Be On the Right Side of History

An Essay by the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

About the Collective: The Teaching Georgia Writing Collective is a group of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who engage in public writing and public teaching about education in Georgia. Some goals of the collective include: 1) empowering educators to reclaim their workplace and professionalism, 2) empowering families to stand up for their children and shape the institutions their children attend each day, 3) empowering children and youth to have control over their education, and 4) enhancing the education of all Georgians.

As Georgia citizens, stakeholders, and voters we sit at a crossroads in deciding the long-term health of our public education system. Opening the floodgates to for-profit charter schools across the state of Georgia will have devastating long-term effects on our state’s public education. Vote No on House Bill 797 this November, but don’t do it because we want you to. Vote No because you know the facts.

Some Facts

Voting No will not change the authority of local school districts and the state to approve charter schools. Charter schools will still exist, and they will still be approved. If passed, the constitutional amendment will shift more authority to the state for approval with strings attached to state funds that will flow to those charter schools when we aren’t even fully funding our existing public schools.

On May 3, 2012, the Governor Deal signed a bill that will restore the state’s power to approve and finance charter schools without local school district approval. The legislation, however, needs voter approval in November because this bill – HB 797 – is a constitutional amendment.

The governor signed the bill at Cherokee Charter Academy, in Canton, Georgia, a school that received in excess of $1,000,000 in state funds as start-up capital. That is a million dollars just to get started, in an era of austerity when public schools are forced to furlough and lay-off teachers, shorten the school year calendar, and cut crucial support for media centers and the arts. If our state can’t afford to fully fund our public schools now, why would we invite for-profit charters in and promise them dollars we don’t have? This, alone, should cause an eyebrow or two to be raised.

Without the approval of local districts, Georgia will open its educational system to a stampede of charter school corporations and real estate brokers who see this bill as a cash cow. These out-of-state corporations are funneling dollars into Georgia now to get this amendment passed, and if we pass the amendment, we will funnel those dollars and many more right back into their corporate pockets.

How well do charter schools perform?

Most charter schools simply do not do as well as their public school counterparts, and according to research most students would be better off going to public schools.

Why would politicians be willing to “sell off” our public good – state education – and turn it over to other interests? Michael Klonsky claims that powerful conservative forces are pushing for less regulation over charter schools, and more teacher evaluations tied directly to student test scores. These moves by the Georgia legislature will result in the overall weakening of Georgia Public Schools. Pushing professional educators to the sidelines and moving corporate interests into public education is a huge mistake.

Corporate interests?

Yes, behind this move to make it easier to set up charter schools are for-profit charter school organizations that are ready to move in and use state and local funds to manage charter schools. In some states, new charter schools receive start-up funds at a time when public schools are having to furlough teachers and administrators and cut jobs and services just to meet the budget.

According to a report by Dick Yarbrough, charter schools appear to be about money and politics and influence peddling. He wonders why, with the Georgia Department of Education reporting that charter schools don’t perform as well as traditional public schools and their graduation rates are no better, the Georgia legislature is so bent on changing the State Constitution to allow charters to be created by an appointed state commission. The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that doing so is unconstitutional – which is why we are now faced with a vote that would change the constitution.

Charter schools in other states do not compete favorably with traditional public schools. Why this big push for more charter schools?

Answer: For-profit charter networks

As Yarbrough reported, the Miami-Herald did a study of charter school operators in Florida, and found that it is nearly a half-billion dollar business, and one of the fastest growing industries in Florida. According to the newspaper report, charter school industry is “backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians” and “rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.”

In Florida, management companies run almost two-thirds of charters. The management companies charge fees that sometime exceed $1 million per year per school. On top of such fees, these management companies often own the land and/or the buildings where the school located, and charge either the state or the local school system rent.

Would the state use taxpayers’ dollars to fund McDonald’s?

