Opinion: Failing-schools bill needs to add choices for Georgia’s students

Lawmakers are taking another crack at improving Georgia’s failing schools, and it seems the new approach is to make it an inside job.

A new position of “chief turnaround officer” would be filled by a veteran of the public schools, with candidates suggested by the lobbying arms of the publicschools establishment. This turnaround chief would hire a cadre of “turnaround coaches” — on the advice of those same groups — to work with low-performing schools. The coaches would design and implement “school improvement plans” for two years, then re-evaluate. If a school doesn’t improve, the plan may continue. Or more managers may be brought in. Or, eventually, someone might lose their job. Or, after rampant, years-long failure across the entire district, school board members might lose their jobs.

What's missing from this picture? The same thing largely missing from HB 338.

What’s missing from this picture? The same thing largely missing from HB 338.

If that sounds like meaningful change, you might be an educrat. Or a student with Stockholm Syndrome.

In fact, the best argument I’ve heard for House Bill 338 is it’s better than doing nothing. That’s quite a motto: The General Assembly: We (probably) aren’t making Georgia worse!

But if you’re wondering why a bill to fix failing schools would focus so much on what happens to the school and its employees, and not on helping students spending crucial chunks of their schooling in substandard settings, you’re not alone.

“If we don’t care about what happens to any one kid right now, then we don’t care about kids,” Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, told me this week, repeating a sentiment he voiced at a hearing for the bill last week. “If you don’t create circumstances where individual parents have real choice options for their kid, we’re not really serving many kids well.”

The original draft of the bill, I’m told, included a voucher for these students, though it didn’t kick in for six years. Instead, HB 338 allows them to choose another district school “from a list of available options provided by the local system.” Such “options” are supposed to exist today, but the better schools are invariably too full to accept any new students from the failing schools. It’s an empty promise.

I’m also told there’s one reason a more robust choice option didn’t make it into the bill: Senate leaders would balk.

I’ve never understood why the Georgia Senate’s leaders are so dead-set against these measures. Opinion polls show school choice is viewed favorably by a large majority of Georgians, and an even larger majority of those who vote in Republican primaries. You might think a Senate leader thinking of running for — oh, I don’t know — governor next year would take the opposite approach.

Nor am I sure why the House is letting the Senate hold an effective veto over the legislation it proposes. It’s one thing if the legislative process produces a watered-down, compromise bill. It’s another thing for the House to have effectively conceded defeat before that process began.

If HB 338 won’t include a real choice component, lawmakers could also pass separate bills to raise the cap on tax-credit scholarships, to create education savings accounts, and to strengthen charter schools. Otherwise, they’re consigning another generation of Georgia students to another adult-centric flavor of “reform.”

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Based on the article mentioned below by Visual_Cortex,

"Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning. Researchers and advocates began a spirited debate about what, exactly, was going on."


Choice seems to be a fail for most students and makes them worse off academically. Why would we set up a program that makes students worse off? Is it because a certain set of  people make money off the choice?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

In which @AvgGeorgian takes a piece about three states' voucher programs and transmogrifies it into "choice" being "a fail" for "most students."

Watch that broad brush you're painting with, there.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian

I agree it is a broad brush, but it seems to be a thoughtful analysis of the research and includes research from pro voucher groups.


I am also tired of the "failing" schools broad brush.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "I am also tired of the "failing" schools broad brush."

Not sure what you mean. I only write about a specific set of schools identified as such. I have never claimed all, or even most, or even a large minority, of public schools qualify for that label.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian

The problem is that the school is not failing. There is a higher percentage of students who perform poorly in the "failing" schools mostly due to poverty/household educational level, disabilities and resources. Even the "best" schools have students that "fail". 


Alpharetta HS gad rate for: 

economically disadvantaged 76% 

SWD 67%

ESL 62%


Is it a failing school?


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield

Alpharetta HS - Only 11% are economically disadvantaged, 8% SWD and 4%ELL


APS, "failing" Douglas HS is 100% economically disadvantaged, 17%SWD and 2% ELL


See the problem with CCRPI?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian @Kyle_Wingfield

They only have a 76% grad rate and many of their students are not meeting state performance goals.

