Category Archives: Georgia Education

Bibb County Opposes State Takeover of Their Failing Schools

Bibb County School District consists of 40 schools (25 Elementary Schools, 8 Middle Schools, and 7 High Schools). According to the most recent list of list of schools eligible for the Opportunity School District (OSD), one in every three schools has been failing for the last 3+ years and are on the list for state takeover.
The Macon Telegraph is reporting that instead of improving their schools, the Bibb County school board is joining the opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal.  “No matter what the challenges might be, they are ours,” says former board President Thelma Dillard. “This is our family.”

The Bibb County school board is prepared to join the opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal.

Approved by the state Legislature, the Opportunity School District would allow the state to take over as many as 20 schools per year that are deemed to be failing based on College and Career Ready Performance Index scores. The Bibb board is expected to vote on a resolution opposing the measure next month after several members spoke out against Deal’s plan at the board’s regular meeting Thursday.

“I really believe schools do the best when they have local control and local accountability,” board Treasurer Daryl Morton said.

Recently, teachers organizations at the state and local level expressed their opposition to the plan, which will come before Georgia voters on the Nov. 8 ballot. Board Vice President Jason Downey said he was concerned that the expected “disingenuous” wording of the ballot item would mislead voters into thinking the Opportunity School District was something other than what it was.

“That’s why I think it’s important we do something,” Downey said.

In addition to concerns about what would happen to facilities, faculty and leadership if a school was taken over, board members said local officials would have the best chance of resolving local issues.

“Whoever sits on this board is going to know better what the students of Bibb County need,” said Downey, whose tenure on the board will end in December.

Former board President Thelma Dillard, recently re-elected for another term on the board, said it was “unrealistic” to think the state could resolve issues at struggling schools. Any school that has scored less than 60 on the 100-point CCRPI scale for three straight years would be eligible for the list, which would currently include nine Bibb County schools.

“No matter what the challenges might be, they are ours,” Dillard said. “This is our family.”

Board member Tom Hudson agreed with his colleagues in opposing the takeover plan, but he said he would be “remiss” not to note that Bibb County’s schools must achieve at a higher rate. Graduation rates have been on the rise recently, but the district had nine of the 10 Middle Georgia schools on the list for three straight sub-60 CCRPI scores.

“It’s a challenge for us to do better,” Hudson said.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board also voted to form a committee to discuss the name for the combined Northeast High School and Appling Middle School campus on the current Northeast site. The project is expected to cost about $35 million in ESPLOST funding and be completed in the next two years.

Board President Lester Miller said he expected member Ella Carter and representatives from each school would serve on the committee, and other community members would also be brought in for discussions about the name.

“We will be very inclusive,” Miller said.

The board also approved about $786,000 in new playground equipment for 11 elementary schools — Bernd, Burdell-Hunt, Carter, Hartley, Porter, Skyview, Springdale, Taylor, Union and Williams.

The next meeting of the Bibb County school board is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, with the committee meeting set for 4 p.m.


School 2013 CCRPI 2014 CCRPI 2015 CCRPI
Appling Middle School (Bibb) 56.1 55.5 51.1
Ballard-Hudson Middle School (Bibb) 51 49.2 47
Brookdale Elementary School (Bibb) 59.2 51 54.3
Bruce Elementary School (Bibb) 58.3 50 48.1
Hartley Elementary School (Bibb) 55.3 55.9 55.9
Ingram-Pye Elementary School (Bibb) 54.5 45.9 55.5
Riley Elementary School (Bibb) 50.9 54.1 57
Southwest High School (Bibb) 42.3 54 58.2
Williams Elementary School (Bibb) 55.9 57.2 57.1
Twiggs County High School 48.3 57.9 59.9

* Data from 2015-16 school year has not been released

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Georgia Lottery’s educational funding hits record high in ‘16

I find the Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program fascinating. It is one of the few systematic transfers of money from the lower class to the middle and upper class and cherished by said lower class.

Also, why is college tuition rising so fast? The answer is the people who get the service don’t pay for it. This is called the third-party payment problem, and it’s systemic in education.

Imagine for a moment that there were no public subsidies for education, and parents paid for their kid’s schooling the way we pay for everything else – by shopping around and finding the best quality at the best price. What if there were no government-guaranteed student loans for college or other federal aid to underwrite tuition. Does anyone believe that colleges would cost $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000? No way.

