Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District is Now About Poverty and Crime!

Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District is Now About Poverty and Crime!

That’s right.  In a paid TV advertisement, the Governor is pleading with folks in Georgia to Vote Yes on Question 1 on the November 8th ballot.  His message is that if you vote Yes, then poverty and crime will be affected.

Where did this language come from?  Why is Deal using it to promote his pet education project?

In particular, Gov. Deal is claiming that,

If you vote Yes on Question 1 on the November 8th Ballot, then the Opportunity School District will somehow

  1. End the cycle of poverty and crime
  2. Carry out a rescue operation from 127 failing schools

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-9-04-02-pmThese two new outcomes will result from changing 127 public schools to 127 private charter schools. Now, mind you, in all the documents that were filed in the Georgia Legislature related to Senate Bill 133 during the 2016 legislative session, poverty and crime were not discussed as part of this bill.

In fact, I ran a search of Georgia Senate Bill 133, and neither the word crime or poverty appear in the document.

So it looks like there has been a shift in the rationale for the OSD.  Instead of just improving kids’ test scores on the OSD will reduce crime and end the cycle of poverty.

The 127 schools will do this.

Are you kidding?  The Governor has it backwards.

Georgia citizens will have an opportunity on November 8th to tell the Governor and his cronies that the OSD is a fraud.

According to Nathan Deal’s comments on a 30 second video, the OSD is going to break the cycle of poverty and crime, rescue children trapped in 127 failing schools.

And if you watch another video from Georgia Leads on Education, Gov. Deal’s political action group, you will have to have brown bag handy.

The language and the imagery of the Georgia Leads video tape propaganda serves only the Governor, his daughter-in-law (Denise Deal) whose company (Southern Magnolia Capital) will earn 5% its raising for Deal’s opportunity pac, as well those people who will come into the state and set up private charter schools in local Georgia districts, use the local communities’ money, and have little to no tie to the school community.

This equation was never part off the legislation (Senate Bill 133) that went through the the Georgia Legislature
This equation was never part off the legislation (Senate Bill 133) that went through the the Georgia Legislature

Words like fix, crime, criminal justice system, crisis, less fortunate propagate the Georgia Leads video.  Combined with the Deal 30 second video, we have a newly reconfigured OSD based on poverty and crime.

The one who gets an F is the Governor and his staff that have pushed the OSD.
The one who gets an F is the Governor and his staff who have pushed the OSD, not the 127 schools in the chronically failing list.

But the fundamental problem here, is ancient thinking suggesting that the schools can have the major impact on poverty and crime, when we know that these are more complex issues, and simply holding professional teachers as the one’s responsible for solving a massive problem is unfathomable and unconscionable.

Deal’s view of education, poverty and crime is without any base of research and knowledge.  It is based on undemocratic politics and questionable ethics. The Opportunity School District is rooted in Deal’s ethical and financial problems, and has nothing to do with improving education in Georgia.

Improving School Achievement

The solution to school achievement, as presented by David C. Berliner in his research article, Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform, in Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Library Copy), edited by William J. Mathis and Trina M. Trujillo is embedded in the problem of poverty.

In 2005, Berliner analyzed the relationships among educational achievement and poverty.  His 2005 article was republished in the Mathis & Trujillo research book, and as Dr. Berliner says, the relationships he describes and arguments he made are exactly the same as today.

In Berliner’s original study, his work is summarized in this sentence.

The data presented in this study suggest that the most powerful policy for improving our nations’ school achievement is a reduction in family and youth poverty (Berliner, p.439)

The fiasco that Deal has run through the state legislature and now put before the voters of Georgia to plunder Georgia school districts by taking possession of more than 120 schools over the next year and beyond is a fraud.

It must be stopped.  It must be voted down.

Vote NO on question 1 on the November 8 Georgia ballot.

 

The Undemocratic Character of Georgia’s Chronically Failing School Turnaround Amendment

The Undemocratic Character of Georgia’s Opportunity School District

Over the next several weeks, leading up to the November 8th election, we will explore the Opportunity School District from the standpoint of research just published by the National Education Policy Center.  The 697 page book of 28 research chapters addresses the nature of schooling entitled Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M. (2016). Learning from the federal market-based reforms: Lessons for ESSA (The National Education Policy Center Series). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing).  Much of my criticism of the Opportunity (aka Misfortunate) School District will be based on the research reported in this new publication.