It aint hard to pass HS nowadays with no HS grad test and EOCTs count only peanuts. What the heck is wrong with Alpharetta High?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Kyle your article "Opinion: The lousy excuses for the Georgia Senate’s lack of openness" was great. Could you maybe follow up with:

"The lousy excuses for the state's hiding of all spending, hiring, and personnel for state charter schools"

and

""The lousy excuses for the state's hiding detailed spending and academic evaluation results for GA private School Tax Credit Program"

breckenridge
breckenridge

Meanwhile, it looks as though the "destination resort" bill, not to be confused with a casino bill, is leaking oil in a big way.  It's not yet time for the skewer, but it'd be a good idea to get sharpener revved up.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@breckenridge Waaaaay too early to declare anything dead at this point. I typically wait until a day or two after Sine Die to declare legislation dead. And even then, it's usually just on ice for nine months.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@Kyle_Wingfield @breckenridge 

Duly noted. The weasels will have to do more weaseling, go into overdrive on the smoke and mirrors routine. 

And then, of course, there is money.  Always money.

jhgm63
jhgm63

Just curious, will the reduced/free breakfast and/or lunch programs follow the student or will those stay with the schools. 

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

First off, thank you Nathan Deal. Telling them boys to ditch that RFRA bill. Second, are we really going to get through a session at the gold dome without embarrassing ourselves? Cool.

Education, we need more spirit. Support your local school.

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@JeffreyEav "We've got spirit yes we do, we've got sprit, how 'bout you?" - like that? 


I'd hold off on the praise until the gavel drops. I think they're still trying to get guns into daycare and special ed. 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

Oh, or alternatively, how about something regarding the Georgia House and Senate delegation's handling of constituent questions via "town hall" meetings? 


Specifically, Isakson and Perdue. To me it seems like they're basically dodging the situation all together. Perdue said on the radio yesterday that he doesn't feel like he needs to do them since he likes smaller format meetings, like 1:1 or small groups. 


So Kyle, how do you think a guy could get into one of those meetings? 


For Isakson's sake, he doesn't do them either. You have to sign up to be part of a conference call, which includes giving the Senator your personal information. And even then, the system calls you as opposed to you calling it - which means it's easy to miss. And how do you ask a question in that format? 


Those guys talk a mean streak about what citizens want, but they sure don't interact with them too much... unless you give them a bunch of money I suppose. 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

Kyle, your focus on local issues is diverting attention away from my interest in Dear Leader. 


Some might say that's by design, since Trump's main mo is mainly to distract folks with crazy bs while he's fragging the country, but that's obviously not what you're doing here. So i guess your intentions are partially good. 


Anywho, how about a column on ol' Betsy DeVos and your take on her qualifications. She's obviously a choice champion. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

So it was all for "knot"?

The alternate "choice" could only be found within the same county's school districts?

That wouldn't have worked here in Clayton County 'cause they were all failing the necessary criteria to succeed. 

Major disappointment! 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex My first question would be whether the private school students are still being taught -- and/or tested on -- the same standards/curriculum they were in public schools. (I haven't read the studies, so I don't know whether they address this.) But I know this is often a problem for charter schools: They get the government's approval to set up a new school with different standards/curriculum, then get tested on the other standards/curriculum they were told they didn't have to teach. It looks like "accountability," but really it's a false accountability that simultaneously undermines the greater degree of autonomy the schools are supposed to have.

Again, I'd have to read the studies to see if that's an issue here. Here's the reason I suspect it is: It's a bit peculiar that, as the NYT story observes, these studies are so far out of line with earlier studies about vouchers. What has primarily changed between the earlier studies and these? The enormous focus on standardized testing and uniform standards across states (and among states, e.g., Common Core). That focus, along with what I described above about standards/curriculum, would dovetail nicely with a sudden drop in voucher students' performance on such tests.

