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What's Up With That

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Shrink Bureaucracy and Help Teachers and Taxpayers

 
StaffingSurge

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Georgia Loses Money Earmarked For Teacher Merit Pay

With all of the talk about recent weather and traffic events, we’ve lost an important education story.

Georgia, has now become the first and only state to forfeit Race to the Top (RT3) grant money.   Officials in Georgia were warned last July to address failures in implementing a new teacher evaluation system or lose almost $10 million in funding for a teacher merit pay system.

In the letter regarding the forfeiture, federal officials stated:

On September 16, 2013, I notified the State of my intent to withhold $9,904,629, pursuant to sections 454(a)(1) and 455 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) (20 U.S.C. § § 1234c(a)(1) and 1234d), until the State submitted a credible plan detailing its strategy for coming into compliance with this section of its Race to the Top grant. To date, the State has not submitted such a plan. ….. To date, the OALJ has not received an application for a hearing nor have I received a written show cause response. As a result, the Department is withholding $9,904,629 of Georgia’s Race to the Top grant award, effective with this letter.

I’m not a fan of some of the aspects of RT3 but if the state commits to it, one has an obligation to manage it properly.  Whether you like RT3 or not, this is an embarrassment at the national level for Georgia.  The headline draws attention to the poor state of affairs regarding education management in our state.  Furthermore, it removes funding that would have gone to our best performing teachers.

Georgia’s Department of Education created the very evaluation system they failed to implement.  The evaluation system had problems from the start.   The length of the 358-page evaluation handbook is a clue that the system may have failed under the weight of its own complexity.

Given that it is National School Choice Week, the story of a failed evaluation system is ironic.  The simplicity and equilibrium of parent choice in education as a metric and driver of success is all the more compelling, compared to the byzantine and lengthy teacher evaluation system created by bureaucrats.

Georgians deserve more choice and less bureaucratic failure.

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DeKalb Accreditation

I am pleased to hear the DeKalb school system’s accreditation status has been upgraded from “probation” to “warned”.  I worked diligently to shine light on the poor fiscal management of DeKalb.  Some of my work was even cited in the SACS report from 2012.   Clearly DeKalb still has a long way to go.  Academic achievement and growth in many schools is unacceptable.  DeKalb’s graduation rate, at 58.9%, is far too low.  Of the 25 high schools in DeKalb, 8 have graduation rates below 50%, while only 4 have rates above 75%.  All four of these schools are specialty or magnet schools. 

I appreciate that SACS finally recognized that DeKalb needed some sort of intervention.  The entire episode exposes the structural weaknesses in our state’s accountability model.  While SACS can provide a useful and supplemental service via their third party accreditation products, Georgia must not continue to abdicate it’s role in holding districts accountable for their results and financial management.  AdvancED/SACS has 5 standards for school district accreditation.  While these standards are meant to drive improvement in various processes for a school district, not one standard measures outcomes for children. There is no minimum graduation rate or achievement level necessary to earn accreditation. 

In many states, the accreditation status of schools is determined by their Department of Education or comparable public agency.  Texas and Virginia both accredit their schools based on defined, measurable performance results.  Their graduation rates are 87% and 89% respectively.  These states are rewarding success with autonomy and no longer accept failure without consequences.  Additionally, Texas has a Financial Integrity system that has 20 indicators that measure the financial health of a district and push money to be spent in the classroom.   

From the Texas Education Agency’s website:

“The purpose of the financial accountability rating system is to ensure that school districts and open-enrollment charter schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and achieve improved performance in the management of their financial resources.  The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to manage their financial resources better in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.”

Georgia has 0 financial integrity measurements for our school districts.

If Georgia had a system for financial integrity, like Texas, DeKalb county could not have engaged in the deceptive budgeting practices I uncovered.  School districts would be forced to allocate money to instruction and not a bloated bureaucracy.  If Georgia’s Department of Education had an accreditation system like that of Texas or Virginia, our schools would be rated and accredited based on measurable performance outcomes. 

I am running to be the State School Superintendent to bring these types of structural reforms to our state.

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Education Spending and Results in Georgia

On the campaign trail recently I’ve been talking about how much Georgia spends on education and how that relates to outcomes for our children.

I put together a spreadsheet for you so you can see Georgia’s spending on education from Fiscal Years 2005 through the current Fiscal Year 2014. I have graphed Georgia’s education spending, the federal money Georgia spends on education and the total budget for our state. Here’s that graph:

GeorgiaTotalBudget

Notice anything?

Georgia’s total budget took quite a hit from 2008 to 2010 (the top yellow line). Georgia’s state funding for education dipped during that same time frame (the blue line) but took nowhere near the hit that the entire state was forced to endure. Additionally, the federal government stepped in and made up for most of the decline with stimulus funds. The grey line shows total state and federal education spending.

What’s the real story behind Georgia’s education system and funding? Every state that borders Georgia spends less per pupil and has a higher graduation rate. For the record, since 2012 (for the 2010-11 school year) the graduation rate is calculated the same in every state. See my chart below for the data – border states are highlighted in peach and other notable states are highlighted in blue. It’s worth noting our two lowest spending border states have the highest graduation rates – Tennessee and North Carolina.
GradRatesPerPupilSpendingMap
GraduationRates
Sources and Citations

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Campaign Reception in Support of Nancy Jester

Campaign Reception in Support of Nancy Jester
Please Join Us
Honorable Eric Johnson
Brigadier General Denis Shortal, Dunwoody City Councilman
Senator Josh McKoon
Representative Tom Taylor
J. Max Davis, Mayor of Brookhaven
Bate Mattison, Brookhaven City Council Member
Todd and Kimberly Cochran
Molly Dye
Shawn Keefe
Eero and Angela Maki
Donna and Terry Nall, Dunwoody City Councilman
John and Lauren Oselette
Melanie Stockwell
Rich Thompson
Terri and Doug Thompson, Dunwoody City Councilman
Stefan and Lisa Victory
___________________________________________________
Monday December 9, 2013
5:00pm – 7:00pm
Café Intermezzo
4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Road
Dunwoody, Georgia 30346
____________________________________________________
Suggested Contribution Levels
Host $1,000 ~ Friend $500 ~ Attendee $250 (per couple)
_____________________________________________________
Kindly RSVP to Robyn Lynch
______________________________________________________
Make Checks Payable to:
Nancy Jester for State School Superintendent
2472 Jett Ferry Road, Suite 400, Box 177 – Dunwoody, GA – 30338
Nancy Jester
2472 Jett Ferry Road
Dunwoody, Georgia 30338
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