Anyway, the Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that Georgia Lottery’s educational funding hit a record high in fiscal 2016.

By: Erica Relaford
Editorial Intern
Atlanta Business Chronicle

The Georgia Lottery Corp. sent a record $1.1 billion to state educational programs in fiscal 2016.

That’s the first time Georgia Lottery sent more than $1 billion in a year and is more than $117 million ahead of fiscal 2015.

Gov. Nathan Deal with Georgia Lottery CEO Debbie D. Alford, July 20, 2016.

The lottery sends profits to specific educational programs, including Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program.

“With these funds we’re making possible what some students and their families would never have achieved without the HOPE scholarship programs,” Gov.Nathan Deal said during the transfer at the Georgia Capitol Wednesday morning. “We’re helping them achieve the dream of great education, that all important component, to achieving the overall American dream.”

Since its first year in 1993, the Georgia Lottery Corp. has returned more than $17.6 billion to Georgia for education.

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Repercussions for districts and students who opt out of state tests

APRIL 11, 2016 – Parents Opt Out of Georgia Milestones
Kay Draper Hutchinson, a former school counselor, recently published these thoughts and instructions on how to opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

MAY 15, 2014 – Georgia’s movement to opt out of high stakes tests gains momentum
A small but increasingly vocal group of parents in Georgia are urging state leaders to give their children the choice to “opt out” of taking the high-stakes tests in schools without being penalized for doing so.


School administrators ask students to take the Georgia Milestones

standardized testing
Georgia Legislation

Last year the state did not enforce Georgia statute requiring grade level performance on the state standardized tests for graduation or promotion to the next grade in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. It is unclear if the state will waive those requirements again.

While school district administrators want to serve the public, they must also follow the law. The path of least resistance is to encourage students and parents to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests.

Tim Jarboe, director of assessment and accountability for the Clarke County School District, makes a plea to the public to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

In Georgia, state law has authorized heavy penalties for those who don’t take the tests, according to Jarboe.

Laws are changing, but for now, the old rules remain in effect.

In high school, the so-called “Georgia Milestones” end-of-course tests count as final exams, and are worth 20 percent of the course grade, Jarboe told a recent meeting of the Clarke County Parent Advisory Board.

If students don’t take the test, they lose those points, and “such a student would receive a grade that does not reflect his or her true achievement,” Jarboe said.
In elementary and middle schools, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 who opt out of testing in reading and math are counted as failing, though parents can appeal.

Opting out can also affect the scores teachers, administrators and schools get in a grading system the state has instituted, Jarboe said.

Test scores count for 50 percent of a teacher’s grade and 70 percent of an administrators’ grade; students opting out of testing could affect those scores either up or down, depending on whether the students opting out might have scored high or low on the Milestones.

And schools where fewer than 95 percent of students take a test can’t get any “achievement points” from the state in that particular subject area. Those achievement points are part of a complex formula the state uses to gauge how well schools are performing, called the “College and Career Ready Performance Index,” or CCRPI.

“Low CCRPI scores can lead to the federal designation as a “Focus” or “Priority” school, which creates a layer of mandates that the school is required to implement or can lead to the placement on the “Opportunity School District” list if the OSD constitutional amendment is passed next November,” Jarboe wrote in an email.

Neither the Georgia Department of Education nor the local board of education has the authority to waive the testing requirements set forth by the legislature, Jarboe said.

School principals will work with parents who want to opt their children out, he said.

“Public school leaders are literally ‘caught in the middle’ as they are technically required to follow federal and state mandates in regards to student participation in state testing programs and working with parents to honor the parent’s concern about the socio-emotional welfare of their children and how high-stakes testing affects their child,” Jarboe said. “Our principals work very hard to make sure that the decision about testing does not negatively affect the child.”

And according to the Georgia Department of Education website, it’s important for students to take the standardized tests:

“State tests are critical for measuring student learning and ensuring that all of Georgia’s students receive a high-quality education,” according to the Georgia DOE. “The results from state tests provide the public with much needed information about how all students are performing. Student test scores are the foundation of Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Index (CCRPI) and district/school report cards, which are designed to show parents, taxpayers, communities, and school leaders how well students are achieving. Allowing for comparisons between districts and schools is important given the amount of public tax dollars spent to support Georgia’s public education system.”

