The Georgia House Should “Pink Slip” the Opportunity School District

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The Georgia House Should Pink Slip the Opportunity School District

Last week the Georgia Senate voted and passed two bills, Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287.  Senate Bill 133 will set up the Opportunity School District (OSD), which will enable the state to take over public elementary and secondary schools that have a grade of F for three consecutive years.  Senate Resolution 287 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia, which allows the General Assembly to set up the OSD.

These bills will enable the Governor’s office to take over 20 of Georgia’s “chronically failing” public schools in the 2017-2018 school year, and then increase the number to 100 schools throughout the state.  These “chronically failing” schools will make up a statewide school district called the Opportunity School District.

This is a bad deal for public education in Georgia.  For Senate Bill 133, I’ll show that the devil is in the details, and in the end the takeover plan that the Governor and the Senate advocate will be a disaster for Georgia public schools.  Singling out each school is an untenable solution to school improvement. The state, however, will eventually single out 100 schools (and my guess is that this number will increase over time), not realizing or ignoring some truths about how systems work.

Ed Johnson, a colleague and researcher in Atlanta, puts it this way:

“It would be the top administration’s mistake, and abdication of their leadership responsibility, to single out any school or Region to hold any people there “accountable” as a special matter. Leadership from the top, from both the school board and the superintendency, is required. Only they can be held “accountable” in any rational way. And no way of “accountability” pushed down from the top can substitute for the requisite leadership needed to foster collaboration with and among affected stakeholders, as a system.”

Breaking apart districts will be a mistake.

Let’s turn our attention to the concept of “chronically failing schools” being rescued by a state level administration with a cadre of charter schools.  This what Senate Bill 133 is about.

Chronically Failing Schools

The plan is based on the New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD), created by the Louisiana legislature in 2003.  After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the state legislature passed Act 35, which transferred 100 “low performing schools” in New Orleans over to the RSD. (I wondered why The Georgia plan calls for taking over 100 schools–copy that). The RSD became the ideal setting for the influx of charter school management firms, which presumably would create the basis for an “epic reform” of schooling in the Parishes of New Orleans and other locations.

That has not happened.

RSD schools are failing schools based on a system that was based on a “star” rating system developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In 2011, Louisiana instituted letter grades based on another ALEC bill.  The variable used to rate schools was student performance on standardized tests in math and reading–and that’s all.

The Georgia legislature followed suit, instituting the “star” and “letter grade” system.  Recently, however, the state of Georgia initiated the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), a composite number or score of achievement points, progress points, achievement gap points and challenge points.  No matter how you look at this, its how students score on standardized tests–just the same as is done in New Orleans.

For the state as a whole, CCRPI average scores are 72.7 for elementary schools, 73.8 for middle schools, and 68.4 for high schools.  Instead of stars, the state uses six performance flags (2 for each color): green (subgroup meets standards), yellow (subgroup meets some of the standards), red (failed to meet standards). Another way to show this, is:

  • Green Flags–passed
  • Yellow Flags–caution or so-so
  • Red Flags–failed

Data from the Georgia Department of Education indicates that schools scoring lower than 60 on the CCRPI measures for three consecutive years would be considered a potential turnaround or failing school (they are publicly red flagged and therefore identified as a failing school).

There are 141 “chronically failing” schools in the state.  The schools are concentrated in these locations:

  • Atlanta (27)
  • DeKalb County (26)
  • Richmond County (21)
  • Bibb County (14)
  • Muscogee County (10).  

The remaining schools are scattered around the state.  You can see the list here.

In Georgia and Louisiana, school ratings are based on quantitative data.   This has set up a system that ensures failure for many schools, especially those identified above by the Georgia Department of Education.  Furthermore, if we use only quantitative data to make high stakes decision natural consequences include systematic cheating.

But failure is defined by a system that does not take into consideration many aspects of school that are qualitative, and aspects that deeply impact teaching and learning.  The state is only interested in standardized test scores in English Language Arts, mathematics, science & social studies.  It appears not to be interested in courses in the arts, music, including theory, band, chorus, physical education, drama, and many other courses that student’s experience as part of school.