Let’s think about this in terms we might better understand given our limited experience with for-profit schooling: Imagine McDonald’s receiving money from the state to build its restaurants and open the doors; after its restaurants are built the state gives McDonald’s money for every customer that walks in the door; then state money has to go to pay the annual fee to McDonald’s to pay for its accounting and human resources management; and since McDonald’s owns the land or the building where the restaurant is housed, it charges the state rent.

What if the result of this kind of business model? McDonald’s (or the privately owned and run charter school) accumulates more and more money from taxpayers, leaving them with a good they can no longer call their own and no longer have control over. Would we ever put up with McDonald’s siphoning off taxpayer dollars to this extent? Would we amend the constitution to allow this to happen at the state level with no local approval?

No.

Vote No on the Charter Bill Legislation in November and tell Georgia Legislators that we don’t want to end up like Florida. Tell them we don’t want the locus of control of public school districts outside of local elected school boards, and placed in the hands of for-profit charter schools run by corporations that don’t understand or care about local needs.

Our political leaders have turned what started out as a good idea—the creation of charter schools to meet particular local needs—into a political battleground where money takes precedent over education. Lurking in the fringes of this battleground are corporations that see public education as a new market to make bets and money – on the backs of our Georgia children and youth.

Be on the right side of history in November, and on the right side of our children and their futures. Vote No on House Bill 797.

Don’t Let Them Pull One On US!

Did you know that the bill that passed in the Georgia Legislature and signed by the Governor to Amend the Charter School provision in the state constitution was actually written by ALEC?  Because this is an amendment to the Georgia Constitution, we citizens must approve or reject it.  You probably thought that our representatives in the state legislature sat down and wrote the bill.  Nope.  It was written by ALEC.

What is ALEC?

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC, according to Bill Moyers is a corporate bill mill.  Through the corporate funded ALEC, corporations and state legislators work behind closed doors to write model bills, and then have them introduced into legislative sessions around the country.  This is exactly what happened in Georgia.  The Charter School Bill was introduced by two members of ALEC, who are Georgia legislators.  Read ahead!

There are 56 Georgia State Senators and 180 members in the House of Representatives.  Twenty Georgia senators and 38 members of the House are involved directly in the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Of the 58 Georgia legislators that are affiliated with ALEC, ALL are Republican Party members.  Two of them, Republican Reps. Jan Jones, and Edward Lindsey sponsored both charter bills, HR 1162 and HR 797.  The wording used to in the Georgia bill comes directly from ALEC’s model bill on establishing a state-wide charter school commission.

By the way, the “Stand your Ground” and the immigration bills which were introduced in various states, including Georgia, were written by ALEC and then introduced by ALEC members in their respective state legislatures.  Just saying…

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, the most recent poll shows the vote very close.  According to the poll 45% say they will vote yes, 43% are opposed, and 13% either don’t know about the bill, or offered no answer.

The ALEC Charter Schools Amendment is a cleverly written bill that makes it look like charter schools can NOT be approved by the state or local districts.  This is absolutely not true.  Every school district in the state has the right to set up charter schools.  In fact there are about 100 of them in Georgia.  The Georgia Department of Education also has the right to approve charter schools.

What the ALEC charter school bill will do is take the decision-making away from local school districts, and put it in the hands of an appointed statewide board who will be sympathetic with corporations who manage brick and mortar and online charter schools which are ready to move into the state to set up shop.

Let’s not be fooled by these legislators.  And in particular lets not be fooled by Rep. Edward Lindsey, Majority Whip, Georgia House of Representatives.  Lindsey was a co-sponsor of the ALEC charter school bill, a member of ALEC, and chairman of Families for Better Georgia Public Schools.  It’s unbelievable that Lindsey is not only the Majority Whip, introduced the charter bill, and heads up an organization that is raising money to support the passage of his own bill!

