Category Archives: Opportunity School District

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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Filed under Bibb County, Georgia Education, Opportunity School District

OSD – Governer Deal and the Business Community

Georgia citizens will be voting on the Opportunity School District (OSD) this November. Supporters see this as a way for the state to finally step in do something about perpetually failing schools. Opponents liken this effort to the charter school movement and the privatization of public education.

Educators circled the wagons in opposition to OSD last year. Governor Deal has been busy spending a lot of money on education but slow out of the gate in garnering support for his amendment. Dave Williams writes about the Governor’s plea to the affluent Atlanta business community to support the Opportunity School District referendum. Half of Atlanta Public Schools, by the way, qualify as perpetually failing and are on the list to potentially be taken over.

Gov. Deal asks for business support of school takeover vote
By: Dave Williams covers Government

Gov. Nathan Deal appealed to Atlanta’s business community Monday to help build support for a referendum this fall on a proposal to let the state take over chronically failing schools.

The National Education Association is preparing to spend $1.5 million on an ad campaign opposing a constitutional amendment passed by the General Assembly last year, Deal told members of the Atlanta Rotary Club.

“I don’t understand why people are satisfied with a status quo of chronically under-performing schools,” the governor said. “It is not a power grab by me, as they will argue. … It is a critical step for us to change the dynamics of our education system.”

If voters ratify the constitutional change in November, the state would be permitted to intervene in schools that score below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) for three straight years. Such persistent failure would put those schools under the supervision of a statewide “opportunity” school district that would operate them through the governor’s office.

Deal said there are nearly 140 schools that meet those criteria statewide, schools that serve nearly 75,000 students. He cited statistics showing that students relegated to such schools are more likely to end up in prison than students who attend higher-achieving schools.

“Their chances of graduating [high school] are significantly diminished,” he said. “Chances are they’re going to become the fodder of our prison system.”

The legislation cleared the General Assembly largely along party lines. Democrats argued giving the state the power to take over failing schools wouldn’t solve the underlying problems of poverty and under-investment in education affecting student progress.

But the constitutional amendment won widespread support from business groups, picking up endorsements from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and others.

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Filed under Legislation, Nathan Deal, Opportunity School District

Education groups lining up to fight Georgia governor’s plan for failing schools

Both sides of the aisle are clearing the education table for the fight over the Opportunity School District (OSD) constitutional amendment vote in December.

The Governor’s Education Reform Commission released its final report last month. Some parts, like merit pay for teachers, are more controversial for others. In preparation for the battle on OSD, the Deal team has decided to push these initiatives to next year. Furthermore, it would appear the Governor is attempting to cozy up to the educational establishment by increasing state funding and insisting on a 3% raise for teachers across Georgia.

Education SPLOST, a 1% sales tax for capital projects, vote has been moved from Nov to May 2016 for all metro Atlanta school districts (although I’m not sure that announcement has been made yet). School districts want to clear their plate for the fight against OSD. There will also be a number of Transportation SPLOST votes on the ballot in November and school districts want to avoid any confusion between all of these issues.

Lee Shearer with Online Athens reports on the education establishment circling the wagons in preparation for the fight against OSDs.

By LEE SHEARER

Education groups across the state are gearing up to campaign against the proposed Opportunity School District constitutional amendment that Georgia voters vote on in November.

If passed, the legislation allows Gov. Nathan Deal to pick up to 20 schools a year, up to a total of 100, from across the state in a special school district for schools labeled as poor performers that would be run through the governor’s office, under the supervision of a superintendent picked by the governor.

One Clarke County school, Gaines Elementary, is among the 120 named by the governor as possible candidates for the district because of low pass rates on state achievement tests.

Some 20 organizations are meeting to develop a coordinated statewide strategy, according to Karen Solheim of Athens, president of the Georgia Association of Educators’ retired teachers organization.

Solheim met with the Clarke County Board of Education’s legislative committee Tuesday, along with Valarie Wilson, executive director of the Georgia School Boards Association, who attended the meeting via telephone.

The Clarke County school board is already on record as opposing the school district; turning back the so-called OSD is one of the legislative priorities for this year adopted by the full school board at a meeting earlier this month.

But the school board and board members have to limit their roles to education, said the board’s lawyer, Michael Pruitt. State law prohibits the board from advocacy on legislation and from spending tax money for advocacy, he told them.

State legislators last year voted to put the OSD question on ballots in this November’s general election, and also authorized a bill that partly outlined how the OSD would work.

The governor’s Opportunity School District superintendent could choose four options for schools whose low scores landed them in the OSD, including one that would remove them permanently from local control, although local school boards are required to provide school buildings and equipment for the OSD school and to contract with the OSD to provide services such as transportation to any local schools pulled into the OSD.