And what is the effect of poverty of on the quantitative data the state collects to decide whether a school is failing or not?  As Diane Ravitch says, poverty matters.  It affects children’s health and well-being.  It affects their emotional lives, and academic performance.  These out-of-school factors actually a greater effect on student learning, including scores on standardized tests, than do in-school factors.  To read an analysis of the CCRPI and its connection to poverty concentration, link here.

Georgia’s Opportunity School District

The Opportunity School District, which was proposed by Governor Nathan Deal, is indeed an opportunity.  But it is not in the best interests of students and their families in the communities identified as having “chronically failing schools.”  The first detail to pull out of Senate Bill 133 is that this bill is nothing short of opening the flood gates for charter schools, which have been documented time and again as not nearly being as effective as “regular” public schools.  These schools will replace public schools that have been red-flagged for three consecutive years.  The main goal of school will be to get students to score higher on standardized tests.  Success will hinge primarily on the test scores in mathematics and reading.  Teaching to the test will be the main goal of schooling in the OSD.

In this Senate bill, paragraph after paragraph is devoted to describing how the state will set up a state-wide charter school district for “chronically failing schools.”  But here is a real problem for Georgia legislators to consider.  The evidence from the New Orleans Recovery School District is that for the most part, schools that were considered failing before they entered the confines of the RSD continued to earn failing grades, stars, or flags–pick your own symbol.

Research on the New Orleans Recovery School District

Documentation for the failure of the New Orleans Recovery School District can be found in many sources.  For example, Michelle Constantinides, an Atlanta parent and education activist, published an article on Maureen Downey’s AJC “Get Schooled” blog entitled “Rhyme and reason: Georgia should not adopt New Orleans state takeover model.”  Constantinides documents school-by-school failure while being part of the RSD, and shows that if anything, these charter schools did very little in the way of improving the academic achievement of students.

Dr. Kristen Buras, Researcher and Associate Professor in the Educational Policy Studies Department, Georgia State University has done ground-breaking research on how charter schools in New Orleans, promoted as an “equitable and innovative solution to the problems plaguing urban schools,” have capitalized on racially oppressed communities to enable entrepreneurs to come in on the backs of children and their parents to set up for-profit schools.

Representing a very robust educational research community in the Georgia, Dr. Buras has published reports and two recent books on the New Orleans Recovery School District.  Her most recent book, “Charter Schools, Race and Urban Space” (Rutledge, 2015) is an in-depth study of the New Orleans Recovery School District since 2005.  The major theme of her book–that the RSD is a strategy to use market-based reforms to give control of public schools, attended by Black children in Black communities and often taught by Black teachers, over to well-funded white entrepreneurs.  This thesis needs to be part of the conversation about Senate Bill 133, which will set up a school district of charter schools that will have control over “chronically failing” public schools.

In Buras’ research she found that charter schools taken over by the state derived little to no advice from the school community, charter managers were given immense decision-making power, charters often engaged in selective admission standards, veteran teachers were fired, charters were privately managed, charter schools had access to funding to upgrade schools at public expense, and public schools were closed to accommodate new charter start-ups. Often students had to travel more than an hour to and from school because their neighborhood school was closed.

Buras’ research is very relevant to the Georgia takeover plan.  She has exposed some troubling issues that are pertinent to Senate Bill 133.  For example, veteran New Orleans teachers were fired en mass in 2008.  After they were fired, many tried to seek positions in the RDS, but were not hired, perhaps because their salaries were higher than first and second year recruits whom charter managers favored.  You can read an account of this in The Times-Picayune paper here.  Black teachers were replaced in the newly opened charter schools by mostly white inexperienced teachers from Teach for America.  Charter schools, to discourage the fired teachers, offered private retirement plans and not the state pension fund.

If you don’t think this will happen in Georgia, then you might read the details in Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) grant.

