APS indictments: What more proof do Georgia’s lawmakers need that school choice must expand?

The cheating scandal at Atlanta Public Schools led Friday to the place many of us believed it would and should: indictments for 35 administrators and teachers implicated in the scandal. If this seems too harsh a step, take some time to re-familiarize yourself with the details of the case. The answer-changing parties at which teachers made sure their students made the grade; the spy-novel-worthy actions certain APS employees took to make sure they evaded test-security measures; administrators’ ignoring and covering up complaints about potential cheating — the story is astoundingly shameful.

But don’t forget that a similar pattern of cheating was found hundreds of miles away in Dougherty County, while incompetent school boards in Clayton and DeKalb counties have brought their systems to the brink of losing accreditation. (Atlanta’s own board nearly did the same in the wake of the cheating scandal.) Meanwhile, across the state, many schools and school systems commit the more routine sin of settling for mediocrity or worse from their students.

If there was ever a time our traditional public schools, and the people who run them, could claim the moral high ground in fending off measures to give students and parents more choice, that time is long since over. Georgia’s children shouldn’t have to wait for their governor or district attorney to intervene before having a chance to escape a bad — in the case of APS for much of the previous decade, criminally bad — situation at school.

Georgia’s children need more school choice. Now.

In the legislative session that just ended, however, our lawmakers did hardly anything to expand educational freedom. The longer they wait to expand options for all of Georgia’s children, the more blame they share for allowing children to remain trapped in these shameful stories.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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139 comments Add your comment

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

April 1st, 2013
11:47 am

Can’t wait to witness the Beverly Hall perp-walk.

indigo

April 1st, 2013
11:51 am

Starting in the 60’s, social experiments in education were begun to achieve the goal of bringing up black test scores to the same level as white ones.

Since that time one social experiment after another has been tried and has failed to bring parity to these scores.

So, some in Atlanta, and probably around the country, turned to cheating to get the necessary results.

Now that they are being caught, it’s back to square one.

It’s highly unlikely that “more school choice” will make any more of an impact on these black test scores than all the other failed experiments.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

April 1st, 2013
11:56 am

“It’s highly unlikely that “more school choice” will make any more of an impact on these black test scores than all the other failed experiments.”

It could do no worse than what has already been tried, yet failed.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
11:57 am

So what do you suggest, indigo? Letting the same folks who failed all the other times try something else?

dc

April 1st, 2013
11:59 am

I’m the parent of 3 children go through public schools, and had a handful of frankly very bad teachers. Each time, we’ve gone to the principal about that teacher..found out that other parents have as well, throughout the years, and had……absolutely nothing done about that teacher. They’ve amazingly been allowed to continue to damage future kids for years.

It occurred to me after a few of these, that the principal has very little incentive to do anything about it, and in fact the effort required was just too hard, compared to the downside of letting the teacher remain in place.

This will change once the funding moves with the student. Then the principal will have an incentive, just like every other private business does, to ensure that the customer is taken care of.

JohnnyReb

April 1st, 2013
12:00 pm

Get the Federal Goverment out of education.

Stop the Liberal indoctrination.

Equal value Vouchers to all students. Parents pay the remainder based on school choice.

Parents, you need to look into Common Core.

Don’t take anyone’s word for what is being taught your children.

L'il Aynie

April 1st, 2013
12:05 pm

School choice … Kyle’s solution in search of problems. As far as we know, the highly-extolled education systems of the Finns and the Koreans don’t have school choice. They just have good teachers, attentive students, and determined parents.

Oh yes, they probably also have curricula that define what teachers are expected to teach, what students are expected to learn, and what parents are expected to demand.

indigo

April 1st, 2013
12:06 pm

Kyle – 11:57

The “same folks who failed all the other times” span a time period of over 45 years.

I don’t think any of these social experiments will ever work.

But, you may be sure the PC industry will keep trying.

Of course, I’m sure you have a better idea?

Jefferson

April 1st, 2013
12:10 pm

You mean more public school choices, right ?

