Category Archives: Nancy Jester

Nancy Jester – Georgia Republican State School Superintendent candidate

Grover Norquist Endorses Nancy Jester – State Superintendent

Superintendent Candidate Gets a Boost…
by Louie Hunter | May 12, 2014

One candidate for the Georgia School Superintendent’s job continues to gather support from some very high profile names.

Nancy Jester has already received support from radio talk show host Eric Erickson, Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon and former State Senator Eric Johnson. Today Ms. Jester received a shot in the arm from a national figure, Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and the Cost of Government Center.

In a statement of support Norquist notes the efforts by Ms. Jester to use transparency and disclosure to the citizens of Georgia of all spending for the state on education.

“ATR and COGC laud the efforts of Ms. Jester to improve the education system in the state of Georgia through sensible spending, increased transparency and strong accountability” said Norquist.

Ms. Jester has promised to “put the check register on-line for all to see” so that Georgians will know where their tax-dollars are being spent. In a field with fifteen qualified candidates Jester seems to be gathering some momentum as the May 20th election date approaches. Education in Georgia continues to be a key component in attracting business to Georgia.

More to come…


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Erickson Endorses Nancy Jester – State Superintendent

Conservative radio talk show host and RedState blogger, Erick Erickson, endorses Nancy Jester for State Superintendent saying, “I’m going with Nancy Jester.  She’s opposed to Common Core.  She gets the problem.”

On Tuesday, Erick Erickson explained his opposition to Common Core saying, “The federal government has poured a lot of money getting states to adopt Common Core. And what comes with Federal money? Strings. Those strings attached will involve the government in setting the curriculum.”

Erickson went on to say, “Because we will have uniform standards based largely on textbook providers catering to California, setting what and who you will actually read. Once you have the strings and one place to go, it’s very easy to control everything.”

“There is very little in the standards about reading and understanding the Bill of Rights.  You would think that the constitution would be a good non fiction document.  No.  They want to read the writings of left wing activists like Caesar Chavez or Margaret Sanger.  That’s where this is headed.”

“Whatever you do, do not vote for people like Kira Willis who defend Common Core.”


Filed under Common Core, Georgia State School Superintendent, Nancy Jester

Georgia SchoolWatch Interviews Superintendent Candidate Nancy Jester

Who: Nancy Jester
When: Friday (5/9) @ 8:30pm
Where: This Post

Nancy Jester is a tireless advocate for children and taxpayers in Georgia. She has grassroots experience working to improve education. She’s served on school councils and as the founding president of a public school foundation. Nancy was also elected to serve on the DeKalb Board of Education and became the first person to find and publish deceptive budgeting practices that plundered the accumulated reserves of the 3rd largest school system in Georgia.

Nancy Jester began her career working as an actuarial consultant in Georgia and Texas. Upon starting her family, she devoted her time to improving the educational lives of children. Nancy hosts regular community meetings around the metro area; bringing together elected officials, education experts, advocates and parents to discuss current education topics in Georgia. She has also served as a consultant to a charter school organization. Nancy is a member of The Rotary Club of Dunwoody. She is also a member of the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, Class of 2014. Nancy remains a sought-after speaker and hosts a web radio show discussing current education topics.

Nancy grew up in Georgia and earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She and her husband, Stanley, have three children that all attend public school.

“I want to transform Georgia’s Department of Education into a vigorous and diligent advocate for the children and taxpayers of Georgia. The department has many smart and hard-working professionals who are capable of doing great things for Georgia. I will lead them with clarity and purpose to improve the educational lives of Georgia’s children and provide prudent oversight for the taxpayers of our state.” –Nancy Jester


Filed under Georgia State School Superintendent, Nancy Jester

Georgia School Superintendent Candidate Common Core Breakdown

The question of whether Georgia should keep the Common Core academic standards has split the field of Republicans running for Georgia State School Superintendent.

Ashley Bell
On a conference call with Georgia Charter leaders, Ashley Bell said, “Common Core is the law of the land … My objective is to help teachers and parents [understand and teach] Common Core.” This contradicts his normal position which is, “Georgia has a common core of values and expectations that is far higher than any standards dreamed up in Washington, D.C.”

Note: Common Core didn’t actually originate in Washington. It started with a push from the National Governor’s Association.

