Can we simultaneously fix and flee public schools?

artchangeCan we simultaneously fix and flee public schools?

I wondered about that question after meetings with Georgia’s last Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, and House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta. The men sat down with the AJC recently to discuss education issues in the state.

In many areas, the two leaders — both noted for their interest in education — see eye to eye.

“Just because a child is born in Schley County and not Forsyth County, you cannot constitutionally justify that child is going to receive an inferior education just because of an accident of birth,” said Barnes.

Speaking to AJC reporters a week later, Lindsey said much the same thing. “The fact of where a child is born should not determine whether they are going to have a future or not. Wherever a child is born, we have to concentrate on how to get them the education they need.”

Where the two leaders disagree is over the fundamental definition of public education: Is schooling a collective concern funded and governed by the community, or a private decision best left to parents even when some public dollars may be involved?

“What made us different as a people is that we did not ration education,” said Barnes. “We decided every child will receive an adequate education, and it became the key to social mobility. When you weaken the public school system, you destroy the fabric that holds us together.”

But the public school system isn’t working for many children, said Lindsey, citing the overall state high school graduation of 69.9 percent. “If my children brought home success records like this from school, it would be time for serious changes. It should be same for the Georgia’s education system.

“One thing I have learned in nine years is that no matter how dysfunctional a government program is or how bad a problem is, there is always going to be somebody who has a vested interest in the status quo,” said Lindsey.

The tensions between these views have fueled the ongoing debates in the General Assembly over whether Georgia ought to be increasing its investment in the traditional public education system or embracing alternatives, including independent charter schools, vouchers and privatization.

In recent years, the latter position has prevailed in the Legislature, which has focused on devising exit plans out of the school down the street.

The General Assembly has approved vouchers for special needs students to apply at private schools. It fought all the way to the state Supreme Court for the power to approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local school boards. When it lost in court, the Legislature won voter approval to change the constitution through a November referendum.

Legislators enacted a scholarship tax credit program — now under fire for blatant abuses — that subsidizes private-school tuition. Thus far, the program has diverted $170 million from the state treasury.

Lawmakers are now considering a constitutional amendment — spurred by parents in Dunwoody — that would allow newly formed cities to break with their county systems and create their own neighborhood schools.

In an argument that could eventually lead to vouchers, Republicans maintain that the “money should follow the students because it’s their money.”

But few households pay enough in property taxes to cover the $8,000 a year it costs, on average, to educate a student in Georgia. So, do the education dollars paid by all taxpayers belong to the students or to the community?

While Lindsey avoids the pejorative”government schools” rhetoric of some of his GOP colleagues, he said, “Parents should be able to adapt education dollars to fit with their child’s needs.”

At the same time, he cautioned that Georgia can’t write off public schools, which still serve 93 percent of the state’s children.

“I am a great believer in public education,” Lindsey said. “I am a great believer that APS needs to succeed. These are the kids who are most in need of public education. That’s their shot. For the most part, those parents don’t have the choice of Westminster or Paideia.”

But Barnes contends that the Legislature’s deep cuts to public education — cuts that have forced all districts to raise class sizes and 65 percent of them to abbreviate their school years to less than 180 days — are sabotaging the schools and feeding public discontent.

“Instead of improving public education,” said Barnes, “they just decided to tank it.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

159 comments Add your comment

Jessica

March 15th, 2013
2:10 am

Is it good for society as a whole to have quality public education? Of course.

Am I willing to subject my own kids to inadequate public schools while the politicians, teachers, and school boards squabble over how to fix the problems? Not a chance, because my duty as a parent is to provide the best education I can for MY children.

PARENTS — not government — are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their kids are well-prepared for the future, and schools are just a tool to help them meet that obligation. That’s why it’s ridiculous to expect people to feel some sort of loyalty to ‘the system’ at the expense of their own kids’ best interests.

Anonymous in DeKalb

March 15th, 2013
2:12 am

You solve the supposed “dilemma” by first declaring all accredited schools—public or private—to be conveyors of “public education,” as was the case originally in this country.

Then you re-empower parents to decide which school is best for their own child.

democracy

March 15th, 2013
5:46 am

American public education had citizenship education as its original, central mission. We’ve strayed far from that purpose. Citizens in a democratic republic must be able to gather, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and policy arguments. They have to be able to think critically and reflectively, and they should be committed to the core values and principles of democracy outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. But the high-stakes tested pushed by conservatives and corporate “reformers” are a dumbed-down version of “learning” based more on rote memorization than critical reflection.