I'll take a close look at those studies when I have a chance.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex FWIW, the Fordham study on Ohio says answering the "why" question was beyond its scope but offers this speculation about possible reasons:

"Let us acknowledge that we did not expect—or, frankly, wish—to see these negative effects for voucher participants; but it’s important to report honestly on what the analysis showed and at least speculate on what may be causing these results. One factor might be related to the limits of credible evaluation: while the rigor of the methodology ensured “apples-to-apples” comparisons of student achievement, Dr. Figlio was limited to studying students who attended (or had left) public schools that were just above or below the state’s cutoff for “low-performing.” By definition, this group did not include the very lowest-performing schools in the state. It’s possible that students who used a voucher to leave one of the latter schools might have improved their achievement; we simply cannot know from this study. The negative effects could also be related to different testing environments—higher stakes for public than private schools—or to curricular differences between what is taught in private schools and the content that’s assessed on state tests. Finally, although this analysis does not enable us to identify individual schools as high- or low-performing, it may be the case that some of the private schools accepting EdChoice students are themselves not performing as well as they should."

Note the italicized bit. Also, the part about which public schools they were able to compare, and which they weren't.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Visual_Cortex

Great Link. Vouchers seem to be a fail even when evaluated by pro-voucher groups.


Kyle, your question "My first question would be whether the private school students are still being taught -- and/or tested on -- the same standards/curriculum they were in public schools." is the same reason schools "fail" - a moving target of curriculum, standards, and assessment, and CCRPI. Why would that be a valid defense for charter schools but not public schools?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian @Visual_Cortex First, charter schools are public schools.

Second, I'm unaware of traditional public schools being granted the autonomy to deviate from the state standards and curriculum, as charter school are. Am I wrong about that?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian @Visual_Cortex

First. Charter schools that do not report spending, hiring, and personnel, to the taxpayer, are not public.

Second:Yes, if a system is a charter system. Also the freedom to deviate also includes a performance level in return for the deviation - in many cases, the performance level is tied to state tests or other state performance goals/assessments.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

You elect the Republican and, once in office, they govern exactly as the democrat they defeated would have. They protect the government, not the children. The evidence against the status quo is overwhelming, the state ranks 45th in a nation that ranks 28th in the world. Polls show a majority in favor of choice. They now have an education secretary that will help facilitate choice.


Do they think they were elected by the teachers? 


Unfreakinbelievable.

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

How is the overthrow of Obama's shadow government coming along? You said it would happen this week. Do we now bow down to Agent Orange, or is the black guy still running the show? As you know from the military, chain of command and who sits at the top is paramount. Right now, that is not clear.

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

Lol. Not nearly as ridiculous as someone who worships the rear end of a godless heathen.

Why did you deflect from the question I posed?

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Maybe they didn't include choice because it doesn't work. The math and reading outcomes in school choice are about equivalent to traditional education, so it isn't really doing anything. It's a waste of time,.... unless the real outcome you seek is complete segregation.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara "The math and reading outcomes in school choice are about equivalent to traditional education, so it isn't really doing anything."

Not true. As the closely watched Stanford study found (https://credo.stanford.edu/documents/UNEMBARGOED National Charter Study Press Release.pdf) charter students perform better in reading and about the same in math. But the two key takeaways are these:

1. Between Stanford's 2009 study and that 2013 study (its latest), charter students gained 15 days worth of reading and 22 days worth of math relative to traditional public school students. So their performance has been accelerating, which bodes well for the future.

2. As the summary states: "Students in poverty, black students, and those who are English language learners (ELL) gain significantly more days of learning each year in both reading and math compared to their traditional public school peers. Performance differences between charter school students and their traditional public school peers were especially strong among black and Hispanic students in poverty and Hispanic students who are ELL in both reading and math." And those students just happen to represent the fastest-growing segment of charter enrollment. So a) this isn't about segregation, and b) the parents of these students are perfectly capable of choosing a better school.

Other choice programs aren't widespread enough to have a similar, national study done about them. But the studies that do exist tend to show improvement for students taking advantage of choice programs (and often for the students in their old schools who didn't take advantage).

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara You can't lie to me Kyle.  I can read.  Here is the actual study and results.  The math results for charter schools were 22 days behind and just caught up.   The 8 days they gained in reading was not found to be statistically significant. 