Nancy Jester
“What Common Core represents is another burdensome bureaucracy that creates one-size fits-all mandates on the classroom,” said Nancy Jester, a former DeKalb County School Board member. “Common Core will not drive improved achievement in Georgia.”  Nancy Jester also wrote an article picked up by the Marietta Daily Journal, Common Core is no path to prosperity.

Fitz Johnson
Fitz, who has raised far more money than anyone else in the race, doesn’t blast away at Common Core like some of his fellow Republicans. “Where we need to fix the current curriculum, we should fix it,” he said, “but to throw out the entire curriculum without a set alternative would be irresponsible.”

Note: Common Core isn’t actually a curriculum; it’s a set of standards, a series of bars students in Georgia and across the country are expected to clear.

A 10-second video clip of Johnson surfaced on YouTube, with the candidate saying: “We’ve spent a lot of money on Common Core. To take it and just dump it out, that’s probably not going to happen. We know that.”

That could get Johnson in hot water with tea party activists who oppose Common Core, which could help Johnson’s opponents. Bell’s picture and name appeared under the Johnson video clip in the spot usually reserved for those who posted it.

Allen Bowles Fort
Allen Bowles Fort, superintendent of schools in Quitman County, said he accepts the state’s adherence to Common Core. “The issue of Common Core must be an education issue, worked out by educators, not a political football to cause rancor and discord,” he said.


Kira Willis
Kira Willis, a graduation coach in Fulton County, said Georgia’s teachers have already begun to work under Common Core, “and we should let them finish what they have started.”


Mike Buck
Mike Buck, the chief academic officer at the state Department of Education, said he is “strongly supportive of our current educational standards for many reasons.”

Buck, who also serves at the acting chief of staff to the current superintendent, John Barge, noted support for the standards from those in the business, military and education communities. “If we stay the course and implement the standards with fidelity, we will see improved outcomes for our students,” he said.

Mary Kay Bacallao
Mary Kay Bacallao argued the word “standards” has been used merely to circumvent laws preventing the federal government from sponsoring a common curriculum. The former member of the Fayette County Board of Education is vehemently opposed to Common Core. “I will work with everything I have to fight against Common Core,” Bacallao said.

Richard Woods
Richard Woods, who ran for the seat in 2010, said standards should be rigorous, should give students an opportunity to compete and should be measurable. Georgia must control education. Common Sense over Common Core.


Filed under Ashley Bell, Common Core, Georgia State School Superintendent, Kira Willis, Mary Kay Bacallao, Nancy Jester

APS finalist has seen grad rates rise in Texas district

Education trends come and go. But calls for better high school graduation rates have only intensified. That call has not been heard by most of the candidates running for Georgia State Superintendent. At this debate, Nancy Jester was the only candidate who could speak intelligently about Georgia’s 4 and 5 Year Cohort State Graduation Rates.

Results on that front were a top achievement noted by Atlanta school board members last week as they announced that Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, is their choice to succeed Erroll B. Davis Jr. as Atlanta Public Schools superintendent.

The school district in Texas’ capital city announced in July that the graduation rate for its Class of 2012 had hit an all-time record of 82.5 percent. That’s a great rate by most standards and well above Georgia’s 69.73 percent grad rate and APS’ rate of 50.87 percent that year.

But is it accurate? And is it something Carstarphen deserves credit for? We thought we’d look deeper into the numbers.

Carstarphen, 44, took the helm of the Austin district — with 87,000 students, 12,000 employees and a $950 million annual budget — in July 2009. At that time, the district’s high school graduation rate was 74.3 percent, based on data for the Class of 2008.

Austin’s grad rate has climbed steadily since then. It was 78.6 percent in 2010 and 80 percent in 2011, before reaching 82.5 in 2012, according to data from the Texas Education Agency.

During Carstarphen’s tenure, the graduation rate improved most among Austin’s African-American students, going from 71.5 percent for the Class of 2010 to 79.6 percent for the Class of 2012, for a difference of 8.1 percentage points. In that period, the rate improved for all students by 3.9 percentage points, by 5.7 percentage points for Hispanic students and by a tiny 0.1 percentage points for white students, according to district data.

But Austin still has the lowest graduation rate among the state’s large urban districts for economically disadvantaged students, at 78.9 percent.

The upward trajectory of Austin’s overall graduation rate mirrors that of the state.

