Money won’t give bad schools the change they need

Given all the talk about education funding during this gubernatorial campaign, here are a few facts you may be surprised to learn.

In 2012, amid those “billion-dollar cuts” to education we keep hearing about, Georgia ranked in the middle nationally for k-12 spending per pupil: 35th overall; 29th for spending on actual instruction, and 28th for spending on teacher salaries.

As a percentage of personal income — one proxy for adjusting for cost-of-living differences — Georgia’s spending is more robust. Viewed this way, we were 11th overall; 10th for instruction, and sixth for teacher salaries. (All spending figures come from the Census Bureau and are the latest available for such comparable data.)

So maybe focusing on an input like spending isn’t the most helpful way to think about improving our schools. Maybe we should look at why the inputs aren’t producing comparable outputs in student achievement. Maybe we should look at what’s happening in between.

If we do, it’s clear that, in an election not exactly long on crisp new ideas, the one potentially transformative idea is Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to create a “recovery school district” to turn around Georgia’s worst schools.

The premise is simple. Not all traditional public schools are bad; not by a long shot. But an unacceptably large portion of them are persistently bad.

“Education as usual” hasn’t worked in these schools. They are mostly urban and more likely to serve minority students. These schools are a drag on Georgia’s school-achievement rankings — but most important, they are a drag on the future: the students’ as individuals, and ours as a state.

Giving these schools another $1,000 per child each year isn’t going to change that. Changing the way they operate might.

In Louisiana, which pioneered the recovery school district model a decade ago, this approach has produced real, sustained, unprecedented improvements in achievement. The early trend in Tennessee, which followed suit two years ago, is good.

If Georgia adopted this model, it would create a “district” whose superintendent could select low-performing schools from anywhere in the state. This person could take a range of approaches to spark improvement, but other states have found the most effective approach is converting these schools into charter schools.

Ideally, the state would be able to recruit top-notch charter operators, some of which aren’t in Georgia today, to run small clusters of three or four schools. They would have a certain amount of time to run the schools and hit specific performance targets.

Then, the transformed schools would be folded back into their local districts. One hopes these districts would not only keep successful charter operators on board, but apply what they learned to other schools.

This is not a blow against local school districts. No one gets everything right all the time. This model simply allows problematic schools to get the attention they deserve, but which their central offices can’t always give them.

Nor is it a blow against local control. After all, with control comes accountability. The latter element hasn’t been enforced, to the detriment of local students, local parents and local communities.

But it could be a blow for public education in a state that desperately needs one.

Reader Comments 0

197 comments
Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

1. Pay good teachers well.
2. Weed out ineffective teachers.

3. Stop jumping on the latest curriculum bandwagon.

4. Buy decent textbooks. Most in use are not worth the paper they're printed on.

5. If you're going to use grades, make sure they are earned.

6. Hold parents accountable for student behavior. We don't raise them.

7. Have more than a college prep track. Not every child's interest leads to college.

8. Put people in leadership positions who are actually qualified.

CommonSenseisntCommon
CommonSenseisntCommon

The younger republicans (with kids) want choice which will drain money from public schools without any discussion about what IS best for the other voters in the state.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@CommonSenseisntCommon If the "Republican" school is failing. I'm pretty sure the whole point of the proposal is to fix broken school systems which tend to be in poorer locations.


This is about creating successful schools not changing them.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Safe to say Kyle was spot on with this column.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@IReportYouWhine Nothing but more money more money more money for education will ever be good for everyone, according to the liberals. 

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Funny how no matter the subject, the conversation always gets steered into Cons confessing their hatred for anyone not like them. Today it’s the poor.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Finn-McCool 

 So I now I'm self-loathing?


We are not down on the poor. We are down on dishonest people making phony claims to rip off we taxpayers. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@Finn-McCool


Just another baseless, unsubstantiated charge. If you can't win the debate just  demonize the other side. Progressive debating tactics 101.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

I don't know how much more of the civility in here I can take. Somebody needs to drop an "f" bomb or something....

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Finn-McCool Why because money alone does not translate into educational performance? Because poverty is not always poverty?

MHSmith
MHSmith

" Yes there are people who choose to game the system."

A lot more than you will admit are gaming the system.

If I had my way there would be means testing like you would not accept to weed out these scammers and follow-ups to catch these people claiming disability, when they do things that only healthy people can do.  With hard prison time once they are caught and convicted of SS fraud.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Finn-McCool @MHSmith 

But this gaming of the system has a place in here, because these people have children who are being taught that bad conduct e.g. to cheat, lie and steal is perfectly acceptable behavior. 

Their children probably bring their parent's bad conduct to school. If not, they'll likely have low esteems.       