Rafe Hollister

April 1st, 2013
12:14 pm

One thing is certain, if we never try school choice, we will never know how well it works or does not work. Probably the reason it is so opposed, if offered and schools improve, there is no going back to the status quo, which those currently in charge have a vested interest in preserving.

So, the left can only offer stay the course, spend more, and try harder. That approach has been tried and found wanting. Lets try something new and different.

Cutty

April 1st, 2013
12:15 pm

One has nothing to do with the other. APS has more charter schools than any district in the state.

Sounds like a solution waiting for a problem to me.

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
12:17 pm

aynie: why should only the people with the money to afford private school be able to have school choice?
Why do we force a failing school on parents and their kids – and do nothing? And tweaking these programs, and coming up with a new paradigm every decade or so is not actually solving any problems. And most of the time these new schemes are created by people who are not educators at all. Common core is just the most recent.

Why NOT have school choice? I have school choice – I can pretty much live wherever I want to send my kids to school – or I could afford private school or to homeschool if I so choose. Not everyone has those choices.

We KNOW where the better schools are – it’s not rocket science. Look at where people are paying high prices for houses – there’s a reason that one house that looks just like another, but maybe is a mile or so apart, might have extremely different valuations. It is due to schools – 99% of the time. So why do we have to keep pretending that all the schools are the same? using this idiotic testing to dumb down our schools even more?

MANGLER

April 1st, 2013
12:21 pm

Yes, with public money going into private for profit schools that have no oversight and do not have to answer to anyone except their own shareholders, this kind of crap won’t ever happen then. Nice try.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
12:24 pm

Cutty: APS also spends more money per pupil than any other district in the state. So what’s your answer?

melshop

April 1st, 2013
12:27 pm

I grew up in Alabama starting first grade in 1969 as part of the first integrated class ever to complete 12 years together. Looking back, and Alabama jokes aside, I got a great education. Those who are older than me, both black and white, appeared to have gotten a great education even with segregation. They know math, read various books, know of culture, history, the Constitution, gotten jobs or started a business. Most of all, all seem like they want to learn more. All appeared to have sought out other learning resources throughout their life beyond the school books. I used to substitute and I was appalled at the lack of basic knowledge most students have, especially in history, science and literature. Many of the teachers give the students busy work, and not just when there’s a substitute. I heard some talk about certain students and pigeonhole them into a useless caste because of their family backgrounds or economic status. Some of that went on back in the day, I know, but then you had parents and other teachers who would fight for these students. Now, such thoughts are a part of the system’s mainstream thinking. I am not sure what the answer is, but maybe we should look back to see what school’s did back in the 40s and 50s and model modern schools after them in their teaching methods and curriculum because that generation succeeded in life.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

April 1st, 2013
12:27 pm

“Kyle’s solution in search of problems.”

‘Cause of course, there’s no problem with education in America. :roll:

Special case

April 1st, 2013
12:32 pm

What need to be done is for us as parents to take more interest in what is going on at our child’s school. We need to stop letting the school system/school babysit our children. Vouchers is not the answer nor is Charter Schools. Why should I have to pay for some privilege person kid to attend private or Charter School? Public Schools is our best solution for the masses and to educate everyone. I have had children in Charter Schools, Private Schools, and Public School until we start teaching the fundamentals again and not the test, we will continue to have scandals like these. Let’s get back to letting teachers teach. The Japanese way of teaching our kids is not working. I can tell you without parent involvement it doesn’t matter what the administrator do. Furthermore, in the article , it was mentioned that because of the cheating is a reason why the schools should be taken over by the state. Can anyone with certainty say no other school system cheat but have not been caught. Those without sin throw the first stone.

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
12:34 pm

mangler: really??? REALLY!?!?! That’s how the GA preK program works NOW. That’s how federal loans and scholarships and grants work for college NOW. Why should it be different for schools that are K-12?

Really? Right now – with GA PreK *and* with the HOPE and with Federal funding for college – a students picks a school (or a parent) and they sign the kid up – and then, the state/feds/whoever sends the check.

