though being "segregated again," are the problems going to be solved.  Is it because the schools are segregated that they must be "unequal?"  

Don't you people ever tire of repeating the whole failing schools mantra? Over and over and OVER...is it ever going to stop?

More money thrown at the schools? 

I guess this is another fault of the Republicans that run GA...as if it just started when they took over government.  I'm old enough to tell you this has been a problem long before any Republican ever came out from under a rock and ran for office.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@MichaelHannigan @Starik Let's take race out of it.  In my county race is really not a factor, but poverty is. The lowest performing schools are almost 100% free and reduced lunch kids.  If I were superintendent of schools in my county, the fair thing to do for the poorest kids is spread them out into the better schools.  This would not be real popular with the neighborhood school crowd, but it is the best thing for the kids.  A teacher with one or two poor kids in her class can give them the attention they need and will probably even buy them tennis shoes herself.  A teacher with 24 extremely poor kids who are not prepared for school is overwhelmed by the need and gets discouraged. A poor kid in a middle class school gets better role models, does not get reinforcement for the anti-education culture at home, gets a better curriculum and pace and may surprise everyone and blossom.  This will probably not happen if you leave him in an all poverty school with all its endemic problems. 

Starik
Starik

@4PublicEducation @MichaelHannigan @Starik In DeKalb and other systems parents don't have the option to ignore race; the school system packs middle class schools with poor kids who, by sheer numbers, change the school into a poverty school.

teachermom4
teachermom4

@4PublicEducation @MichaelHannigan @Starik Amen! I live in an area that has had the reverse happen. As soon as anyone "different" moves in, the middle class, fearing failing schools, flee, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for the reasons you outline above. It is so frustrating! But high needs kids will always do better when there are fewer of them, allowing the teacher to focus on them. As soon as populations shift to where the majority of the population is high needs, the schools begin to fail because of the exponentially higher amount of time and energy those kids require in order to succeed. One teacher in a class of 25-30 of these kids cannot accomplish what one teacher in a class with just a few could because these students require a tremendous amount of one-on-one and small group instruction. Not to mention emotional support...

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@teachermom4 @4PublicEducation @MichaelHannigan @Starik You are so right.  It is ridiculous to expect a teacher with 25-30 high needs kids in a school full of high needs kids to make the same scores as her counterpart in a middle class school.  We all know this. There really is no long term fix for a majority high needs/poverty school.  The fix is to mix them sparingly into higher performing schools.  I am not sure of the correct percentage, but it needs to be less than the amount where they begin to influence the higher performing school negatively. 

Teachertim
Teachertim

@4PublicEducation @MichaelHannigan @Starik Agree - so much of it is numbers.  When I have only a couple kids that need extra attention in a class of 25 or less, no problem.  When it is many kids that need extra attention in a class of 35 - I can only do so much. Then the kids that are ready to learn are neglected, become secondary. 

Starik
Starik

@Teachertim @4PublicEducation @MichaelHannigan @Starik We also should take note of the peer pressure that increases as kids get older - If poor black kids can be around well behaved kids of any race, they'll get better. If poor black kids are a majority they won't improve, but the white kids will get worse. The poor immigrant kids won't have a chance.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I wonder where elementary-pal went? The administrators crawl off when you start asking the hard questions.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Thank you for your answers and I apologize for my personal insult to you.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@class80olddog I accept your apology and encourage you to really listen to those of us who are in this battle everyday.  


We aren't going to fight reform.  


We would love to be able to set our calendar and the length of our school day.  


We would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the assessment process without being accused of cheating or trying to cheat or thinking about cheating.  


We would like to have respect from folks because of the position we hold (just like someone suggested we give DeVos).  


We would like for folks to recognize that the metrics used to determine failure are not as clear cut as some assume.  


We have about 30% of our Kindergarten students who come to school knowing letters, colors, shapes, and how to spell their names.  About 78% of our students come from homes where English is not the first language.  We need to make 1.5 years of growth each year of elementary school to get these children on grade level by the end of 5th grade.  As long as we are making progress toward that goal, we are not failing.  