The options include “shared governance” of the troubled school between the governor’s superintendent and the local school board; a simple takeover of the school by the state; converting the school into a state charter school; and as a last resort closing the school.

If the governor’s superintendent takes the charter school route, the schools would be set up as nonprofit corporations with a board of directors appointed by the governor’s superintendent, with the authority to hire a for-profit private company to operate the school.

Schools converted to charter schools might not ever return to a local school board’s control, even if they began to post passing grades on an A-F grading scale the state is creating. They will be eligible to remain state charter schools, under the supervision of their state-appointed boards, according to legislation the state General Assembly adopted last year.

But except for money details, the governor’s office has not revealed how the overall process will work, Wilson said.

“None of that has been shared at all,” she said.

The Georgia School Boards Association hired a consultant to examine “growth” rates at more than 100 schools Gov. Deal identified last year as candidates for the OSD. That consultant found that the OSD candidate schools showed on average more growth from year to year than top schools, Wilson said.

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Atlanta looks to charter schools to manage its worst schools

If Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District (OSD) passes this year, almost half the schools in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) could be taken over. The school district would in turn lose almost half its state and local funding.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is circling the wagons and last year hired Deal education adviser Erin Hames, an architect of the Opportunity District. The district’s plan to keep the money is to beat the OSD to the punch and turn the failing schools into charters under the governance of APS.

Molly Bloom with the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Atlanta school district leaders could put some of the city’s worst schools under the management of charter school groups before the state does it for them.

Just before the December vacation, Atlanta Public Schools formally announced it was seeking organizations like charter school operators, local nonprofits and companies that run charter schools to improve the performance of the schools that could fall under Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District, if voters approve the plan this fall.

If the plan is approved, the state would be able take over a limited number of Georgia’s lowest performing schools and close them, run them or convert them to charter schools.

Atlanta’s proposal comes even though some members of a parent advisory committee on how to turn around Atlanta schools said they didn’t support bringing in charter school operators.

Atlanta schools need to improve quickly, Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan said. “If that means doing some controversial things, then that means we have to do it.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said he was “deeply skeptical” of the Atlanta’s proposal to bring in charter groups.

“One would hope that the superintendent would have a clear view and vision of how to solve the problem instead of farming it out to an outside company or entity,” he said.

The school board is scheduled to consider hiring groups in March. Anyone hired could begin work as early as this fall.

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Filed under Atlanta Public Schools, Opportunity School District, School Choice

Atlanta, DeKalb Schools Try To Ward Off Potential State Takeover

Some Atlanta-area communities could lose control of their struggling schools if voters approve a plan proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal next fall. The two districts with the most schools at risk are DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools. The pressure is on, and the districts are pulling out all the stops to avoid a potential state takeover.

Pressure To Perform 

At a recent DeKalb school board meeting, Morcease Beasley, DeKalb’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, explained the district’s plan to avoid a potential state takeover.

“Not only [will we have] additional support for academics through our student success tutors, our Georgia Milestones mentors and after-school extended-day programs, we also have our engagement coaches that are strategically placed at various schools, our student success coaches, our post-secondary transition specialists that help by improving the graduation rate,” he said.

Beasley took almost 20 minutes to explain the entire plan. DeKalb has identified 54 schools that could be vulnerable to a potential takeover. Beasley’s challenge is making sure they all improve enough this year to avoid that possibility.

Tosha Croom teaches at Columbia Middle School, which is on the list of 54 schools. Her students vary widely in their academic abilities. Columbia is a magnet school for high achievers, but it also has a large percentage of children from poor households.

“It’s hard to teach a child when a parent tells you, ‘You know, Mrs. Croom, I can’t read,’” she said. “And that kid is the sweetest kid; they’re not the troublemaker. So, I will be intrigued to see what the state comes up with that we’re not already doing.”

An Unclear Alternative

Croom is active in her classroom. She walks to every corner, talks to individual children and makes sure they understand. Because her students are constantly assessed, she’s also honest with them about their progress. She explains their performance on a recent test.

“These three standards, as an eighth-grade class, 48.3 percent mastered those standards,” she tells her class.

Scores like these put the school at risk of a potential state takeover. So, teachers at Columbia decided to turn testing into a competition. The class with the highest scores next time will get a pizza party.

If it works and helps improve the school faster, that’s good news for Deal.

“Nothing would please me better than for us to have no chronically failing schools in the state of Georgia, and that the constitutional amendment would simply be something we could put in the closet and never have to use,” Deal said at a recent conference of educational leaders.