Texas, in fact, has one of the nation’s highest high school graduation rates. Its graduation rate climbed almost 10 percentage points in five years to 87.7 percent for 2012. Only one state — Iowa — had a better record that year for on-time graduations, with 89 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Nationwide, the average grad rate is 81 percent.

Getting an accurate gauge of the high school graduation rate seems like a simple task. But for years, some states and local school districts were allowed to calculate their rates by more than one method. As a result, any national figure was, at best, a rough estimate, and state-by-state comparisons were difficult and discouraged.

But beginning in 2011, the federal government mandated that all states and school districts calculate their graduation rates by counting the number of students who completed high school four years after starting ninth grade.

That meant states such as Georgia could no longer count students who took five, six or more years to complete high school. They also could no longer write off students who left school as transfers, potentially masking the magnitude of their dropout problems.

As a result, Georgia’s rate was recalculated downward more than 13 percentage points, from 80.9 percent to 67.5 percent in 2011. It’s risen since then, to 69.7 percent in 2012 and 71.5 percent in 2013.

There also was some bounceback for APS, which saw its graduation rate jump to 58.6 percent in 2013.

The rates in Texas and its local school districts weren’t affected by the federal policy change. The state has been reporting a four-year graduation rate for years, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Graduation rates factor into Texas’ school accountability ratings, and Austin closely tracks student attendance, Ratcliffe said. Parents in Austin get an automated message in the evening if their child was tardy or absent that day, she said.

In some neighborhoods, teachers visit children at home if they drop out or are at risk of quitting school, Ratcliffe said.

When they announced the 2012 grad rate last year, Austin school officials said they had implemented an early warning system to stop students headed for trouble. The system allows counselors and administrators to track student progress and step in when they see students falling behind, missing classes or facing other obstacles to long-term success, they said.

Late last week, Carstarphen put out a release highlighting some of the district’s efforts to improve student outcomes in her tenure. They included the creation of alternative graduation pathways, including an after-hours chance at recovering lost credit hours at the district’s Twilight School.

Our conclusion

Austin’s high school graduation rate has risen in Carstarphen’s tenure as school superintendent to 82.5 percent. It’s not as good as Texas’ overall graduation rate, but it is better than the national average and far better than the rates for Atlanta Public Schools and Georgia. It’s difficult to say how much of the increases can be attributed to policies she’s pushed. But it appears accurate.

We rate the statement True.

By Nancy Badertscher
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Filed under Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia State School Superintendent, Nancy Jester

With Common Core at stake, the Georgia Chamber steps in

By Jim Galloway
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Business types don’t always want to be seen consorting with office-seekers. They prefer to assess their friends and foes in private, which presumably allows plainer talk.

So the invitation from the Georgia Chamber to bear witness was a welcome surprise. And the topic itself was just as unprecedented – a first vetting of candidates for state school superintendent. Never before has the state’s premier business organization dipped into the contest. Not like this.

Then again, never before has the Chamber seen one of its major initiatives – an education push it considered both vital and uncontroversial — trashed so thoroughly by elements of Georgia’s ruling party.

The Georgia Chamber is the state’s most powerful proponent of Common Core, the multi-state initiative to set uniform, nationwide education standards in math and English for k-12 public school students.

Business is not a disinterested party: With Georgia ranking near the bottom in terms of test scores and graduation rates, employers now find it difficult to put their hands on qualified workers. Economic development suffers.

Sonny Perdue — the first Repubican in modern Georgia history — was a midwife to Common Core’s birth. Nonetheless, within the last year, the effort has been denounced by the most conservative elements of the Republican party as an effort to federalize education in the U.S.

Socialistic. Communistic. One-worldish. You name it – the adjective has been applied within tea party circles.

The Chamber put its position in writing, in a brief sent to eight invited candidates for school superintendent – one Democrat and seven Republicans. (More candidates are anticipated.)

To most of the GOP candidates, the warning didn’t matter. ”It’s centralization. Ask the Soviets how that worked out,” Nancy Jester, a former DeKalb County school board member said.

She went on to chide the business group for its poor philosophy when it came to Common Core. “Centralization is not a method that leads to success. The Chamber knows that. We know what drives success. That’s competition,” she said.

Mary Kay Bacallao, a professor of math and science education at Mercer University and a member of the Fayette County school board, has built her campaign around opposition to Common Core.

Drew Evangelista, an AT&T education learning specialist from Fulton County, declared it “fundamentally broken.” Richard Woods, a school administrator from Tifton, declared Common Core would lead us “down a path that does not promote student learning.”