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Drastic Changes For Georgia Schools

I would ask the Georgia Department of Education, “Somewhere in Georgia is the worst school district in the state.  What is the Georgia Department of Education going to do about it?”  More money is not the answer.  Spending on education in Georgia has almost doubled per student over the last 20 years.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods might very well be as much a knob as Barge.  Woods has become more vocal about coming out against the Governor and the majority Republican legislature.  The Associated Press writes about the direction the Governor and state legislature are taking Georgia.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s education system could see some dramatic changes in the next two years, as Gov. Nathan Deal shifts his first-term focus on prisons and courts to education.

Voters will decide in November whether to approve Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over chronically failing schools. The state’s education and teacher organizations oppose the amendment and are gearing up for a fight.

Meanwhile, Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto a measure passed by the Georgia Legislature that would reduce the number of standardized tests that students must take and change the way teachers are evaluated.

Other measures may also gain traction in the next legislative session, including a new funding formula for state schools.

SCHOOL TAKEOVER

Perhaps the most contested portion of Deal’s education agenda is a constitutional amendment that would give a state-run district control over schools deemed “chronically failing.”

If passed by voters in the general election this November, the amendment would create an Opportunity School District (OSD) that would manage 20 failing schools per year, controlling no more than 100 at a time.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said in a statement that the potential creation of an OSD has spurred a new sense of urgency in communities and school districts, where many are focusing additional resources on improving failing schools.

The Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Chances (TRAGIC) opposes the amendment.

“This model simply gives up on communities and locally organized schools and its students and hands them over to someone else to manage,” spokesman John Palmer said.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods said he agrees that some schools may need some “intensive care,” but his chief concern remains “that we are doing our part to support them and not being an obstacle to their improvement.”

NEW FUNDING FORMULA

An issue that is sure to be on the calendar for the 2017 legislative session is an overhaul of the state school funding formula.

Lawmakers are expected to consider changes to the Quality Based Education (QBE) funding formula, which is viewed by many as outdated. Funding has been central to the education debate in Georgia, and Deal’s office asserts that changing the funding mechanism will benefit students.

Deal was expected to propose changes this year, but teacher organizations’ outcry prompted legislative leaders to question his strategy. Deal held off but told lawmakers he wants them to consider the issue in 2017.

Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said his organization supports a new funding formula, but will be closely examining the details.

A commission Deal appointed recommends that each district shift K-8 teachers to a pay scale based on student performance. The group also recommended that the state determine funding for schools based on individual students’ needs, factoring in poverty, grade level and enrollment in gifted or special education classes.

The group also advocated for more flexibility on testing, more support to charter schools and letting students advance grade levels when ready.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Sweeping reforms were approved to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by students, along with adjusting teacher and principal evaluations.

Education associations from across the state have supported the bill, calling for less stringent teacher evaluations that would allow them to dedicate more time to test preparation. Additionally, the bill would ease evaluations on high quality teachers, who would be rated as such by the state.

Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action by that date, the measure automatically becomes law.

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Schools as Polling Precincts

Schools are convenient one stop shops for a lot of public services outside of education.  Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is putting health clinics in some of their schools.  Just recently, many schools were used as voting precincts.

Safety is a valid concern, however schools aren’t on lock down 24/7 and frequently unlock their doors to the public for various school events.  Nevertheless, Jon Gargis with the MDJ Online is reporting that some Cobb parents aren’t happy with the additional risks of having polling precincts at schools.

Cobb parents express concern over schools’ use as polling places
by Jon Gargis

As tens of thousands of Cobb County residents weighed in on the presidential race Tuesday, parents went online to express concerns that their children’s schools remained in session as voters were heading there to cast their ballots.

Of the 144 precincts in Cobb County, 57 are at schools in the Cobb School District, five are at schools in the Marietta School District and one is at Dominion Christian High.

It’s the use of the county schools as polling places that concerned parents on Facebook. A post on the “Cobb County School District Unofficial Community Page” had drawn nearly 100 comments, as well as spinoff discussions, by late Wednesday afternoon. Many of those who commented expressed concern that opening the school to the public jeopardized student safety. Several members gave the MDJ permission to use their comments for publication.

“Just because something has been done and safe in the past doesn’t mean it is or will continue to be,” said Julie Goldberg, an east Cobb mother of two. “Times are vastly different today. Sad to say, but unfortunately, our new reality.”

The issue of voting occurring at schools was also a safety concern to at least one student.

