To add to the community's frustration, another metro Atlanta school district -- neighboring DeKalb County-- has been put on probation. Yep. As of today, the school board of DeKalb earned the district a disgraceful mark because of its financial mismanagement.
And, who can forget the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal -- a topic which has consumed many of my posts.
That makes 3 districts of the 6 school systems that many would say form the heart of Atlanta (i.e. Fulton Co, DeKalb Co., Clayton Co., Cobb Co., Gwinnett Co. Atlanta Public Schools).
Atlanta Public Schools
Begs the question: what the hell is going on?
According to several sources of information (MikeJohnston.org, Denver St-Cloud Public Schools website, and Ga Tech advertisement):
Seeking Undergraduates, 1L and 2L Law Students, and Graduate Students for 30-50 paid (stipend will be approx. $2000), 6-week Urban Leader Fellowships in Denver, Memphis, and possibly other areas.
Hiring projections are for 20-25 Fellows in Denver; 6-10 Fellows in Memphis; and possibility of 6-10 Fellows in additional regions. Fellows will work half-time on high-level policy projects with an elected official. They will also work half-time alongside community partner organizations.
Denver fellowships are available in 6 areas: Education, Energy, School Finance, Health, Judiciary, and Transportation, and past community partner organizations have included Denver School of Science and Technology, Denver Public Schools, Colorado Department of Education, Prodigal Son Initiative (anti-gang violence non-profit), Education Reform Now, Teach for America, Stand for Children.
Memphis Fellows work on a project-basis, typically in areas such as affordable housing, urban blight, and community engagement; past community partner organizations have included Stand for Children, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Department of Education, and Achievement School District.
Fellows’ assignments during community partner placement will vary, but all work will be substantive and meaningful for organization. Fellows working at a school site might run a summer school program or conduct data analysis of student outcomes, while Fellows at non-profit might draft strategic plans for a project or conduct a special research project. Candidates may indicate location preferences (if any) and issue area preferences during the application process.
There it is, go tell someone.
The case is Zeno v. Pine Plains Central School District, 10-3604-cv.
It was heard in the Second Circuit of the the United States Courts of Appeals-- specifically, in the Southern District of New York. For all the non-lawyers/law students, the case basically says that the federal court of appeals over the federal district court for the Southern District of New York agreed with the final judgment in the trial court. A jury heard the facts of the case against the Pine Plains Central School District and awarded the student who brought the case, and was bullied for three years with documented complaints, $1 million.
Pages 3- 15 of the Opinion detail the facts. It lays out the evidence that from a young man's freshman year though his senior year, he was repeatedly bullied because of his race at a school where officials did not do enough. The District argued that its responses to the bullying were reasonable and that the trial court awarded the student too much money as damages.
The Second Circuit disagreed with the school district.
On whether the district was responsible, the Court held that, as a matter of law, the school district could be, and was determined to be (by a jury), responsible for the continuation of the bullying. It used a legal standard called the "deliberate indifference standard." Basically, before the school district could be liable for third-party conduct of the bully-ers, the court needed to be satisfied that (1) the school district had substantial control over "both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs," (2) there was severe and discriminatory harassment, (3) the school district had actual knowledge of the conduct, and (4) the district displayed deliberate indifference to the conduct. See pages 22-23.
On the issue of damages, a federal law,Title VI, "provides a private right of damages against a school district for student-to-student harassment if the school district was deliberately indifferent to the known harassment." See page 42. The Court noted that the "ongoing and objective offensiveness of the student-on-student harassment" could support an award for $1 million. See page 48.
Read the case. Read the facts. Think about your child, or any child that you love. Pay up district. Pay up.
Well, basically, it means a tax savings of at most $625 -- for interest payments of $2500.
Of course, I could prepay such that the $2500 interest that I pay doesn't get capitalized into the student loan. That'd mean I'd see a tax savings and a long-run savings of a reduced principle. But, that also means I'd have to come up with that money before my first payment was actually due (so that payments down the road would be marginally reduced).
