Posts Tagged ‘education reform’

The Education Solution: A Retired Educator’s Defense of the Public School Teacher

February 25, 2011

This post was submitted by retired Columbus, Georgia educator Judson Patten as a comment about the post The Education Solution: Is it Really the Teacher’s Fault? I decided to run it as an individual post because it gives a teacher’s point of view.

By Judson Patten

I felt so sorry for the students and teachers at Marshall Middle School over the years as they were being tested and continually called a “failing school.” Then they would be compared with Richards Middle School and Arnold Middle School and the only difference was the address of the schools and the part of town the children came from. I always thought it was so unfair to label a whole school as “failing” because of test scores. I fully believe that you could have switched the teachers from Richards with the teachers at Marshall and the outcome would have been exactly the same.

 Georgia gives all students the same test and that includes the children in Special Education classes. Yet there are some states that do not test the Special Education students along with the rest and that makes Georgia show up as further down in the comparisons.

Every thing that can be done to better prepare students for school is important. You mentioned pre-kindergarten classes and I believe that program is taking a tremendous hit with Governor Deal’s budget. I’ve been involved with education in Columbus for over 40 years and the teachers have always been working their hearts out for the children of Columbus. Of course, there are going to be some that don’t go quite as far as others but the teachers give their all for the students and will do everything within their power to do all that the students will allow them to do to better their education.

Public school is the way. When you take the students out of public school and put them in private school – you are also hurting the public school by removing many of the students that would help with raising the test scores in each school. Kids are worth the money that it takes to provide the best education that can be provided. Cutting five days out of the school year for students – that’s a whole week of school – was insane. And that was to save money.

The Education Solution: Are More Local Control and Charter Schools Really Better?

February 7, 2011

Sen. Josh McKoon, (Rep) Georgia 29th District

There is a hue and cry by some for more “local control” in Georgia’s public school system.  Newly elected Georgia 29th District Senator Josh McKoon tells me he is going to introduce a bill to provide more local control.

In an email he said, “First and foremost is to make it easier for local school districts to elect charter system status. This status allows local school districts to reassert control over their district and frees them from one size fits all state mandates. Every education success story I’ve read about involves heightened local control. So I intend to propose legislation that will allow local boards of education to elect charter system status provided they are meeting or exceeding the state average on the CRCT test.”

There is already a law on the books that addresses charter schools, according to Muscogee County School District Superintendent Susan Andrews.  There is a big problem with it for Columbus, she says, because it rules out admission requirements for any school.  She emailed this to me: “By 2014 local school districts must decide to operate under what is described in Georgia Law as IE2 (I,E squared) or become a Charter System.  If systems decide not to select one of these umbrellas under which to operate the Board of Education and Superintendent must sign an affidavit that they will accept the “Status Quo.” Of course, who wants to do that with the negative connotations that brings with it? To operate as an IE2 district, the school district must develop a Strategic Plan which outlines the student achievement improvements which will be made in exchange for flexibility or exemption from State Board rules and/or State laws.  The district in its plan can request the specific rules and/or laws from which it wants to be exempt. 

“To become a charter system, all schools in the district operate under a district charter but there can be no admission requirements for any school in the district.  Currently, we have admission requirements for Columbus High, Britt David Elementary, Hardaway’s, Richards’, and Clubview’s International Baccalaureate Programs, Arnold’s Magnet Program.  Unless we are willing to dismantle those programs, we would not be eligible for Charter System Status. 

“I believe IE2 offers the most flexibility and that is the one we will most likely pursue.” 

Josh tells me that IE2 allows local school boards to apply for charter status.  He promises to give me a fuller  explanation. When he does, I’ll pass it along.  He also has some other interesting plans for public education in Georgia.  More on that, too, later.

Some think the charter school concept is the magic bullet in making schools better. Some think they are overrated.  I’ll deal more with that in my next  The Education Solution series.

The Education Solution: Race to the Top in Muscogee County

February 1, 2011

“MY GREATEST CONCERN IS THAT WE WILL SPEND, AS A STATE,  $400 MILLION IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS AND A TRUE TRANSFORMATION  WILL NOT HAVE TAKEN PLACE.”  

Muscogee County School District Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews agreed to answer some questions I have about education reform in America, Georgia, and Muscogee County. Yesterday she explained the effects of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.  Today, she explains the effects of President Obama’s Race to the Top. 