According to the Georgia RT3, failing schools will either be closed or “reformed” using one of various reform school models.  In the reform school models, the principal is fired, and at least half the teachers are replaced.  But here is the thing.  When I examined the RT3 budget section for turning around low achieving schools, the lion’s share of the money went to Teach for America and The New Teacher Fund, which recruits and establishes a pipeline of inexperienced and non-licensed teachers, who are hired by school districts and then placed in the lowest performing schools.

In research done earlier and reported on this post, the state of Georgia (and many others around the country) have established questionable relationships within the context of turnaround schools with charter management companies, Teach for America and the New Teacher Project.  Follow this link to read my report.

The reformists behind such experiments as charter schools believe a charter school is good because it is a charter. The implication here is that charter schools are more effective than their counterpart public schools.  Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento, and Professor Michael Marder, Professor of Physics, University of Texas, have studied charter schools extensively, and independently.

Heilig’s research has focused schools as community learning centers.  His research has shown that if a neighborhood school becomes a learning center, and not being closed or becoming a state controlled reform school, parents, students, teachers and neighborhood businesses form an intense partnership leading to local school improvement.

Marder’s research has involved the analysis of large data sets and he has shown that there is a strong relationship between poverty concentration and achievement, and that nearly all charter schools produce dismal results.  He found that higher poverty concentrations were inversely related to achievement scores (ACT).

A state takeover of chronically failing schools with a slew of charter schools would be a big mistake, and would not be a choice for students and their parents.

Georgia’s Opportunity School District

In Georgia here is what is going to happen if the House joins the Senate and votes in favor of the Opportunity School District, and the citizens of the state agree to change the state constitution.

The OSD will exist within the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.  The Governor will “appoint” a superintendent, to be confirmed by the Senate.  This person will serve at the pleasure of the Governor.  In Louisiana, one of the first Superintendents of the RSD was a person who had two years of teaching experience, and a few years working for the Department of Education in New York City.  He later, with the help of out-of-state financing, became the Superintendent of the Louisiana Department of Education.

In Georgia, the Superintendent of the OSD will have the power to set up the guidance and rules for operating the state-wide district. The OSD will select up to 20 qualifying schools.  Qualifying schools?  Yes.  Schools that qualify would be those that had been red-flagged for three years in a row based on the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Although the bill states that public hearings might be held, the list of schools shall be decided by OSD Superintendent.

The OSD is authorized to waive some education rules, only if they contribute to increasing student performance (on standardized tests).

Now, here is an interesting detail in the Bill.  The OSD will collaborate with the State Charter Schools Commission to build capacity to set up charter schools.

In 2011 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 is 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”

But during the next General Assembly, the legislature retaliated and passed a bill that changed the Constitution of Georgia to reinstate the Charter School Commission.  In the 2012 elections, Georgia citizens ratified the bill.

These actions, and Senate Bill 133 have set in motion the dismantling of a segment of Georgia’s school population that has not done well on state mandated standardized tests.

The Opportunity School District is a dangerous plan.  The OSD is not intended to improve education in communities that have struggling schools. It is designed to reform schools by people who know very little to nothing about education, but know a lot about taking advantage, and in the end, the opportunity to privatize public education.

Why aren’t University System of Georgia Researchers and 100,000 K-12 Public School Educators involved in the Takeover Plan?

As Emeritus Professor of Science Education at Georgia State University, I have to ask the Governor and the Georgia Assembly why the higher education research community has not been publicly engaged in the OSD.  The University System of Georgia has a robust academic and research community.  It receives more than $1 billion in outside funding each year for research, and an economic impact of more than $14 billion.  There are researchers in Georgia who specialize in education policy, educational reform and learning.

Governor Deal, why haven’t you embraced this powerful resource?

As a professor for more than 30 years at GSU I worked with students seeking degrees in math and science education at the masters, specialist and doctoral levels.  I also worked alongside full-time teachers and principals around the state.  There are more than 100,00 teachers in Georgia, with 54% having ten or more years of experience.

Again, I ask the Governor and the General Assembly of Georgia:

Why haven’t you pursued the wisdom of these teachers and principals?

To create a separate and potentially for-profit school district is ill willed.  It is rhetorical, and is deprived of a research base.  How can the Governor and the General Assembly ignore the 100,000 people in this state who can help improve schooling and get us out of this quagmire?