Why should it be different for K-12?

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
12:37 pm

melshop: part of the problem is – well – everythign. The parents drop the kids off and don’t think that they have any worry about it, let the schools take care of it. The teachers get pounded down by more and more administration that at some point many of them give up.
Administrators only seem to care about test scores, etc, and not really educating children.

Lots of blame to go around.

Oh, and many people don’t blame the kids at all – when part of it starts with them too.

reality from a teacher

April 1st, 2013
12:38 pm

The answer should be the state coming in and auditing all of APS’s accounts. Not sure why it hasn’t happened? Should have been the first thing done when the cheating scandal errupted. I think the state’s too afraid, though.

As far as choices…that’s such a white person thing to say. The problem would end up being the poorest and most underserved students having no choice. Sure, they’ll have the choice in August but when issues arise they’ll be on their way to the low end school that has no money and bottom of the barrel as far as teachers willing to work there.

Kyle, ever spent time teaching?

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

April 1st, 2013
12:39 pm

Georgia’s children need more school choice. Now.

Prepare for the Theocracy. What happened in Atlanta is deplorable but some will gladly throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The voucher system is a huge scam. If you think you’ve seen cheating now.

Just wait.

Uncle Jed

April 1st, 2013
12:42 pm

To an earlier point:

Test scores; grades; and graduation rates should be based on student accomplishment, not race. Making excuses for test scores based on race is misplaced. The failures in the “black community”, generally speaking, have little to do with what happens in the public schools and plenty to do with the social and moral decay foisted upon that group by the self-serving liberal/progressive factions in attempts to create perpetual voting blocks. Those claiming to help make things equal have no such intention, even though their trojan horses make for a pretty parade. The “blacks” have been used as pawns and have been sold out by the very schiesters claiming the high road for decades..

Hillbilly D

April 1st, 2013
12:42 pm

Until discipline is restored to the schools and they get back to teaching the 3 Rs, especially in the lower grades, things aren’t going to change much.

One thing I never hear much about is that teachers are paid according to degree level. The higher the degree, the higher the salary. That’s about a lame-brained idea if there ever was one.

I knew a teacher, and he was a very good teacher, but I was talking to him and in casual conversation, he brought up that he was going for his Masters. Got to asking him about that and turned out, he was getting his Masters in a different line of study than what he taught. When I asked him about that, it was basically, “It’s easier to get and I’ll make more money”.

Don’t fault him for dealing with the system as it is but it’s a strange way to run a railroad.

Cheesy Grits is gone but not forgotten

April 1st, 2013
12:44 pm

“[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed? Today some scientists are saying yes. They have found large chambers in certain dinosaur skulls…The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke.”—Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

Just an example of what is taught at ” voucher ” schools in Louisiana.

Soon to be taught in Georgia. With your tax dollars.

Shine

April 1st, 2013
12:45 pm

educational freedom? oh that’s where kook conservatives get to control more of the education slush funds.
Butwhy are they allowed to “turn themselves in”? if it was one of us little people they would come and throw the handcuffs on us. more double standards……………..

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
12:47 pm

yup – the schools can’t kick the disruptive kids out – so they have to keep them, and the principals don’t want to deal with it.
set up schools for the kids who don’t want to be in the regular classes – and let those who want to be there learn. why is that so difficult? they used to do that.

Reality: really? because the kids you’re talking about are getting a great deal now??!!!

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
12:48 pm

“The problem would end up being the poorest and most underserved students having no choice.”

Sorry, reality @ 12:38, but that’s just plain wrong. The students most likely to benefit from additional choice measures are those students because they are the ones without options now.

The Georgia DOE’s latest charter-schools report shows that start-up charter schools — the kind that aren’t run by the very same people who run traditional public schools — have the lowest share of white students of any type of public school (i.e., conversion charters, system charters, and traditional public schools) in the state. The report doesn’t break down free and reduced lunch eligibility among start-up charters, only all charters vs. all non-charters; that comparison comes out with a couple of percentage points of being even. Based on what we know about the demographics and geography of start-up charters, it’s a safe bet their students are more likely to be eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Ever spent any time looking at the actual data?