What is the purpose of public education? What are schools for? The core insight to these questions goes back millennia.

Education is a democratic society has a special place and purpose. Aristotle argued for a system of public education in Athens, saying that “education should be one and the same for all…public, and not private.” 

Aristotle perceived the importance of public schooling to democratic citizenship, noting that “each government has a peculiar character…the character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarch creates oligarchy, and always the better the character, the better the government.” Democracy is government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” while oligarchy is government by a relatively small (and usually wealthy) group that “exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.”

Early state constitutions in the U.S., like those of Massachusetts (1780) and New Hampshire (1784), set up and stressed the importance of a system of public education. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided for public school financing in new territories. In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson sought a publicly-funded system of schools, believing that an educated citizenry was critical to the well-being of a democratic society. In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1794), Jefferson wrote “The influence over government must be shared among all men.” Many early advocates for public schools –– Jefferson, George Washington, Horace Mann, for example –– agreed that democratic citizenship was a primary function of education.

There are those who don’t believe in the fundamental purpose of public education. Georgia House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, surely is one. They are not interested in the developing the “democratic citizen,” one who understands and is committed to the core values and principles of democratic governance; one who is imbued with the “character of democracy.” There are, indeed, certain people and groups and special interests who’ve felt threatened by education for “the masses.”

The current corporate “reform” mania – focused on detailed “facts” and high-stakes testing – is characteristic of what be called low-level learning. It assumes that the primary purpose of public education is a minimal content competency for work and perhaps college. Business-model, corporate-style “reform” is focused on “accountability” for public schools and teachers. The “reforms” foisted on public education –– more standardized testing, charter schools, “merit” pay based on test scores, and increasingly, the call for vouchers –– have little or no research to support them. Worse, they undermine authentic education. 

The alleged goal of corporate-style education “reform” is “economic competitiveness.” All the supposed “reformers” cite it. But the U.S. already IS internationally competitive. The World Economic Forum ranks nations each year on competitiveness. The U.S. is usually in the top five (if not 1 or 2). When it drops, the WEF doesn’t cite education, but stupid economic decisions and policies. 

 For example, when the U.S. dropped from 2nd to 4th in 2010-11, four factors were cited by the WEF for the decline: (1) weak corporate auditing and reporting standards, (2) suspect corporate ethics, (3) big deficits (brought on by Wall Street’s financial implosion) and (4) unsustainable levels of debt.  
 
Last year (2011-12), major factors cited by the WEF are a “business community” and business leaders who are “critical toward public and private institutions,” a lack of trust in politicians and the political process with a lack of transparency in policy-making, and “a lack of macroeconomic stability” caused by decades of fiscal deficits, especially deficits and debt accrued over the last decade that “are likely to weigh heavily on the country’s future growth.” The WEF did NOT cite public schools as being problematic to innovation and competitiveness. 

And this year (2012-13) the WEF dropped the U.S. to 7th place, citing problems like “increasing inequality and youth unemployment” and, environmentally, “the United States is among the countries that have ratified the fewest environmental treaties.“ The WEF noted that in the U.S.,”the business community continues to be critical toward public and private institutions” and “trust in politicians is not strong.” Political dysfunction has led to “a lack of macroeconomic stability” that “continues to be the country’s greatest area of weakness.”

Too many politicians misrepresent the critical problems facing American public education. For example, even though poverty and child poverty – and their pernicious effects – have increased in the U.S., the corporate “reformers” say that if only teachers worked harder and were held “accountable,” then the effects of poverty wouldn’t matter. If only public schools were forced to be “accountable,” then American “economic competitiveness” would be restored.

President Obama and education secretary Arne Duncan must shoulder their fair share of the blame for these misrepresentations and distortions. But those seeking to dismantle public education are mostly Republicans and corporate “elites” who use fronts likeTeach for America and the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations. Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote recently that “the Republican Party…is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” It is “the core of the problem” in achieving stable democratic governance.

And where public education is concerned, Republicans are the ones who try to dismantle it.

Frankly, that’s just plain unAmerican.

Jack ®

March 15th, 2013
5:47 am

A good education is available to a child that has concerned parents. A good education is not available to a child that doesn’t have concerned parents. Concerned doesn’t mean blaming someone else for your problems.

Mom of 3

March 15th, 2013
6:37 am

Jessica- well stated!

dcb

March 15th, 2013
6:39 am

In my opinion the false argument that rating the success or failure of our public schools is based on the graduation rate begs the question – any question. As does the philosophy that simply throwing more money at the public schools will increase the quality and thus, by inference, the graduation rate. A sixty-nine percent graduation rate is abysmal, granted. But not the fault of the public school systems. Throw the money if you will where the problem lies – towards home environments ala education of the parents in parenting responsibilities and skills, and community outreach programs.