The misguided Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, has pushed through an amendment to the Georgia Constitution (if approved by the electorate) to will enable a czar within the Governor’s office to name 20 schools per year from around the state that are considered “failing schools” based on the state’s use of high stakes testing.  Using an arbitrary cutoff score if 60 on Georgia’s school evaluation measure, the state has identified a list of schools around Georgia that they believe are chronically failing.

The Georgia plan is essentially a “turnaround” strategy of school reconstitution.  There is a quartet of plans out there including transformation (fire the principal followed by changing around the school and testing the heck out of students to see if worked), turnaround (fire the principal and no more than 50% of the teachers, and then test the heck out of the students), restart (bring in a charter school), and closure (a devastating measure, as Chicago can attest). Closing schools is probably the worst strategy to be used in that communities are weakened and massive void of a school affects the entire community.

According to Senate Bill 133, which authorized an amendment to be placed on the November ballot, the state will use the “restart” model, and turn all “chronically failing” schools into charter schools.

The plan to restart chronically failing schools was a power play by the Governor, and 159 members of the Georgia General Assembly, as well as the charter school lobby, and funds from several philanthropic market-based reform groups.  There was nearly no advice from the 181 school districts and school boards around the state, nor the 114,000 teachers and the families of 1.6 million students.  Yes, the amendment will be put on the ballot, but as most amendments are written, it is biased in favor of Governor Deal’s pet idea.

The proposed ballot title is:

“ Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?
( ) Yes

( ) No

Most citizens will not know that if they vote “yes” they are authorizing a czar in the Governor’s office to fire every principal in the chronically failing schools, and most likely start mass firings of up to 50% of the teachers in these schools.  They also do not know that a charter school management company will be hired to manage the schools, and the funds to manage these schools will come from the local school budget.  They also will not know that the charter school management company will be able to use millions of dollars worth of school buildings and land paid for by local citizens.  So in midst of local public school districts will be solitary schools, say in Kingsland or Bainbridge, that belong to a district whose superintendent works out of an office in downtown Atlanta!

Worse, the research on test-based sanctions does not support Governor Deal’s takeover plan.  The plan is a punishment model, that will turn 20 schools into economic and profitable commercial ventures, at the cost of these communities’ students, teachers and parents.  The Deal plan is based on the New Orleans Recovery School District, a corporate take-over of schools in the city, which has not been a very successful plan.

The punishment model has largely been implemented in school districts of low-income families and children of color.  And the largest form of turnaround mentality is that of mass layoffs.  And according to research reported in Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms, with over 40 years of study, the use of mass firings is not supported by empirical evidence (Mathis, W. J., & Trujillo, T. M., 2016).

The character of the Deal model is not only undemocratic, but goes against the basic principles of American public education.  It is best described in Diane Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error when she quoted one of the founders of liberty, John Adams.  He said:

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expense of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

This is the first of a series of posts detailing why the Opportunity School District is a bad idea for education in Georgia, and why it must be voted down on November 8th.

Vote NO on Amendment 1 on the November 8th ballot.

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Teachers–From Educators to Racketeers–I Don’t Think So

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Atlanta Teachers–From Educators to Racketeers–I Don’t Think So

Last week, 11 educators from the Atlanta Public Schools were convicted on racketeering charges related to the test erasure scandal.  The fact that these educators were brought to court on racketeering charges is not only outrageous, but also informs us of who holds power, and how they are able to side-step any accountability, and are able to keep themselves out of the court.

Ever since the story was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009, I’ve written many blog articles about the “scandal,” and explained why I think these educators should NOT have been brought to court in the first place, and how a system that was mired in a “culture of fear” was infected, resulting in test erasures.  The culture of fear, that was described in the Governor’s report of the Atlanta case, exists in many school districts across the country, from Pennsylvania, to Texas, to California.

