A kinder, gentler Opportunity School District? Maybe, but it’s still unnecessary.

A new bill offers a milder version of the defeated Opportunity School but it still seems superfluous.

After the stinging defeat of the Opportunity School District in November, lawmakers are now attempting to achieve with legislation what voters would not allow through the ballot.

House Bill 338 could be described as a kinder, gentler OSD, where the state does not big-foot its way into seizing control of struggling schools but rather dances a delicate waltz with willing districts. Yes, the state could eventually compel dire remedies for schools that fail to improve –replace staff or bring in charter management — but the path is less direct in HB 338 than it was with the OSD model.

The bill gives Georgia a new acronym, CTO or chief turnaround officer, a sort of shadow state superintendent with some of the same responsibility for improving the lowest-performing schools. The CTO would report to the state Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. The bill also calls for new education study committees because apparently, like umbrellas and sunglasses, you can never have too many.

So, why does Georgia need another well-paid bureaucrat to do what citizens already pay an elected school superintendent to do? (The salary for the CTO is not set in the legislation, but it will be executive-level compensation.)

Probably the same reason we have a Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, a shadow education agency charged with tasks that could be handled by the state Department of Education but aren’t. Historically, governors frustrated with DOE leadership have resorted to work-arounds.

At a House Education meeting today, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, presented tweaks that delineate what the CTO can and can’t do; some of the changes appeared efforts to avoid stepping on the toes of Superintendent Richard Woods and soothe the criticisms the bill overreached.

But the changes don’t resolve the fatal flaw in HB 338. It’s a confusing and overly layered piece of legislation predicated on the dubious assumption that a CTO in Atlanta with a team of imported “turnaround coaches” will know what a school in south Georgia or south Fulton needs.

The bill promotes some key initiatives, including a leadership academy for principals. But Gwinnett already has an excellent leadership academy. Why can’t DOE collaborate with Gwinnett to design a statewide training program? Instead, the bill calls for yet another advisory committee to study the problem and provide recommendations about how to start a leadership academy. (Save the gas money. Just call Gwinnett.)

Some lawmakers seemed puzzled — with reason — over the rationale for this unwieldy bill. For example, state Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, wondered if the state already had school improvement experts it could tap.

“There is in the Department of Education a group that deals with school improvement. They not only focus on the lowest-performing schools that we’re talking about but they work with all schools,” said Tanner, adding that DeKalb and Gwinnett deploy their own improvement “strike forces” to assist struggling schools.

Yet, Tanner defended the bill’s intention to import expertise, citing the importance of a national search for turn-around experts “whose only job will be working with these schools and working with the community for these wraparound services.”

After Tanner’s response, state Rep. Doreen Carter, D-Lithonia, stated the obvious: “With what you just shared with us, it seems this turnaround CTO belongs under the Department of Education.”

Other lawmakers pointed out current law contains levers that allow the state to intercede in failing schools.

House Ed Chair Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, agreed, but said it wasn’t happening. “Everything there is already in existing law,” said Coleman. “The state Board of Education could do that now with the Department of Education. We tried to stay within existing law with what we’re doing. They could go in right now — but I am just going to say it — they are not doing it. So we’re going to see it is done.”

It would seem cheaper and quicker to prod the state board and DOE to use the authority they already have rather than spawn a new bureaucracy.

Reader Comments 0

48 comments
palepadre
palepadre

 I believe that student's performance is the result of who their parent(s) are. If the parents didn't do well in school, their children will likely be the same. Also, parents who expect the schools to educate their children, and don't consider it their job, will also have underachievers. Then there are the youngsters who even with well educated parent just don't care to work hard. I think all of us have to realize that we must recognize the highest performers in the lowest performing schools student body, and direct the least performing students to expect to do manual labor jobs.  It just seems to be a fact of life. Some youngsters will never amount to anything spectacular.

Astropig
Astropig

The status quo has failed too many of the most vulnerable families.Time for a different approach and while this proposal doesn't go far enough,I'm happy to see it being proposed.