Mama S

March 15th, 2013
6:42 am

I attended my local public schools from 1st through 12th grades. I received an excellent education from dedicated teachers (including my own mother, a high school teacher)! When I graduated college I returned to my community and went to work in the public schools. I was a teacher and administrator for 30 years. However, I sacrificed financially to send both my children to private school and now send both my grandchildren to private schools. The school I attended in the 1950’s had Bible reading in the mornings, the pledge of Allegiance to the flag and Christmas carols at the Christmas Assembly.
Now it is all PC and multiculturalism, AR and standardized testing. Not to mention zero tolerance and metal detectors. It is the same brick building that I attended, but it is NOT the same school.

HS Math Teacher

March 15th, 2013
6:44 am

Public education can be fixed if only the legislature, the state DOE, and school administrators would have the courage and good sense to do what needs to be done. This one-conveyor belt to college type of plan, where kids are advanced to the next level, whether they’re ready or not, is the problem, and has been for a long time. What other institution in the world does this? NONE! What other countries in the world have an education system that isn’t merit-based? None that I know of. Do colleges do this? NO. Do military training academys do this? NO. Do medical schools do this? NO. Do corporate training programs do this? NO. Do police academys do this? NO.

High Schools seem so dysfunctional because these institutions are the ones that are expected somehow to transform ill-prepared kids, most whom have never been exposed to a merit-based system of education. It’s no wonder that parents are taking their kids out of the system and fleeing to private and charter schools.

Stop this madness of “placing” all the kids up to the 9th grade, and then offering only a college-prep track for a diploma. The fine schools of Great Britain, Germany, and Japan do not socially promote their kids. Deal with real problems with the right tools, and technical plan to fix the problem.

linda

March 15th, 2013
6:49 am

Who has a vested interest in the status quo? Not teachers, parents, or students as far as I can tell.

South Georgia Retiree

March 15th, 2013
6:55 am

A “free and public” education is mandated in Georgia, but the legislature and Governor have decided to ignore the law because they want tax money to go to private schools. It’s a political choice of the rich and powerful. Yes, we can fix public schools but not without money; the Republicans know this and have decided to take away the money and declare public schools a failure. It’s hard to believe they can get away with this robbery, but so far public educators are losing the battle. When the GOP finishes draining the public education budget, they see the glorious days of segregation taking over again.

fjeremey

March 15th, 2013
7:03 am

We need to reevaluate the purpose of public education. If the student wants to go to college, great.
But what if he doesn’t? There is no authentic pathway to help a student realize a different pathway. Why can’t we arrange for a student to begin auto mechanic school and graduate from High School with a basic core education AND an ASE certification and thus (gasp) be able to get a good job right out of high school.
Just because someone doesn’t go, or want to go, to college does not mean that they have somehow failed in life. College is not for everyone and everyone is not suited for college, nor will college bring satisfaction to all. And, can we please stop treating a high school diploma as if it were some kind of human right?!

mountain man

March 15th, 2013
7:08 am

“Just because a child is born in Schley County and not Forsyth County, you cannot constitutionally justify that child is going to receive an inferior education just because of an accident of birth,” said Barnes.”

The problem is that you are assuming that 100% of education occurs (and should occur) in the SCHOOL. In reality, a lot of education, especially in high SES households, occurs at HOME. When our children were young, they went to pre-k 3, pre-k 4, at our expense. We had a computer at home and they played Reader Rabbit and Math Rabbit. We read to them, even before they were born. They knew their ABC’s and could read before they entered kindergarten. My parents were very poor, but I could read before entering the first grade, because my mother taught me, even though she only had an eight grade education. In school my wife and I helped our kids with homework and, more importantly. MADE them DO their homework. We helped them with science fairs. These are things that are absent in some low-SES households. Are they going to receive an inferior education? YOU BET THEY ARE! But they have the OPPORTUNITY to learn at school – unfortunately a growing number reject that opportunity and actively fight against their own education.

mountain man

March 15th, 2013
7:12 am

“This one-conveyor belt to college type of plan, where kids are advanced to the next level, whether they’re ready or not, is the problem, and has been for a long time.”

AMEN, brother! You have hit on one of the major issues in education, HS Math Teacher!

Itch

March 15th, 2013
7:13 am

Anybody consider genetics? You can’t bake a cake if you don’t have the right ingredients.