Families for Better Public Schools is Pulling a Fast One on Us

Families for Better Public Schools, the group that Lindsey heads, and is promoting passage of the bill, has indicated that more than 95% of the contributions come from out-of-state.  In September it disclosed that of the $486,750 of contributions, $466,000 came from outside Georgia. Contributions include $250,000 from Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton, $100,00 from K12 Inc, an online school organization, 50,000 from Charter Schools USA, a Florida charter management company, $25,000 from National Heritage Academies, a Michigan charter management company, $6,000 from Education Reform Now, a New York-based company headed by Joel Klein, former chancellor of NYC schools, and now an executive with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, $6,000 from Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization in California.

Edward Lindsey, the legislator that introduced the charter bill is our there soliciting money to convince voters to vote for his bill.  How is this possible?  Read ahead.

Turncoat? I Don’t Think So.

John Barge is the Georgia Superintendent of Education, a Republican, and until August a supporter of the ALEC charter school bill.  Then he did the unthinkable.  He changed his mind, and came out opposed to the bill because it would be too costly, and until Georgia schools are fully funded, there was no reason to creating another stream of schools.

Then, Rep.  Edward Lindsey fired off a letter to Dr. Barge.  Lindsey accused Barge of lying on the issue because when he ran for office in 2010 he said he favored the state charter school commission.  Now he doesn’t.  Lindsey asked Barge, “were you lying then or are you lying now?”  Don’t you think that Lindsey is a bit hypocritical?

This is the same Georgia Representative that introduced the bill, and now chairman of the family group that is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince voters to pass his bill.

He also said this in his letter to Dr. Barge:

Therefore, let me simply say that as one public official to another that the most important attribute one person can have is personal trust in the public arena. You have squandered that today – as well as selling out the children of Georgia who need a State School Superintendent who does more than simply cower before the entrenched forces of the status quo.

I think Lindsey is a bit confused. Dr. Barge has not cowered to anyone. Instead, he has stood up against the leaders of his own party in the service of our public schools. Lindsey, on the other hand, has sold out to corporate interests and is using children in the state as the means to achieve this end.

I am not a lawyer, but Lindsey is.  But it seems to me that Mr. Lindsey is approaching the boundary of a conflict of interest in that not only is he a leader in the Georgia House, but he also is a member of ALEC which is funded by corporations whose intent is to influence lawmaking in the states by funding ALEC’s activity of writing “model” bills.  Lindsey introduced the ALEC bill into our legislature.  Now he is involved in heading up a group that disguises itself as a supporter of public schools when in fact it is soliciting money from either very wealthy people (Alice Walton) who want to alter the democratic process, or corporations (K12, Inc.) who will benefit financially if the ALEC’s charter bill is influential in changing the Georgia constitution.

But here is how Lindsey is getting away with influencing his own legislation by using this outside money.  Apparently the law reads that public funds aren’t to be used on either side of an argument, like the charter school amendment.  Barge was warned by the Georgia Attorney General, and some state school superintendents were brought to court for speaking out in opposition to the amendment.   Lindsey is using “private” money raised through an organization. Lindsey has fooled us by setting up Families for Better Public Schools, Inc. an organization that operates as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code (status pending). Contributions to Families for Better Public Schools, Inc. are not tax-deductible. This information is on the front page of his website.

His website appears to be a front upon which he and his ALEC associates can peddle influence by making false claims about our public schools.

The Truth Will Set You Free

The notion of a charter school, when originally conceived 20 years ago, was an innovative idea.  It was a teacher led initiative which resulted in creative and new approaches to teaching and learning.  The idea was hijacked by corporations who saw the charter school provision as back door into local public schools.  Coupled with the want of conservative politicians and their corporate allies to privatize government agencies and activities, schools have become the target of this effort.  Charter schools are seen as a way to privatize education, and devastate public education as we know it.

The thing is that charter schools do not nearly do as well as regular public schools.  The research reported in this post casts a vague eye on the efficacy of charter schools in fulfilling the promise that charters, because they can run more flexibly than their public school counterparts, will create environments where students will not only do as well as public school students, but out do them on achievement tests. The massive amount of data that has been analyzed by Dr. Marder’s team at the University of Texas, and the results of charter school performance in 16 states does not paint a very pretty picture of charter schools.