Starik
Starik

We need schools tailored to the needs of the kids in each individual school, preferably neighborhood schools. If the kids are intelligent and motivated to learn the school will succeed, unless the teachers can't teach.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

On the PBS-TV broadcast, "Lawmakers" on this past Monday, Dr. Duke Bradley, a high school principal at Banneker High School (I believe) was highly impressive as a principal who could handle his school's students who are behind without help from a state CTO.

I just penned a note to Superintendent of the APS, Meria Carstarphen, on an earlier thread.  I believe my comments on that thread are pertinent to how to improve schools without the extra personnel of a CTO.  See below (in two posts).


"To Superintendent Carstarphen:


Below, I asked you how you might ensure parental choice within your streamlined school model.  I have given my own question some thought, if it might be of help to the students, teachers, and parents of the APS.


Why not allow those parents of students who must attend a certain school's district area in the APS to transfer to another school of their own choice within the APS, as long as those parents can provide their own transportation for getting the child to the other school?  I know that schools have enrollment cut-off points.

However, the parents who would want to enroll their children in a charter school instead of their assigned district school in the APS would have to provide their children with transportation to a charter school.  My above plan would give some parents the option of "choice" within the traditional public school setting to attend a better school without tearing apart the whole system for vouchers and charter schools.  Moreover, most  parents would probably not have the option, or financial luxury, of providing their own transportation for their children to another public school in the APS so that enrollment in the best schools would probably not be unrealistic to assume."

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Thank you for sharing that information. Now, my question to this resding audience becomes: Since that is true, then why do citizens believe that charter schools and voucher would improve public schools overall? That charter school, voucher plan might actually make public education lose ground because resources and educational commitment would be divided. See my link below.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Also, Mack, please note the following statement quoted from your link which indicates that the full flexibility which I had suggested regarding school transfers out of attendance area has not been fully promoted nor fully utilized in the APS.

-------------------

"Genuine hardships are considered on the basis of individual family situations. Grievances arising from parent-school conflicts, discipline and/or attendance problems, and general dissatisfaction with a school are not considered hardships. Parents experiencing these situations should refer to the Parent/Guardian Concerns, Complaints, & Issues protocol found in the student handbook for current APS students. Parents also have the right to request a transfer to another school during the annual school choice application window."

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/26/milwaukee-the-failed-promise-of-vouchers/


An excerpt from the Diane Ravitch link, above, regarding the harm vouchers and charter schools can do to the state of public education in America:


"The consensus holds: students in voucher schools do not make greater test score gains than those in public schools. Public schools do not improve as a result of competition. Public schools lose funding to voucher schools and charter schools, which makes them less able to compete. Public schools get the students that the private voucher schools don’t want.

Pro-choice evaluators have reached the same conclusions in D.C. and Cleveland. No rising tide.

And this is the failed program that Betsy DeVos wants to spread across the nation. We now know that vouchers do not save poor kids from failing schools. Vouchers have no purpose other than to undermine public schools."

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

My 2nd post regarding Superintendent M. Carstarphen's new plans:


"How does choice fit into this streamlined school plan? I don't believe she addressed that although she did state that choice should remain some degree of parental option. But how so?

Nor did she address the internal pupil-teacher ratio within that larger school, but more qualified staff, model. Will the overall instructional design remain traditional or will the school's internal instructional design be more innovative in utilizing large/small group variations based on instructional needs of individual students, which may require some degree of team teaching? Who will track individual student progress based on pacing variations throughout the entire school? 

Finally, how does this streamlined school model address the community school concept as outlined by state Senator Vincent Fort?"


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Mack68 @MaryElizabethSings


See my three posts, above, addressing this same information you have shared regarding the APS' policy toward transfers within the APS.  Parents would also have to pay "out-of-attendance tuition," as stated in your link.


I believe that the most important instructional gain in the APS can come from a redesign of the traditional instructional model, within the traditional school setting which I have shared in my open post to Superintendent Carstarphen on this blog's thread.  I was an Instructional Lead Teacher for nearly a decade in the DCSS.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

The success of this plan is precarious because it rests on the ability, vision and effectiveness of a single person, the CTO.

