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This column by Jack Hassard is referenced in the previous post by Edward Johnson of Atlanta.
I missed it when it first appeared. I am posting it now because it contains important advice, not only for Georgia, but for other states whose governors want to copy New Orleans and the Tennessee Achievement School District (which so far has not achieved its lofty goal of moving the lowest performing schools in the state to the top 25% of schools in the state). The model legislation comes right from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the rightwing organization that promotes privatization and deregulation for the benefit of corporations.
The Opportunity School District, which was proposed by Governor Nathan Deal, is indeed an opportunity. But it is not in the best interests of students and their families in the communities identified as having “chronically failing schools.” The first detail to pull out of Senate Bill 133 is that this bill is nothing short of opening the flood gates for charter schools, which have been documented time and again as not nearly being as effective as “regular” public schools. These schools will replace public schools that have been red-flagged for three consecutive years. The main goal of school will be to get students to score higher on standardized tests. Success will hinge primarily on the test scores in mathematics and reading. Teaching to the test will be the main goal of schooling in the OSD.
In this Senate bill, paragraph after paragraph is devoted to describing how the state will set up a state-wide charter school district for “chronically failing schools.” But here is a real problem for Georgia legislators to consider. The evidence from the New Orleans Recovery School District is that for the most part, schools that were considered failing before they entered the confines of the RSD continued to earn failing grades, stars, or flags–pick your own symbol.
What Governor Deal does not confront is the connection between poverty and test scores. As Hassard shows in another post, 27% of the children in the state of Georgia live in poverty, and nearly 60% are eligible for free- or reduced-price school lunches.
Creating a special school district for the schools attended by children who live in poverty is a high priority for ALEC, but it does nothing to alleviate the lives of these children or to improve their schools. It amounts to kicking the can down the road. It will take a decade to recognize that this remedy didn’t remedy anything that matters. It just delayed the reckoning with the cause of low test scores: high poverty.