In the recent gubernatorial campaign, Governor Deal promised to overhaul school funding - he wanted to be an education governor! Coming from a governor who presided over years of gigantic austerity cuts to public schooling, it hardly seemed believable.
Naturally, the promised overhaul became a toothless blue ribbon panel. This has cleared the slate for Deal's attack on locally controlled, public schools in the poorest areas in the state. Under his plan, Deal would be made the superintendent-in-chief of dozens of schools across the state, with the authority to bid the management of those schools out to private, for-profit corporations. Which schools to usurp from local county control would be within Deal's discretion - any school that has received a failing grade on the state College and Career Ready Performance Index for three years in a row would be eligible.
A lot is being said about this plan - including this must read piece on why such a plan is likely to worsen the education quality at those schools. Here, I want to shine a spotlight on the College and Career Ready Performance Index.
The College and Career Ready Performance Index ("CCRPI") was developed by the state of Georgia. The state described its creation in the following way: "Accountability is about giving leaders a roadmap for improvement. It is not about threatening schools." What a difference a few years makes, eh? The Georgia DoE describes the index as "a comprehensive school improvement, accountability, and communication platform for all educational stakeholders that will promote college and career readiness for all Georgia public school students"). In plain English, the CCRPI is a gussied up report on standardized test performance. Look for yourself. The CCRPI has has four parts: 60 possible "Achievement" points, 25 possible "Progress" points, 15 possible "Achievement Gap" points, and 10 bonus "Challenge" points.
"Achievement" is made up of 40% "content mastery," 30% "post readiness," and 30% "grad rate/predictor." The CCRPI uses eight end of course tests as a proxy for the "Content Mastery" performance of high schools across the state - 2 years of literature, 2 years of math, 2 years of science, American history, and economics. Nothing else the school does over four years counts toward content mastery - buckle down freshmen and sophomore, most of those courses are aimed at you.
And it's all
turtles testing, all the way down. That 30% "post readiness" component is a flurry of test results: students earning a passing score on an "end of pathway assessment;" students doing well on SAT/ACT/AP/IB exams; students doing well on the Georgia High School Writing Test; students earning a "Lexite measure greater than or equal to 1275 on the American Literature EOCT"; and percent of EOCT assessments scoring at the Exceeds level. At least at the high school level, you've got graduation rates making up some portion of the CCRPI. For middle and elementary school, they substitute in standardized test results.
So much for "Acheievement." How does a school earn "Progress" points? Or "Achievement Gap" points? If you answered more of the same test results, pat yourself on the back. For elementary and middle, almost 100 out of 100 points are earned by performance on standardized tests. High schools are tempered with the addition of four and five year graduation rates - and that's it.
And about that three-years-in-a-row requirement. Since its creation, the state has continued to change the formula, changing the tests that make up the measurements, the benchmarking of those tests, and the weighting of each part. See here and here. So let's be clear on what the state is really doing here. The state has largely abandoned its citizens to poverty. Counties, which by law have to at least attempt to provide a quality education to every child, try to do so. And now the schools in the poorest counties are called "failing" for their inability to hit a constantly moving target.
And all for what? Despite the propaganda pushed by the testing industry and its acolytes, high stakes testing only appears to accurately predict one thing: the financial well-being of the students. This is a subject too broad to address here, but I'll quote from a recent article on the subject:
Poverty’s predictive influence has been documented in studies dating back almost 50 years. A landmark 1966 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education surveyed staff and students from 4,000 schools. It identified the effects of socioeconomic status as “the most powerful predictor of student success,” Ceglarek wrote in his dissertation.Source. See also: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5).
“Schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context,” the federal study noted, adding the “inequality imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment” follows them throughout school.
Ceglarek cites subsequent studies showing a growing achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students, and research asserting state testing and federal reform programs have not made a major impact on it.
In a 2009 nationwide analysis, the Federal Education and Budget Project found students’ proficiency in standardized eighth-grade math and reading tests was nearly twice as high in states with the lowest poverty compared to those with the highest poverty
Governor Deal has responded to criticism of his victim-blaming attack on schools in poor areas. Politifact took an unfortunately poor swing at Deal's statement that:
"I would say to them that 96 percent of those (failing schools) pay more than the average of the state of $8,400 per child per year, and about 26 percent of them spend considerably more than the state average," the governor said. "If they say that money alone will fix this, then the statistics and the information that we have does not bear that out."This statement is so misleading, in two major ways, that it deserves an actual fact check. Is the state average of $8,400 a meaningful number? Georgia's schools consistently rank as among the worst in the nation. Is Deal saying that because those schools are getting more than "worst results in nation" dollars, more money won't fix this? Or compare to what other states spend per pupil. Several states spend DOUBLE what Georgia does, per pupil. So again, is Deal saying that because those schools are getting more than "extremely poor compared to other states" dollars, more money won't fix this? And as to his statement that 26% are spending considerably more than the state average? Apparently if you use $10,000 as the standard for "considerably more," that's true. But $10,000 is less than the national average of spending per pupil - and is HALF of what New York City spends on its pupils. The Governor's comments are an intentionally misleading non sequitur.
And as Politifact points out, schools serving poor citizens get more money than schools not serving poor citizens. Duh. But free lunches aren't putting more teachers in classrooms, or getting their kids more homework time with parents who are busy working 2-3 jobs for poverty wages.
Every student in Georgia deserves a quality education. That costs money. For example, Georgia's teachers are making far less money than a decade ago, when accounting for inflation. Poor students have additional challenges, and if we want to really address those, that costs money too. Governor Deal can shed crocodile tears for the children all he wants. Since he's not proposing any additional dollars for those children, I think we know what he really thinks.