Georgia’s Race to the Top Questionable Relationships with Charters, Teach for America & The New Teacher Project

Georgia’s Race to the Top has clear, yet questionable relationships with Charter Management Companies, Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. Charter management companies are private nationally based firms that receive public funds intended for public schools. The Race to the Top insures that management firms are welcomed into the 11 states and D.C., at the detriment to local school districts.

Build Charters and They Will Come

Add to this fact that the Georgia State Legislature passed a law to amend the Georgia Constitution allowing the defunct (because the Georgia Supreme Court ruled its existence unconstitutional) State Charter Schools Commission to rise from the dead. This summer the revived Commission received 16 applications from various groups seeking to embed charter schools in districts around the state. And, they can set up shop without the district’s approval or need, as long as they are approved by the State Commission.

Why is this relationship such a big deal? One of the goals of the RTT Georgia plan is to turnaround the lowest-achieving schools. In this scenario, the state fires the principal, and no more than half the faculty, and replace them. One of models is the “restart model” whereby a school is converted, or closed and then opened by a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization.

Screen-Shot-2012-03-14-at-7.17.54-PM-1So, the Race to the Top has laid the ground work to unleash charter schools with false claims and lots of money.  The problem here is that charters have not been more effective than regular public schools, and indeed it would be better for a parent to send their child to a public school than a charter.  For example, data from Dr. Michael Marder’s research, University of Texas shows that not only is poverty correlated with low test scores, but charter schools on the whole are at the bottom of the graph showing how ineffective they have been in improving academic achievement.

Charter schools also have increased the segregation of children.  Instead of seeking other possible solutions, such as teacher enhancement and staff development, health care for families, social services that offer opportunities and help in alleviating poverty and unemployment, investment in the infrastructure of the communities of these schools, all the state can come up with is firing 50 percent the staff, and then hiring inexperienced and non certified part-time teachers.

Hire Inexperienced, Non Certified and Part Time Teachers

One of the four focus area of the Georgia RTT is great teachers and leaders.  In the mind of the Georgia RTT officials, one way to get great teachers and leaders is to partner up with two organizations that “train” teachers during a boot camp style summer program lasting at most six weeks.  I’m talking about Teach for America, and The New Teacher Project.

In the budget of the Georgia RTT there are two lines that show the amounts paid to these two organization.  Teach for America received $4,837,104 through June 30, 2012.  The New Teacher Project received $3,002,890 through the same period.  Why would the state pay out $7,839,994 to hire inexperienced and non certified teachers, and place them in schools that have been identified as “low achieving.”  Through this period, the total expenditures of the Georgia Race to the Top is $69,765,001.  More than 11 percent of the budget was allocated to these organizations who prepare non certified teachers.

Thousands of Georgia teachers lost their jobs over the past three years, yet the state is willing to hire nearly 500 inexperienced and non certified recruits from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, at a cost of about $14,000 each.

How is this plan going to improve the quality of the teaching profession in Georgia when the state seems bent on replacing experienced and well-educated teachers with people who’ve already indicated they are only going to stay for two years and move on to something more lucrative?

The relationship between the government and these private organizations is enough to get your attention.  Why spend so much money on non certified teachers when the goal is somehow improve teaching, and get what the state calls Great Teachers.

Why not use this money to develop sustainable and research based teacher education programs?   The RTT funded three projects based on the U-Teach Program at the University of Texas.  However, the three universities in Georgia received a total of only $789,6748, a miniscule amount compared to what TFA and TNTP received.  And, oddly, RTT people didn’t have to go to the University of Texas to find such a model.  It exists at Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of Georgia.

What do you think about the nature of the relationships that are evident by examining the Georgia RTT Budget and Plan?


About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University