The eleven Atlanta educators are scapegoats for a system that Jose Luis Vilson explored in one of his recent posts.  He said this about these teachers:

The 11 educators we saw arrested in Atlanta, mostly women and mostly Black, didn’t come off as criminals racketeering for massive profits, but as scapegoats for policies written on the backs of their children (Vilson, J. (2015, April 6). Recruiting Educators of Color In The Time of Race To The Top. Retrieved April 9, 2015, from http://thejosevilson.com/recruiting-educators-of-color-in-the-time-of-race-to-the-top/).

Below is a link to one of many posts I wrote about the “cheating scandal.”  I introduced this article with this statement:

How could this happen in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS)?  The district is in a city that is home to The King Center, The Carter Center, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and many other institutions that embody academic, research and cultural and social change.   Each of these institutions collaborated with the Atlanta Public Schools, some more than others, in research projects, staff development programs, curriculum development, and other educational activities for decades.

Grants were received from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and many other funding agencies. The Georgia Department of Education has contributed to the APS by providing consultants to help teachers who work with struggling students in the lowest performing schools in Atlanta.

Some schools received funding from private foundations and corporations, as well as mentoring and training relationships with local universities, especially in science and technology.  (Disclaimer: I was professor of science education at Georgia State University from 1969 – 2002, and worked with teachers and administrators in the Atlanta Public Schools for more than 30 years).

Did these organizations have their heads in the sand while they were working with the district?  How could the Georgia Department of Education not be aware of any of the pressure that was being put on teachers to make students score as high as they could on the high-stakes tests, no matter what?  Did the agencies that funded specific schools in Atlanta not check on how their resources were being used.

If you go ahead and click on the link, you will find some surprises about students in Atlanta perform–before, during, and after the period teachers were accused of changing student answer sheets.  ¥ou’ll also find why I think the reform policies that are still in effect in Atlanta specifically, and Georgia generally, will prevent education from improving.

So I invite you read this blog post:

From Educators to Racketeers: How Education Reform Led to a National Testing Scandal

 

Paul Vallas Writes on AJC Blog Praising the Georgia Opportunity School District. Is He Looking for a Job?

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Paul Vallas Writes on AJC Blog Praising the Georgia Opportunity School District. Is He Looking for a Job?

Update:  I received a tweet from Lindamarie via Twitter that linked to an article about Paul Villas and the Bridgeport School District in which he was superintendent.  It’s a stinging indictment of Villas and the reform movement he headed.  It’s a must read.

Last week, Maureen Downey ran an article entitled Former NOLA School Leader: Georgia Did the Right Thing) on her AJC blog, Get Schooled, written by one of the key architects of Louisiana’s recovery school district. Now a consultant with the Chicago-based DSI Civic (a financial restructuring company) , Paul Vallas served as Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District from 2007-2011. He was also Superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Downey explained that Vallas received a few question about his article lauding Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to privatize Georgia’s failing schools by turning them into charter schools–the go-to solution for whatever politicians think will solve the fabricated crisis in our schools.

I find Downey’s uncritical portrayal of Villas’ ideas surprising and disappointing.  On one day she will publish articles written by Georgia researchers pointing out the untruths and problems about the Opportunity School District, and how it will harm public education in Georgia, but then on the day that the House approved the Governors’ Opportunity plan,  she published the Vallas article praising the plan.  Why not ask people in Georgia to write about the OSD, such as Professor Stephanie Jones of Policy Studies at UGA,  an activist scholar specializing in school reform, or Professor Kristen Buras, professor of Policy studies at UGA., who done extensive research on NO Recovery School District, and articulates research based finding contrary to reports about the New Orleans experiment.

But, no.  She asks Paul Vallas, a Chicago consultant who left his job as superintendent of the Bridgeport, Connecticut school district, to write an article about the Georgia Opportunity School District.

Larry Cuban, Emeritus Professor at Stanford, sees Paul Vallas as a “sprinter” type of superintendent.  Sprinters come in fast, take swift actions, and exit quickly.  Vallas, instead of being the marathon type of superintendent who takes time to think through problems of school change, and is deliberate and not confrontational, was in and out of four different school districts, including New Orleans.

His latest stint was superintendent of the Bridgeport, Connecticut school district.  What Downey doesn’t tell us is that Vallas was challenged and sued by Connecticut officials because he did not have certification to be superintendent of a public school system.  He signed up for an online course, and supposedly passed, but was still sued.  His case went to the Connecticut Supreme court, which ruled in Vallas’ favor only because of a procedural mistake.  Some  complainants charged that Vallas was given preferential treatment by having certification requirements waived by the state.

