Governor Deal Exchanges Letters with Ed Johnson–Ships Passing in the Night

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Governor Deal exchanges Letters with Ed Johnson–Ships Passing in the Night.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ed Johnson had a “ships passing in the night” experience sending a letter to Governor Nathan Deal.  Ed wrote a brief letter clearly stating that there is a better way to help Georgia’s struggling schools than imposing a state take over of “chronically failing” schools with the Governor’s Opportunity School District.  He even included examples of community-based programs that are working and could be implemented in Georgia.  Johnson’s letter was personal, and based on years of research on how organizations work.

The Governor’s reply came the same day.  Isn’t  that amazing.  A citizen can write a letter and get an immediate response from the governor?

Even though Ed was waving his hands, jumping up and down, and shining a spotlight on the Governor’s ship, his words were ignored.  He received nothing more than the talking points that the Governor and his office use to brainwash citizens of Georgia that a Louisiana Recovery School District type plan is just what the government ordered.

We simply do not agree with the Governor.  His plan is an overreach of government, and ignores the research on the New Orleans Recovery School District.

I’ve included each letter in this post for you to read and make your own decision.

What do you think?

Ed Johnson’s Letter to the Governor

Dear Governor Deal,

With all due respect, sir, you don’t have to do this. You really don’t. There is a better way.

Cincinnati Public Schools demonstrates a better way. Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus, Science Education, Georgia State University, writes about the CPS better way on this blog [1].

Iredell-Statesville Schools [2], Statesville, NC, demonstrates a better way. It is important for you to know that Iredell-Statesville holds the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, having earned that privilege in 2008. You do know about Baldrige for Education [3], don’t you?

Iredell-Statesville eagerly shares with others their district’s ongoing journey with continual quality improvement. I am aware, and it is important for you to know, that AdvancED/SACS visited Iredell-Statesville to learn about that district’s journey with continual quality improvement. And you know what? AdvancED/SACS subsequently based much of its new AdvancED Standards for Quality [4] on what was learned from Iredell-Statesville. Imagine that.

Leander Independent School District [5], Leander, TX, very near Austin, demonstrates a better way. Leander has been on their ongoing journey with continual quality improvement for more than a decade. People there talk of the “Leander Way” and of being in “Happyville.” That’s because of their practice in the principles and teachings of the late, world-renowned Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) [6]. “The Deming Way” remains the basis of “The Leander Way” and that district’s ongoing journey with continual quality improvement. Like Iredell-Statesville, Leader eagerly shares with visitors what they do and why they do it.

I once offered our Atlanta Superintendent and Board of Education a fee-paid initial consultation with a leading, internationally practiced educator in helping schools and school districts onto a journey of continual quality improvement. Well, the APS superintendent and board rejected the offer. Dare guess why? I was informed they rejected the offer because – now get this – because “Deming is not applicable to the ‘Black culture’.”

Gov. Deal, sir, there is but one rational reason you will persist with your intention to impose upon the State of Georgia your “Opportunity School District” designs. And that reason is the same reason Atlanta superintendent and school board rejected being willing to learn about and from Dr. Deming’s principles and teachings. And that, sir, is unforgivable.

It was my pleasure for six years to serve as President, Atlanta Area Deming Study. During that time, the study group’s programming centered on introducing educators throughout Georgia and elsewhere and especially Atlanta Public School educators to the “Deming Way.” Only once did we have APS participation. Though no longer active, the study group met monthly or quarterly on the Georgia Tech Campus. Our Deming Study Group was honored to have as guest presenters such persons that ranged from Dr. Stephen Porch, then-Chancellor, University System of Georgia, and two Atlanta Therrell High School students who had stood to teach that Atlanta Superintendent’s and Board of Education’s decision to “reconstitute” their school would come to naught. The students were right, reconstituting Therrell High School did indeed come to naught.

Sir, your “Opportunity School District” will also come to naught. If you would genuinely and honestly care to learn why your OSD will come to naught, it will be my pleasure to meet to talk about it.


Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
(404) 505-8176 |


The Governor’s Letter to Mr. Johnson

ATLANTA 30334-0900
Nathan Deal

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Thank you for taking the time to write my office and share your thoughts about the Opportunity School District with me. I appreciate the chance to hear your opinion and consider your point of view.

As the governor of Georgia, I am committed to giving our students access to a world-class education that will train them for the jobs of tomorrow. The education of Georgia’s children is my top priority, and I take very seriously the need to improve education opportunities for all students. The Opportunity School District that I am proposing will provide a safety-net for Georgia’s children who are assigned to attend chronically failing schools. The economic health of these schools and communities suffers when the students and parents have limited or no choice in their education.