In a major study done at Stanford University, the researchers concluded that the majority of students attending charter schools would have fared better if they are gone to a public school.

Yet, most of our legislators in the Georgia House and Senate refuse to look at the research that clearly shows that public schools should be supported even more than they are now because they not only do a better job in the academic department, but they work with all students.  All families.  Regardless.

Don’t be fooled on this bill.  Vote no.

 

Much of my data reported here is based on research by Bill Moyers & Co. and The Center for Media and Democracy located in Madison, Wisconsin.  Research on the effectiveness of charter schools compared to public schools has been reported on my blog and can be accessed here, and here.

Learn More About ALEC and the Ballot Bill They Wrote for Citizens of Georgia

The United State of ALEC

This is a one-hour video program by Moyers & Company detailing how corporations and state legislators are colluding to write laws and remake America, one statehouse at a time:

 

Don’t be fooled by the language used in the Georgia Charter Amendment.  The official ballot text reads as follows:[1]  

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

( ) YES
( ) NO

All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “Yes.”

All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “No.”

If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state.

Why is this Amendment on the Ballot?

Two years ago the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision Gwinnett County School District v. Cox found that the state constitution does not authorize any governmental entity to create or run schools that are not under the control of a local board of education.  The court ordered that no other government entity can compete with or duplicate the efforts of local boards of education in establishing and maintaining general K-12 schools.  And it further states that local boards of education have the exclusive authority to fulfill one of the primary obligations of the Georgia, namely “the provision of an adequate public education for all citizens” (Art. VIII, Sec. I, Par. I.).

This made a lot of politicians and charter school advocates and charter management groups very angry.  So angry that they decided to use resources of ALEC and its political and corporate clout to change the Georgia constitution that would enable three politicians (the governor, lieutenant-governor, and speaker of the house) to set up an unelected state charter board that could supersede the authority of your local school system.  Even with out local approval this state commission could approve charter schools throughout the state on “taxpayer backs.”

Don’t Let Them Pull One on US!  Vote no on the Charter Amendment


 

 

 

Charter Schools: In Whose Interests?

Is choosing a school like choosing a brand of milk in the grocery store?  According to one politician, giving parents a choice in selecting  schools is no different than giving them a choice in buying milk.  Here is what the former Governor of Florida said about milk and charter schools:

Everywhere in our lives, we get a chance to choose. Go down in the supermarket aisle and you will find an incredible selection of milk. You can get whole milk, buttermilk, 2 percent milk, low-fat milk, or skim milk, organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored milk: chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. And it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who cannot drink milk. So, my question to you is, shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools that best meets the needs of their students?

Bush is one of Eugene Robinson’s brie-and-chablis reformers who is a patron of the idea that most teachers in the inner city are incompetent, and that most in the “upper crust” schools are, in Robinson’s words “paragons of pedagogical virtue.”

In this post I will argue that school choice is code for the opposition to desegregation and advocacy for charter schools (note: vouchers would also fit here, but I want to restrict this article to charter schools).  In a research article entitled The Rhetoric of Choice: Segregation, Desegregation, and Charter Schools, Ansley T. Erickson, assistant professor of history and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, suggests that:

A common thread runs through opposition to desegregation and advocacy for charter schools: the rhetoric of choice. This rhetoric emphasizes the power of individual action and decision-making and veils the deep influences of policy and politics. Examining the gap between the rhetoric and the reality clarifies the history of desegregation and contributes to a respectfully critical look at school “choice” in practice today.

The rhetoric of choice and de facto segregation renders invisible the policies that fostered residential segregation and those that linked segregated schools to segregated neighborhoods. Such invisibility contributes to color-blind suburban innocence, as University of Michigan historian Matthew Lassiter phrases it, through which white suburbanites exempt themselves from culpability for segregation and inequality. Embracing the rhetoric of choice, these suburbanites imagine their own success as the product of autonomous hard work, skillfully overlooking their reliance on extensive and effective government subsidy in housing and beyond.