Teachertim
Teachertim

@elementary-pal @class80olddog Teachers I know (and myself) are not against change. Like any person and organization, things change so we need to change. Teachers want the public and elected officials to know what is going on in the schools (also what societal influences are in play) and we want to be a part of developing the solutions. How many programs have been pushed down and teachers told to do this or that without input?  Teachers are professionals, let us do our job.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@elementary-pal @class80olddog I try to listen and learn about teaching "in the real world" - and I know that you deal with tons of problems that are not of your making and beyond your ability to change.  78% of kids from families where English is not their first language?  That goes back to the larger question of immigration.  Ever think of segregating them into their own track so they can get intense English immersion before trying to teach them the regular curriculum?  I started to school in 1st grade (there was no kindergarten) - and there were kids who had to start learning their letters and numbers.  That is where the curriculum should start - at ground zero (or tabula rasa).  Don't set a curriculum that assumes that kids come to school already reading - that is arecipe for failure.  And it is unnecessary - let better prepared kids jump ahead (oh no, is that PC anymore).  Failing?  If a high school graduates one student who is functionally illiterate, then it is failing.  I hold most teachers in high esteem - my sister was a teacher.  But the shine came off teachers when reports of rampant grade inflation surfaced -a lot of which was driven by PRINCIPALS (not you, of course) who wanted to look better than reality.  Also, teachers don't look good in a lot of people's eyes when all they do is complain about their salaries and Georgia not giving them enough money, when education spending has doubled.  I sympathize with teachers on their salary issues - they deserve better - but get on here and tell us the REAL solvable issues - don't just use the excuse of POVERTY.  My family lived in poverty, but we had two parents and a school ethic and we were pushed to good in school and our parents backed the school 100%. THAT is what has changed.  But our school also enforced discipline with the paddle, and enforced truancy, and when a teacher put down the grade you earned - that was the grade you got - and there were a lot of "F's".

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@class80olddog @elementary-pal OK..let me try to answer your questions...

Research supports teaching students in a bi-lingual situation for the early literacy instruction.  We have this in our pre-K classes, but we don't have enough bi-lingual teachers to continue through upper grades.   Our parents don't want dual-immersion.  They want us to teach their children English.  The better answer would be to have a longer school year for these students. 


The curriculum does start with learning letters and letter sounds.  But to be considered the "on-grade level" that so many posters talk about, Kindergarten students should be reading pattern books and writing sentences before they move to first grade.  Try doing that while trying to teach them to speak English at the same time.  I am amazed daily by the rate of learning of many of our Kinder babies. But academic language and social language are not the same.    


I know you don't want to hear about salaries and money, but it is a major issue.  How are we going to get the brightest and best to go into education if they can't count on a steady salary?  I have a PhD and 26 years of experience and today I make $10,000 less than I did in 2009.  AND I pay a larger portion of my insurance.  Tell me where else that would happen and the employees continue to work. 


As for poverty, what we are seeing today is not like what some of us grew up in.  Family life is not what it was for most of us either.  We can't fix the ills of society. We do have to find a way to help our students overcome them.  If that means we clothe them, bathe them, and feed them, then that is what we do. Should that be the job of the school?  Of course not.  But we do it.  


Now, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life - other than being independently wealthy.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching a kid "get it" in reading or math class.  If we really want to improve education, we need to sit down at the table with people who get it and talk about what needs to happen.  Reduce class size, increase time on task, make sure kids get time to move and think and play, pay teachers for the work they do, hold everyone accountable for thing over which they have control, support literacy in homes, require employers to give parents time to volunteer at their child's school and/or attend conferences, respect those of us who make up the majority instead of lumping us in the same barrel as those who couldn't hold on to their integrity.  AND, specifically in GA - let the DOE do their job and get rid of GOSA.  The two organizations are constantly in a power struggle over who is in charge.  It is a duplication of effort that is a waste of money.



Elnora Wright Grant
Elnora Wright Grant

It is hard to believe the Governor has reintroduced his plan to take over schools...the problem is poverty and the schools need help to help the community NOT a take over by some arrogant individuals who are blaming the "problem" on teachers and administration and "think" some bureaucrat can solve it.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

State run Scintilla Academy has a 53.2 CCRPI. Is it failing? Is this the model for the OSD?


Also I can't seem to find any spending, hiring, or personnel data on the sites that provide this data for public schools. Are state run charter schools public schools or private schools?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

State run charter school- Graduation Achievement High School has a 44.1 CCRPI. Is it failing?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Brookwood Elementary in Forsyth has 3% failing but a 99 CCRPI. Is it failing?

Teachertim
Teachertim

@AvgGeorgian CCRPI is heavy test score based. Is that the determining factor in schools passing/failing or is tehre so much more?