It’s hard to teach a child when a parent tells you, ‘You know, Mrs. Croom, I can’t read.’ –Tosha Croom, 8th grade English/Language Arts teacher at DeKalb’s Columbia Middle School.

Deal says there are 139 failing school now that could be targeted for takeover if voters say “yes” to his plan next year.

“So, as you work hard to get those schools in your systems off the list, just know that the state board, school superintendent’s office, the governor’s office, will be there to help you,” he said. “We want you to do it.”

Columbia Middle School’s principal, Keith Jones, said he’d welcome that kind of help.

“If the state has some initiatives they know will work, I wish they would share them with us now,” he said. “I mean, if they have something special that they have, they’re going to come in and take us from ‘focus,’ to just a regular, traditional school, we would like to know so we can implement it now.”

Some details of the potential state takeover plan are yet to be determined. Officials say some decisions would depend on the needs of the individual schools, but money would play a big role. A takeover could deeply cut into the budgets of systems like DeKalb and Atlanta. Money that would go to individual schools would instead go to the state to run them.

Committing To Change

That threat is enough for APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen to hold town hall meetings about failing schools. More than 100 people showed up at a recent meeting at APS headquarters, where Carstarphen was challenged by some community members. Parent Michelle Head said she was tired of hearing officials talk about change, especially in the wake of the test-cheating scandal.

“These are our children. These are our schools. This is our city. These are our neighborhoods, and we’ve all invested our time, our energy in trying to save all of this,” she said. “You haven’t invested anything in this; you’re just getting paid a salary. This is our life. This is our life’s blood. When you’re gone, we’re all still going to be here.”

But Carstarphen said she’s committed to improving APS.

“It’s a broken system,” she said. “I don’t know why, as a community, we don’t understand that Atlanta Public Schools is effectively broken. We have the lion’s share of every problem you could possibly imagine in urban public schools. But I am here. This is my community. They are my babies and my children, and I expect of myself to do a good job with or without the support of anyone else.”

But she does have some support. APS hired a consulting group to help develop a plan for low-performing schools. It’s also hired one of Deal’s former advisers, who designed the takeover plan. But Carstarphen made it clear to the crowd — state takeover or not — it’s time for huge improvements in APS.

“I try not to judge people, but I will say this: I know what I do in my life,” she said. “I know that I care about Atlanta. I know I didn’t come here by accident. I’m from Selma. I’m Black. I have seen what has happened to our children, and I can’t stand it for this city. I cannot stand it. We cannot do this to our Black community, and it’s got to be fixed.”

APS says 26 of its schools — or 60 percent — would qualify for state intervention if the governor’s plan were signed into law today.

With so much money at stake, heavy lobbying is expected in the coming year by supporters and opponents of the takeover idea. But school systems aren’t waiting for the vote count and have already started their own improvement plans.

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Filed under Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb Schools, Nathan Deal, Opportunity School District

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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Voters set to decide on a plan for failing schools Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Voters set to decide on a plan for failing schools

MARIETTA — Cobb’s lawmakers mostly supported a bill that would establish a statewide school district for failing schools, although some were adamantly opposed to it.

A constitutional amendment to officially approve the district will go to Georgia voters in November 2016.

Senate Bill 133 seeks to create an “Opportunity School District,” which would give the state the authority to take over 20 schools per year deemed to be failing if they score below a 60 on the College and Career Performance Index three years in a row, according to the governor’s office.

Senate Bill 133 passed the Georgia Senate 38-17 on March 5 and the House on Wednesday by a vote of 108-53.

Cobb’s state representatives mostly voted along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure and all Democrats — except Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) — voting against it.

“I voted in favor of the bill because we have students who are sitting in schools that are failing them, and we owe it to those students to try another way to turn those schools around,” Evans said.

Evans said she doesn’t think education is a partisan issue.

“I look at each measure on its merits without regard to the party that proposed it and, to me, this is a proposal that’s a step in the right direction to help students,” Evans said. “It’s as simple as that.”

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), who chairs the Senate Education Committee and cosponsored both the bill and resolution, said he supports the bill because the state cannot let schools continue to fail, yet he noted fixing the problem isn’t going to be an easy task.

“I won’t tell you that I think it’s a perfect bill, but overall, I think it’s a step we’re going to have to take to address schools that are constantly failing (and) either lack the ability or the inclination to raise performance standards,” Tippins said.

Tippins, a former Cobb school board chairman, said he doesn’t think the state is always the answer for schools with performance issues. Instead, he said the state should assess schools on an individual basis to see what is causing them to underperform.