JDW

April 1st, 2013
12:49 pm

“Georgia’s children need more school choice. Now.”

What Georgia’s children need is better public schools…not mechanisms for stripping tax dollars and higher performing students from the neighborhood schools and giving them to private unaccountable schools.

We would be far better served to focus on driving improvement in our public school system by taking concrete actions like…

-Improving the metrics used and training methods employed to develop skilled teachers
-Creating more personalized curriculums for our students that prepare them for their lives…ie trade programs as well at college prep.
-Driving innovation WITHIN the system by leveraging technology and other tools to deliver a better product.

As for the fallacy that “it can’t get worse”, sure it can, take a look at Louisiana where “school choice” is creating “Bible Based Math” and students are learning that “Mark Twain’s outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless”

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
12:49 pm

Too soon to go off-topic, Cheesy.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
12:53 pm

JDW: I’m not going to argue with the concrete actions you’ve listed, or the idea that we also need to improve public schools. But why do you insist on consigning kids to lousy public schools while these concrete steps are designed and then implemented?

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
12:53 pm

shine: because what we have is so much better.

Basically, one would think that the vouchers would be available to accredited schools. those that aren’t accredited (well, it’s the best we have, i guess) wouldn’t get the vouchers, and one could choose to send their kids there (like they do now) or not…

Hillbilly D

April 1st, 2013
12:54 pm

The students most likely to benefit from additional choice measures are those students because they are the ones without options now.

That part of it I agree with but what if the school of choice is many miles away. How is a poor kid going to get there? In the city, he/she might be able to ride the city bus but what about in a rural area?

reality from a teacher

April 1st, 2013
12:57 pm

Data? Data is BS! Data can be misconstrued! Look at Beverly Hall and all of her data. Until you actually work with students you have no freaking idea on what could possibly be best for them. The idea of running schools as a business needs to end. We are not pumping out “products’. They’re young adults by that time and all are drastically different.

Anyone making education decisions should be working directly with educating our children, our future.

We wouldn’t have cops respond to a fire or firemen respond to a hold-up, would we?

Matt321

April 1st, 2013
12:58 pm

Step 1: Lower funding for public schools, denigrate teachers, implement standardized testing schemes designed by for-profit testing companies
Step 2: Lower funding for public schools and denigrate teachers when standardizing testing shows that students are performing poorly. If anyone asks about the lower funding, pretend like you don’t know the difference between relative and absolute levels of funding.
Step 3: Lower funding, denigrate teachers, and create a duplicative system of private schools with public money (even after those private schools have a record of not doing any better). It’s choice!
Step 4: Who cares what step 4 is, the private corporations already have got the PROFIT!

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
1:01 pm

jdw: then those schools wouldn’t get the funding – right? if you’re accredited (however the state/local jurisdiction defines it) you can accept vouchers. you don’t – you can’t.
GEORGIA DOES THIS NOW WITH PREK.
There are plenty of preK programs run by regular old preschools.

Uncle Jed

April 1st, 2013
1:02 pm

To the point made about discipline:

I have long felt that each classroom session should be assigned a monetary value. There should be archival video/audio captured during all classroom sessions. If a student or students repeatedly disrupt the learning process there should be escalated warnings. At a certain pre-determined and standardized measure of disruptive conduct, the parents/guardians of the offending student(s) should be invoiced. Tax liens; garnishments; and/or welfare reductions should be levied as applicable to the particular family’s “income” stream.

I suspect little Johnny or Jane will show an immediate improvement in class conduct, thus academic achievement.

atlmom

April 1st, 2013
1:03 pm

matt: check out who is running the testing. who is doing the testing. who is creating the testing. gazillions of dollars there. follow the money.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
1:05 pm

“Data? Data is BS!”

And we wonder why our educational system performs poorly …

JDW

April 1st, 2013
1:06 pm

@Kyle…”But why do you insist on consigning kids to lousy public schools while these concrete steps are designed and then implemented?”

