Monthly Archives: July 2015

SLOs – Georgia eases teacher testing rules, for now

Georgia public school students won’t have to take as many tests in the upcoming school year, the state Department of Education announced Monday.

Specifically, schools won’t have to administer as many so-called “Student Learning Objectives” tests, or SLOs, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced.

“I have always believed that we test our students too much,” Woods said in a statement. “Eliminating some of the Student Learn

ing Objectives is a step toward reducing the overall number of tests given to students, which will give our teachers more time for instruction and help our students focus on learning instead of testing. This change is another step toward a more responsible accountability model.”

The SLOs, first implemented during the 2014-15 school year, are part of a new regime for grading teachers mandated by the General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal. They’re supposed to measure how much progress students make during the course of a school year, and according to state law count for half of a teacher’s job performance assessment,

In basic courses such as reading and math, so-called student growth is to be measured with new standardized tests called Georgia Milestones, which are the same for students across the state.

Students take Milestones tests at the end of the year in elementary and middle grades, or at the end of eight specified courses such as algebra and U.S. history in high school. But in most courses — art, physical education and foreign languages, for example — the state left it up to individual school district to develop or adopt their own SLO tests. The purpose is to grade teachers, and scores can’t be compared from school district to school district.

Last year’s rules required some teachers to administer up to six SLOs to their students, depending on how many subjects they were teaching.

But under the optional new program, teachers won’t have to administer as many. Teachers in school districts that received grants under the federal Race to the Top education program won’t have to administer more than two tests.

Teachers in school districts not part of Race to the Top, such as Clarke County, won’t have to administer more than one.

The effect the change will have varies from school district to school district, judging from initial assessments from two area school districts.

In Clarke County, the rule change could reduce the number of SLOs high school students take by 25 percent and possibly more, said Tim Jarboe, director of assessment and accountability for the Clarke County School District. In earlier grades, the optional new requirement won’t make much difference, he said.

But in Madison County, it may not reduce the number of SLO tests significantly, said superintendent Allen McCannon.

“It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not really helping us,” he said.

One reason it won’t make a lot of difference in Madison County is that in many courses, the SLO test also counts as a final test for the course itself, said Cathy Gruetter, Madison county’s testing coordinator and elementary curriculum director.

Things might change again next year, however.

Under the state’s planned testing regime for 2015-2016, all teachers must have two so-called “growth measures,” including districts like Clarke County in which teachers are now only required to have one, Jarboe explained.

“My concern is next year,” he said.


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Does School Choice Increase Inequality?

Education Savings Accounts will make access to quality education less equal than it is today. Why do I say it will do that? Because it allows families to add to their education savings account to buy a more expensive education. Most parents want what’s best for their children, so those who can afford it will do just that. Those who can’t will not. And the education market will stratify by income, far more than it already does. In a decade, it will look like the markets for houses, cars and other private goods, with huge disparities based on wealth.

Indeed, America’s public education system already looks like the market for housing because, to a great extent, it is the market for housing. Students are assigned to district schools based on the location of their home, so the quality of the local district school is a major consideration for those who can afford it. Educational choice laws like ESAs break the link between education and housing—and low-income families have the most to gain.

Breaking the Link Between Education and Housing

America’s district schools are already highly stratified by income. According to a 2012 report by the Brookings Institution, “the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams.”

Wealthier families can afford homes in communities with better performing district schools. The Brookings report found that in “the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.” In other words, parents pay the equivalent of tuition at many private schools to live in districts with higher-performing public schools.

By empowering all parents to pay for education directly, ESAs and other educational choice programs cut housing out of the equation. Parents no longer have to be able to afford a house in an expensive community to afford the best educational environment for their children. In Nevada, the state will provide $5,100 in most ESAs and $5,700 for low-income families or students with special needs.

However, Osborne worries that the current level of ESA funding in Nevada won’t cover more than “a cut-rate job.” The average private school tuition, he notes, is between $8,000 and $10,000 while district schools spend about $8,300 per pupil annually on instruction (and more than $9,400 per pupil in total).