Holly Jones

March 15th, 2013
7:18 am

@Jessica- sadly, teachers have NOT been involved in the “squabbling.” The one group who has to live with whatever garbage comes out of the Gold Dome, the one groups who knows better than any legislator, parent or even administrator what’s going on and how the most recent “reform” will (or in most cases, won’t) work in the classroom- they are NEVER at the table for the conversation. And I do not count PAGE and GAE lobbyists as “teachers.” They may represent teachers, but again, the are not in the classroom.
We saw the same thing this week with the new TSA rules about knives on planes. Pilots and flight attendants were not consulted- and the TSA director admitted it-and they are the ones who have to live with the rule. And everyone lauds them for speaking out.
But when teachers speak out about the stupid rules and regulations they are forced to comply with, or the absurd new reforms that they know won’t help their kids, or the programs that hurt public education, then they are simply “union shills” and “supporters of the status quo” who don’t care about the kids, only their jobs.

BlahBlahBlah

March 15th, 2013
7:20 am

You could have closed comments after the first response.

IT’S THE PARENTS.

LarryMajor

March 15th, 2013
7:24 am

State education funding goes to the public school where individual kids are enrolled, not where they live. The only time it didn’t work this way was during the original Charter Schools Commission’s existence, when the Commission took funding away from kids enrolled in various school systems and gave it to the schools they approved. This type of parasitic state funding is now unconstitutional, which means one thing:

Whenever you hear a state-level official mention “the money should follow the child,” they are not talking about state funding which works that way now, but are eyeballing ways to get state control of local tax revenue.

Lee

March 15th, 2013
7:29 am

“Anybody consider genetics?”

Sssshhhhhhhhh. Can’t mention that. In the rose colored glasses world of political correctness, EVERYBODY is the same and we should expect the same results. So, let’s set the child with an IQ of 120 next to the child with an IQ of 80 for the first nine years (K-8) of their education. Occasionally, the high ability student gets pulled into a watered down “Gifted” program, but for the most part, they’re stuck.

But, the PC folks will not allow ability/achievement grouping. If they did, the racial hierarchy would soon become evident and Lord knows we can’t have that.

Astropig

March 15th, 2013
7:36 am

All I’ve ever seen on this board is the blame game from teachers. To read these comments day to day, there are no bad or middlin’ teachers. You are ALL above average. It’s parents that are to blame,paper pushers (with letters behind their name) ,it’s principals that don’t like me (and make me stand on a bucket on tippy toes),it’s “high stakes” testing, it’s superintendents that get treated like rockstars,it’s parents with “snowflake” children. The list is endless.It’s never bad teachers or an archaic system that pays by seniority instead of achievement and demonstrated competence.

I saw where Alabama passed a private school tax credit reform and the governor over there signed it yesterday.I used to live there and the teachers union (AEA) positively RAN the legislature.(The AEA chief even ran for governor in 1990 and got beat).I knew immediately that if the reformers in ‘Bammy could get something like that passed,the times they are a changin’. Parent trigger is going to happen here,so you dinosaurs that have played the blame game instead of developing your classroom “A” game had better wise up real fast or get ready to work a 12 month year.

TC

March 15th, 2013
7:47 am

Today’s public schools have many faults ie. social advancement, pc administrators, uninvolved parents, etc. The only real solution is to give the parents of students, that want it, choice about where they go to school. I agree schools should not be run as for profit businesses, but we should allow those that are failures to close.

Clutch Cargo

March 15th, 2013
7:54 am

“Can we simultaneously fix and flee public schools?”

No, we cannot. We can’t because the people that would have to carry out the reforms that will be imposed will attempt to sabotage those reforms due to their politics.Too many in the rotten system that we have now have a deeply vested interest in the status quo.They will throw sand in the gears at every turn and tell the taxpayers that these new ideas “don’t work,can’t work”. They will demagogue reasonable initiatives and try to scare parents about the motives of honest reformers so that they can protect their tenures and sinecures.They will use code words like “profit” (as if they were working for free) and ALEC,”religion” and “fringe” to scare the people that stare at a tV all day and don’t know how bad the public shools have become.

No, Maureen, reforms will have to be implemented by concerned parents,teachers and legislators working together to suppress the status quo.The taxpayers own the schools and they want them fixed.The employees just have to accept that.

cris

March 15th, 2013
7:55 am

“close failing schools”, “pull the trigger”, “get the lazy bum teachers out”……what will we do with those students who attend the failing school once we close it? When the trigger is pulled, who really gets the bullet? Once the lazy bum teachers are out, who will be left to teach the student? Cliches are not going to get us where we need to be, so can we just agree to stop spouting them on this blog?