I don’t…think of all the time and energy you put into this issue. Think of all the words and discussions you have on this issue. Now instead of advocating for vouchers what if you spent that time driving for improvement in the system. It would cost less, drive faster improvement and create a rallying point for society rather than a point of dispute.

Improving the existing system is the fastest way to improve the lot of the students.

OakhurstDawg

April 1st, 2013
1:06 pm

Was wondering what your take on this would be Kyle.

Given the breadth of the situation at APS, what happens when a sizeable percentage of an entire district decides to choose to go to a non-public / charter school? Can that model handle 1,000’s of children all at once?

And if so, what happens to “the rest” of the kids? Do those remaining schools just continute to get worse?

Also, assuming that the root cause of the APS scandal was related to incentives placed upon educators and leadership relative to the kids’ academic performance, what mechanisms exist to prevent similar scandals from occurring in an even less-regulated environment where the incentives are even more overt?

Looking fwd to a full blown trial, btw. I hope that your staff is gearing up for some real coverage over there. This has made-for-tv-miniseries written all over it.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
1:08 pm

Hillbilly: It will probably require a high-quality online/digital option to make a difference in rural areas. Then again, if a far superior school were to open nearby, I can imagine the traditional public school being the one short of students.

indigo

April 1st, 2013
1:08 pm

cheesey – 12:44

But…but..but…but…but these animals walked with men and maybe, just maybe, they started fires and, with God overseeing of course, man discovered fire!!!!!

Who says history is etched in stone?

Not the fundamentalists.

JDW

April 1st, 2013
1:09 pm

@atlmom…”then those schools wouldn’t get the funding – right?”

Depends on how it was structured and given the composition and viewpoints of our current crop of elected officials I thing is a pretty sure bet that those schools would be funded.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
1:09 pm

Oh, and also meant to put this in my 1:08 to Hillbilly: Having grown up in a small town — though not exactly what you’d call rural — I understand your point completely. That said, I don’t think that’s a good reason not to provide more options now in places where it can work now.

MarkV

April 1st, 2013
1:09 pm

What is missing from Kyle’s article is any logical argument why school choice would prevent administrators’ and teachers’ misconduct and even crimes. Does he think that schools other than public are immune to them?

Finn McCool (the system isn't broken; it's fixed)

April 1st, 2013
1:09 pm

This will change once the funding moves with the student.

Yeah, I can imagine the hop, skip, and jump of students from school to school until the parent lands on a teacher they “like”. Once that semester/year is over it’s time to hop, skip , and jump all over again.

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
1:10 pm

On a more serious level, reality: Who, exactly, do you think would be teaching students in these other educational options? Firemen?

Kyle Wingfield

April 1st, 2013
1:11 pm

JDW: “Improving the existing system is the fastest way to improve the lot of the students.”

Which is why things are so much better after 4-5 decades of attempts to “improve the existing system,” right?

Finn McCool (the system isn't broken; it's fixed)

April 1st, 2013
1:13 pm

Each time, we’ve gone to the principal about that teacher..found out that other parents have as well, throughout the years, and had……absolutely nothing done about that teacher.

And the principal has to weigh “how much of this is due to the student” with “how much of this is due to the parent” with “how much of this is due to the teacher.”

Does having 10% of a teacher’s students reporting bad experience mean that teacher is ineffective? Or is it more like 20%? or is it 5%?

JDW

April 1st, 2013
1:15 pm

@Kyle…”Data….And we wonder why our educational system performs poorly”

Not really, first off based on your very own Charter school data there is very little difference in the performance of Charter vs non Charter schools as a group. Most likely that can be explained by demographics. Frankly based on your own data the group that performs the BEST are system Charters which I think are fine.

The issues are the concept of plopping an unneeded school into a district, without their support and then syphoning off the tax dollars intended for that school or using vouchers to redirect those tax dollars into private schools.

There is nothing the matter with a system or parent conversion.