Race to the Top is a federal grant for school reform.  The purpose of this grant is to transform the nation’s lowest performing schools, to enhance teaching and learning, to ensure the implementation of the Common Core Standards, and to allow for teachers to use the most current data available to inform their instruction day to day, as well as providing them longitudinal data so they can see student progress over time.  Muscogee County will be receiving $11.6 million dollars over the next four years.  I am excited to be at the table as we begin these initiatives.  My greatest concern is that we will spend, as a state, $400 million dollars in the next four years and a true transformation will not have taken place.  We are going to work very hard in Muscogee County to use this money over the next four years to implement the reforms with integrity and make a difference in the achievement of all students.  A large portion of this money had to be set aside for year four of the grant to provide bonuses for teachers who reach a certain level on the Teacher Effectiveness Scale which will be developed at the State level.  The State told districts how much of the money to set aside for that purpose.  Another large portion of the money will be spent on building capacity among our teaching staff through targeted professional development.

Having said all of that I must remind everyone that in America, we value every child and believe that every child should have the opportunity to be educated in our public schools.  We are educating more students, with more diversity, to higher levels than at any time in the history of our nation.  That is a story that doesn’t often get told.  Providing a quality education for all students is a civil right due to all American children.   

 

The Education Solution: NCLB and Race to the Top

January 31, 2011

International ranking of the world’s education systems has the United States lagging behind other developed nations.  When the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, President Eisenhower called for a crusade to improve American schools in math and science.  It worked. But it didn’t last. Now, other developed nation’s better school systems are threatening America’s place in global economies.

  So a new crusade is underway. President Bush started it with No Child Left Behind. President Obama is continuing it with Race to the Top.  I asked Dr. Susan Andrews, Superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, to explain how those two programs affect the District.   

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)is the generic name of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  (Note:  President Bush began calling this law NCLB and the name stuck.  President Obama and his administration want to get away from calling it NCLB and therefore, you will see it referred to by its appropriate name ESEA by the current  administration.) 

MCSD Superintedent Susan Andrews

   

 

This federal law is past due for reauthorization and we are hoping that the new Congress will address the fundamental flaws in the current NCLB act.  The positive about NCLB is that the mandates have forced school districts to look at the performance of subgroups of children by ethnicity, socioeconomic levels, and to look at the performance of students with disabilities.  In the past, districts could look at their average achievement levels and feel good about how students were achieving.  When you look at subgroups of children, however, you see that many children in public schools in America are performing well, but there is a great disparity in the achievement of white students and students of color and there is an even greater disparity when you look at middle class students (regardless of ethnicity) and economically disadvantaged students.  This has increased our awareness and our efforts to teach all children with increased rigor in order to close these gaps.

The negatives of NCLB are in the requirements in regard to students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners (ELL).  NCLB is in direct conflict with another federal law, IDEA, which requires an individual education plan with individual goals for each student with a disability.  NCLB sets an academic bar for students with disabilities at each grade level that schools must obtain without regard to the individual disabilities of the student and requires the SWD students (except the most severely disabled) to take standardized tests on their age appropriate grade level regardless of their functioning level.  For example, a student with a disability who is ten years old and functions on a third grade level must take the fifth grade test because he is assigned to that grade.  His IEP, however, states that he is learning third grade objectives and is delayed due to his disability.  Educators around the nation are hoping that these issues will be addressed in the reauthorization and base school progress on the growth of students from year to year and not on whether or not students meet an artificially set standard.  Students who are ELL must take the test in English even when they are not yet proficient in the language.

In my next report, Dr. Andrews explains what Race to the Top will do for the Muscogee County School District. 

 

THE EDUCATION SOLUTION – A NEW SERIES OF REPORTS

January 25, 2011

THE HOPE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS LIES IN THE HANDS OF OUR EDUCATORS.

 

I agree with those who say public education is the key to a prosperous future for not only individuals, but for the state and the nation.  The scary part is many believe it is broken.  Assuming that it is,  I am going to take a look at why and what some believe we need to do to fix it. 

First of all we have to know which questions to ask to gain perspective.  Here are some of them:

1. Is it true, as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates asserts in Newsweek, that “Our schools are still organized for the Industrial Age rather than the knowledge economy?”

2.  Should teacher pay be determined by performance rather than seniority?

3. How can it be determined if a teacher is doing a good or a bad job? It takes an adequate evaluation program to judge teacher performance.  Bill Gates maintains we don’t have one.  Test scores are the main measurement now, but many claim that is not an adequate gauge and has many flaws. What would be a good evaluation process?

4. Are teachers being overly blamed for our education system’s comparatively poor performance? 

5. Have, as San Francisco University Rick Ayers teacher education professor claims, right-wing big businessmen and neo-liberals taken over education reform with the goals of privatization, making schools sites of regimentation, driven by standardized tests?

6. Are calls for more local control of education systems the right way to go, or should there be a more centralized approach that uses common curriculum, which is the case in the countries who are the highest ranked in the world in education performance?

In future blog posts, we’ll not only look at the questions on the national level, but at how they apply in Georgia and Muscogee County.  As we proceed with this effort, your input is welcomed. All you need do is to click on the comment button and tell us what you think.