Nevada should do more to make funding more equitable, but $5,700 could still go a long way. For many families, it could make the difference between enrolling their child in a school that meets their needs or keeping them in a school that doesn’t. Moreover, looking at the average alone obscures the tuition that families actually face. As Glenn Cook of the Las Vegas Review-Journal explained recently, $5,700 is more than enough to cover the full tuition at several inner-city private schools and just shy of the posted tuition at several more—even before factoring in the schools’ tuition aid. The ESA might even encourage new high-quality, low-cost schools—like Acton Academies, which often charge as little as $4,000 in tuition—to enter the market.

Very soon, the Friedman Foundation will release a new report from its School Survey Series called Exploring Nevada’s Private Education Sector, which will shed more light on the issue of private school supply in Nevada. The report will not only include the number of open private school seats, but also the percentage of Nevada private schools that offer additional tuition assistance to low-income families.

Low-Income Families Benefit the Most

Research shows that low-income families have the most to gain from expanded choice. In 2013, Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute and I conducted a survey of Arizona families using ESAs in the first year of the program. Due to the program’s eligibility requirements at the time, all of the ESA families had students with special needs who had previously attended their assigned district schools. As shown in the table below, low-income families reported the highest levels of dissatisfaction with their district schools. Two-thirds of families in the lowest income quintile reported being dissatisfied, including 56 percent who were very dissatisfied while only 22 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied.

In stark contrast, survey respondents reported unanimous satisfaction with the ESA program. Moreover, families with the lowest income were the most enthusiastic with nearly nine in 10 reporting that they were very satisfied.

Osborne, however, is skeptical that the high degree of parental satisfaction is actually related to their kids getting a quality education:

[I]nformation about schools’ academic quality will be sparse, and many parents will be ill equipped to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Experience in the charter school sector has proven that if a school is safe, warm and nurturing, many parents will stick with it, even if test scores show that students are falling behind. The same will be true in Nevada’s private schools, so many kids will get a lousy education.

Fortunately, numerous studies have explored the impact of choice programs on student outcomes. Eleven of 12 random-assignment studies—the gold standard of social science research—have found that school choice programs improve the outcomes of participating students, leading to higher test scores, higher rates of graduation, and higher rates of college enrollment. One study found no visible impact and none found any harm.

Moreover, parents have more access to information about schools than Osborne gives credit. For example, GreatSchools provides parents with ratings of private schools based on student performance data and reviews from parents. A recent American Enterprise Institute report found that parents give considerable weight to the experiences of other parents—and for good reason. As Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education noted recently, parents are often tougher graders than state accountability systems.

Osborne also frets about the impact of school choice policies on the students “left” behind at their assigned district schools, but the research literature shows that they benefit as well. In 22 of 23 empirical studies, the academic performance of students who chose to stay in district schools improved as a result of the competitive effects of school choice. No study, even those conducted by anti-school choice organizations, has found private school choice programs harm the academic performance of students who remain in district schools.

Freedom and Equality

As Milton Friedman observed, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” Osborne himself argued that a “core value of public education…is equality of opportunity,” knowing full well that America’s current ZIP Code-assignment education system is highly stratified by income. Access to a quality education is too often determined by parents’ ability to afford a home in an expensive neighborhood. Without school choice options, the current system is not the bastion of equal opportunity it is often imagined to be.

If we want a high degree of equality, more states should consider following Friedman’s advice and focus efforts on expanding educational freedom and choice. Such policies empower families to choose what’s best for their kids without going through a real estate agent—and the best evidence shows that students are better off as a result. If more states adopted universal educational choice programs like Nevada’s, all children—especially low-income children—will benefit.

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Georgia releases list of schools with greatest needs

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released its list of schools that exhibit the greatest need for additional support as part of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver.

The GaDOE lists “Priority Schools,” which are among the lowest five percent of Title I schools in terms of academic achievement and “Focus Schools,” which are among the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in terms of the achievement gap – both the size of the gap between the school’s bottom quartile of students and the state average, and the degree to which that gap is closing.