Fitz Johnson of Cobb County once ran a family-owned defense contract company, and has raised more campaign cash than all of the other candidates combined – $265,000 when last reported. He finessed the question.

“Is there middle ground? I’m for rigorous standards here in the state of Georgia. And I’m for local control,” he said. But Johnson said he would implement whatever curriculum the state Board of Education approved.

Kara Willis, a Roswell Republican who ran for school superintendent in 2010 as a Libertarian, was slightly more direct. “I don’t have a problem with standards. I like them,” she said.

But the only candidate to give the Chamber a full-throated endorsement was state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell, the lone Democrat. “I absolutely support Common Core,” she said. “I’m proud of the product.”

There was one more candidate in the mix – Matt Shultz, a three-term Republican member of the Bartow County school board. He turned out to be the afternoon’s truth-teller.

It really didn’t matter what he thought of Common Core, Shultz said. In Republican circles, it’s now radioactive. He addressed the business leaders in a language they could understand. “If Common Core were a brand and I were a product manager, it would be dead on arrival. We have lost the marketing war on Common Core,” Shultz said. “That’s just a fact.”

Common Core will have to be pulled off the shelf, repackaged, and called something else, he implied. We suggest something with an Earl Gray lilt, for tea party palates. Call it “Sovereign Standards” – trademark applied for.

After the event, Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, all but conceded that a re-branding was in order.

“They all found a hole to shoot in Common Core, and that’s fine,” Clark said. “The bottom line is, are you going to support higher standards, or are you going to roll it back? We don’t want the candidates that are going to roll it back.”

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Filed under Alisha Morgan, Common Core, Georgia State School Superintendent, Nancy Jester

Kyle Wingfield, John Barge, and Common Core

By: Eric The Younger

At the beginning of October, Kyle Wingfield at the AJC had a good article (MyAJC article) about the confusion around the Common Core State Standards. As a response to this article the State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge answered several of the questions that Wingfield asked.

Why bring this up almost two months later? Mostly because Sen. Fran Millar recently tweeted out the Barge response. Here’s the link. The response was very wonkish (awesome for me, not so much for non-wonks) and four pages long, so not really a quick cut and paste kinda thing. I’ll try and hit the highlights and key points.

The first question was in regards to which set of Standards ( Common Core State Standards or Georgia Performance Standards) was stronger, as well as questions about modifying the CCSS. Barge’s answer was very long and qualified, in short it depends on which standard you’re looking at. Some of the standards are the same (81% ELA and 90% Math), some CCSS standards are more rigorous and some of the GPS standards are stronger.

The cool thing about this? We can keep/add in the GPS standards that are stronger to the CCSS standards. And that’s what we did, according to John Barge.

Then there is the standard question about state sovereignty and outside groups controlling curriculum. This is probably one of the most misunderstood parts about the CCSS. Barge’s answer?

The Common Core State Standards establish general grade level academic expectations which provide a structure for teachers. Instructional strategies and practices instituted to meet those expectations continue to be the decision of local education agencies. By adopting CCSS, Georgia has established a structure that can be adjusted as needed. The state has not agreed to shift even slightly from its stance on locally controlled decision making regarding curriculum and instruction.

Can we please stop saying teachers can’t teach anymore yet?

There are a few others that I haven’t covered that are definitely worth reading but one last one that I would like to address is one about how the CCSS would affect innovation in teaching and education. Barge has another good answer.

It is important to recognize that CCSS offers a structure in establishing academic standards for each grade level, but the standard set does not direct instructional practice. Common Core would not stifle innovation, but instead could foster effective changes as teachers across state lines share successes and novel approaches to teaching and learning.

John Barge seems to be very confused on where he stands on the issue, but he does do a fairly good job of defending the CCSS when not at a Cobb County GOP breakfast.

Nancy Jester, running for Georgia Superintendent, said in her MDJ article:

Our state spends in the top 10 nationally on education, yet, most of our education metrics hover in the bottom five. We have to admit that we need a change in leadership on educational issues in Georgia. Rigorous standards need to be adopted, but they must be part of a process that continues to innovate and is not beholden to a central authority. Georgia has a long road ahead but Common Core is not a path to prosperity.

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Filed under Common Core, Georgia Education, John Barge, Nancy Jester