“My 8-year-old third-grader was nervous upon arrival seeing signs that ‘guns are not permitted.’ I think we all speak to how we feel as parents with the safety of schools being polling sites, but I realized today that my little one was alarmed by it as well,” said Debbie McLaughlin, co-president of Garrison Mill Elementary’s PTA.

Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Wednesday he was not aware of any incidents that occurred at schools that served as polling places. He said those locations make every effort to segment off the polling locations to keep students and the voting public separate.

He added that he had received a few emails from parents asking why the district remained in session.

“The way the calendar worked out this year, we were not able to take the voting day as a teacher workday, but what we did do is reallocate our resource officers to make sure the polling locations were covered, and we also worked with local PD, whether that be Cobb or the municipalities, to make sure that we had increased patrols at the schools that were polling locations.”

The school district is not the only entity concerned with safety at their polling places.

“We have sheriff’s office deputies that are assigned to us on election day, and we station them at the schools or even polling places that have daycares, and we’ll put them where they’re requested,” said Janine Eveler, director of the Cobb elections office. “And we have a staff of deputies assigned to just rove around the polling places, and make periodic visits to certain ones in a geographic area they’re deployed to.”

Some parents also questioned why the district did not schedule a day off for students on the election day when others in nearby districts did so.

Tuesday was a professional learning day — a student holiday — for Marietta City Schools. Students were also out of school Tuesday in neighboring Paulding County, which also utilizes several public schools for its polling places.

Other metro Atlanta school districts, such as Cherokee and Gwinnett county schools, remained open Tuesday despite having facilities that hosted voting precincts.

Angela Huff, chief of staff for Cobb County Schools, said the district has not scheduled student holidays to coincide with past primary election days, and only in the last few years has scheduled staff workdays on the general election dates. The calendars for the next two school years will give students the day off on those November election days.

Ragsdale said considerations to close the school for election days can be a “tough call.”

“When you’re looking at the calendar, and you’ve got so many breaks and days off and those kinds of things, you have to make sure the calendar balances,” he said.

Other parents said that traffic flow and parking at their schools were concerns, especially at student drop off and pick up times.

“Our school already lacks adequate parking. This compounded that situation,” said Katrina Bishop, a Pitner Elementary parent.

But not every parent was against the schools being used for polling. Becky Slemons said she was unaware of any incidents occurring at schools that have hosted elections in the past. Her children’s school, Addison Elementary, had voters going to the gym, away from the students, and administrators and extra teachers came out to the car line to ensure smooth operations during student drop off and pick up. Student security and safety, she added, remained intact during the day.

“I think it’s an important civic lesson for students to see their fellow citizens taking part in how government is set up to work,” Slemons said. “It’s one day, and we should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”

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Texas School Triples Recess Time And Sees Immediate Positive Results In Kids

A Texas school started giving children four recess breaks a day, and teachers and parents say the results have been wonderful.

Recess is a lot more than just a free break for kids to play after lunch period. That free, unstructured play time allows kids to exercise and helps them focus better when they are in class. Now a school in Texas says it took a risk by giving students four recess periods a day, but the risk has paid off beautifully.

According to Today, the Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been giving kindergarten and first-grade students two 15-minute recess breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon to go play outside. At first teachers were worried about losing the classroom time and being able to cover all the material they needed with what was left, but now that the experiment has been going on for about five months, teachers say the kids are actually learning more because they’re better able to focus in class and pay attention without fidgeting.

“There was a part of me that was very nervous about it,” said first-grade teacher Donna McBride. “I was trying to wrap my head around my class going outside four times a day and still being able to teach those children all the things they needed to learn.”

But now she says that not only are the students paying better attention in class, they’re following directions better, attempting to learn more independently and solve problems on their own, and there have been fewer disciplinary issues.

“We’re seeing really good results,” she said, and those results make sense. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that recess is “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.” Even adults have a hard time concentrating and working their best when confined to a chair all day, so it’s amazing that we expect kids to be able to focus and learn without any way to exercise and blow off steam. When kindergarten students or first-graders are forced to sit still all day and allowed only one 15-minute break to play, as the Eagle Mountain students were before this experiment began, it’s only natural that they’d start to fidget and act up in class. Giving them regular breaks to play outside is good for their minds as well as their bodies.

“You start putting 15 minutes of what I call ‘reboot’ into these kids every so often and… it gives the platform for them to be able to function at their best level,” said professor Debbie Rhea, who is working with Eagle Mountain Elementary and other schools to increase the amount of physical activity and play time children get at school.

