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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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.

Respectfully,

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
(404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

[1] http://www.artofteachingscience.org/dear-governor-deal-here-is-an-ahttpwww-cps-k12-orgcommunityclclternative-to-your-opportunity-school-district/
[2] http://www.iss.k12.nc.us/
[3] http://www.baldrigeforeducation.org/
[4] http://www.advanc-ed.org/services/advanced-standards-quality
[5] http://www.leanderisd.org/
[6] https://deming.org/theman/overview

The Governor’s Letter to Mr. Johnson

STATE OF GEORGIA
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
ATLANTA 30334-0900
Nathan Deal
GOVERNOR

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.

 

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.

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 artofteachingscience.org, 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.