School Choice

“School choice” is not a simple matter of choosing a good school for one’s child to attend.  School choice, as it is now inferred, does not result in better schools, or better learning for most students, but in fact increases segregation for students of color, and provides a less than effective school learning environment.  On this blog we have shown that in refereed research studies, public schools in a very wide margin, out perform charter schools across the country.  Yes, there are some effective charter schools, but from the research we can conclude that it would have better for students to go to a public school and not the charter school in which they enrolled.
As Professor Erickson suggests, a careful examination of the history of choice should call for an inquisitive attitude with regard to the current push across the country for charter schools.  She writes:

The powerful language of “choice” over- whelmed another reality in desegregation as well. How courts and school districts implemented desegregation continued many forms of inequality. Careful to document the many manifestations of white, middle-class resistance to desegregation, historians long neglected to consider what desegregation meant to black families and communities, how it was experienced by black children. In the 1950s and 1960s, desegregation often brought the closure of black schools, on the racist premise that white students could not be well educated in these venues but in fact, they were attempts to accommodate white parental choice, to make it less likely that white, middle-class families would leave desegregating public school districts. The policy-smoothed route to the suburbs gave middle-class white families a stranglehold on city and metropolitan education policy. By threatening to withdraw, these families could turn desegregation plans to their benefit and away from equitable implementation.

 Charter schools in the year 2012 do not contribute to the desegregation of American schools, nor do they offer a rich and varied pedagogical palate that exists in nearby wealthier school districts.  Instead, as Dr. Erickson reports:
most charter schools offer much less than “free choice.” For most families, and particularly for poor families, charter schools in their best form have brought the mean- ingful, but more restricted, possibility of attending better or similarly performing schools in their neighborhood or nearby, with similarly or more segregated student populations. But considering the growing power of urban-focused, consciously branded charter networks, charters are rarely vehicles of desegregation or jurisdictional boundary- crossing, and common measurement on narrow test-score matrices limits pedagogical variation.

These issues are rarely discussed in the context of the charter school movement.  Opposition to charters is usually along the lines of money, or taking local decision-making away from school boards.  Those in favor of charters use Governor Bush’s “milk buying option” reasoning that in a democratic society parents should have choice in determining what schools their children attend.

Because of the nation’s test-based perversion, schools limit the nature of learning to test-preparation.  Many of the teachers who work in charters, especially in the inner city, are inexperienced and un-certified.  Many of these teachers leave the profession in the first two or three years.  Would you “choose” a school with inexperienced staff to spend your child?

In Whose Interest?

In whose interest is it to promote charter schools?  Unfortunately it is not the parents or students who attend these schools.  Many parents are seduced into thinking that charter schools are a real choice for them, when in fact, beneath the surface are charter management companies, investors, real estate developers, and wealthy businessmen who have ordained themselves as saviors of public education.  Their plan is to privatize schools, and regulate the teaching profession by eliminating real teacher education, and in its place use the boot camp mentality of Teach for America.

The concept of a charter school was an innovative idea when it was formulated historically (in the late 1980s by the American Federation of Teachers!).  Albert Shanker, head of the AFT, proposed the idea of charters, and Richard Kahlenberg recounts its origins:

In Shanker’s vision, small groups of teachers and parents would submit research-based proposals outlining plans to educate kids in innovative ways. A panel consisting of the local school board and teachers’ union officials would review proposals. Once given a “charter,” a term first used by the Massachusetts educator Ray Budde, a school would be left alone for a period of five to 10 years. Schools would be freed from certain collective bargaining provisions; for example, class-size limitations might be waived to merge two classes and allow team-teaching. Shanker’s core notion was to tap into teacher expertise to try new things. Building on the practices at the Saturn auto plant in Nashville, Tenn., he envisioned teams of teachers making suggestions on how best to accomplish the job at hand. Part of the appeal of charter schools to Shanker and many Democrats was that they offered a publicly run alternative to private-school-voucher proposals, which they feared would undermine teacher collective bargaining rights and Balkanize students by race, religion, and economic status.