According to the GaDOE, under Georgia’s renewed ESEA flexibility waiver, the criteria for Priority and Focus Schools are now aligned with the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), allowing for a more transparent measure with which districts and schools are already familiar

Priority Schools are identified by:

  1. A three-year average of performance on the Content Mastery category of the CCRPI is calculated for all schools (this category is based on performance on statewide assessments).
  2. Schools are ranked based on their three-year average in the CCRPI Content Mastery category.
  3. The lowest five percent of Title I schools in the state, based on the three-year average in the CCRPI Content Mastery category, is identified.
  4. High schools with a four-year cohort graduation rate less than 60 percent in 2013 and 2014, which are not already captured in the lowest five percent, are identified.
  5. Schools identified as Priority Schools in 2012, which do not meet the criteria for exiting that list, are re-identified as Priority Schools.

2015 Priority Schools:

  • Connally Elementary School
  • Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Academy High School
  • Douglass High School
  • Dunbar Elementary School
  • Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. High School
  • Mays High School
  • School of Health Sciences and Research at Carver
  • School of Technology at Carver
  • South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science
  • The Best Academy at Benjamin S. Carson High School
  • The School of the Arts at Carver
  • Therrell School of Engineering, Math, and Science
  • Therrell School of Health and Science
  • Therrell School of Law, Government and Public Policy
  • Thomasville Heights Elementary School
  • Berrien Academy Performance Learning Center
  • Bruce Elementary School
  • Burghard Elementary School (Southfield Elementary School)
  • Hartley Elementary School
  • King – Danforth Elementary School (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School)
  • Northeast High School
  • Riley Elementary School
  • Southwest High School
  • Westside High School
  • Williams Elementary School
  • The School of Liberal Studies at Savannah High
  • Charles R. Drew High School
  • Forest Park High School
  • North Clayton High School
  • Osborne High School
  • Morris Innovative High School
  • Clarkston High School
  • Columbia High School
  • Cross Keys High School
  • Destiny Achievers Academy of Excellence
  • Knollwood Elementary School
  • Margaret Harris Comprehensive School
  • McNair High School
  • Redan High School
  • Toney Elementary School
  • Towers High School
  • Dooly County High School
  • Albany High School
  • Dougherty Comprehensive High School
  • Monroe High School
  • Moore Street School
  • Banneker High School
  • Hapeville Charter Career Academy
  • Tri-Cities High School
  • Wood’s Mill Non-Traditional School
  • Greene County High School
  • Berkmar High School
  • Meadowcreek High School
  • Hancock Central High School
  • Johnson County High School
  • Macon County High School
  • Greenville High School
  • Jordan Vocational High School
  • Spencer High School
  • Peach County High School
  • Quitman County High School
  • Randolph Clay High School
  • Butler High School
  • Glenn Hills High School
  • Jenkins-White Elementary Charter School
  • Josey High School
  • Laney High School
  • W.S. Hornsby K-8 School
  • Georgia Connections Academy
  • Mountain Education Center School
  • Provost Academy Georgia
  • Atlanta Area School for the Deaf
  • Georgia Academy for the Blind
  • Georgia School for the Deaf
  • Americus Sumter County High North
  • Americus Sumter County High South
  • Central Elementary/High School
  • Taliaferro County School
  • Twiggs County High School
  • Woody Gap High/Elementary School
  • Wilcox County High School

Focus Schools are identified by:

  1. A three-year average of the CCRPI Achievement Gap score is calculated for all schools
  2. Schools are ranked based on their three-year average of the CCRPI Achievement Gap score
  3. The lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in the state, based on the three-year average CCRPI Achievement Gap score, is identified
  4. Schools identified as Focus Schools in 2012, which do not meet the criteria for exiting that list, are re-identified as Focus Schools.