And one more question for our legislators.  Why do want to extend the reach of government? Don’t you believe that education is best served by the people at the local level?

Pink Slip

The Georgia House of Representatives needs to scrutinize, and then pink slip the Opportunity School District plan.

Re-Blog of Twitter Charter Debate with Michelle Rhee & Julian Vasquez Heilig

This “twitter debate” from Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog appeared in my inbox today. I am working on a post on charters and public schools based on an EPI study of the Rocketship Education charters in Milwaukee.

This twitter debate is a perfect introduction to that forthcoming article.

Julian Vasquez Heilig is now an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin. He blogs at cloakinginequity.

Michelle Rhee was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010. In late 2010, she founded StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization which works on education reform issues such as ending teacher tenure, closing public schools and replacing them with charters staffed with Teach for America unlicensed recruits.

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Why Education Must Be Public & Not Privatized

Education needs to be in the public domain, and citizens need to fight to make sure that the slow creep of privatization does not turn into an avalanche. The democratic values that are the centerpiece of our society have been under assault, especially with the rise of the extreme conservative movement that began with Barry Goldwater, and continues today with the take over of the Republican party by extreme right-wing ideologues.

However, the ideologues, who won’t go away, were dealt a blow by the “47%” who wouldn’t go away either. Although the election might mean an opening for progressives to move their agenda, and hold firm against on issues such as health care, social security, and education, there is the need to be vigilant, as well as activist.

Why education should be public and not privatized.

But there is a conundrum about the nature of education, and the ideas that are flowing out of Washington about the future course of public education. Both major political parties show little difference in how they approach education, including standards, testing, teacher evaluation, and funding. Neither party seems to understand why education needs to stay public, and should not be privatized, or sold off piece meal to the point that all of education is in the hands of corporate education wanna bees. George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling are helpful in making clear why education must stay in the public domain. They write

American democracy is built on the ethic of citizens caring about other citizens— empathizing with each other, taking responsibility, both individual and social, for our citizenry as a whole, and creating a public government through democratic participation. Democracy’s sacred mission is to protect and empower everyone equally by the provision of public resources, what we call the Public.

There are two views of education that are helpful in understanding the nature of what public education should be, and not be. We’ll analyze the conservative (in this post) and the progressive (in the next post) views of education and find out that the conservatives have used the language that enables them to dominate schooling today. Progressives have good ideas but they have been too reactionary to the conservative education agenda. They have not made convincing arguments. Progressive educators have a long history of accomplishments and the theory to support their views.  Now is the time for progressives to not only make their case, but figure out how to get seated at the policy tables.

Conservative View of Public Education: Business as Usual

I’ll start with the conservative view of education.  It dominates education today.  We need to know why, and how to change this.

In schools today, the most important result or outcome is the achievement level (test scores) of students and schools. Higher scores are better, of course. But a further inspection of using test scores as the measure of success for students (and teachers) and schools leads us to the conclusion that eduction is a business. George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling have looked into this and here is what they have to say:

The conservative view of education can be thought of as the application of the laissez-faire free market. Good grades are profits; bad grades are losses. Greed is good. Classmates are competitors, not cooperators. Grade inflation is a metaphorical version of economic inflation. The more good grades there are, the less valuable they are. Innate talent that makes school easy is like being born wealthy, but for most students it is assumed that success is a direct consequence of discipline. The lack of natural talent is like being born poor; the only way to succeed is through discipline, by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

When we begin to think of schools as business, then test scores are a measure of profitability.  Indeed, students of teachers who get high achievement scores are rewarded in the same way that employees earn bonuses.  But when scores are low, it is analogous to an unprrofitable business, which might mean layoffs, store closings, and fired staff. Lakoff and Wehling put it this way:

Schools whose students regularly get bad test scores are unprofitable and considered failing schools. Like divisions of companies that lose money, they can be closed down, and just as managers whose divisions regularly lose money stand to get fired, so do teachers whose students don’t get high test scores.