And the case get even messier.   Vallas was not hired by the local school district, but by a state appointed board.  This is exactly what will happen in Georgia.  The Georgia superintendent of the Opportunity School District, much like the Vallas’ of the neoliberal reform world, will not be selected by elected local officials, but by a state group of appointees.  Appointees of the Governor.  Former Connecticut judge Carmen Lopez, who filed the case against Vallas, did so because Vallas was imposed on the Bridgeport School District.  Ms. Lopez put it this way:

“Paul Vallas was imposed on the city,” she said. “Then we find out that he lacks something as basic as having certification.
“There is a movement in this country to change education as we know it, and you start that where people are vulnerable,” she said. “There’s never any discussion with the people, who are looked on as incompetent. … The only recourse we have is the court.”

Sprinter type superintendents such as Paul Vallas, or Michelle Rhee act in similar and predictable ways by eroding the integrity of the “turnaround”  school district, and later deposit mud when they exit the school district as quickly as possible.

I wonder.  Is Vallas jockeying for the job of Superintendent of the Opportunity School district?

He certainly has the experience, and Governor Deal recently visited Vallas’ former school district, the New Orleans Recovery School District.

 

In the next post, I will analyze the “great ideas” that Vallas wrote as a reply to readers about the pat on the back for the bad deal that Georgia’s “chronically failing schools were dealt.

 

 

The Scary Language of Crisis and the Seductive Language of Choice and Accountability by Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones

Latest Story by Alfredo Gaete of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and Stephanie Jones of the University of Georgia.

The Georgia General Assembly is one vote away from approving Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to take over the state’s “chronically failing” public schools by privatizing them with charter schools.  It’s a plan that demolishes the public sphere of education, which should be protected like our national parks from the grip of corporate privateers.

Professors Gaete and Jones detail the effects of privatization on education in Chile, and warn that the Chile experiment of corporatization was not successful in improving education there.  We should argue with extreme veracity against the Governor’s Opportunity School District which would essentially privatize struggling schools.

The authors have written a brilliant article.  Please share and distribute.

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IMAGINE a country that was once committed to quality public education, but began to treat that public good like a market economy with the introduction of charter schools and voucher systems.

Imagine that after a few years, most students in this country attended private schools and there was public funding for most of such schools, which must compete for that funding by improving their results. Imagine the state fostered this competition by publishing school rankings, so parents were informed of the results obtained by each institution.

Imagine, finally, that school owners were allowed to charge extra fees to parents, thereby rendering education a quite profitable business.

But let’s stop imagining, because this country already exists.

After a series of policies implemented from the 1980s onward, Chilean governments have managed to develop one of the most deregulated, market-oriented educational schemes in the world.

Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

How did they do this?

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).

This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”

  • First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.
  • Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.
  • Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.
  • Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.
  • Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.
  • Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.
  • Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years.
    So even though there still are advocates of the private model of education, especially among those who have profited from it, an immense majority of the Chilean society is now urging the government for radical, deep reforms in the educational system of the country.

Very recently, in fact, an announcement was made that public university would be free for students, paid for by a 24 percent tax on corporations.

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

So we don’t have to guess what the result will be of the current “U.S. experiment” with competition-infused education reform that includes school choice, charter schools, charter systems, voucher systems, state-funded education savings accounts for families, tax credits for “donations” to private schools, state takeover school districts, merit pay, value-added models for teacher evaluation, Common Core national standards, PARCC and Smarter Balanced national tests, edTPA national teacher education evaluations, and federal “rewards” such as Race to the Top for states that come aboard.

Indeed, Chilean education reform from the 1980s to the present provides the writing on the wall, so to speak, for the United States and we should take heed. Chile is now engaged in what will be a long struggle to dig its way out of the educational disaster created by failed experimentation and falsely produced miracles.

The United States still has time to reverse course, to turn away from the scary language of crisis and the seductive language of choice and accountability used in educational reform, and turn toward a fully funded and protected public education for our nation.

Permission to re-publish this article was granted by Stephanie Jones with many thanks.