2015 Focus Schools:

  • Appling County Elementary School
  • Benteen Elementary School
  • Bethune Elementary School
  • Boyd Elementary School
  • Brown Middle School
  • Centennial Place Elementary School
  • Cleveland Elementary School
  • Continental Colony Elementary School
  • D. H. Stanton Elementary School
  • Dobbs Elementary School
  • Fain Elementary School
  • Fickett Elementary School
  • Gideons Elementary School
  • Grove Park Intermediate School
  • Humphries Elementary School
  • Miles Intermediate School
  • Parkside Elementary School
  • Peyton Forest Elementary School
  • Slater Elementary School
  • The John Hope-Charles Walter Hill Elementary Schools
  • Toomer Elementary School
  • Towns Elementary School
  • Young Middle School
  • Creekside Elementary School
  • Eagle Ridge Elementary School
  • Midway Elementary School
  • Kennedy Elementary School
  • Ballard Hudson Middle School
  • Brookdale Elementary School
  • Lane Elementary School
  • Bryan County Middle School
  • Langston Chapel Elementary School
  • Mattie Lively Elementary School
  • William James Middle School
  • Bowdon Middle School
  • Butler Elementary School
  • Haven Elementary School
  • Hodge Elementary School
  • Shuman Elementary School
  • Thunderbolt Elementary School
  • West Chatham Middle School
  • Windsor Forest Elementary School
  • Canton Elementary
  • William G. Hasty, Sr. Elementary School
  • Cedar Shoals High School
  • Gaines Elementary School
  • Howard B. Stroud Elementary School
  • Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School
  • Whit Davis Road Elementary School
  • Clay County Elementary
  • Edmonds Elementary School
  • Mundy’s Mill High School
  • Northcutt Elementary School
  • Birney Elementary School
  • Clarkdale Elementary School
  • Milford Elementary School
  • Odom Elementary School
  • Okapilco Elementary School
  • Sunset Elementary School
  • Grovetown Elementary School
  • Cook Elementary School
  • Eastside Elementary School
  • Ruth Hill Elementary School
  • Western Elementary School
  • Crisp County Elementary School
  • Bainbridge High School
  • Allgood Elementary School
  • Bob Mathis Elementary School
  • Browns Mill Elementary School
  • Canby Lane Elementary School
  • Clifton Elementary School
  • Columbia Middle School
  • Eldridge L. Miller Elementary School
  • Freedom Middle School
  • Kelley Lake Elementary School
  • Lithonia Middle School
  • Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School
  • Meadowview Elementary School
  • Montclair Elementary School
  • Princeton Elementary School
  • Ronald E McNair Discover Learning Academy Elementary School
  • Smoke Rise Elementary School
  • Snapfinger Elementary School
  • Stoneview Elementary School
  • Dodge County High School
  • Dodge County Middle School
  • Radium Springs Elementary School
  • Radium Springs Middle School
  • Dublin Middle School
  • Susie Dasher Elementary
  • Claxton Elementary School
  • Bethune Elementary School
  • Gullatt Elementary School
  • Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary
  • Hapeville Charter Middle School
  • High Point Elementary School
  • Jackson Elementary School
  • Lake Forest Elementary
  • Lee Elementary School
  • Mount Olive Elementary School
  • Nolan Elementary School
  • Sandtown Middle School
  • Woodland Middle School
  • Centennial Arts Academy
  • Swain Elementary School
  • Greensboro Elementary
  • Rockbridge Elementary School
  • Lyman Hall Elementary School
  • White Sulphur Elementary School
  • Hancock Central Middle School
  • Huntington Middle School
  • Miller Elementary School
  • Pearl Stephens Elementary School
  • Washington Park Elementary School
  • Jeff Davis Elementary School
  • Carver Elementary School
  • Louisville Academy
  • Jenkins County Elementary School
  • Wells Primary School
  • Lanier County Elementary School
  • Long County Middle School
  • Macon County Elementary School
  • Macon County Middle School
  • Marietta High School
  • Manchester Middle School
  • Unity Elementary School
  • North Mitchell County Elementary School
  • Montgomery County Middle School
  • New Montgomery County Elementary School
  • Baker Middle School
  • Davis Elementary School
  • Georgetown Elementary School
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
  • Rigdon Road Elementary School
  • Flint Hill Elementary
  • Fort Valley Middle School
  • Pelham Elementary School
  • Westside Elementary School
  • Youngs Grove Elementary School
  • Randolph County Elementary School
  • Bayvale Elementary School
  • Copeland Elementary School
  • Glenn Hills Middle School
  • Lamar – Milledge Elementary School
  • Morgan Road Middle School
  • Murphey Middle Charter School
  • Tutt Middle School
  • Wheeless Road Elementary School
  • Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School
  • Hightower Trail Elementary School
  • Sims Elementary School
  • Rome High School
  • Seminole County Middle/High School
  • Cowan Road Middle School
  • Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy School
  • Carver Elementary School
  • Terrell Middle School
  • Upson-Lee High School
  • Annie Belle Clark Primary School
  • Len Lastinger Primary School
  • J. R. Trippe Middle School
  • Rossville Elementary School
  • Bacon Elementary School
  • Beaverdale Elementary School
  • Wilkinson County Elementary School