I just don't have faith in reform efforts that are not organic based on the evidence. The ASD in Tennessee is a good example of how that goes awry.

Reforms could be in the process, and the CTO quits for a better job elsewhere. That departure could easily derail the work underway because HB 338 vests so much control in the CTO.

There is also nothing in the bill that speaks to how many outside experts the CTO could bring in and at what salaries:

As someone just said to me: “It would be a shame if the Legislature simply shifted money from Lexus-driving  top school district admins to BMW-driving CTO staffers – and had nothing to show for it.”

I don’t object to this bill because I see it as an erosion of local control. I just think it is so complex – read it for yourself with the link in my piece – and so focused on the CTO doing all the heavy lifting. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Sounds like a bad piece of legislation in search of a crisis.


"Other lawmakers pointed out current law contains levers that allow the state to intercede in failing schools."

Exactly.  So why create yet another bureaucracy that will grow and expand and suck taxpayer dollars down the drain.

luludog
luludog

You know, I have been reading Maureen Downey's excellent blog, "Get Schooled" for years. Doing so has given me a pretty clear picture of the core thrust of the pro-school reform, pro-school choice commenters' arguments on this blog. The problem of failing schools has to be addressed, they say. We need more charter schools, more school vouchers, more opportunity school districts with charter schools (run by for-profit charter school management companies), they say. Well, in today's New York times is an article about Betsy DeVos which is really worth reading because, for once, it clearly sets out where all this is headed, as Betsy DeVos happens to be one of the major leaders of this public school privatization-for-profit movement initially promoted by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman who railed against "government schools" and in 1955 introduced the concept of school vouchers that would allow students to schools of their choice, including private and religious schools. As this NYT article reports, Betsy DeVos has used her family wealth and influence to transform Michigan's public schools to align them with her Friedman-inspired conservative ideology. The results have been disastrous. Let's see if our pro-choice commenters here can rebut this on-the-ground example that demonstrates so clearly that the "school choice" ideology is privatization-for-profit nonsense.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/us/politics/education-secretary-betsy-devos-donald-trump.html?ref=todayspaper

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian 

So given expanded choices, informed parents will just stick with the failing status quo. Right? 

LOL. You can bet that not one of the NY Times editors sends his own kid to a failing public school.

time for reform
time for reform

@luludog 

Yes, there are good public schools, both charter and traditional. They will have nothing to fear from parents empowered by expanded choice.

luludog
luludog

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian You are assuming every public school is failing. What nonsense. Overall public schools provide good educations for their students. We do not have a  "failing status quo" although such false assertions serve the phony messaging of the school "reform" - school "choice" movement that Betsy DeVos and her ilk dishonestly promote.

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian

Stop pretending to be for better schools, when what you're really for is safeguarding the jobs of mediocre teachers and educrats. 

Who blight the lives of kids you apparently have no sympathy for.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @luludog

You don't want choice. If you did you would advocate vouchers being given to ALL TAXPAYERS to spend as they please to improve education in their community. 

You only want to take other people's money and choice from them.

Choose to be self sufficient and stop trying to mooch. If you did not prepare well, shame on you, but stop lying about public schools to satisfy your greed and failure to prepare.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian

Again, you just have feelings and accusations. You resist any logical discourse and cannot support your view except as greed. You run from facts and research, refuse to answer simple questions and change the subject when you have no reasonable response. You are sounding more like "nanannybooboo" the more you post. Think for yourself and be honest in your argument. Quit using slogans. Give me something to work with.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian

Go through your posts. Look for a reason anyone would be convinced by your stated position based on logic and evidence.


If you just wanted to argue, so be it. I'm glad to have discussions on the blog with most anyone. Have a good day. Gotta go repair a lawnmower.