The No Child Left Behind Act of the Bush administration, and the Race to the Top Fundof the Obama administration are based on the conservative world view of public education.  In each of these programs it is only natural to think of education as a business.  The mandate (NCLB) to test students annually and to insist that the scores increase each year is analogous to many businesses that base their success on increasing  profitability each year.

There is nothing wrong with making a profit.  But in education, we have to ask, “In whose interest is it to insist that students reach a minimum score on an achievement test?”  Is measuring achievement a convenience that allows the authorities to use test scores the way CEOs using numbers to  measure company growth?

A common core of standards is the centerpiece of the conservative view of school.  With corporations, non-profits,  and billionaire individuals financing and lobbying policy makers, the standard’s movement defines curriculum and evaluation.  With single sets of content standards (in mathematics and English/Language Art, and in a short time, science) and computer based testing soon to put in place, school managers will have spreadsheets on their computer screens to reward and punish schools, teachers, and students. Private companies quickly realized that they could design schools that taught to the test, claiming that their schools could out do regular public schools.  The original  idea of a charter school as a teacher led innovation was corrupted by national charter management companies.

Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It’s ukind of like a 19th century elixir, or remedy that will serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition is the answer to solving problems facing our schools. Public schools are the only agent that can create a sense of community among diverse communities from which students come. Charter schools have not done this. In fact, charter schools have further segregated children from each other, and we know that this is not a good idea.
Yet, it is quite obvious that policymakers have ignored the research that has been conducted by university-based researchers, and not “partisan think-tanks.” Instead they are enacting laws around the country that will enable for-profit charter management companies to swoop in and set up charter schools, almost at will. These laws further destabilize public schools, and remove the locus of control of local schools, and put it into the hands of unelected bureaucrats (political appointees). Some of the charter bills that have been passed will result in an increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in each state. Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold in these states. Firms will come in a buy land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA.
Two weeks ago, Georgia voters, connived by conservative politics and politicians, and lobbied by millions of dollars of out-of-state funding, voted yes to change the constitution making  schools less-democratic by authorizing the Governor and legislative leaders to appoint a commission of fellow conservatives with power to approve charters anywhere in the state.  The local district is left out of the decision, as are the voters since the commission is an un-democratic agency. The  sell off of public schools is underway.
Privatization is the transfer of public property, functions,  and institutions in to private hands (Lakoff and Wehling).  Privatization of schools, through charters or vouchers, is a colossal and moral mistake.  Lakoff and Wehling explain how privatization of education is taking place.  They write:

Certain companies have set up widespread chains of corporate-owned charter schools, taking over public buildings and luring local students with claims of superior education while hiring teachers with little training at lower salaries and no or meager benefits and pensions. And all of this is paid for with government money that would otherwise go to support public schools. The public schools meanwhile lose their building spaces and funding for teacher salaries and pensions as money goes instead to profits for the charter school owners. Some charter school companies actively try to put public schools out of business. And some charter schools pay their principals hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but pay teachers a pittance. Moreover charter schools tend to teach to the test, turning schools into testing factories and undermining learning. Yet on the whole, charter schools do not perform better than public schools (though there are exceptions). Control over our children’s education has been handed over to private companies.

In the next post, we’ll exam the progressive view of public education.

Do you think the trend of privatization is good thing for education?  

 

 

Using Students for Politics & Influence Peddling

I was in Augusta, Georgia on Friday and Saturday and during the  local evening news program, there was a TV Ad supporting the Charter School Amendment on the November ballot. The TV Ad was paid for by Families for Better Public Schools, which is chaired by Georgia Republican Representative Edward Lindsey.

The TV Ad features a student at Ivy Preparatory Academy, in Norcross, Georgia.  The video can be seen on the Families for Better Public Schools website.

Representative Edward Lindsey is Chairman of Families for Georgia Public Schools, a “social welfare organization” (according to its website) that is underwriting the campaign to convince Georgia voters to approve the Charter school Amendment. If approved, the Georgia Charter School Commission will be allowed to receive and approve applications for charter schools anywhere in the state, even with out local or the Department of Education’s approval.