My proposal defines chronically failing schools as those earning an “F” on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI) for three consecutive years. There will be no more than 20 schools added to the Opportunity School District (OSD) per year and no more than 100 schools in the OSD at any given time. This will allow the district to be effective in providing support to the students for their success. Unless their performance improves significantly for three consecutive years, the selected schools will remain in the state-wide district for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years before returning to the authority of the local school district or continuing to operate as an independent public charter school. I will appoint the Opportunity School District superintendent, who will report directly to me.

In every potential OSD school, parents, teachers, education leaders, business leaders, faith leaders, and other school community stakeholders will have opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions during the decision-making processes to select schools to include in the OSD and to select the intervention model that will provide the greatest improvement and success for that school. The interventions to be considered when meeting with stakeholders in each school will include direct management by the OSD, management by contract between the OSD and the local school board that requires certain changes and improvements, becoming an OSD charter school with a non-profit governing board of community members, and school closure, which would be a last resort likely used only in a select few situations. The final decision, after receiving and carefully considering all stakeholder input, will be made by the OSD superintendent.

Currently, 96 percent of the districts that have Opportunity School District-eligible schools spend at or above the state average of $8,400 per student each year. While all of the schools currently identified as potentially eligible for the Opportunity School District have high rates of poverty among the student bodies, this level of per pupil funding directed to the school is expected to provide adequate funding for effective operation.  Schools in the Opportunity School District would receive a per student share of all local, state, and federal funds coming into the school districts in which the OSD schools are located. It is also important for you to know that there are quite a number of schools in Georgia that consist of 80% or more students of poverty and 80% or more minority students that have earned a CCRPI score of 80 or more for the last three years, and there are even more schools with the same demographics that earned a CCRPI score greater than or equal to the state average of 74 for the last three years. 74% of these schools are located in school districts that spent less than the state average per pupil amount in 2014 – a telling statistic.

A few more important facts about the schools in the Opportunity School District are below.

OSD schools will have the same attendance zones and student populations as they had under the local board of education.
OSD schools will be operated in the existing school buildings, with arrangements made between the OSD and the local board of education for facilities use and other services such as transportation, food service, and broadband capability.
Student records for OSD school students will be transferred from the local board of education to the OSD school so that student education is not interrupted.
OSD schools that choose to become charter schools will operate with non-profit governing boards made up of community members with specific skills and abilities needed to support a successful charter.

In preparing for this initiative, I have studied similar efforts in Louisiana and Tennessee. In Louisiana, the Recovery School District (RSD) was implemented first in New Orleans in 2005. The percentage of students performing at or above grade level increased by 34 percentage points between 2005 and 2013, while the state average increase was only nine percentage points during that same time period. During that same time period, the graduation rate increased by 19 percentage points for students in the New Orleans RSD. The percentage of failing schools in the Recovery School District has decreased by 45 percent from 2008 to 2013. Student and parent surveys also yielded positive ratings for school culture and effectiveness after implementation.

Schools that are successful in preparing students for postsecondary opportunities and the work force are critical to the future of Georgia’s children and the communities in which they live. I view the Opportunity School District as a strategy to fulfill the obligation of the state to provide hope for the families, students, and communities where schools have historically struggled.

The educational success of every child is important to me. Thank you again for writing. If my office can be of any further assistance to you, please let me know.


New Orleans Recovery School District Test Scores: A Closer Look Doesn’t Look Pretty

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New Orleans Recovery School District Test Scores: A Closer Look Doesn’t Look Pretty

Governor Nathan Deal is pushing hard on his Opportunity School District (OSD) proposal which is modeled after the New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD).  In a reply to a letter sent by Mr. Ed Johnson, Deal claimed that the New Orleans RSD was a success pointing to percentages of students who performed above the state average.  He failed to give real data that is available on the Louisiana Department of Education website about ACT scores for every school district in the state.

Seventy school district ACT scores are available for you to see here. The average score for the 70 districts in the state on the Act in 2013 was 19.5 and in 2014 it was 19.2.  The Recovery School District is one of the 70 districts.  It’s averages were 16.3 and 15.5 in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  The RSD ranked 66 out of the 70 districts, with only 4 districts scoring lower.

According to Mercedes Schneider, a teacher and researcher in New Orleans, “the RSD Class of 2014 was in third grade when Katrina hit. The state has been in charge of their education since then, and this is what they have to show for their test-score-driven, charter-friendly, Teach-for-America-friendly, so-called “education.”

Governor Deal can tell you over and over that the RSD has been a successful attempt, but the facts show otherwise, especially when we use test scores, which is what the Opportunity School District will use to check the progress of “chronically failing” schools.


Letter to the Georgia House Democratic Caucus Leadership Opposing the Opportunity School District

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Today I wrote to the Georgia House Democratic Caucus Leadership urging them to vote against Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 which will enable the state to takeover 100 of Georgia’s “chronically failing” schools.

