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.