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@Finn-McCool @MHSmith


A statement proffered only by you Finn. If we took 100 children of bankers and 100 children of ministers you will find a few bad apples in there for sure. But you're probably much more likely to find many more bad apples from the children of 100 single parent households with an absentee father. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@MHSmith Id say its a lot fewer than you believe


The welfare queen thing is (mostly) a myth. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

You'll never get those on the left to agree with your statement Thulsa about encouragement to stay below the poverty line but it is so very true.


I live within a stone's throw of able body people, 20 years younger than me and 20 times healthier too, who don't work, claim disability, receive food stamps(SNAP), live in a section house no doubt, have an Obama-phone most likely  and probably get every other form of government assistance available. 

Now tell me there aren't people who purposely stay in or below the poverty line?  

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@MHSmith No it actually isn't at all.


NO ONE CHOOSES TO BE POOR.


Yes there are people who choose to game the system


But the overwhelming majority of people don't. 



MHSmith
MHSmith

@HeadleyLamar @MHSmith 

Between your claim  of NO ONE CHOOSES TO BE POOR and my lying eyes, I'm going to believe my lying eyes. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@MHSmith


Heck I feel like I'm living it. My girlfriend's son is on his way to becoming a bum. In the past year this kid has lost all drive and ambition to do anything. What's the problem? As I see it he's becoming the product of the environment he lives in. His stepmother got laid off 3 years ago. She applied for and lived off of unemployment for about 2 years. Had several job opportunities in the meantime but wasn't interested. I guess she was holding out for the executive VP position. Anyway, when the unemployment ran out she applied for disability. The issue- oh, you guessed it- some back pain. She hasn't worked in 3 years and doesn't want to. She'll just end up being a ward of the state. And now her bum husband is out of work and you guessed it, after a knee replacement, he is now applying for disability. Somehow or another the guy when he was working dropped his group health insurance and applied for and got Medicaid for the family. I don't know how the hell that happened but he got approved somehow. The Medicaid paid for his knee replacement and some sort of butt operation that I think had to do with his colon. All paid for by you and me the taxpayer. And we wonder why the boy quit high school, is 17, and is in no way interested in getting a job. He is seeing firsthand that you can voluntarily choose to be a bum and actually do ok.  

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@MHSmith no doubt . . . most likely . . . probably . . . i.e. you don't know, but you assume. typically conservative.

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@HeadleyLamar @MHSmith


Not true. I know several people that are quite happy being poor and have plenty of assistance. They don't have much disposable money but they can make money in the black market other ways. BTW the stepmother that I mentioned below sells her Lortabs that she gets via Medicaid for big bucks and sells room left over on her food stamp card for cash. And I've got plenty of Medicare clients on disability that could work if they absolutely had to but are quite content to not do so. Leisure time is very important to a lot of people even if it means taking a big reduction in lifestyle. There's a lot of people that have no problem driving a beater of a car if it means they can sleep late and sit around watching tv all day or going fishing. You greatly underestimate the value of leisure time to many people-especially if your other life's essentials can be paid for via govt assistance. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@MHSmith @Captain-Obvious @ThulsaDoom


What makes me mad is the progressives who refuse to acknowledge the role of incentives and disincentives in every day economic choices in life. Its as if reality does not exist. We spoke about this next door once and a poster loudly proclaimed that 99.9999% of people want to get a job- even if its just flipping burgers (LeninTime). It is that kind of denial of reality and economic choices that people make from the incentives and disincentives that are before them that is bewildering. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

@ThulsaDoom @HeadleyLamar @MHSmith 

 I'm in agreement with everything you said and are saying and a lot more. 

I know plenty of sorry people ripping the government off, who love being lazy.  



consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@ThulsaDoom 


No one denies incentives or disincentives. We just don't believe the great masses of relatively unwashed poor elect to be that way and choose to game the system to live on the safety net. 


Do some people do this - yes. 


Are they the majority - no. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

@consumedconsumer @MHSmith 

I assume nothing really, conned consumer. If you are on SS disability and have no income as, those I'm speaking of, then you get every benefit the government offers. 

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@ThulsaDoom @HeadleyLamar @MHSmith


Everyone has an anecdotal story. I know someone would define himself as a tea-party republican. He hates big government and all the moochers on welfare and food stamps. Unfortunately, he had a stroke that left him incapable of work. Now he is on the same welfare that he so despised, his wife shops with food stamps and his children get free lunches at school. Quite ironic that he is now one of the moochers whom he used to vilify. 