I wrote this:

To: Georgia House Democratic Caucus Leadership

From: Dr. Jack Hassard, Emeritus Professor, Science Education, Georgia State University

Re: Opposition to Opportunity School District

Yesterday, I wrote a public letter to Governor Deal and the Georgia House of Representatives explaining why it is wrong to set up a state-run Opportunity School District. In that letter I described an alternative plan that I think is in line with your thinking on school improvement.

For more than 10 years I’ve authored a policy education blog at the, after being Professor of Science Education for 32 years at Georgia State University. During the past week I’ve written five articles explaining the research and my reasoning why a state take over of struggling schools and their communities lacks evidence, and is not in the best interests of local schools, students and their parents.

I propose a more powerful plan, which does have research evidence to support it.

Local neighborhoods, communities and school districts need to be supported, not just with funding, but with a range of human resources. It is governmental arrogance to think that local schools can be run better by a central government. We need to support the more than 100,000 Georgia teachers, principals and superintendents and seek their wisdom to improve schools. Reform will be more humane and effective from the bottom-up, not the top-down.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this letter. If I can be of any further help, please call on me.

Kind regards,

Jack Hassard
Emeritus Professor, Georgia State University

I also included a copy of the letter that I wrote yesterday to Governor Nathan Deal and the entire House of Representatives, which you can read here.

Dear Governor Deal: Here is an Alternative to Your Opportunity School District

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Dear Governor Deal,

I am writing this public letter to offer you and members of the Georgia House of Representatives an alternative plan to the Opportunity School District plan.

According to Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 the state will be authorized  to takeover “chronically failing schools.”  I know you believe it is a moral duty to do this, but as you have pointed out, if anyone has another idea, please bring it forward.

Well, this post describes an alternative.

At this point in the legislative session, I hope that you and your House colleagues will  listen to an alternative plan. Instead of the state taking over 100 of the 141 schools that are eligible to be part of the Opportunity School District, the plan I will suggest is based on research, and been achieved in various city school districts around the country.

Firstly, we should agree that the plan you and your Senate colleagues have approved  is a copy the New Orleans Recovery School District, and Tennessee (which was based on the New Orleans’ plan) take over plans.  The New Orleans Recovery District’s first superintendent was a former Teach for America recruit with two years of experience teaching, and Tennessee hired a charter school organizer as its first superintendent.

Secondly, if the OSD is approved I hope you will leave the decision-making to choose a superintendent to Georgia School Superintendent Woods and his team, as well as the Georgia Superintendents Association.  They could give you a short list from which you can select.

But, of course, I hope that the House votes down Senate Bill 133 and Resolution 287.

Schools as Community Learning Centers: An Alternative to the Opportunity School Districts

I think you will agree that the plan being proposed in the Georgia Assembly is a top down, authoritarian approach to school change.  It is based on managing schools using numbers and data, rather than people and relationships.

Here is a plan that embraces people and relationships, and sees schooling in a different light.  Instead of labeling a school as a chronically failing entity, each school is envisioned as a community learning center.

I hope you will read about this alternative plan.

To find an example of an alternative plan you might consider looking at what is happening in Cincinnati, as suggested by Gloria Johnson.    Since the House hasn’t voted on these bills, what’s happening in Cincinnati and other districts around the country is very relevant to Georgia.

Instead of turning schools over to the state, reform in Cincinnati is centered on engaging the community by developing all schools as community learning centers, “each with financially self-sustaining, co-located community partnerships that are responsive to the vision and needs of each school and its neighborhood.

This is a grassroots approach to education reform, and does not rely of top-down mandates.

Instead of plucking a school or two from this or that school district, and putting them under the control of some distant superintendent this plan recognizes that school is a crucial part of any neighborhood or community.  Parents put their trust in their local school, and last thing they want to see happen is for their school to close, or be turned over a for-profit group, with few ties to the community.

Instead of a state or centralized government take over and control of public schools,  Cincinnati has chosen a decentralized, community based plan.

The Cincinnati Public Schools has created campuses around the city that build relationships between the schools and communities.  Here is what you will find about this plan if you visit the CPS website:

These schools, known as Community Learning Centers (CLC), serve as hubs for community services, providing a system of integrated partnerships that promote academic excellence and offer recreational, educational, social, health, civic and cultural opportunities for students, families and the community. Over the past ten years, this model has drawn national attention for successfully engaging community partnerships in school buildings.

CLCs offer health services, counseling, after-school programs, nutrition classes, parent and family engagement programs, early childhood education, career and college access services, youth development activities, mentoring, and arts programming.

And, of course, like it or not, testing is a part of the Cincinnati alternative, and their results have been very good: achievement scores are up, dropouts down and graduates up.