Welcome to the real world. Congrats on that degree!
According to that article in the AJC:
The legislation would hike the council’s pay from $39,473 to $60,300, with pay for the council president — usually a nonvoting role — jumping from $41,000 to $62,000.
For comparison, the site Payscale.com lists the salary of an administrative assistant in Atlanta: about $34,679. An executive assistant in Atlanta? About $48,083.
This newly passed legislation also raises the salary of the city mayor-- "from $147,500 to $184,300" (according to the AJC article linked above).
For comparison, most large Atlanta law firms pay between $130,000-165,000 for first-year associates.
Deserved? Merited? Necessary? Wasteful?
Here are the reported salaries of Atlanta-area Superintendents of Schools from 2010:
- $382,819 (Gwinnett);
- $344,331 (APS);
- $287,992 (DeKalb);
- $276,629 (Clayton);
- $216,697 (Cobb)
OK- so maybe you think, I don't have kids in school, this really doesn't
matter [sic] to me.
You could not be more wrong:
-Take a look at your property tax bill: app. 45% is the APS school tax,
plus bonded indebtedness
-Property values are *directly* related to the desireability of local
schools: go a ahead and re-paint and put in granite counter-tops, but if
you want to be able to sell quickly and for a fair price, fix the schools.
-Crime/public safety are also directly related to the schools: good
schools keep after truants, a major source of mischief and mayhem, plus
they give their students marketable skills, so instead of being a drag on
society, they contribute to it.
Davis can be prickly, but he takes a dispassionate look at problems, and
that is something that is rare in schools systems, because politics ranks
so highly with most involved at the executive level. He doesn't care: he
came out of retirement to do this job, and while APS pays him well, he made
his money during a long, varied and successful career.
Surely the community gets a say, right?
More after the break...
For the past few years, Teach For America and J. Crew have had a partnership in which shoppers could come in and use a friends and family discount with some of the proceeds benefiting Teach For America, Inc. And, they aren't the only corporate cause (see here for the Minted sponsorship).
What do I think? As a Teach For America alumna?
Well, I think that Teach For America works relentlessly to move toward its goals. One of those goals has been an expansion of the corps to impact more underrepresented students in under-served communities. As most non-profit leaders will tell you, that takes money. So, no. I'm not gonna hate on Teach For America for building corporate sponsorships to strengthen its finances. Nor am I gonna hate on Teach For America for its effort to market itself as hip, cool, and the thing to do among recent and prospective college graduates. The teaching profession needs electricity and enthusiasm.
But what goes through my mind seeing the J. Crew model sporting a Teach For America t-shirt for purchase is: why didn't that person just give to Teach For America directly? Or, they could have bought a t-shirt directly form Teach For America at the online store (and it may even be cheaper).
Better yet, to have a direct impact, a person could go to the donorschoose.org site, filter through the projects, and select a Teach For America corps member classroom (or, hey, ANY project cause any of these teachers' students deserve it) to which a donation would be greatly appreciated. I have been on the receiving end of someone donating to my classroom. As thanks, the donor got pictures of my students using the materials, and my students got days on end of playing bean-bag math and reading in our softly lit corner. I call that having an impact!
Here's why it matters:
Superintendent Davis and former-Superintendent Hall were brought in during similar public expectations. Both Dr. Hall and Mr. Davis were asked to improve APS from the low status many perceived it to have. However, as a necessity, much of Superintendent Davis’s initial efforts have been in direct response to shortcoming of the immediate past administration under Superintendent Hall. Namely, the previous administration had ambitious plans for success without realistic corrections for failure. The Hall administration accepted the positive trends in ways that the Davis administration is now scrutinizing. Where Superintendent Hall put in place initiatives to spur educators to reach the height of performance, Superintendent Davis is enacting initiatives to discourage educators from dipping below performance expectations. Namely, Mr. Davis addressed five areas immediately upon assuming full superintendent responsibilities: (1) combating cheating, (2) rehabilitating the district, (3) restoring students, (4) employing administrative leave, and (5) applying relevant professional, employment, and criminal penalties. These strategies are likely considered to be sound approaches for managing education systems in the context of responding to crisis, but alone they are not likely to transform the district from operating as it had under Superintendent Hall.