I do believe that there are some people out there who know how to game the system but that is true for any type of program you put in place. It shouldn't negate the fact that collecting unemployment when you lose your job, need to apply for welfare or food stamps, have your children receive free school lunches are programs to help people when they are in the most need. And the money goes straight back into economy.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Petrilli, of the Fordham Institute, said the Recovery School District has succeeded in improving education in New Orleans, and also has made important strides toward guaranteeing fairness, including equal opportunity for students in special education to choose their schools. "These leaders in New Orleans have been very thoughtful about the infrastructure you need to make this kind of a system work well," he said.


The word "success" and "school" used in the same sentence.


You don't see that often.

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@IReportYouWhine yeah, and you don't often have a hurricane destroy an entire metropolitan area and displace a lot of students allowing for a total rethinking of what you were doing before the storm.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@IReportYouWhine


Here is a quote that Mercedes Schneider quoted from her book about the truth behind the scores reported by the RSD.  You can read more at the link below. As you can see, no miracle, no success, only lies.


"Schneider, who also authored the book “A Chronicle of Echoes,” wrote on her blog, “Of the 37 RSD-NO schools with complete 2012 and 2013 SPS/letter grade information, 26 increased a letter grade as an artifact of [state superintendent] John White’s changes to the scoring system … In other words, had the same rules applied in 2013 as were applied in 2012 to grading RSD schools, then 15 schools would have received a ‘D’ instead of a ‘C,’ five would have received an ‘F’ instead of a ‘D,’ and five would have received a ‘C’ instead of a ‘B.’ Had consistent criteria been used in grading RSD-NO from 2012 to 2013, its district letter grade would have remained a ‘D.’”

RSD-NO scores were further inflated due to the fact that of the 63 schools in the 2012-2013 ratings, only 49 have complete data for both years, and only 37 have letter grades other than “T” for both years. As you know, “T” schools have no letter grades because they are considered to be in “turnaround” state and are exempt for two years. Thus, of the 64 RSD-NO schools in the 2012-2013 ratings, only 37 have the data that any school outside of RSD is expected to have for a two-year period."


http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/the-dishonest-case-for-the-new-orleans-school-reform-model/

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Poverty has been proven to be the primary factor which affects educational outcomes.  Atlanta the # 4 city in the nation for its soaring poverty level. Georgia's legislature would be wise to place focus and resources on solving the problem of poverty in Georgia. Educational improvement will soon follow.  See link below.


http://www.businessinsider.com/cities-poverty-soaring-2014-8?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_content=emailshare#4-atlanta-11

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@ThulsaDoom I realize that is your point, but to the relatively poor in the US the distinction is likely lost on them. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@MaryElizabethSings


If cause and effect were proven to be true then people like Ben Carson and Herman Cain, both of whom came from poor backgrounds, would have been condemned to poor academic performance. Moreover, many of the Asian kids in California went to the same tough inner city high schools as many blacks and Hispanics. Yet Asian kids are vastly over represented in California's college system and excel in both college and in the primary and high school grades. The problem is more cultural than anything else. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings Actually the war on poverty has been wildly successful.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/09/16/us-poverty-rate-is-still-14-5-but-yes-the-war-on-poverty-worked/


We will never eliminate crime altogether. Does that mean we stop spending money on law enforcement to keep its effects minimal. Poverty will never be eliminated completely. Its not logical to argue that it can be,


Poverty is a simple lack of money and things: so giving poor people money and things does make them less poor. By that measure the US war on poverty has done very well. It’s only the system we use to measure it that makes it look like a failure.

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


To a small degree it reduced poverty but in terms of cost benefit analysis the war on poverty has been an abysmal failure. Progressives have been claiming the War on poverty reduced poverty rates. Poverty rates in fact had declined after the war began. But this is where it gets tricky. Progressives are claiming credit for a trend that was well under way long before the war on poverty. I believe the poverty rate for blacks for example had been cut in half between 1950 and 1965. Additionally, not only was poverty overall being gradually reduced but other social indicators of well being such as the murder rate and VD rates were down dramatically in the preceding decades prior to the war on poverty. You can verify these stats via the census bureau or other govt data. The empirical data is not in dispute.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Captain-Obvious 


No, we haven't been "waging an unsuccessful war on poverty since the mid 1960s at the national level."  You have been misinformed by propaganda. The truth is that LBJ's "War on Poverty" was doing a great job in the 1960s and part of the 1970s to lift Americans from poverty, but that focus changed 35 years ago. I recall how LBJ's "War on Poverty" lifted many African-Americans in south Georgia from the "dirt-floored shacks" which some were forced to live in during Jim Crow.  However, since the 1980s, since Republicans have held political power, concentrated focus and resources given to lifting people from poverty has ceased. The Republican focus and national agenda during these decades has been on acquiring wealth for oneself. This self-serving agenda has affected the poverty level of many citizens in the U. S., adversely, and, as a result, has also adversely affected educational outcomes for children who have lived in poverty during these decades.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@HeadleyLamar


See below, Headley, for my more qualified analysis about the lackluster fight against poverty in America since the 1980s.

