The art of the hands-off school ‘takeover’

Kindergartners at Arthur Ashe Charter School in New Orleans. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

Kindergartners at Arthur Ashe Charter School in New Orleans. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s template for turning around chronically failing schools does, strictly speaking, involve a state takeover. But what happens after the intervention is something different altogether.

“Takeover” conjures images of state bureaucrats filing in the schoolhouse door, carrying briefcases stuffed with plans for micromanagement. John White, Louisiana’s schools superintendent knows all about that kind of takeover, because he lived through one in Jersey City, N.J., more than 20 years ago.

Up there, he told a delegation from Georgia studying Louisiana’s Recovery School District last week, the number of principals and bureaucrats doubled. What Louisiana is doing — and what Gov. Nathan Deal wants Georgia to do as well — “is so different from a state takeover,” White said.

In New Orleans, the idea is for the state to identify perennially low-performing schools and match them up with new operators (whether charter-school operators or otherwise). Then the state stands back, lets that new operator get to work, and holds it accountable for its results.

The person specifically empowered in this arrangement is the school’s principal, whether that person is held over from the previous regime or replaced. The idea is to give put more authority into the principal’s hands, especially over funding, curriculum and instruction, and hiring and firing staff.

Crucial decision-making power is moved from the central office to the school. Not a state agency.

At Esperanza Charter School, principal Nicole Saulny made it clear her authority manifests itself in many ways. When new children show up with special needs or language challenges (60 percent of the school’s students are Hispanic; almost half of its kindergartners don’t speak English when they show up), Saulny moves money around to make things work. When dentistry students from LSU volunteer to work on kids’ mouths, Saulny doesn’t need permission from a central-office bureaucrat to say yes.

“That’s the good thing about being a charter,” she said. “I don’t have to go through a bunch of red tape. I’ve got the authority to do what I need for my kids.” Her school has gone from a rating of D-minus to a B since she arrived three years ago.

One of the Georgians on the trip asked why Louisiana doesn’t give all public schools the same autonomy. Recovery School District superintendent Patrick Dobard said school districts can have the autonomy if they’ll accept the same kind of accountability his schools face. But, he quickly added, no district has accepted that offer.

Yet, accountability is critical to this reform model, said Paul Pastorek, a past state schools superintendent in Louisiana.

“You give this new operator … some running room, but not a lot of running room,” he said, adding that the state has to make one thing clear: “If you don’t make progress, we’ll replace you. And we’ll replace and replace until we get it right.”

If all this sounds like an infringement on local control, Pastorek argued local districts can’t be allowed to tolerate failure indefinitely. In any case, White said, the Louisiana model moves authority toward the community, not away from it.

“In New Orleans, we have schools run by educators that are chosen by parents,” White said. “It’s the most local of school systems that exists.”

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44 comments
ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

Kyle, you are well aware that the state already has a mandate for school districts to choose a flexibility model (either charter system or IE2) or status quo by June. 

Those flexibility models are to seek relief from state bureaucracy (or not).

Before that has a chance to fully play out, why would we need a "heavy"? The state has already acknowledged that its own rules may have hamstrung local school districts.

These seem like competing initiatives to me. To take over any school in any district that has recently declared their intention to pursue one of the flexibility models is woefully premature.

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

The moment this legislation passes millions of dollars pass from our traditional public schools to the network of charter/choice funders, support organizations, authorizers and operators. The important thing to watch if KIPP, Success, Uncommon Schools or Achievement First rush to rural Georgia.  I am predicting that they will not. They pick and choose schools the way Chipotle chooses locations which is a big part of their success. That's why their owners are multimillionaires. They take the same amount of money the state, local and federal governments pay per student to public schools, become very rich and then operate charter schools which do not significantly improve educational outcomes. What a business.


I am more concerned that our rural failing schools will attract the Gulen/Hizmet charter operators which is the largest charter school business in America. This loose confederation of school operators founded by a Turkish Islamic extremist cleric living large in exile in Pennsylvania would not be my first choice to be Georgia #1 or USA #1. But you never can tell in Georgia.


Instead of supporting these millionaires why not create a multitude of Georgia teacher thousandaires?

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

With a 159 examples of school systems, the talking heads don't know what works ? 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Georgia liberals:  Stuck on stupid, stuck on the status quo, stuck on doing nothing...