There are many posters who have already covered the “one-size-doesn’t-fit-all” college prep track we currently force onto Georgia students – it’s ridiculous – and one of the reasons for that dismal graduation rate.

When did an honest day’s work as an electrician, plumber, custodian, ditch-digger become somehting to be looked down upon? Someone has to do it – why do we all pretend that that someone is not my child?

Bernie

March 15th, 2013
8:01 am

Maureen, Today’s morning topic is a an accurate description of what is actually going on with the Dekalb County School System presently. While current repairs are being made there is a planned Exedous of residents from the Northen part of the county with plans to start their own individual school systems. A reasonable person can understand and support such a decision in light of what has occurred with the Dekalb County School Board. However that issue and the many other reasons involves a deeper understanding of the perceived problems that have been part of a long held misguided belief. Reasons that are totally unrelated to the ongoing and current problems of the Administrative management of that system.

One answer that will be revealed to all of US from your statement will be seen in the end result of the resolution of the Dekalb County fiasco. Its going to be Long,Messy and Bloody! There will be no clear winners for anyone. Least of All the children. They are the ones who will be left feeling confused and disappointed. They will see the decisions that should have been made and were not, due to Territorial selfishness and Bigotry. They will also see a failure of inept and incompetent Leadership on a wide scale that will further exacerbate the problem.

My Gut feeling tells me that you cannot do both. Not sucessfully! Either one will fail miserably or the other will succeed with marginal and modest gains. However, I strongly feel and believe that the option that leaves the greater number of students at risk,of faliure. Further damges us ALL as community and as a Nation. In the end we will all PAY in increased Crime and cost of Incarceration. Then to have those same individuals released at some later date, to repeat the same Behavior. That scenario is a LOSING option and one we cannot afford long term.

Bernie

March 15th, 2013
8:03 am

minor correction for the perfectionists who visit here…

Maureen, Today’s morning topic is a an accurate description of what is actually going on with the Dekalb County School System presently. While current repairs are being made there is a planned Exedous of residents from the Northen part of the county with plans to start their own individual school systems. A reasonable person can understand and support such a decision in light of what has occurred with the Dekalb County School Board. However that issue and the many other reasons involves a deeper understanding of the perceived problems that have been part of a long held misguided belief. Reasons that are totally unrelated to the ongoing and current problems of the Administrative management of that system.

One answer that will be revealed to all of US from your statement will be seen in the end result of the resolution of the Dekalb County fiasco. Its going to be Long,Messy and Bloody! There will be no clear winners for anyone. Least of All the children. They are the ones who will be left feeling confused and disappointed. They will see the decisions that should have been made and were not, due to Territorial selfishness and Bigotry. They will also see a failure of inept and incompetent Leadership on a wide scale that will further exacerbate the problem.

My Gut feeling tells me that you cannot do both. Not sucessfully! Either one will fail miserably or the other will succeed with marginal and modest gains. However, I strongly feel and believe that the option that leaves the greater number of students at risk,of faliure. Further damges us ALL as A community and as a Nation. In the end we will all PAY in increased Crime and cost of Incarceration. Then to have those same individuals released at some later date, to repeat the same Behavior. That scenario is a LOSING option and one we cannot afford long term.

Atlanta Mom

March 15th, 2013
8:05 am

It seems that we bash all public schools equally these days.
I believe that our neighbors in the northern suburbs are not terribly unhappy with their public schools. Maybe they aren’t 100% happy with their schools—but guess what—neither are parents in private schools. It would be good if we could remember that schools with a super majority of “middle class” students are not struggling.

kgreen

March 15th, 2013
8:11 am

What does our educational system produce? Do we spend too much time isolated from the vast majority of “real” people in this country?

The benefit of reality shows is that we can all see what really amounts to a cross section of this country. These are people that supposedly have a public education, and vote to have a say in our government. If the early democratic ideals were to produce citizens of a democratic nature, what are our schools doing to promote that? Our core programs do not produce knowledgeable, voting citizens.

I dare anybody to take the same naturalization test that we force on immigrants, its the one that shows they are more worthy of voting rights because of their knowledge of the system. Do we teach that stuff in schools? If we do, we don’t teach it very well!