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


Poverty is relative. And there are very few people here in the U.S. who experience absolute poverty. As a matter of fact poor people today enjoy many amenities and material goods that exceed the standard of living of middle class people in 1970- a fact verified by census bureau data. 


If you want to see true, abject poverty go to Guatemala and you'll see it. I'm talking about a family of 5 living in a lean to, the 3 kids with bloated stomachs from malnutrition, etc. I've yet to see kids here with bloated stomachs due to malnutrition. I do see a few poor kids with big stomachs and big butts from eating too much though. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


The empirical evidence does indicate the war on poverty not only has been a failure but it may have in fact encouraged people to stay below the poverty line to receive benefits. 

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@ThulsaDoom Why do we want to compare the US (who we are told is the greatest and wealthiest nation on Earth) with Guatemala? Shouldn't the standard of living here be higher for all Americans or is the status quo fine by you all things being relative and all?

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@MaryElizabethSings


Again. Poverty is relative. The average poor person in the U.S. has more square footage of living space than the average middle class Frenchman or German. And in terms of material wealth the average poor person here has more material wealth than the average middle class American did in 1970. Moreover, in almost all income and poverty studies poverty is defined as a monetary income threshold such as $14k per year for a family of 4. It does factor in or include food stamps, cash, subsidized housing, subsidized utilities, fully subsidized health care, and other resources. Most studies that I've seen the economic resources provided to families via govt assistance and transfer programs usually accounts for 70-74% of the total economic resources at their disposal. Counting these economic resources completely changes the picture as to what constitutes truly poor in this nation of bounty. There are indeed some truly poor and desperate people in the U.S. But there numbers are very, very few.  

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Captain-Obvious @HeadleyLamar @MaryElizabethSings The poverty level in this country has wavered back and forth between 14% and 18% even since we began that war against it during the Johnson administration.


If you had read the article you would have learned how that number isn't important. We changed the way we measure poverty. So that number is meaningless.

332-206
332-206

@consumedconsumer @IReportYouWhine No kidding'. To me, the US wealth transfer for the ages was 2006-->2010. And for 90% of Americans, there's been no recovery.


So let's hold hearings on the NFL...

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@ThulsaDoom @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings And that is nonsense as well. 


I know people on food stamps. They aren't proud of it. 


I can remember the same on kids faces when they had to show their card to get a free lunch.


There are some that are inherently lazy yes. But most people want to make a living wage and the dignity of work. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@HeadleyLamar @ThulsaDoom @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


I get that Hedley. There used to be a time when it was shameful to be on the dole as they used to say. And we as kids never used to tease the kids who had food stamp cards. You would have to be a complete jacka$$ to do so. But the element of shame has been eliminated and now the mentality seems to be one of entitlement. And allow me to differentiate- there's no shame to me in an adult or family going through a rough patch in their life where they need a helping hand. That's what the safety net is there for. The shame should be reserved for those people that have no problem making it a lifestyle choice. And sadly there are more and more of those people and no social stigmatization of people willingly adopting this lifestyle choice. 

ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@Finn-McCool @ThulsaDoom @HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


Most of those people as you probably know are mentally ill. If you went out and got a burger flipper job at $9 an hour and then got a 2nd job working part time about 20 hours a week for the same amount it would be practically impossible not to be able to afford a small apartment for yourself. 60 hours a week at $9 an hour is $2338 a month before taxes. Practically anyone can do that. Illegal immigrants who are illiterate in their own language let alone ours brave death in a desert to come here and do it every day Finn. 

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

@Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


Again your statement is categorically false...I am guessing that is why you have no supporting data.


Let me help you out...


"In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent."


So net net...poverty declined from the late 50's until 1980...whatever could have happened then to reverse the trend. 


So what next...


"For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, increasing to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it rose each year to 12.7 in 2004."


Now what happened in the early 90's to reverse that trend...I wonder...then look at that it changes again in in the early 2000's....hummmm bet there is a correlation there somewhere...actually two if you look closely. 


http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/#3



ThulsaDoom
ThulsaDoom

@TheRealJDW @Captain-Obvious @MaryElizabethSings


And you do realize that after the initial drop in poverty rates brought on by the war on poverty that after a few years that poverty rates started climbing back up again. You do realize that right? Bottom line is that we spent an inordinate amount of money to get a "temporary" reduction in poverty before rates began going up again. All in all a waste of money.