Poverty, Learning and Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District Assumes…
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District (OSD) assumes that replacing public schools with charter schools will improve the test performance of students in “chronically failing” schools. Georgia governor Deal’s OSD is a copy of the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD).
However, research presented by Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, indicates that NAEP scores in math and reading in the New Orleans RSD schools were lower than the New Orleans public schools scores were before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Yet, in spite of these results, the Governor of Georgia has been out campaigning to convince Georgia voters to approve the OSD, which is the first ballot measure on the Georgia ballot.
The Governor is convinced that the school alone can not only improve the test scores of “chronically failing” students, but that by doing so, poverty and crime will be reduced. And he campaigning using this unsupported claim.
This is simply not the way things work in the real world.
The question that politicians such as Deal ignore is what role does poverty play in the life and school experience of students? Deal brings in the topic of poverty by claiming that improved test scores will somehow affect the poverty level of children in a school community. He has it completely backwards.
Addressing Poverty, the title of a research chapter by David Berliner, Arizona State University in Federal Market-Based Reforms, (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. 2016) tells a very different story about the role of poverty in the life and educational experiences of our youth.
In fact, one of the outcomes of Dr. Berliner’s research was that “small reductions in family poverty lead to increases in positive school behaviors and better academic performance.
Here are the other major outcomes of Dr. Berliner’s research.
- Poverty in the US is greater and of longer duration than in any other rich nations.
- Poverty, particularly among urban minorities, is associated with academic performance that is well below international means on a number of international assessments.
- Poverty restricts the expression of genetic talent at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Dr. Berliner suggests that among the lowest social classes environmental factors, particularly family and neighborhood influences, not genetics, is strongly associated with academic performance. He explains that among middle class students it is genetic factors, not family and neighborhood factors, that most influences academic performance.
- Compared to middle class children, severe medical problems affect impoverished youth. As Dr. Berliner notes, this affects academic performance and life experiences (Berliner, David. “Addressing Poverty.” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 437-86. Print, Library Copy).
To improve the life and experiences of students in so-called chronically failing schools the Governor needs to get out of the way, and authorize the Georgia Department of Education to create and fund community-based programs that improve the safety, health, welfare and financial health of families in these school zones.
The schools that Deal wants to target are not isolated entities but are part of a larger system of schools, community services, organizations, businesses, transportation, parks, recreation centers, and more The school is part of a system and the best way to make improvements is to examine and strengthen the relationships and links within in the web of the system.
From Stand Alone Schools to Community Schools
The DOE needs to waive many restrictions on these schools, and work with school and local community leaders, very much like the Cincinnati plan. In the Cincinnati plan finances were directed at communities as a whole, than simply using the notion that the school- alone can rescue struggling schools.
I believe the Georgia OSD is flawed and will not carry out the goal of improving test scores or any other aspect of student life. I don’t think Gov. Deal is flawed but he is acting without regard to the wide range of research that we have unearthed in the last decade or so.
Why the Governor has not consulted the Colleges of Education at any of the Universities in the state is a mystery and failure to utilize the research of world renown educators at Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, just to name two our higher education schools.
Why, in Georgia, hasn’t the DOE’s superintendent, Richard Woods, taken the courageous step by opposing Nathan Deal’s ill thought out and unsupported plan. Is this because it could cost the Superintendent his job in the next election? If he did, however, he would standing in good company with the previous Georgia School Superintendent, Dr. John Barge, who opposed a similar plan, and angered members of his own political party, but he continued to serve the citizens of Georgia with courage and conviction.
In the next few days we need as many of you to go the voting centers to cast your NO vote on Amendment one.