The Georgia Opportunity School District Slips Away from the Hands of Privatizers

The Georgia Opportunity School District Slips Away from the Hands of Privatizers.  This is a great victory of teachers and their students, and the integrity of local control of the education of youth.

Source: NY Times Election Watch, extracted 10/9/16
Source: NY Times Election Watch, extracted 10/9/16

There were no professional educational organizations that were part of Nathan Deal’s plan to take “chronically failing” schools out of the able hands of local education school districts.  Deal was and probably still is on the wrong side of education, and questions related to provide a system that promotes continuous improvement.

He now much congratulate the groups that supported the opposition, and reach out to the State Department of Education, and turn the improvement of education in the schools over to local districts who may use the DOE as a collaborative partner, and resource.

If Mr. Deal intends to carry out his threat to “watch” how local districts use funds, then he should be called out, and told to stick to the business of Governor.  Much will happen as a result of this vote.  What kind of Governor will emerge from his office over the next week, or will he turn his attention to bigger and perhaps more important issues such as running for higher office, joining the Clinton administration.

Poverty, Learning and Nathan Deal’s Georgia Opportunity School District Assumes…

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.

Poverty Research

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.








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.


If Poverty & Financial Hardship Affect Cognitive Function, Then is the Opportunity School District a Good Idea?

If Poverty & Financial Hardship Affect Cognitive Function, Then is the Opportunity School District a Good Idea?

The Opportunity School District is a plan by the Governor’s Office in Georgia to take over “chronically failing” schools across the state.  To be voted on in the November 8 election, if passed, schools will be selected by an OSD Superintendent (Czar), from a list of schools that fall at the bottom of a rank ordered list of schools across the state based on state-mandated multiple choice achievement tests along with other factors such as progress to round out a complete score called CCRPI.

A school’s CCRPI is an over all score and values are used to rank order schools from high to bottom.  Schools producing CCRPI scores below “60” are on a list called “chronically failing” are eligible to be pulled out of their local district and pushed to the state Opportunity School District with administrative office presumably near the governor’s office.

It might be better for the OSD to rent a hangar at the Charlie Brown Airport, in Fulton County.  As I mentioned in an earlier post having a private pilot’s license might just be the ticket  to get folks to visit OSD schools spread across 59,425 square miles.

Oddly the Georgia Department of Education is not privy to the OSD, meaning that there will be two independent state-wide administrative bodies competing for the same pool of resources.

Seems to me like a bunch of bull promoted as a vanity project to make Governor Deal look righteous.

Many (perhaps all) of the schools eligible for OSD have very high percentages of students living in poverty and/or economic hardship.  To remedy this fact, the Governor is going conduct mass firings of principals and up to half the teachers and support staff.  So half the teachers that have worked and may have lived close to the school community will be given the boot.

The evidence based on experiences in New Orleans is that the teachers who replace the fired educators will be non-certified teachers from the temp agencies, Teach For America and the New Teacher Project.

Free or reduced lunch is not a perfect measure of the poverty level of students attending a specific school, but it the best measure we have that we can use to predict how well kids will do in school, especially on state mandated achievement tests.

Many of the students whose school will taken by the OSD are living in poverty and face some form of economic hardship.

A longitudinal study (1985 – 2010) of 3,400 young adults was carried out to investigate the relationship between poverty and economic hardship, and cognitive function. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, in advance of Volume 52, Issue 1 (January 2017).  In this report, “Sustained Economic Hardship and Cognitive Function: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, by Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, the authors collected income data over the period of the study, and in 2010, tested the participants using three cognitive aging exams.

Four groups of participants emerged:

  1. Never in poverty
  2. Less than 1/3 of time
  3. From 1/3 to nearly 100% of the time
  4. Always in poverty

The results showed a strong and graded association between greater exposure to economic hardship and worse cognitive function.  The researchers concluded that poverty and economic hardship may be important contributors of cognitive aging.