[Superintendent Davis took] positive steps by cleaning up the environments that incentivized cheating behavior in the first place, and he is consulting with experts to put in place professionally sound organizational strategies. What is concerning, though, is that many thought that Superintendent Hall was doing similar things at the time she was managing the district—borrowing reforms and initiatives that the education community thought were effective. After speaking with former APS employees [during my thesis research], there may be reason to believe that simply changing superintendents and tightening administrative policies may not on their own lead to sustainable solutions. Said more strongly, it is unclear that these new policies will actually result in environments where educators and decision-makers will actually be able to police their own environments.
USING REFLECTIVE PRACTICE TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS AFTER A SCHOOL DISTRICT CHEATING SCANDAL
So, am I for or against Davis?
Because I am interested in the long-term stability and PROSPERITY of Atlanta Public Schools, I must be for Superintendent Davis -- he had undeniably done GOOD for the district. I am ALSO for a predecessor to take the reigns, after an appropriate transition, and build upon the stability Davis has brought.
Anyone know any names of potential candidates that have come up in the superintendent search?
The rift between policy and practice is deep, wide, and well-documented. My most fond experience in law+graduate school was walking between campuses (literally) attending education policy-focused discussions at the law school, the education school, the policy school, and (even) the business school. Those conversations talked past one another. Every time. There were such disjointed starting points, that it became very obvious to me how this policy-practice ravine began and why it persists.
Yesterday's latest, on how the curriculum standards for English Language Arts require more nonfiction texts and the burden that is being placed on English teachers specifically, is but another example of what happens when worlds don't collide.
The article's main assertion is that the new common core standards in English require more nonfiction, rigorous texts that can appropriately be spread across teaching subjects. It asserts that teachers from other subject areas (non English Language Arts teachers) are hesitant (if not opposed) to increase the teaching of nonfiction texts in their subject areas. So, in practice, English Language Arts teachers will be forced to cut poetry, fiction, or some other beloved, endearing text to replace it with government reports. (I'm summarizing and paraphrasing here.)
More after the break...
One of the initiatives on the voting ballot this November was a proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia. The Amendment, aptly named the "Charter Schools Amendment," read as follows:
Of course, many complained about indirect and ambiguous language. Aside from the obvious critique that "improving student achievement and parental involvement" is being directly linked to "public charter options" (I've seen the research-- in some cases this assertion is true and in others it is not so accurate), the language also fails to distinguish the new addition to the Georgia Constitution-- that the state (or a state board of representatives) would be authorized to approve public charter schools separate from (or perhaps in an appellate capacity) local approval processes. Now, the state authority to approve charter schools that would operate in local districts is what all the hoopla was about. So, let's cut to that.
Georgia voters approved the Amendment with results of approximately 58% to 42% (or 58.5% to 41.5% depending on who you consult).
Those that Vote "Nay"
National education voices, like that of Diane Ravich suggested that the measure would ultimately "gut local control."
Other local, Metro-Atlanta columnists agreed that a NO vote on the Charter Amendment was deserved for at least 10 reasons. See also this article on the 8 Myths of the Proposed Charter Amendment. Persuasively for some, even the editorial board of the major state newspaper published a piece urging a NO vote.
Those that Vote "Yay"
The Vice President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association had this to say. Further, there were even reports that President Obama supposedly supported the Amendment (which would fall in line with the President's education "Blueprint" plan (old and new) that has been a mantle piece for some time).
And the Rest...