The results just aren't there.


http://credo.stanford.edu/documents/NCSS 2013 Executive Summary.pdf


"The average charter school student now gains an additional 8 days of learning each year in reading, compared to the loss of 7 days each year reported in 2009. In math, charter students in 2009 posted 22 fewer days of learning; now that gap is closed so their learning each year is on par with their peers in traditional public schools."

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara Show me where in either link the study backs up your assertion: "The 8 days they gained in reading was not found to be statistically significant. "

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara The very next sentences after the excerpt you posted read as follows:

" These results reflect an average of the latest three growth periods (Spring 2008 – Spring 2011). When the average growth is examined for different periods over time, the performance trend in both reading and math improves. In the most recent period (the growth period from Spring 2010 to Spring 2011), learning gains in reading are more positive than in any earlier period, though all five views are positive and significantly better than TPS. Average charter learning gains in math do not differ significantly from VCR performance in any of the periods studied. This means that for math learning in charter schools is no different on average than learning in TPS." (emphasis added)

That mirrors exactly what I wrote in my first comment to you.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara


Between Stanford's 2009 study and that 2013 study (its latest), charter students gained 15 days worth of reading and 22 days worth of math relative to traditional public school students. 


This is misleading and wrong, and its why I called you out.  Charter schools increased 22 days versus TPS, but that doesn't meant they were 22 days better than TPS.  The gains they made basically made them equivalent to TPS.  


"This means that for math learning in charter schools is no different on average than learning in TPS"


is what I said in the beginning, and I am right.  We agree.  for math, there is no difference..


On the reading portion, here is what the text says.  ** Significant at p ≤ 0.01.  If the results are significant, they are barely significant.  Are minimal gains so significant that we want to upend the entire system?  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara What I wrote in my original comment, before the part you're focusing on: "charter students perform better in reading and about the same in math."

So I'd say your comment about my "lying" to you was itself a lie.

As for this: "On the reading portion, here is what the text says.  ** Significant at p ≤ 0.01.  If the results are significant, they are barely significant. "

Nice moving the goal posts. First you said the gains weren't significant. Now you're saying they aren't significant enough for your taste -- while ignoring they represent an acceleration over a time period when TPS scores actually fell. What's more, if you read the rest of the charts in that executive summary, you will see many of the gains far exceed that "minimal" level.

And finally: " Are minimal gains so significant that we want to upend the entire system?  "

This is the anti-choice person's retort of last resort. There is no one calling to "upend the entire system." Virtually every school-choice advocate -- and all of the ones I've ever talked to -- acknowledge that traditional public schools do, and will continue to, serve the majority of kids well. What we are talking about is making changes that improve kids' educations, and thus their lives, at the margin. If even a net 5% of kids benefit from school choice, that's an enormous impact over time. That's what folks like me want, not the caricature of our position that you present.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara


I didn't move the goal post.  You just don't understand statistical significance.


The math results are the same.  the reading results are at the level of statistical significance which means that there may or may not be any real gains.  There won't be "an enormous impact"  There will be no impact on math and *potentially* a slight impact on reading.   


That's the answer.  Its from the report that you sourced.   You can obscure that with gains and losses to make you look better, but the paragraph above is all that we need to know. 


You may be pure in your intentions, but you are nothing more than a tool for segregationist just like you have been a tool for the racists in your party.   Segregationists don't scream I want to separate races, because it is a message that won't sell.  What they do is inundate you with small facts to slowly change opinion.  they talk constantly about failing schools and solutions.  They talk about how bad the "inner city" school are and how we need to let people choose.  Once they have done that, they put in charters and segregate.  It's happened virtually everywhere it has been implemented.


Ask some real questions. If there is virtually no difference in outcomes, why is there so much lobbying money to fund it?  Why are Republicans so excited about helping "inner city" youth which by and large are not their voting block? What has happened in other places?


You didn't believe me when I kept saying that a large part of your party was racist, and Trump as well as polling has pretty much proven me right.  I'm right on this one too.  I'm just ahead of you. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara "You may be pure in your intentions, but you are nothing more than a tool for segregationist"

OK, we're done here.