Starik
Starik

@time for reform @luludog We've heard from a number of college professors whose students' high school diploma failes to prepare them for college work. What's a "good" education varies with the individual student.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @time for reform Okay, how many teachers in each school graduated from the worst rated colleges? How many were in the bottom third of their class? What sort of SAT scores did they have? Could they pass a test on the subject matter they're teaching?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The Governor's has had years to come up with a comprehensive curriculum, curriculum delivery, assessment, and structure that "will turn the schools around". Where is the plan, other than bring in some hot shot CTO? - please name some of the CTO miracle workers being considered so we can see their past results and plan.

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian 

Your frequent spelling and punctuation errors don't lend credibility to your anti-reform arguments.

Sure a sports blog wouldn't be a better fit?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian

I am not a very good writer or typist as you point out. I persevere in spite of that to engage in the conversation. I used to edit interminably to try to get it right but the thread invariably passed me by. 

Can you perhaps overlook my physical difficulties and address the topic?

If you would prefer to trade insults, well I am sometimes in the mood for that, but not today.


Now, care to point out why there is no coherent plan after all these years of crying "failing schools" ?

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian 

And yet, readers have seen you regularly mock the typos of others when facts and arguments fail you.

Specific reforms? How about parental choice for those who would opt to use it? Not everyone can afford to change residence to escape failing schools, as you callously suggest elsewhere.

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian 

None of that is an excuse for not forcing reforms on failing schools. Or for not expanding school choice.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian

You seem to have no logic, only feelings. I get it, you want something you can't afford, but you don't have a right to take other people's money and choices to get your choice. You do have choice - I listed those choices above. You just don't like them.


School choice is bad for students. It makes them perform worse. The research is in.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?_r=0

Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning. 

time for reform
time for reform

@AvgGeorgian 

Your side cherry-picks studies "proving" failing public schools are a mirage. Or that anyway no reform could ever remedy failure.

And that parents (and taxpayers) should just shut up and accept fate.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@time for reform @AvgGeorgian

Parents don't go to K-12 and do not own the rights to all taxpayer money for public schools. You don't get to take all taypayers' money to get a choice you can't afford for your child who is not even failing.


Move to a district you like. If you need more money, get a 2nd or 3rd job - I have. 


Live in a cheap neighborhood in a really small house or apartment - I have.


Give up almost all luxuries and drive old beat up cars. - I have


Spend tons of your own time helping kids with school work - I have.


Pull yourself up by your republican bootstraps and stop being a moocher.


And yes. I sometimes use mockery and welcome it in return but am sadly never at a loss for logic and facts.


And I see you can't come up with a reason for the gov. having no plan after all these years.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

The question ought to be a financial one -- Georgia taxpayers are supporting DOE and GOSA. GOSA has now been around for in one form or another since 2002. Has it mattered to have that second agency in terms of student achievement?

An obvious solution to a fragmentary state approach is to have the governor appoint the state superintendent.

However, Georgia voters have twice rejected constitutional amendments that would transfer their power to the governor. Georgia elects the superintendent, but makes the job holder answerable to gubernatorial appointees. No other constitutional officer in Georgia has that dual reporting responsibility

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@MaureenDowney

I like to idea of a DOE that is independent of the Governor and has to keep things running long term. Is it more difficult to make changes quickly? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

"We don't need no stinkin' reform!"


Screw the students in those failing districts!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@RoyalDawg

Alpharetta High School seems to be failing - it only has a 76% grad rate with all that money. What reforms do you propose for it?


Also, does that make Fulton, a failing district?

day off
day off

Teachers' union bosses and their media mouthpieces aren't bothered by government control of anything, when it involves a liberal governor or president.

Nor do they shed tears over added bureaucrats. Especially unionized ones.

What keeps union bosses awake at night is the knowledge parents are getting closer to being empowered to escape failing neighborhood public schools.

day off
day off

@AvgGeorgian 

You obviously aren't one of those parents trapped in failing neighborhood public schools.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @day off Some are. They stay where they momma stay. Momma can't move because she needs access to whatever she's addicted to.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

". . .a new bureaucracy."

________________________


That is what the CTO role will be.  You nailed it, Maureen Downey.  Thank you.