This amendment is a political and corporate power play that will result in the formation of a separate stream of charter schools that the state can not afford. A few political appointees will have the power to do this, and they will have little to no accountability.

Lindsay uses double speak in his effort to get this amendment approved. He not only is chairman of the organization that has raised nearly all of its money to support the bill from out-of-state, including a billionaire from the Walton family and thousands of dollars from charter schools operators in Michigan, and Florida and other states. Very little financial support has come from Georgians. Now this is the same man who scolded Georgia’s State School Superintendent for coming out against the amendment, and stating his opinions publicly. He wrote a letter, and actually called Dr. Barge a liar.

Yet Lindsey heads up an organization for the sole purpose of raising money to run ads to get Georgians to pass his amendment. Yes, his amendment. He was one of the three Georgia House members that intro ducted the bill. And, not only that, he’s a member of ALEC, the organization that wrote the charter amendment in the first place.

So, Lindsey and others that support a bill that they claim will give parents a choice in the schooling of their children, actually use children to gain a political and corporate foothold in Georgia Public education. The flagrant use of a student in this ad shows the levels of deceit that those in power will go to convince the public. If this is such a good idea for Georgians, why is almost all of the money to support Lindsey’s idea coming from outside the state?

Georgia already has more than 100 charter schools. Some of the charters are good. Some of the charters are not so good. But the evidence from journaled research shows that public schools are actually doing a better job educating American youth than most charter schools.

It’s time for Georgians to realize that the charter Amendment has nothing to do with school choice for families, but is a slippery way to corporatize public education, and cut the stability of schools as we know them.

The Charter School Euphemism

Using individualism in its extreme, American schools are becoming more and more un-democratic.  Using the euphemism of school choice, American citizens have been told over and over that public schools are a failure, and parents should have a choice in deciding schools for their children.  Charter schools are sweeping the country as the solution to the failing public schools, even though the research indicates that charters do not do as well as public school counterparts.

Henry Giroux writes that economic policies have led to a society which promotes:

the virtues of an unbridled individualism that is almost pathological in its disdain for community, social responsibility, public values and the public good. As the welfare state is dismantled and spending is cut to the point where government becomes unrecognizable – except to promote policies that benefit the rich, corporations and the defense industry – the already weakened federal and state governments are increasingly replaced by the harsh realities of the punishing state and what João Biehl has called proliferating “zones of social abandonment” and “terminal exclusion.”  (Follow this link for full article by Giroux.)

In her recent book, Dr. Lisa Delpit suggests that the original idea of charter school has been corrupted.  She explains that originally, charter schools were designed to be “beacons” for educational excellence.  Charter schools were to be designed to develop new approaches to teaching, especially for the most challenging populations of children.  Their results were to be shared with other public schools.

As Dr. Delpit explains, the initial charter school concept has been corrupted.  She explains:

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. I have been told by parents that many charter schools accuse students of a series of often trivial rule infractions, then tell parents that the students will not be suspended if the parents voluntarily transfer them to another school. Parents of a student with special needs are told that the charter is not prepared to meet their child’s needs adequately and that he or she would be much better served at the regular public school around the corner. (Delpit, Lisa (2012-03-20). “Multiplication Is for White People“: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.)

We have reported on this blog that two major research studies show that charter schools do not do nearly as well as traditional public schools.

In a study published by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford, hundreds of charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia were studied to find out what was the impact of these charter schools on student learning.

Here are some of their findings from the CREDO study:

  • Of the 2403 charter schools reflected on the curve, 46 percent of charter schools have math gains that are statistically indistinguishable from the average growth among their TPS comparisons.
  • Charters whose math growth exceeded their TPS equivalent growth by a significant amount account for 17 percent of the total.
  • The remaining group, 37 percent of charter schools, posted math gains that were significantly below what their students would have seen if they enrolled in local traditional public schools instead.

Dr. Michael Marder, at the University of Texas has studied not only Texas charter schools, but charter schools in other states including Florida, New Jersey, New York, and California.  He has found that most charter schools do not do as well as the traditional public schools.