Starik
Starik

@Teachertim @AvgGeorgian "Passing'' shouldn't be the goal. A high school graduate should read, write and speak well, have a shot at a good trade or advanced education.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Chicopee Elemetary school in Hall County has a CCRPI of 56.3, Is it failing?

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

This is absolutely true as anyone working in public education can tell you.  A good teacher is really important, but if you swapped the faculties of a high performing school with one from a poor performing school, it would not drastically change the performance in the low performing school. The teacher is not the determining factor; the socioeconomic level of the students is the determining factor.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@Starik @4PublicEducation Yes, to some degree.  I did not finish the hypothetical above.  The high performing school would continue to be high performing for awhile. Teachers who were not performing as well as the teachers the students had before would be noticed and complaints would go home to parents and from parents to administrators.  All teachers in the higher performing school would have better supplies, more homeroom mothers, more volunteers, more support from the office and their overall job satisfaction would go up.  They would want to stay in this better school with students more ready to learn and would try harder to stay there.  If they have the ability, they would work harder to try to rise to meet the higher expectations.  If they did not have the ability or motivation to work harder, they would look for an assignment with lower expectations.  That is usually in one of the lower performing schools in the county.  This is also true for administrators.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@Starik @4PublicEducation There is one more factor in getting good teachers.  Some are missionary types and will work in a very difficult environment because they feel called to do so, but most are nice, middle class folks who enjoy teaching cooperative students and do not want to work in a combat zone.  There is a lot of competition among teachers to work in a pleasant environment with supportive parents and administrators. The better teachers are known and get to teach where they want.  If a county tries to force them to work in a more difficult environment, they will cross county lines and find a better job.  Teachers come  from an urban school system across state lines where they have no say about the school to which they are assigned, to my county all the time looking for a better work environment.

Starik
Starik

@4PublicEducation @Starik Children who grow up in poor black areas go to all-black schools. The teachers attended similar schools, graduated, got admitted to lower-tier colleges, scraped through to graduation and got jobs teaching in segregated schools. The only winners are teachers and administrators getting decent pay and benefits. The losers are the kids.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

Teachers are NOT, I repeat, NOT part of the policy making processes. Teachers serve at the pleasure of the principal, who also serves at the pleasure of the "central office" and superintendent. Every time the state decides to "change" standards to get out of accountability the teachers have to change up the teaching processes too. There was some time when the math teachers were teaching algebra, statistics, and geometry with OUT textbooks all in one year. My argument was, colleges teach one math discipline, Algebra, geometry, statistics so why are the high schools taking an eclectic approach to teaching and learning. A teacher's math efficacy may not be so high in areas he/she has never taught until it was mandated. Teachers are NOT always to blame, it is the politicians and local boards of education who LOVE and rely on the unregulated education funding from the feds.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

John8639: “Children have a natural desire to know, modern education thwarts that as it tries to mold students to fit in.”

Absolutely.  An excellent way to see this effect is to look under the hood of CCRPI scores.  Two levels deep are Content Mastery Rates.  Content Master Rates greatly affect Achievement Points awarded and then Achievement Points awarded greatly affect the CCRPI score.  However, Progress Points awarded kick in to effectively up the CCRPI score when Achievement Points worsen.

By looking at Content Mastery Rates over time, troubling findings and, in one particular instance, a downright frightening finding, show up.

I have looked at Content Mastery Rates for all Atlanta high schools and for many of the district’s middle and elementary schools.  I have also looked at Content Mastery Rates for all Muscogee County high schools and for all Greene County schools.  Everywhere I’ve looked, between 2014 and 2015, when the state switched from the CRCT and the EOGT to the Georgia Milestones, Content Mastery Rates for Black children in every school got worse, sometimes “unusually” worse, and tended to stay worse, no matter the school’s racial and ethnic makeup.  At the same time, Content Mastery Rates for White children in “white schools” generally got better, sometimes “unusually” better, and tended to stay better.

The one particular instance that’s downright frightening is the Kindezi Charter School in Atlanta, a “black school.”  From 2014 to 2015, Content Mastery Rates for Black kids at Kindezi plummeted from the 100s and 90s down to the 50s and 40s!  This plummeting in itself is not frightening.  What’s frightening is that, in their infinite school turnaround wisdom, the Atlanta superintendent and school board members have scheduled to outsource Carver Cluster public schools to Kindezi, yet the data say Kindezi has only the capability to “thwart” Black children’s mastering content as Kindezi “tries to mold students to fit in.”

