P.L. Thomas On “Miracle” Schools or Political Sham?–Take Heed Georgia
Georgia is on the verge of approving a constitutional amendment (Amendment 1 on the November 8 Georgia ballot) that would enable the Governor’s office to go in and rescue children who are enrolled in “failing schools” across the state, that got on a list based on student performance on state mandated multiple choice tests. The cut off score is 60–who knows why this number was selected. There is no acceptable rationale for an arbitrary number to classify children as “failing.” But…
The Governor intends to set up the Opportunity School District, which will mean 20 new charter schools per year, run by an appointee out of the Governor’s office, which is in downtown Atlanta, quite far from Brunswick or Toccoa. It will be a state-wide school district encompassing 59,425 square miles. Imagine a supervisor, curriculum director, test coördinator, indeed, the new superintendent of the Opportunity School District driving around the state to visit these schools. I suggest an airplane. My friend and colleague Mr. Dallas Stewart, who was the science supervisor for the State Department of Education many years ago when I first moved to Georgia, had a pilot’s license, and often flew around the state to visit schools across the landscape.
And two other points. The first is all the schools in the OSD will be charter schools based on the state/federal turnaround policy in which the local school principal and up to half the teachers will be shown the door in a mass firing, whose replacements are to be determined by the superintendent in Atlanta. Financial responsibility rests with local school board. The charter schools will be managed by for-profit charter management organizations, who no doubt will be enriched with public funds.
The second point is Governor Deal’s Opportunity School District is modeled after Louisiana’s Recovery School District and Tennessee’s Achievement District. He and a small group of legislators and other government officials went to New Orleans to see the Recovery operation up close and personal. They were treated to flashy slide shows portraying the 10 year Recovery district as h-u-g-e success.
As you will read, the Louisiana and Tennessee recovery districts have been shown by multiple sources not to be cracked up to what they claim. They are not the successes they claim to be.
They have been discredited. Read ahead.
Will the Governor’s OSD be the next Louisiana or Tennessee recovery shame?
Enter the Research and Writing of P.L. Thomas.
In a chapter in the recent book entitled Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms, (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. 2016) Dr. Thomas has called into question the so-called “miracle schools,” promoted by Rod Paige, superintendent of Houston School District (in the 1990s), and George W. Bush, then, the Governor of Texas.
Bush and Page made outlandish claims about how Houston schools had shown great increases on student test performance, only to be discredited later. But, as Thomas points out, it didn’t matter because when Bush became President in 2001 he took Page with him to become Secretary of Education. This was quickly followed by the passage of the No Child Left Behind fiasco, which put American public schools and their students into a test-based punitive system of education–the Houston “miracle schools” on a national scale.
It too has been discredited.
The “miracle schools” that Dr. Thomas talks about were not just a marvel in Houston, but the idea spread around the country like a virus infecting Washington DC under Michelle Rhee, the Harlem Children’s Zone which, was directed by Geoffrey Canada, and then spread south to invest New Orleans, and Tennessee. It’s gone berserk in California according to Carol Burris, who is writing a four-piece research study how charter schools are corrupt and unregulated.
But Dr. Thomas makes it very clear that there is something sinister behind these miracle schools. In the cases he’s investigated, nearly all use politics to claim how great the schools are for kids. Yet, these have been discredited. Here is how he puts it,
The “miracle” school story is a political charade, one that works for political gain, but it is built on a fishnet narrative of public schools in crisis, “bad” teachers, and corrupt teachers’ unions that can only be saved through a potpourri of neoliberal and free-market reforms. Even more disturbing, “miracle” claims as a basis for education reform policy have resulted in three decades of wasted time and funding without any legitimate attempts to address social and educational inequity (Thomas, P. J. “”Miracle” Schools or Political Scam?” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. William J. Mathis. By Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 223-31. Print. The National Education Policy Center Series).
I believe that what Dr. Thomas has described in this research paper, is an exact description of the Georgia Opportunity School District. It will not result in “miracle schools” but is in fact a political scam, led by the Governor of Georgia.
Nathan Deal has based the legislation which will be voted on by Georgia electorate on November 8 on failed and discredited initiatives in other states.
Ballot initiative no. 1 will enable to the Governor to pull off a political scam that could well be one of the biggest “charades” in Georgia’s education history.
Vote No on Georgia Ballot Initiative No. 1 on November 8