Still other journalists tried to distill the issues for voters. Even in my hometown of Athens, Georgia, which I lovingly remember as having an activist/involved education population, there were open forums and discussions on both sides of the issue.
More than Just Georgia
According to the New York Times, here's more on the political breakdown:
- "Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, has contributed to campaigns supporting the measure"
- "several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies" supported
- "committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings."
Many tried to cast Amendment 1 as a partisan issue, but I believe it is a bit more complicated than attaching an "R" or "D" label. (I acknowledge that Republicans were supposedly responsible for the language of the Amendment.). Evidence shows that some Democrats joined Republicans in support of the Amendment.
"conservatives who typically champion decentralized government are giving the amendment full-throated support. Meanwhile, some Tea Party members have joined Democratic legislators, including State Senators Jason Carter and Vincent D. Fort, in opposing the measure. The state’s school superintendent, John D. Barge, a Republican, has come out against it as well." (NYT)Further, as the creation of Democrats for Education Reform attests, the policies of U.S. education splice creed, regionalism, and background. I could continue with the examples, but I think you get the point.
So what's my point?
Well, my point is that there was all this political speech-- ads for a YES vote, ads for a NO vote all over the airwaves on this issue. Even among my friends, there were chatty talks about "the future of public education in Georgia." But now? Radio silence. I hear not one chirp, besides the articles that I am digging up for this blog post, about what the passage of the Amendment means for Georgia charter schools-- and Georgia schools more broadly.
And, I would like to hear more. I'll keep you tuned.
[TEASER ALERT] Excerpt from my Master's Thesis, CRITICAL INCIDENTS IN EDUCATION: USING REFLECTIVE PRACTICE TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS AFTER A SCHOOL DISTRICT CHEATING SCANDAL
More after the jump.
Which ideas and policy proposals should be translated into ESEA reauthorization (NCLB) legislation? How does that happen?
Fictional Assignment -- What is the Status of Georgia's Race to the Top Implementation? What are your recommendations for a new governor?
More after the break...
- · Research projects are underway that look at some of the causes of disparate impact that policies have (like “zero-tolerance”). Also developing research tools that will quantify unconscious/implicit bias in order to push public policy change.
- · Work with community groups and national organizations to get their voices heard at the policy table. See various takes on what the exact issues are. Works in LA (truancy tickets for walking to class late or criminal record), Philadelphia (transfers to alternative disciplinary schools, zero-tolerance, out-of-school suspensions). There’s a background principle being applied that students are different than they were and are more violent and need a police state. One of the goals is getting administrators’ discretion back so that boyscouts stop getting disciplined for having sporks and students with scissors from gift-wrapping stop getting put in alternative schools.
- · Focus on school discipline problem—the number of children getting kicked out of school for discipline issues. For successful remedies have to get to school resources, implicit bias, effective preschool because expulsion is the outcome of these things. Has promoted a borrowing a disparate impact analysis from administrative law—requiring that a method of administration that has an adverse impact on protected groups (even though it’s facially neutral) can still violate Title XI. The structure of that disparate impact analysis includes (1) adverse impact on protected group, and either (2) the practice is educationally unsound or (3) less discrimination option exist. Discipline isn’t just about safety, it’s about students getting time back in school.
- · Spent time in Rikers Island in NYC (where there are many jails) teaching and being a principal with students who were sent to the center from their home school. At this stage, being in the center is pre-adjudication for the students until they have been through their court process. Now he’s a bureaucrat (J) and a parent of three sons in NYC. Works on home-school re-entry to transfer students back into their schools once finished in the court systems. (NYC has over 500 high schools).
Below is an analysis of Secretary Duncan's speech to HGSE students in Feb 2012. Of course this post is part of an assignment to connect the talk to larger policy frameworks--notably, John Kingdon-- but, all the same, it's my analysis of where I think Secretary Duncan and the Obama Administration are in the education space.
Find the speech HERE.