For Georgia schools, it would be unabashed mistake to adopt the New Orleans/Tennessee Recovery School Plan.

Finally, I want to call your attention to the work of Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State, Sacramento.  In a recent issue of Urban Education, Dr. Heilig and his colleague Dr. Sonya Douglass Horsford were guest editors to an entire issue of the journal, entitled Community-Based Education Reform in Urban Contexts (Urban Education, 49(8), December 2014).

The researchers in this issue of Urban Education explain that “bottom-up” reform is a way of providing local communities more control over their children’s education, and the allows for the design and implementation of curriculum more relevant to the community.  A recent law (Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control and Accountability) in California that gives more local control of funding is what we need to be fostering here in Georgia.  Here is what Heilig and Horsford say about this:

The law, which created a process whereby parents, students, school staff, community members, and the superintendent work together to identify short- and long-term educational goals based on local priorities, grants greater flexibility for local communities to determine both their educational goals and mechanisms for holding schools accountable to achieving those goals. Nevertheless, the degree to which local communities have the capacity to engage meaningfully in the design and implementation of such accountability plans, rather than superficially, is of pronounced concern.

Governor Deal, and members of the Georgia House, I ask you to consider looking into this plan, and reconsider the idea of taking over certain schools in the state based on test scores and poverty concentration.

If you are House members, I hope you will vote no on the Opportunity School District bills, and get to work figuring how to work with the school districts in the state.

We don’t need another one.

Kind regards,

Jack Hassard

Emeritus Professor

Georgia State University

Beware of Senate Resolution 287: The Opportunity to Take Over Public Schools

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Today, the Georgia Senate voted and passed (38 – 15) Governor Deal’s “chronically failing” school bill which would turn these schools into charters under the appointment of a “state” superintendent.  Senate Resolution 287 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia that will allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment of an Opportunity School District which will intervene into failing schools.  Here is a quote from Resolution 287:

The General Assembly may provide by general law for the creation of an Opportunity School District and authorize the state to assume the supervision, management, and operation of public elementary and secondary schools which have been determined to be failing through any governance model allowed by law. Such authorization shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law (Miller, (2015, January 1). Senate Resolution 287. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from Emphasis mine.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs.

It will lead to an operation in which private charters will essentially be given the right to spend state and federal money that was earmarked  for public schools, and create a system that will be “thin on data and thick on claims,” as Kristen L. Buras stated in her critical report of the Louisiana Recovery District (Buras, K. (2012, March 1). REVIEW OF THE LOUISIANA RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT: LESSONS FOR THE BUCKEYE STATE. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from  We all know that the Georgia plan being pushed by the Governor will be a replica of the Louisiana plan.  According to Dr. Buras’ review of the Recovery School District’s program (RSD) by the Fordham Institute, the success of the reforms in the RSD:

is simply asserted rather than established. This is a troubling omission since adequate data and studies are available that address these points in general and for the RSD in particular. (Buras, 2012)

There are a number of troubling parts of Dr. Buras’ report that will have direct implication for Georgia’s struggling schools.  For example, in 2006, she reports that when veteran teachers in the RSD were fired en mass they were replaced largely by uncertified and inexperienced recruits from Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.  Here are some figures from Buras’ report that are shocking.  Prior to 2006, only 10% of the teachers in the RSD were in their first or second year of teaching.  In 2007 – 2008, 60% of the teachers in the RSD had one year or less of experience.  Only 1% had 25 or more years of experience.

But the most atrocious aspect of the Buras’ report is her discussion of how cut off scores on the state standardized tests seemed to drift up or down depending upon the kind of results that would benefit the RSD.  She puts it this way:

In sum, state standards of “success” and “failure” were manipulated to justify converting public schools into charter schools, and then to justify keeping them as charter schools, Buras, 2012).

Her report also shows that the financial “performance” of the RSD charter schools closes in on being corrupt, clearly not as effective as public schools.  I quote her at length here to show what she found:

In terms of financial performance, there is little evidence that the charter-intensive RSD is more efficient in its use of resources. In fact, the performance assessment issued by the Louisiana legislative auditor, which is cited in the Fordham report, found the following: “Overall, the Office of Parental Options (OPO) and RSD did not effectively monitor [its charter schools] in fiscal year 2010 and need to improve the process to annually collect, review, and/or evaluate [their] performance,” including “student, financial, and legal/contractual performance.”30 The Fordham report does not mention these problems, even as it criticizes New Orleans public schools for mismanagement, corruption, and a lack of transparency (Buras, 2012).

Beware of this Resolution.  It is not intended to improve education in communities that have struggling schools.  It is designed to reform schools based on people who know very little to nothing about education, but know a lot about taking advantage, and seeking the opportunity to privatize public education.

Watch out.