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.  And since you can't win any elections, your choices are down to follow or get out of the way. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout Do you consider copying probably the worst school system in the country smart ?


You statement does apply to the decision to not expand medicaid however. 

straker
straker

Kyle, could Georgia try this out on a relatively small scale for a few years to make sure it actually works?


If it does then it could become state wide.


If not, then not too much damage has been done.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker The bill caps the number that can go into the OSD at no more than 20/year, 100 at any time. Most likely, they'd start even smaller than that to make sure they get it right.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"One of the Georgians on the trip asked why Louisiana doesn’t give all public schools the same autonomy. Recovery School District superintendent Patrick Dobard said school districts can have the autonomy if they’ll accept the same kind of accountability his schools face."


So, more autonomy means greater accountability???  


I think I'm missing part of the equation there, like this rep.  

"If it's so good, why not do it for the whole state?"


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude Yes, the offer was the same autonomy in exchange for the same accountability. The other districts didn't want it.

As for why not do it for the whole state, ask those critics who are intent on limiting the program as much as possible.

HarryCrews
HarryCrews

Mr. Wingfield:

Personally, I look at this takeover as state government treating public schools (and children) as the "roads and bridges" contracts for a new millennium. Imagine the money that could be raised for the general fund awarding state contracts to "providers" of public school services: Building, maintenance, supplies, food, employees, etc. etc. These "new operators (whether charter-school operators or otherwise)", could they be compared to defense contractors and the privateers of the military (Halliburton et. al.) that emerged post WWll to make our military that most expensive one in the world? How's that worked out for the last 70 years? The argument for that "local districts can’t be allowed to tolerate failure indefinitely" is presented by Paul Pastorak? Sidebar: Pastornak is a now a VA based attorney after working in the Federal Government since leaving LA schools. Who are his clients now? They aren't the children of Louisiana anymore. You are aware that Mr. Pastornak represented John White as defense counsel in a court proceeding regarding Common Core. White is attempting to implement the Common Core program in Louisiana despite reservations from various groups who fear federal intervention - including Governor Jindall, Governor Deal, the entire GA GOP legislature and you? Isn't this strange?

What if these "specifically empowered" (school rescuers), "whether ... held over from the previous regime or replaced" are nothing but bureaucrats and salespeople for these corporations? Whose interest will they be looking out for: stockholders? taxpayers? Or, heaven forbid - their custom ..., er, children?

My question(s) to you is/are: In your opinion, is there anything, at all, negative about the OSD proposal? You certainly haven't enunciated any. Were you paid by any other entity besides the AJC to accompany GOP lawmakers to New Orleans? Did any other entity other than the AJC provide gifts? Favors? Meals or Entertainment during your stay. If so, did the meals and/or entertainment and per diem fall within the federal government's approved tax deductible rate of $151 for lodging and $71 for meals and entertainment in New Orleans? If the answer to any of these questions are yes, was there an implication that for these "gifts" you would provide a favorable opinion of the trip and the OSD resolution into the paper? Have you made any agreement with the Office of the Governor, the state GOP or any other entity (besides the AJC) to provide favorable opinion leading up to 2016 ballot in exchange for anything?

Do you feel, that as a city and metropolitan statistical area that Atlanta has more in common with New Orleans instead of say, Charlotte or Nashville or another business center who's economy is not tourist based and whose local and state governments have been embroiled in questionable, criminal (organized crime even) activities since time immemorial? In short, is New Orleans, in any similar to Atlanta?
According to the right-leaning, Business Insider website, the top 10 school public districts in the country are:
Edgemont School District — Edgemont, New York
Jericho Union Free School District — Jericho, New York
Tredyffrin/Easttown School District — Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania
Lower Merion School District — Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Scarsdale Union Free School District — Scarsdale, New York
Great Neck School District — Great Neck, New York
Pittsford Central School District — Pittsford Town, NY
Rye City School District — Rye, New York
North Allegheny School District — Wexford, Pennsylvania
Chappaqua Central School District — Chappaqua, New York
Can you offer an opinion as to why the Governor's office looks to a long term, consistently lowest performing school district in the country for ideas regarding how to improve Georgia public schools instead of looking at at those with a history of success that didn't need to implement some unproven draconian takeover measure?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HarryCrews I'll answer your mostly ridiculous questions.

"in your opinion, is there anything, at all, negative about the OSD proposal?  You certainly haven't enunciated any."