RJ

March 15th, 2013
8:15 am

Just what is a “failing school”? I really can’t tell someone what one is, because after teaching in highly impoverished areas for 16 years, I can tell you that the test scores don’t tell everything. Our kids may not score in the 99th percentile, although some do, but it’s not because teachers aren’t teaching. They come in at a disadvantage. Then they’re promoted even if they’re not ready to move on. This isn’t the teacher’s decision. This is the decision of the administration. Does this mean the school as a whole is failing? I don’t think so.

The one track mentality Georgia has is hurting all kids. Everybody is not meant to go to college. That’s not a bad thing. We will always need truck drivers, hair stylists, daycare workers, etc. Why not provide skills to those most interested in working with their hands. Heck, they make more than most teachers anyway!

DunMoody

March 15th, 2013
8:18 am

Since you reference Dunwoody, parents and community members aren’t trying to “flee” public education so much as make it more responsive, accountable, and focused on students’ needs. This follows a trend emerging nationally as smaller communities, towns, neighbors, etc. within massive school districts embrace public education for every student – in Dunwoody’s case QUALITY education that doesn’t throw kids who need support into the deep end of college-pre-centric pathways, insist teachers follow scripts and use materials rather than their own professional creativity, and ignores year after year data that shows current curricula in math and science does not work.

Parents are not “fleeing” public education. We’re working to make it better.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:20 am

“Yes, we can fix public schools but not without money”

BULL HOCKEY! We currently spend FOUR TIMES the money we spent per student in the sixties and we have WORSE OUTCOMES (mostly) and back then,EVERY student went to school in a brick and mortar school building (instead of “portable classrooms” or whatever PC term they use nowadays). The main BASIC problems with education are not things that require vast amounts of money to fix. Attendance? Discipline? Social promotion? Fix these things first. Rethink our priorities and bring some of that SPED money back to the average student.

Cindy Lutenbacher

March 15th, 2013
8:21 am

Usually, I avoid incredibly long comments because I found that they tend to be baseless rants. But I thank you, “democracy,” for your essay. You offered a thoughtful response that shows you think, you analyze, and you research the issues.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:25 am

“Can we simultaneously fix and flee public schools?”

Certainly we can – because fixing the public schools does not require MONEY (see above post), but just requires intestinal fortitude by ADMINISTRATORS (which is in short supply).

But we would not have the problem of parents wishing to flee the public school system if we had not allowed it to get so broken. If we had addressed discipline (who wants to go to Grady High School where students bring guns to school if they have the wherewithal to move to East Cobb and go to Walton) ? If our teachers gave grades that were accurate reflectance of the mastery of the subject (not changed or made to be changed by ADMINISTRATORS)then we would not be spending inordinate amounts of time on testing to verify the REAL mastery of the subject.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:29 am

“Since you reference Dunwoody, parents and community members aren’t trying to “flee” public education so much as make it more responsive, accountable, and focused on students’ needs.”

That is correct – Dunwoody is not talking about vouchers so they can send all of their kids to private schools – they are just working to establish a better PUBLIC education for their kids, just like parents in Cobb county or Cherokee county. Those parents should not have to move to a different county just to get out from under a broken PUBLIC school system.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:33 am

“Anybody consider genetics? You can’t bake a cake if you don’t have the right ingredients.”

That reminds me of a line from “Driving Miss Daisy” where Miss Daisy said she used to be a teacher and she taught some of the dumbest students God put on this earth how to read.

It is not a lack of brain power that is resulting in failing education. You CANNOT teach ANY child, no matter if they have a genius IQ, if they miss 30 days of school every year. Or if they decide that sitting in the back of the room and acting up is more inline with their culture than obtaining an education.

Wondering Allowed

March 15th, 2013
8:34 am

The people of GA wisely voted Mr. Barnes out of office and overwhelmingly chose a dishonest goof as governor in order to make sure Mr. Barnes wasn’t given another chance to ram his views down Georgian’s throats. Please, Maureen, don’t encourage the beast. Mr. Barnes is irrelevant to any current discussion of public policy, as the people of GA have made clear twice. Very, very clear.

Barnes just never give up. In his world, his point of view is the only one that holds any merit. His definition of what is “correct” in upbringing a child matters more than what the parents want or do. Mr. Barnes needs to learn that people choose different lives for themselves and their children, and it is not his place to substitute his opinions for those of the child’s parents. If the people of a county choose to live there and choose their educational system, via their voting rights, Mr. Barnes shouldn’t arrogantly try to force his opinions on those parents.

Your interview with Mr. Barnes only confirms he is full of himself.

