Dr. James Arnold is the
former Superintendent for Pelham City Schools, located in Southwest
Click here to check out his blog.
Governor Deal’s suggestion that Georgia “look at” a recovery school district modeled after the one in New Orleans has raised more than a few eyebrows in our state. Louisiana, where Advanced Placement exam results for 2013 are ahead of only Mississippi, is known more for LSU football and Duck Dynasty than public education.. Higher National Assessment of Educational Progress scores in 2013 still leave the state at the bottom of the national scorecard, and the US Chamber of Commerce report in 2014 graded the state educational system with an A for choice but a D or F in academic achievement, international competitiveness and workforce preparation. Less than 20% of Louisiana students met Programme for International Student Assessment requirements for reading and math standards, and recent gains in LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) and iLEAP (integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) state tests were due to Louisiana Department of Education manipulation of cut scores and not actual academic achievement. The number of correct answers on those tests required for a level of “basic” proficiency was reduced in 3 of 4 categories in LEAP testing. The LDOE said the grading scale was “equated.” This means the grading scale was adjusted to make it appear that student performance held steady with Common Core aligned tests instead of the dramatic reduction that would have shown up without “equating.” The vast majority of charters in LA, except for those with a selective admission process, are rated D or F by their own state. The New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) that Nathan suggested we emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
Retired Teacher: "Teachers’ days are filled with paperwork, data, RTI documentation and data collection with very little time to teach."
From a Letter to the Editor in the Savannah Morning News:
I am a retired educator, with 22 years in Savannah-Chatham County public school system and nine years up North.
The reason I retired last year was I did not like the direction education was going.
Instead of focusing on the students, focus has now turned to the collection of useless information to appease powers that be.
The reason most people go into teaching is their love of learning and passing it on to their students. Gone are the days of field trips, cooking in class and doing a project just because the students had an interest.
There is no time for silliness, singing or any spontaneous activity. Now each day is filled with lessons that allow for no creativity.
Teachers’ days are filled with paperwork, data, RTI documentation and data collection with very little time to teach. And when they do teach, it is with lessons that are prefabricated.
There are no more teachable moments because of strict timelines put on lessons. The amount of non-age appropriate material that teachers are expected to teach to their students is ridiculous.
These educators went to college and have various degrees on how to teach with best practices without being given the opportunity to use their knowledge.
People who have not been in the classroom or have been out for years have no idea what a teacher’s day is like. Yet, they make all the decisions.
Each department has different requirements they expect teachers to accomplish. There is no communication between departments, so the load on the teachers amplifies.
I urge each administrator, teacher, parent and student to call Superintendent Thomas Lockamy, their school board member and the State Department of Education to stand up for our teachers instead of knocking them down.
This current way of educating our students is not effectively preparing them for the future.
Public education has been under constant attack across our nation, which has created a misguided and misinformed national crisis of confidence in our public schools. But many people in Athens know what we know, that there is much to celebrate, value and treasure about public education. As the producers of the documentary film, GO PUBLIC: A Day in the Life of an American School District, we want to give a very grateful shout out to some committed Athens parents and to your local theatre Ciné for organizing and hosting last week's benefit screening of our film. From the moment we discussed the Athens event, we knew they shared our heartbeat for public education, and that the similarities and challenges in your Athens GA schools and our Pasadena CA schools are familiar indeed.
The themes running throughout the film are universal and help raise awareness and understanding about the complexity of needs served every day in our public schools, the effort and dedication of those involved, the innovation and excellence that occur in unexpected ways and the urgent need for communities everywhere to support and
advocate for their local public schools. Elementary school Principal Frances Weisenberger says in the film, "Unless you have been in the schools, unless you have walked through those doors, unless you have had an opportunity to see all the wonderful things that are happening, it's really hard to make a call on how our schools are doing." And 82 year old 1st grade volunteer Gloria Reynolds sums up why everyone, everywhere should care, "Public education is the most important thing in a democracy. It is the great equalizer and opens doors of opportunity for all."
GO PUBLIC: A Documentary Film Project - fifty filmmakers chronicle fifty subjects at twenty-eight schools to capture one day in the life of an American school district.
Friday, 9/26/14 at 7:00 PM; Saturday, 9/27/14 at 8:00 AM, 2:00 PM,
On Wednesday, Governor Deal met with Governor Jindal of Louisiana.
From the AJC : Deal said legislators should consider a system, known in Louisiana as a Recovery School District, that gives the state more powers to take over struggling schools and convert them to charters.
Under the Louisiana system, the state can intervene in schools deemed “academically unacceptable” for four consecutive years. Those that receive charters receive state funding without being tied to requirements of local school boards. Those that fail to improve or meet standards would lose their charter.
Since its inception, the New Orleans model has been met with great criticism and controversy.
Though proponents of the Recovery model have pointed to greater choice for parents and gains in test scores, opponents point out that communities have been ripped apart and data has been manipulated to push a special interest agenda.
No doubt Deal is taking a big gamble on an issue that is sure to continue to erode his support among many educators and pro-public education supporters.
Note: scroll to the bottom of the post for related resources.
Concerns raised in a National Education Policy Center Report:
Hurricane Katrina Led to Large-Scale Population Changes
First, the overall population of New Orleans has changed substantially since Katrina, thereby changing the student population as well. Census data show that not only has the city become smaller since 2000, the disproportionate loss of black families and children has shifted the overall demographics of the city.11 People who did not own homes or lived with friends and relatives were less likely to return to New Orleans after Katrina. 12 These shifts are important for understanding whether the rising achievement rates in New Orleans are due to the educational reforms or to a broader shift in the student population.
“If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”
I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.
I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that had become famous in the middle1980s when People magazine chose our blueberry as the “Best Ice Cream in America.”
I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society.” Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure, and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!
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