As Lisa Delpit reminds us, the first iteration of charter schools were to be beacons of what public schools could do.  Teachers were at the center of charter schools, and they would collaborate to design new models of teaching for the most challenging populations.  Dr. Delpit, in her recently published book, Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children, says charter schools:

were intended to develop models for working with the most challenging populations. What they discovered was to be shared and reproduced in other public school classrooms. Now, because of the insertion of the “market model,” charter schools often shun the very students they were intended to help. Special education students, students with behavioral issues, and students who need any kind of special assistance are excluded in a multiplicity of ways because they reduce the bottom line—they lower test scores and take more time to educate properly. Charter schools have any number of ways of “counseling” such students out of their programs.

Delpit, Lisa (2012-03-20). “Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The charter school movement is a dangerous path for us to follow.  Although charter schools are public, and use tax payer funds, they resemble private schooling in the sense that they are not accountable in the same ways that public schools are evaluated.  Charter schools have boards that are not elected, and often the managing organization is an out-of-state enterprise that swoops in and sets up shop.

As Dr. Delpit puts it, public schools, that were once the beacon of democracy,

have been overrun by the antidemocratic forces of extreme wealth. Educational policy for the past decade has largely been determined by the financial contributions of several very large corporate foundations. Among a few others, the Broad, Gates, and Walton (Walmart) foundations have dictated various “reforms” by flooding the educational enterprise with capital. The ideas of privatization, charter schools, Teach for America, the extremes of the accountability movement, merit pay, increased standardized testing, free market competition—all are promulgated and financially supported by corporate foundations, which indeed have those funds because they can avoid paying the taxes that the rest of us must foot. Thus, educational policy has been virtually hijacked by the wealthiest citizens, whom no one elected and who are unlikely ever to have had a child in the public schools.

Delpit, Lisa (2012-03-20). “Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The charter school movement is in the interests of these foundations, and charter management organizations that control much of the charter school market.

Choosing a charter school for your student is not the same as choosing a glass of milk for your family.  It’s more like making a wrong turn into a dead-end street.

What is your opinion of charter schools?  In whose interests are charter schools?

Guest Post by Anthony Cody: Cui Bono? The Question Rarely Asked, Let Alone Investigated

This was written by Anthony Cody, who spent 24 years working in Oakland schools, 18 of them as a science teacher at a high needs middle school. He is National Board certified, and now leads workshops with teachers focused on Project Based Learning. With education at a crossroads, he invites you to join him in a dialogue on education reform and teaching for change and deep learning. For additional information on Cody’s work, visit his Web site, Teachers Lead. Or follow him on Twitter.

This post was initially published here.

By Anthony Cody

As our public schools are systematically re-engineered for dubious reasons, with questionable results, by people of uncertain motives, there is a disturbing lack of skepticism on the part of our watchdogs for the public good, journalists. One of the basic principles of reporting is to ask “cui bono” – who benefits? In the Watergate scandal, the key informant whispered to reporters Woodward and Bernstein, “Follow the money.” But very few reporters today seem to be “following the money” in the field of education.

Veteran education reporter John Merrow recently delved into cheating scandals on his blog, Taking Note:

In other words, we’re cheating kids on their tests and stealing essential courses like art and music from them! Add to that, we are lying — because when kids get phony scores telling them they are proficient when they need help, that’s an out-and-out lie.

At what point does this trifecta — lying, cheating and stealing — become a felony? Seriously!

In the face of this disheartening news, one has to ask, “who benefits?” I’m stumped. Certainly not children, parents and teachers. Could it be the testing companies? Perhaps it’s the bevy of expert ‘consultants’ who advise school systems on how to raise test scores, how to calculate the ‘value added’ that individual teachers provide, and how to make education more ‘businesslike’ and efficient?

A far more important question than ‘who benefits?’ is: What are we going to do about it?