In a presentation I prepared earlier I put it this way: In contrast to what they say, data say what the Atlanta superintendent and school board members are achieving includes: 1) training Black children to perform/conform to current academic standards and educating them less to have learned to learn beyond the standards, and 2) providing for Black children to  receive “education delivery” void of inculcating strong resilience to changing academic standards.

I went down this road because the Atlanta superintendent did nothing when I twice invited her to lift the hood on CCRPI scores, see what’s there, and inform and educate the community on findings.  She didn’t, so I did.  The superintendent has only ranked schools from top to bottom by greatest CCRPI score gain, so as to heap praise upon the "Top 10" and to unavoidably cast benign neglect upon all the many other Atlanta schools.  Like certain of our legislators and Beverly Hall, the superintendent’s paradigm is one of blame and punish her way to “turning around” success, which is an impossibility.

My apology for running on, here, but I am committed to “chirp” more loudly than ever, as a certain PhD candidate at GSU knows.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@EdJohnson

Funny how everyone accepts the CCRPI as the gospel on "failing school" identification. Thanks for looking behind the curtain.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Opportunity School District (OSD) 2.0 has arrived as Georgia House Bill 338.  Unlike its harsh school taker-over predecessor, OSD/Amendment 1, that voters rejected last November, OSD 2.0 is somewhat sugarcoated.  Even so, like its predecessor, OSD 2.0 offers nothing for genuinely improving public education among Georgia’s so-called lowest performing schools but punishment and sanctions.

We are now 17 years into the 21st century, yet, somehow, certain Georgia legislators hold to the regressive thinking that punishing and sanctioning schools needing special help is the way to improve the schools.

Actually, standardized test results make clear the educational system that is the Georgia Public Schools System has but several schools needing special, individual help.  These schools are GNET schools, youth detention center schools, and alternative schools.  All other public schools, save several schools performing outside the Georgia Public Schools system for the better, fall within a range that sends the message it is the whole Georgia Public Schools System itself that requires improvement, not so-called lowest performing schools.  In reality, there always will be lowest-performing schools; that is what simplistically ranking schools does.

Sadly, however, OSD 2.0 implies lowest-performing schools can be done away with, and that thinking by Georgia legislators simply has not a chance of ever becoming a reality.

Teachertim
Teachertim

@EdJohnson Curious if anyone has talked to anyone (teachers, administrators, parents, the students) to ask them "is this a failing school?" "What do YOU consider failing? By what measure? Then the followup is "do you want someone from the outside to 'FIX" your school?  How do YOU think they shoudl do it?

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“What is the purpose of public schools? Is it to raise and educate children to be good citizens who contribute to society?  If so, what does “contribute to society” mean?  Should the goal of “non-failing” schools be for students to learn detailed standards listed by the Georgia Department of Education, or are there more intangible, yet important factors?”

Ah, the all-important matter of purpose.  About a year ago I asked an Atlanta school board member: What is the purpose of Atlanta Public Schools?

Response?  “That’s a philosophical question not worth the bother.”

Then several weeks ago I asked the Atlanta superintendent: What is the purpose of Atlanta Public Schools?

Response? An off-the-cuff diatribe regurgitating notions of APS mission and vision and “College and Career Ready,” so nothing intelligible in the sense teacher Tim Mullen here so eloquently inquires.

It is not difficult to understand the root cause of Atlanta Public Schools’ challenges hence how the challenges then feed Gov. Nathan Deal’s incessant drive to take over public schools serving mostly Black students.

John8639
John8639

@class80olddog I would hazard that you are right. Children's intelligence actually decreases as they go up the grades. I saw this in the early 70's. Children have a natural desire to know, modern education  thwarts that as it tries to mold students to fit in.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The purpose of the public school system (in my opinion) is to instill a certain minimum of knowledge and skills to be able to function in the real world. Those who do not possess these minimum skills should not get a diploma. I would hazard a guess that a person who dropped out of school in the ninth grade in 1970 probably had more educational achievement than some with a diploma today.

class80olddog
class80olddog

My point was that we give diplomas to students who could not even pass the very basic GHSGT. At least in the 70s if you got a C you earned it!

Teachertim
Teachertim

@EdJohnson Any organization that needs to improve must first define its purpose. That is Number one in what needs to be defined before long-term, sustainable improvement can occur. But in today's political environment - can it be done?  It Must.