Private Citizen

March 15th, 2013
8:37 am

In the U. S. official “everyone should go to college” theme is marketing for individuals borrowing money and taking on long term debt, currently at $1 trillion dollars existent “student loans.” Perhaps many Americans do not realise how conspicuous this is, and that outside of the U. S. system, it is not happening anywhere else on the planet. It’s a notable situation when one of the main and only themes from the federal DOE is “everyone must go to college.” It also makes for a strange situation where the colleges are full, therefore, who is to attend to real quality at the colleges, where online software and to-do lists of assignments are called college courses. In many lesser colleges, courses turned into busy work, where “a syllabus is a contract,” so turn your stuff in with the “send” button on time. And I can tell you, the Get Schooled weblog is a whole lot more vibrant than any of the required “group chat sessions” required in these type college courses, where practically everyone is there to get the course credit and move on, and there is little to no intellectual interest in the topic.

misty fyed

March 15th, 2013
8:46 am

Look…Democrats always want control of the schools. They believe they, through the school system, can un-teach what conservative parents teach their children at home; that they can “educate” conservatism away. The give away here is when a democrat (Barnes) uses the word constitutional. When that happens, you always need to verify. The US constitution is moot on education…that delegates it to the states. The Ga. constitution simply mandates that it be payed for by taxes and free. Of course we all want the best education for all children but one only needs to look at what our public schools teach, above the basics, to understand why people don’t trust public schools.

Jovan Miles

March 15th, 2013
8:51 am

I think Jessica said it best. As a public school educator and parent I can simultaneously want the system to succeed because it is in society’s best interests and use every tool in my power to ensure that my child has the best education possible, public or otherwise.

Some may say that this is hypocritical and that is there right, but in this current climate of inequality among schools and the lack of equity as a consideration by decision makers I have a right and a responsibility to the child that I brought into the world to see that she is afforded every possible opportunity to become a successful and contributing member of the global community.

So, in that way I think it is possible to want to save public education through my work, but I have the right to protect my child from the negative influences of students whose parents may or may feel the same as I.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:51 am

“but one only needs to look at what our public schools teach, above the basics,”

My problem with the current education system is that they don’t teach the BASICS!!!

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
8:55 am

“current climate of inequality among schools ”

Could you please explain what inequality exists of schools (not sutdents, or parents, or SES)? How much money is given per student at a South Deklalb school vs. at an East Cobb School? Of course, Dekalb county chooses to spend their money a lot differently – on lawsuits rather than on textooks, but that is a problem in their governance, not in the education system. They both are given EQUAL resources. They just are not given equal students and parents.

skipper

March 15th, 2013
8:57 am

Elephant in the room: Nobody is going to send their kid do an inner-city school if they do not have to! The idea of this wonderful social experiment is well and good, but during that time the kid will grow up and be in a mess. We have but a very short time to educate our kids. Thinking that people who move in, are upwardly mobile, etc. are going to sacrifice their kids education to a bunch of incompetent folks is a pipe-dream at best. Therefore, the reality is that the poorer inner city schools are going to have to show that they AND THE BOARDS (SEE DEKALB) THAT SERVE THEM are actually interested in education. Sorry folks, and it may seam mean, but folks with any type of goals or success are not going to send their kids to a warehouse unless there is no alternative….period. Hard words, but it is a fact!

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
9:00 am

” Then they’re promoted even if they’re not ready to move on. This isn’t the teacher’s decision. This is the decision of the administration.”

See? EVERYONE knows what the problems are, they just don’t want to do anything about them.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
9:08 am

I just noticed something about this blog – you have lots of teachers, and ex-teachers, parents, and other interested persons, but you rarely see any posts from ADMINISTRATORS. If there are administrators out there, can you explain what YOU do to combat discipline problems, absenteeisn, social promotion?

bootney farnsworth

March 15th, 2013
9:20 am

@ mountain

admin types don’t post here for good reason. we’d eat them alive. their nonsense won’t translate to actual print

mathmom

March 15th, 2013
9:23 am

I find it disturbing that legislators who use poor grammar are making decisions about education. I am quite sure that, in addition to grammatical ignorance, most of our state legislators would be unable to pass the 8th grade CRCT in mathematics. Nevertheless, they feel qualified to decide what should be taught in the public schools and spend millions of taxpayer dollars on useless tests that are rescored and rescaled to support their claims of accomplishment or cries of alleged teacher incompetence – whichever suits their purpose. Get the government out of the classroom and maybe some learning can actually occur.

Mountain Man

March 15th, 2013
9:29 am

“I am quite sure that, in addition to grammatical ignorance, most of our state legislators would be unable to pass the 8th grade CRCT in mathematics.”