I want to make a special plea here to John Merrow and other journalists. Reporters hold a sacred public trust and fill a role no one else in society can. Before the rest of the public is even aware that something ought to be done, they must be informed that there is a problem. We need some real reporting here. And that means taking some risks.We have had a very heavy push from a host of sources to convince us all that “reform” of a certain sort is required in our schools.

False Ideas

These are the false ideas we are up against:

1. Our public schools are failing.
 Establishing this is essential because it justifies their destruction – and replacement by far more profitable ventures. There is plenty of evidence that this is not true, if one cares to look.

2. Charter schools are far more efficient than public schools, and produce better results as well.
 A new report contradicts the first claim, and the largest study of charters ever conducted contradicts the second. But many stories about charters do not dig for these facts.

3. The problems associated with standardized tests will be solved with technical innovations and the new Common Core standards. Narrowing of the curriculum will be fixed by having more tests in more subjects. Critical thinking will be fostered by better standards and tests scored by computers. Research on this is hard to find – these are largely the promises made by those who are selling these solutions. But the unproven assumption that these things are so underlies many stories now coming out about the Common Core.

4. Teachers are the number one reason students are doing poorly, and thus if we can eliminate ineffective ones, performance will shoot through the roof.
 This has spawned a host of reforms, including the elimination of due process, and Value Added Measurement systems to evaluate teachers using their test scores. Media outlets have actively propagated these unreliable methods. The Los Angeles Times created its own VAM system and published teacher ratings two years ago, and more recently New York newspapers published teacher ratings and wrote exposes of the “worst teachers” based on them.

Continue reading “Guest Post by Anthony Cody: Cui Bono? The Question Rarely Asked, Let Alone Investigated”

Charter School Data Fuels Controversy in Georgia

Figure 1. In this post we will find out if charter schools do raise student achievement in exchange for more flexibility.   The un-labeled graph plots  public and charter schools in Texas comparing poverty concentrations and % of students doing well on the SAT or ACT. You’ll have to read ahead to find out which schools are the red discs and which are the gray discs. YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED.  Source: Dr. Michael Marder, Used with Permission.

The Charter school movement has been in  the news recently in Georgia.  The Georgia Legislature is trying to get around the present Charter School law which says that applications for establishing a charter school must be approved by the local school district.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, there are 133 charter schools operating in Georgia. Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education, or the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.  Charter schools receive flexibility from certain state and local rules in exchange for a higher degree of accountability for raising student achievement.  Charter schools are held accountable by their authorizer.

Up until last year if a charter school application was rejected by the local district, it could then seek approval from the Georgia Charter School Commission, and if approved, could get their funds from the local district that rejected them in the first place.

Gwinnett County Schools v. Cox

However, on May 16, 2011, the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision in Gwinnett County School District v. Cox found that the state constitution does not authorize any governmental entity to create or operate schools that are not under the control of a local board of education.  According to the majority decision, no other government  entity can compete with or duplicate the efforts of local boards of education in establishing and maintaining general K-1 2 schools.  And it further states that local boards of education have the exclusive authority to fulfill one of the primary obligations of the State of Georgia, namely “the provision of an adequate public education for all citizens” (Art. VIII, Sec. I, Par. I.).

The court stated that “commission charter schools” (those established by Georgia Charter School Commission) are created to deliver K-12 public education to any student within Georgia’s general K-12 public education system.  Commission charter schools thus necessarily operate in competition with or duplicate the efforts of locally controlled general K-12 schools by enrolling the same types of K-12 students who attend locally controlled schools and by teaching them the same subjects that me taught at locally controlled schools.

Georgia Charter School Commission v. Local Boards of Education

Right now the Georgia Charter School Commission is unable to establish charter schools on its own.  Charter schools must be approved by local boards of education, re Gwinnett Country Schools v. Cox.

The Republicans in the Georgia legislature were not pleased by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision to neuter the state commission on charters, and has submitted legislation this year to circumvent the court’s decision by changing the State’s constitution.  This will require that the amendment be presented for approval by the citizens of Georgia.

Continue reading “Charter School Data Fuels Controversy in Georgia”