On the Schlechty Center website, the author wonders whether charter schools are a good idea run amok.  The author explains it didn’t take long before “the idea of the charter school was co-opted by those bent on introducing more choice and more competition into the American system of education-and, ironically, also as a tool to bring teacher unions “under control.”

And Schlechty asks, like others, “If it is the regulations that are impeding performance, why not change policies and program restrictions for all schools and for all students, not just the lucky few who enroll in this or that charter school?”

Schleckty also says that policymakers must renounce idea that these schools are primarily a means of providing parents and students choice.  Then he suggests:

If one assumes, as I do, that what is needed are schools that encourage continuous innovation and the disciplined exploration of alternative solutions to persistent problems, charter schools such as those now being developed will do little to help us meet the challenges we must meet to ensure that every child will be provided a high-quality education.

Charter Legislation a Dangerous Path

On October 16, Georgia citizens can begin early voting for the November election.  On the ballot is an amendment to the constitution that will let the State of Georgia (not the Department of Education) to establish its own pipeline of charter schools.  A commission will be composed of appointees made by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house. Not very democratic!  Not accountable.

The Georgia bill, which was passed by the Georgia Legislature and signed by the Governor is based on a “model” bill written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right leaning partisan group.  Media Matters dot Org investigated the Georgia bill, and found that all of the specifications in the Georgia bill are exact copies of ALEC’s model charter bill. And its no surprise that the legislators that introduced the bill, Jan Jones and Edward Linsey, are ALEC education task force members.  Each has received financial support from ALEC.

The question on the ballot is cleverly worded.  The official ballot text reads as follows:[5]

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

What is missing are the details which will allow the commission to approve its own charter schools without local district approval.  Also missing is the reality that the money will come from the state and local districts, and as soom legislators have pointed out, education in the Georgia has been underfunded by about $4 billion over the past several years.

Local districts already have the right to create charter schools.  So does the Georgia Department of Education.  This amendment, which will be found unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court, is a sham being pulled on the citizens of Georgia.  Its a sham funded by outside charter school management groups, not by parents and teachers in Georgia.  School boards around the state have passed resolutions against the amendment.

Georgia State Senator Doug Stoner, District 6 suggests, we are setting up a dangerous system when we enable the state to expand and approve charter schools without approval by local schools.  He puts it this way:

To change the Constitution in order to create a charter school or any “special school” favored by current or future state bureaucrats, and forcing local school districts to accept such schools would set up a very dangerous system that clearly violates the concept of local control. I cannot support such a state government mandate, especially when the legislative majority has slashed local school funding by more than $1 billion in recent years.

Locally elected school board members across the state have spoken out against HR 1162, which comes as no surprise. It is certainly reasonable to ask why the state is creating a new funding stream for charter schools while reducing financial support for other schools, forcing reduced education calendars, elimination of programs and teacher furloughs.

Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students.  Its kind of like a 19th century elixir, or remedy that will  serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools.  Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition is the answer to solving problems facing our schools.

Public schools are the only agent that can create a sense of community among diverse communities from which students come.  Charter schools have not done this.  In fact, charter schools have further segregated children from each other, and we know that this is not a good idea.

Yet, it is quite obvious that policymakers have ignored the research that has been conducted by university-based researchers, rather than “partisan think-tanks.”  Instead they are enacting laws around the country that will enable for-profit charter management companies to swoop in and establish charter schools, almost at will.  These laws further destabilize public schools, and remove the locus of control of local schools, and put it into the hands of unelected bureaucrats (political appointees).

The Georgia charter amendment, if passed, will result in an increase in politics and influence peddling in the context of  multimillion dollar opportunities by establishing charter schools in various counties in each state.  Real estate investment firms will find a pot of gold in these states.  Firms will come in a purchase land and/or empty buildings (schools, factories) and then in turn lease them to for-profit charter school management companies, such as KIPP, Academica, or Charter Schools USA.  Boston worked out a deal in the interests of corporate investors.

If you are a Georgia Citizen, how will you vote?  Do you see the amendment as a means to improve education, or a way for some to make a lot of money on the tax payers dime?