Rhea’s program calls for schools to add the four 15-minute recesses a day for kindergarten and first-grade students, and then adding another grade every year as it goes on. And teachers aren’t the only ones seeing good results from this program, either. Some parents say they’ve noticed their children being more independent and creative at home, and they also say the extra recess time has helped their kids socially. It’s a lot easier to make friends on the swing-set than when you’re all silently watching an adult explain math problems, after all.

Giving up class time for regular, short recess breaks seems like an exchange that pays off well, because after recess kids learn more efficiently and enthusiastically when they are in class than they would if they were just strapped to their desks all day. Kids today have a lot of things to learn in a short amount of time, but it looks like the best way to help them learn is to give them time to play and be kids.

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Political Leaders Pushing for Work-Ready graduates

Jesus Vazquez guided an eyeball-scorching flame, and the room crackled with noise as he tried to control a molten bead of metal that would determine success or failure.

A lot of kids like him wind up behind a burger counter or in other low-wage jobs, but this Hall County high school student wants something better, and this welding practice at a community college could help him get it. He enrolled in a new program that could lead to work with one of Gainesville’s better-paying employers. It’s the kind of opportunity that some leaders are hoping to give other teenagers across Georgia who wouldn’t otherwise have a shot at such training or at college.

As Georgia education, business and political leaders keep pushing for work-ready graduates, they are expanding programs such as dual enrollment — when high school students can simultaneously take classes at other institutions as a way to get ahead academically or economically. Georgia recently changed laws to streamline funding and encourage more students to take advantage of dual enrollment. And pilot programs such as this one could be expanded when the General Assembly acts on education reform in 2016.

“They say I have no credits for a regular high school diploma,” said Vazquez, 18, adding, “If I do get certified in welding, I could get a job at Kubota.”

The heavy equipment manufacturer is expanding, and hiring. It’s taken on several other students from Vazquez’s school, the Lanier Career Academy. Teens there can enroll in this new program, a joint venture between Hall County Schools and Lanier Technical College, even if they don’t have the academic background that college requires. They aren’t getting college credit, but they are learning high-demand skills that might set them on a career path — and encourage them to earn their high school diplomas or attend college someday.

That’s the hope of Will Schofield, the superintendent of schools in Hall, who created the program with Lanier Tech president Ray Perren. Schofield noticed that many students who might benefit from the state’s dual-enrollment programs lacked the academic requirements to enroll in college courses.

Many get discouraged and drop out out or they earn their diplomas and take menial jobs. Later, they have families and realize they need to earn more. By then, college isn’t really an option.

“There was really no option for these kids,” he said.

He and Perren worked with businesses to develop the program, which offers a welding certificate that is recognized only by local employers.

Kubota has already hired three graduates from the first class of a dozen students who attended last summer, said their instructor, Jerry Owen, an adjunct professor at Lanier Tech. New welders earn around $40,000 a year plus benefits, he said. “That’s pretty good for a kid who doesn’t have a high school diploma.”

Tim McDonald, the vice president of economic development for the college, said the program is a model for others to copy. For instance, there is a shortage of welders across Georgia, and the governor’s office has prioritized meeting that demand. There is more at stake, though.

“How do we provide something to this population of young people who otherwise are going to end up being unproductive or even worse,” McDonald said. “The bigger issue here is to give these kids hope.”

Schofield promoted the program when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to his Education Reform Commission. Among the many policy recommendations that emerged in November was one to establish a statewide certificate like the one in Hall. Currently, the certificate earned by students there is not recognized outside the county, and Schofield said this recommendation would change that.

Barbara Wall, the Georgia Department of Education official over career-prep programs, said that if the state moves forward on that recommendation, officials will find businesses eager to participate. A skills gap in more fields than just welding has created momentum in her agency to produce more career-oriented courses. For instance, the state school board recently voted in December to let students earn math, science and even foreign language credit for taking any of three computer courses.

“Now, more than any time in history, we’re seeing business and industry really wanting to get involved in our career technical programs — at earlier ages,” she said.

Doug Roper, a school board member in Vidalia and president of the Georgia School Boards Association, said public school leaders are increasingly accepting a need for career-oriented schooling, like the welding program in Hall.

“For a long time, there’s been the idea that if you don’t go to college you’re a failure,” he said, “and I think we’re going to get away from that.”

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