There have been a lot of postings about teacher competence and evaluations. I have said before that teacher evaluations should be comprised of two parts: knowledge of the subject matter and how well they can communicate it to the students. The first should be relatively easy to test. We should test TEACHERS and make sure that THEY know their area of instuction – not just the basics, but mastery. If English teachers are making grammatical errors – in writing or speech – then they are part of the problem.

bootney farnsworth

March 15th, 2013
9:30 am

can we fix and flee at the same time?

loaded question, implying an either/or situation. not that simple in real life.

as to the money following the child – sounds great in theory, but I’ve yet to see anyone put a nuts and bolts recommendation to it. how would it work, what are the pluses/minuses?

free market advocates love to say competition will solve everything. not in real life. ENRON?
gas deregulation – cheaper and more efficient was the promise. reality was prices went up and there was no improvement in anything.

consider me from Missouri – show me.

Jovan Miles

March 15th, 2013
9:34 am

@Mountain Man every district receives funds based on tax dollars. Average expenditures per pupil are different from district to district and the allocation of the funds is different among schools within the same district based on the type of students they receive (elementary school student expenditures are greater than high or middle school student expenditures. special education student expenditures are greater than general education students’).

No two schools in the same district will have the same resources. This includes staff, technology, course offerings, cafeteria expenditures, etc. This is the definition of inequality with regard to the schools themselves. I work in two alternative schools that have old books, little technology, and require more staff members that are trained to address students with social/emotional needs. Budgets have been cut so the money for these expenditures is non-existent.

Now inequality says nothing of equity. Equity would require that each school receives what it needs in order to be on a level playing field with other schools. For example, psychology tells us that a child born in a neighborhood where extreme poverty and violence are the norm will require more resources (more school counselors and social workers as an example) in order to be on a level playing field with his or her peers who do not live in the same type of neighborhood.

Simply allocating dollars, people, and physical resources like desks and computers equally is not enough to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed. Teachers cannot teach if a child is behaving in an overly aggressive manner because that is the norm for him or her outside of school. The child’s social and emotional needs must be met before he or she can even begin to process what is required academically. There are definitely people who have the resilience to overcome these types of environments but those people are most definitely the exception and not the rule. For every success story that comes out of a high poverty/high crime neighborhood there are 100 failures.

Who your parents are or are not and where you live should not doom a child to a life as a permanent member of the underclass. That being the case, I still do not think I should have to send my child to a school where these types of behaviors are prevalent and prevent her from getting all that she should from school. I recognize the problem and I work to fix it but I do not think I should be forced to subject my child to life in a system that is in disrepair.

Equality and equity must be major considerations to any major overhaul of public schools. Its in all of our best interests to see that America’s children are well educated, productive, and display socially acceptable behavior throughout their academic careers. Our economy will thrive once our schools can address some of the social/emotional needs of children because we will have fewer adults in prison and on public assistance because we will have given our children the tools they need to navigate the world as socially and academically aware citizens.

William Casey

March 15th, 2013
9:39 am

During my 31 years teaching history in public and private schools, I was noted (or notorious) for the difficulty of my tests. I believed (and still do) that giving high school students a false sense of achievement was a disservice to both them and society. I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be allowed this appproach today.

As for everyone going to college: If everyone has a Ph. D, it simply means that our garbage collectors will be addresses as “Dr. Casey” rather than “Mr. Casey.”

Rush

March 15th, 2013
9:39 am

Jessica was right on point with her comment. Also Mountain Man hits it on the head with this absurb arguement about spending enough money on students. DC spends amoung the highest in the nation per student but has some of the worst scores. So bad the POTUS would not send his own daughters to the system. That should tell you something.

jerry eads

March 15th, 2013
9:40 am

Answer is no. Stealing $billions from our kids in public schools to squander on governors’ and legislators’ pet pork projects is very literally stealing candy from babies. Stealing even more by allowing diversion of tax dollars to resegregate kids of rich white folks is simply adding to the problem. One has a right to be a bigot in this country, but I’d rather not be forced to pay for it.

BIGGEST mistakes, however, are that we keep blaming teachers when our problem is actually entrenched factory model school management that treats those teachers as chattel (witness the recent superb post here by a teacher afraid to use his/her own name) – and politicians who sucker a naive public into believing the fix is to simply replace “all those bad teachers.” Can teachers be better? Of course. Most of them work themselves to the bone to be so. Pick school leadership (including government) that will let them be actual teachers of children rather than minimum competency test factoid memorization automatons and you’ll get the public schools you want for your kids.