Actually, I have written some somewhat negative things, or at least pointed out some criticisms that have been made about it. But to be very specific: With any large reform, there's the possibility of getting things wrong. Execution is key, and even well-meaning people can make mistakes. But I think the general idea is a good one, and I'd rather see the state try it than not.

"Were you paid by any other entity besides the AJC to accompany GOP lawmakers to New Orleans?"

No.

"Did any other entity other than the AJC provide gifts? Favors? Meals or Entertainment during your stay."

No.

"If so, did the meals and/or entertainment and per diem fall within the federal government's approved tax deductible rate of $151 for lodging and $71 for meals and entertainment in New Orleans?"

N/A

"If the answer to any of these questions are yes, was there an implication that for these "gifts" you would provide a favorable opinion of the trip and the OSD resolution into the paper?"

N/A

"Have you made any agreement with the Office of the Governor, the state GOP or any other entity (besides the AJC) to provide favorable opinion leading up to 2016 ballot in exchange for anything?"

No.

If you cannot conceive of someone supporting an idea that you don't support, that's a failure on your part, not mine.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@HarryCrews Can you offer an opinion as to why the Governor's office looks to a long term, consistently lowest performing school district in the country for ideas regarding how to improve Georgia public schools instead of looking at at those with a history of success that didn't need to implement some unproven draconian takeover measure?


Because the goal is not to improve school performance


Its to move from public to private ( charters )

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@HarryCrews I hate to say it Harry but i've had some of the same concerns.


When they move schools in Georgia from public to private the main concern will be the profitability of the charter schools. Not how well they are doing. They can make it look like they are doing great a la Louisiana. 


And you have to wonder how many pockets are getting lined. We already know the Governor of this state is a crook. 

ajcandrejackson
ajcandrejackson

@HarryCrews I'm Kyle Wingfield's boss. Allow me to answer your allegation about whether Kyle's on the take, as we used to say in my old neighborhood up North. That answer is -- Hell no! No entity other than the AJC pays Kyle -- to influence his opinions or anything else. I hope this answers your question. We welcome brisk, even rancorous debate around here. However, since you impugn Kyle's integrity as well as the AJC's, consider yourself banned.

Best regards,

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Charter boards in Georgia, by law, must be non-profits. They can contract with for-profit companies to provide certain services, such as management, just as they contract with for-profit companies to provide certain goods, such as textbooks.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@ajcandrejackson @HarryCrews This type of knee jerk reaction really doesn't help.


Frankly Kyles zeal to move Georgia's schools to a for profit  Charter school system is worrisome


I don't believe he is on the take however. Just incredibly wrong. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Does buying something turn you into a profit center?

If you really think so, that would explain a lot ...

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Sounds like a plan, something that has been missing for years, unless you call sending them more money a plan. 

straker
straker

Headley - "see, it is a miracle"


And, best of all, they don't get busted for cheating.

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

I don't know where Wingfield gets his glowing individual student performance reports. They don't exist in any serious charter school analysis I have read. The CREDO/Stanford study of charters in 27 states this:

"...while the actual degree of autonomy that charter schools enjoy differs from place to place, they typically have more freedom than local TPS (Traditional Public Schools) to structure their operations and allocate resources to address the needs of their students. Even with this decentralized degree of control, we do not see dramatic improvement among existing charter schools over time. In other words, the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools."


A most interesting piece of this study shows that predominately white and Asian charters show the lowest overall growth in individual student performance growth. Their students were higher performing going in because their parents were high performing. These schools are resting on their laurels the day they are formed. And their students are challenged the least. What a shame.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@WilJohnson I was talking about individual progress in the RSD schools in New Orleans.

But since you bring up the CREDO study, I remain baffled that people who want to see improvement in the educations offered to minority, poor and ELL students continue to cite a study that shows charter schools ... improve the educations offered to minority, poor and ELL students.

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

@Kyle_Wingfield @WilJohnson Don't be baffled. I study and cite CREDO because it shows that  traditional public schools and charters in minority, poor and ELL communities are both failing and that over time there is no evidence that charters make any real difference. Fix our existing public schools. Failing slightly better is not an attractive option.

Model any of our top 10 states and study their public school organizations. Make the people we are paying now earn their pay and improve these schools.If it means better principals, better teachers, better incentives, better training, better standards, better food, better books…. then make it happen. Fire some people. Lead. Hold your existing school bureaucracy accountable. Fully fund Pre-K.Fund daycare initiatives.