“I think there are a variety of reasons why schools fail, and I won’t say that every low-performing school, the state can step in and fix it,” Tippins said, noting local superintendents and administrators should be a part of the process.

“I think the school takeover ought to absolutely be the last resort,” he said.

State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) said he voted for the bill because he believes the Legislature has a responsibility to all students, not just those in their respective districts.

“We are blessed to have two fine school systems with two school boards which are responsive to the needs of parents and students in our community. Not every community has that,” Teasley said. “In the communities where schools have consistently underperformed and are not making progress, I believe we have a duty to step in and do what is best for the student.”

BALLOT MEASURE

Because the measure would require a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers also voted on Senate Resolution 287, which would send the amendment to the November 2016 ballot to be voted on by Georgia citizens.

Voters will answer the following yes or no question: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

Senate Resolution 287 passed the Georgia Senate 38-15 and the Georgia House 121-47.

State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) voted against the bill and said the wording of the ballot measure is too vague.

“It’s going to say, ‘Do you want to let us help you fix failing schools?’ Who’s going to vote against that?” Wilkerson said. “The only way a constitutional amendment fails is if it has the word ‘tax’ in it.”

As it stands now, Wilkerson said he expects it to pass the resolution because it doesn’t explain what would be approved, noting how different it is from when people run for office.

“The ballot doesn’t say, ‘Do you want to re-elect David Wilkerson to continue to fight for your values and do the best possible job any legislator could ever do?’ It doesn’t say that, but that’s the equivalent to what these constitutional amendments say,” Wilkerson said. “The wording on a ballot should tell people what it does.”

Likewise, Evans also thinks it will pass. She said parents are usually more concerned with how a school is doing rather than who is in charge of it.

“So, if the school’s not doing well, I think they’d be excited and welcome someone else is coming in and trying something different to turn that school around,” Evans said. “So, I think it has a very high chance of passage.”

The Opportunity School District, made up of struggling schools, would have its own superintendent who reports to the governor and would have the ability to either control the management of the school personally, share management with the local school board, convert it into a charter school or close the school.

Wilkerson said he is concerned the bill will give too much power to the governor, who already appoints the state school board.

“It adds another layer of bureaucracy that people will not have an opportunity to manage,” Wilkerson said. “As a legislator, it makes me feel like we have now turned over all responsibility to the governor for those schools.”

ASSESSING SCORES

The governor’s office has identified 141 schools in the state — about 6 percent of all schools — that would be eligible based on their performing index scores.

If the amendment passes, the new district’s superintendent could choose as many as 20 schools per year and the district would be limited to 100 schools at any one time. The schools would stay in the district for no less than five years, but no more than 10, according to the governor’s office.

Based on the standard laid out by the governor, none of the schools in Marietta City Schools or the Cobb County School District would qualify as “failing.”

Wilkerson said he is also skeptical of how the schools are determined to be “chronically failing,” noting the state’s measurement tool — the College and Career Performance Index — is a vague indicator of academic success.

“If you ask people what goes into the CCRPI score, they will not be able to tell you,” Wilkerson said. “There’s some serious issues with the underlying data that we’re using to measure these schools.”

Wilkerson pointed to the School Climate Star Ratings — which measures the “culture” of a school by evaluating its social, emotional and physical safety — as a key example of state scores not being indicative of true performance.

Argyle Elementary School received 1 out of 5 stars, which means it has an “unsatisfactory” school climate.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said at the time Argyle Elementary received 1 star because not enough parents participated in the surveys.

“The actual reason is less than 15 participants returned the surveys for that entire school. When you don’t meet a minimum number of surveys, your score is actually lowered,” Ragsdale said. “So that one school that received the 1 star was due to not enough parents returning the surveys.”

Wilkerson said that was a prime example of how scores and reality do not always align.

“So, you’re telling me that a school can be a great school but because your parents either don’t want to or not be able to — whatever the reason was they did not turn those forms in — you’re telling me the school climate is below average and you’re punishing the schools for something the parents should be doing themselves,” Wilkerson said.

State Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta) voted against both the bill and resolution. He said they don’t leave leeway for schools that might be “chronically failing” but improving their scores.

“Some schools may be improving and show a progression, but would those schools be allowed to continue their progression or would they be taken over by the state?” Rhett asked.

Ragsdale also cautioned against identifying a school by a single, standardized test score.

“I think that we’re approaching a slippery slope where we’re allowing students and/or schools to become nothing more than a test score,” Ragsdale has said, noting it is a dangerous path to go down because there are many factors that go into whether a student, school or district is successful or not.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Voters set to decide on a plan for failing schools

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