The lead investigator, Dr. Zeki Al Hazzouri, said that maintaining cognitive abilities is a key part of health.  He made it clear that poverty and economic hardship most likely contribute to premature aging.

Not only that, there is clear evidence that poverty has a direct association with performance on academic scores and other school measurable (Graph 1 & Graph 2).

Using data from the Georgia Department of Education, Graph 1 plots CCRPI and percent poverty.  For these data there a strong relationship between CCRPI scores and student poverty.  Lower test scores are associated with higher poverty rates.  The same relationship is true when we plot achievement scores and poverty percent (Graph 2) (CCRPI and Achievement Scores and Percent of Poverty, Georgia Department of Education).

Graph 1: CCRPI Score and Percent Poverty


Graph 2: Achievement Points and Percent Poverty



Are charter schools the answer to the problem of chronically failing schools?  Is it a valid idea to replace public schools with charter schools and expect the outside force of a charter school to do better than regular public schools.

The OSD is a misplaced idea simply to give a few politicians a feel good experience at the cost of thousands of Georgia parents and their children.

We have already dismissed the idea that charter schools are miracles falling out of the sky.  In the last post I showed how P.L. Thomas put this to rest with his analysis of the charter school sham.

Secondly, and perhaps even more important is the fact that charter schools foster a re-segration of schools.  In Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. By William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016, Gary Orfield, in his chapter entitled “A New Civil Rights Agenda for American Education, 279 – 313 provides critical information for policy makers about charter schools, race and civil rights.

Orfield makes it clear that so-called “choice” in education (ergo, charter schools) leads to a stratification of educational opportunity, and in my view, the Opportunity School District is a perfect example of stratification.

Charter schools do far worse than regular public schools.  In earlier posts, I’ve cited the research of Michael Marder, at the University of Texas.  He has examined the relationship between poverty concentration and percentage of students meeting SAT criterion scores across all Texas Hugh Schools. Take a look at the chart below.  We see here that Marden’s graph is similar to the Georgia graphs.  The higher the level of poverty, the lower the test scores.

But look.

Charter schools, irrespective of poverty level, are at the bottom of the graph.  They form a straight line, showing how ineffective they are compared to regular public schools.



The schools that will be part of the OSD will most likely be in metropolitan areas of the state (Atlanta, Athens, Columbus, Savannah, Augusta).  Most of the students attending these schools will either be living in poverty, or facing some form of economic hardship.  Simply changing a school from a public school to a charter does nothing to improve the economic status of the parents and their children in this schools.

Gary Orfield says that a new civil rights agenda is needed to remedy this and many other problems.  We need to understand that identifying each school as chronically failing without considering the context of the school raises serious civil rights issues. Orfield offers this is something to think about:

Educational stratification and inequalities today are basically defined by school-district boundary lines, much more than by problems with on district (or school, my addition), so civil rights remedies must have a metropolitan dimension.  This is vital not just for the central cities but to provide stability and block resegregation by race and class in growing sectors of suburbia. Boundary lines and the housing segregation which makes them so significant must be central foci. If opportunity is allocated on the basis of space within a metropolitan area, crossing boundary lines and regional cooperation arrangements in schools and housing become urgent priorities. (Orfield, G.  “A New Civil Rights Agenda for American Education,” Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for ESSA. Ed. William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo. Charlotte: Information Age, 2016. 293).

As Ed Johnson and others have spoken and written, the issues of students in any school need to be embraced within a systems model of education.  There is an interconnectivity among schools in a district or region, and separating one from the other because of performance of achievement tests is bogus.  But more than that, it leads to a non-solution.

In order to make sure that students have a chance to be fully functioning and healthy human beings, they need to be living in an environment where they see hope and love, and that the community pulls together to help each other.  A community based agenda is needed for schools to improve for our students, not one of isolating the school from the community to be run by outsiders.

Deal’s OSD is not only a bad deal, its without merit and is violating the civil rights of the students involved.







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.


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.