I don't want Georgia to be a slightly less backward state. I want Georgia to be in the top 10. Why not education? Why don't you want to lead us there?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@WilJohnson I am for those things that I think will lead to significant improvement. What's ironic is the items on your list -- make people earn their pay and improve schools; get better principals, teachers, incentives, training, standards, etc.; fire some people; hold the bureaucracy accountable -- are goals this legislation is trying to address.

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

@Kyle_Wingfield @WilJohnson We don't need new legislation. We need Gov. Deal and his education team to be held accountable. The irony is that we allow his lack of leadership, vision and funding to hide behind this new legislative smokescreen. And you've become  an important enabler.





Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Sounds like somebody is going to be left behind.....

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

This is what we have now in GA, a bunch of folk doing what they want instead of what they should.

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

We’ll replace and replace and replace until we get it right.Now there’s a real vision for educational excellence.

Our broken schools were broken four years ago when Deal slashed their budgets.They'll be broken four years from now. Deal is shuffling the choice, charter, and traditional school deck chairs on the Titanic to appear to be doing something.

I am ashamed that we are looking to the bottom of the barrel for inspiration. Going from a D to a B in Louisiana is going from the lowest rung of the ladder to the next lowest rung. From a Z to an X. Georgia should be aiming higher

Nationwide 75% of choice school operators perform no better or worse than our existing public schools. In the most broken communities this number is much higher along with charter school closures. The best choice/charter school operators in the US will have nothing to do with Georgia’s under-performing schools. They prefer communities with more fully vested and informed parents, and they control for that. Go figure. 


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Many New Orleans students continue to get inferior educations, and the biggest winners are private charter management companies and their investors, charter school executives who are paid handsomely in spite of poor student performance, the Teach for America nonprofit that places many young teachers in the schools for two-year stints, and the testing and curriculum industry.


By all means lets bring that model to Georgia. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar I'll hand it to you, Headley. Once you latch onto a half-baked bumper-sticker slogan, you don't let go of it.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Mystification about school evaluations is another way to obscure what is happening in New Orleans. The Louisiana Department of Education has changed the formula for calculating school Read more in J. Celeste Lay, “Charter Experiment in New Orleans a Failure,” The New Orleans Advocate, June 12, 2014. www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org June 2014 letter grades nearly every year. Because the A to F scale does not change, people believe that a “B” in one year means the same thing as that grade the year before. However, any time a measure is altered valid comparisons over time become impossible. In 2013, the new Louisiana formula gave bonus points to low-performing schools that showed growth and lowered the cut points, thereby making it easier for schools to get higher grades without actually improving performance. Sadly, many reformers who cite higher school grades as progress are using results that cannot be accurately compared from year to year.


http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/sites/default/files/ssn_basic_facts_lay_on_why_new_orleans_is_not_a_good_model_for_education.pdf


Another good read on how this is all just basically made up BS.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar You and your sources keep harping on the district- and school-rating systems. I can only guess that's because the data about individual student performance so thoroughly discredits your objections.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).


http://dianeravitch.net/2015/02/19/mercedes-schneider-the-act-bombshell-blows-up-the-myth-of-new-orleans-reforms/


That data ?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar The data that showed high-school graduation rate is up, college enrollment among RSD grads is up, and the percentage of RSD grads receiving the Louisiana equivalent of HOPE is up. Those metrics aren't subject to any kind of fudge factor.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Your right


I'm assuming you are admitting the other numbers ARE fudged. ( Letter grades )


And the grad rate going up is due to the pool of kids being different post katrina.


Not a Bobby Jindal praise Jesus miracle. 


As the data I posted shows they are still doing terribly ala ACT scores. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar I'm not admitting that in the least. Just pointing out that even you can't fudge those numbers.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 In New Orleans, the idea is for the state to identify perennially low-performing schools and match them up with new operators (whether charter-school operators or otherwise). Then the state stands back, lets that new operator get to work, and holds it accountable for its results.


In reality what they do is change they way the failing schools are graded.


Then they can sit back and say " See it s a miracle !!!! "


Her school has gone from a rating of D-minus to a B since she arrived three years ago.


A prime example of this

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

 “It’s the most local of school systems that exists.”


Which is the way it should be. The federal model had it's chance and it failed it.