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Top 15 Findings from the 2015 Schooling in America Survey

With the close of another school year and a boom of expansive school choice programs in 2015 comes curiosity about the progress of K–12 education in the United States.

Is it advancing? Is it going well? How might it improve?

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s recently released 2015 Schooling in America Survey aims to tap public opinion to answer those questions and more. Check out the top 15 key findings from the full report here!



How many people rank education as the No. 1 issue facing America?
One out of six



How do Americans rate the federal government’s performance in K–12 education?
Fair/Poor Good/Excellent 77% 20% 2



Do Americans roughly know how much we spend per pupil on K–12 education?
The national average per-pupil spending amount is nearly $10,700. Do Don’t 3 14% 86%



How do public school parents rate their local public schools?
A or B C D or F 4 47% 34% 17%



Which school type do Americans say they would prefer their children attend? 5 vs. actual enrollments:



What do Americans think about school vouchers before hearing a definition?
6a Favor Oppose 39% 26%



After hearing a definition of school vouchers, do Americans’ opinions change?
6b Favor FavorOppose Oppose 61% 63% 33% 30% General Public School Parents



How many Americans are unfamiliar with the concept of school vouchers? Our estimate:
35% 7



What are Americans’ top two reasons for supporting vouchers?
8 1. 2. Access to schools having better academics (38%) More freedom and flexibility for parents (28%)



What is the top reason people say they oppose school vouchers? 9 57% said because they “divert funding away from public schools”

That statement assumes the only destination for funding should be public schools, which could be why our opponents use such phrasing. We believe education funding should follow students.



What do Americans think about education savings accounts (ESAs)?
10 General Public School Parents 66% of split-sample respondents said ESAs should be universal 62% Favor 63% Favor 28% Oppose 27% Oppose 10% Don’t Know /Refused 10% Don’t Know /Refused



What do Americans think about tax-credit scholarships?
11 Favor FavorOppose Oppose 60% 61% 29% 27% General Public School Parents

What do school parents think of testing?
12 48% of school parents say kids spend 16 days or more—nearly one in 10 days of the school year—on standardized testing 47% of school parents say the amount of time spent on standardized testing is “too high”



When it comes to state government intervention in schools with low student performance, how many Americans rate each of these solutions as useful for families?
13 said supply vouchers/scholarships said convert them to charter schools said replace personnel said close the school 41% 26% 25% 18%



What do Americans think about Common Core State Standards?
14 General Public School Parents 50% Favor 47% Favor 40% Oppose 46% Oppose 10% Don’t Know /Refused 7% Don’t Know /Refused Strongly Favor Strongly Oppose 19% 24%



How do education interest groups influence voters with their endorsements of political candidates?
15 POSITIVELY NEGATIVELY VS. Teachers’ Union Teachers’ Union Parent Advocacy Group Parent Advocacy Group 46% 25% 50% 16%

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