Flexibility Decision – What Will DeKalb Schools Choose?

Stan Jester has posted a new Fact Checker, ‘Flexibility Decision – DeKalb Schools Will Choose’

According to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-81.3, by June 30, 2015 each local school system must choose to operate as one of the following:

* Investing in Educational Excellence School System (IE2)
* Charter System
* Status Quo School System
* Strategic School System
* System of Charter Schools

Investing in Educational Excellence School System (IE2) IE2 is a local district that has a performance contract with the state (both the State BOE and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA)). The district is allowed waivers like those for class size and school schedule in exchange for increased academic accountability. If the local district fails to meet the standards set out by the charter and state accountability measures, the non-performing schools could be converted to an independent charter, operated by another school system or operated by a private third party. If DeKalb Schools chooses to go with IE2, a community could take over under performing schools without approval from the local board. The county would lose those students and funding.

Charter System
A Charter System is a local district that has an executed charter from the SBOE (State Board of Education). Like the IE2, the district is allowed waivers like those for class size and school schedule in exchange for increased academic accountability. Ideally, in a Charter System you would want to see the district decentralize decision making and empower local schools to be responsible for their finances, staff and innovations. The problem is, that a “charter system” can use the word “charter” but maintain central control over financial and staffing decisions at each school. This option could end up looking like exactly what we have today. If the local district fails to meet the standards as a whole set out by the charter and state accountability measures, the charter status of the district could be revoked and the school system would revert to a “Status Quo School System”.

Status Quo School System
A Status Quo System is a local district that has formally rejected all flexibility options and waivers. There is no performance contract, nor district flexibility from Title 20 or SBOE rules including class sizes or student learning days. Current class sizes in DeKalb are over the state size limits. In a “status quo” option, DeKalb could no longer be granted waivers and would have to lower class sizes to comply with the law. As odd as it seems, the “status quo” option is the only option that would force money to be invested in lowering class size and move more teachers into the school house. Any other “contract” or “agreement” with the state will allow DeKalb to continue to get waivers from state mandates such as class size.

Strategic School System
This option would require an agreement between the district and the state BOE. It appears to be a “lighter” version of the IE2 option discussed above.

A System of Charters
This is where a school district has converted all of its schools into independent charters. Each school (rather than the district as a whole) would have an agreement with the state. Unlike a “charter system” this would guarantee that decision making is made at the schoolhouse lever. This is true decentralization and school based autonomy and accountability.

Summary
I have been to community engagement sessions, parent councils, charrettes and committee meetings all over DeKalb. The most consistent and unifying request I hear from various communities is to lower class size. There is deep and broad agreement on this. Despite its name, the Status Quo choice is, ironically, the exact opposite of what its name implies. It is the one choice that will force the school system to lower class size. Lowering class size would mean hiring more teachers. In order to hire more teachers, DeKalb would have to realign its spending away from the central office and ineffective “programs” and spend more money on instructional, school-based employees. Because of the necessary realignment of the budget, I foresee DeKalb choosing to become a Charter System and only allowing limited schoolhouse decision making. Financial and staffing decisions under such a plan would continue to reside with the central office. I will continue to follow developments on this issue.

You may view the latest post at
http://factchecker.stanjester.com/2014/02/1286/

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Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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13 Responses to Flexibility Decision – What Will DeKalb Schools Choose?

  1. Speaking Truth to Power says:

    Last week Dr. Pringle stated in a meeting that the school system was finishing up the paper work on going for charter school status. They had already made up their minds before the Dunwoody meeting.

  2. Word Wall says:

    Classroom limits — and the abuse of waivers to classroom size — is scandalous in Dekalb. The groups of 30-35 teenagers are unmanageable and it discourages teachers and the students. Get those caps and the actual ratios down, that’s really the only “magic bullet” for getting kids educated in Dekalb….

  3. Teacher says:

    Thank you, Stan, for an excellent summary of a complex issue. Also, Word Wall, you are on target!

    I recently heard other teachers report that according to the new universal screener, the average reading level in their 8th grade class is 4th grade! Also, they have over 30 students in a class. No wonder our county graduation rate is so low.

    My question: what is going to happen to these children who can hardly read and don’t have a high school diploma?!

  4. September says:

    I would rather see a status quo system than a system charter. We’ve had a lot of issues in the past few years, all relating to governance. Charter school status removes all the safeguards.

  5. howdy1942 says:

    You know, if the school board would just listen to the People, truly listen, take notes, and then take action – that would be the best thing that this board could do. So simple, so easy. To me, the message is so clear. Smaller classroom sizes. Settle with the teachers. Conduct and audit and determine where the money is being spent, review each and every non-teaching job and determine if each is truly needed. Start zero-based budgeting. Establish Community Action Councils chaired by someone who lives in that community with at least one school board member present who would listen, take notes, take action, and provide feedback. Build trust with the People! Be honest with the People!

    @Teacher asks a very good question – what happens to these kids. Only 57.8% of them will graduate from high school. Drugs? Crime? Will they ever pay taxes or will they forever be dependent on welfare? What happens to our neighborhoods? Do we have enough police to protect us who live here? Who is going to pay the taxes to fund this police force? Maybe the school board needs to talk about things other than how many standing ovations the may have had, spend less time talking about district lines, stop the nonsense of talking about keeping all nine board seats when State law says that you can have only seven, worry more about the classroom than building new layers of administrations, think about how it can improve relations with teachers and the community. The solution is simple, simple, simple.

  6. Another comment says:

    The system wide charter in Fulton county is a big failure. It has been used by Avossa as an excuse to get rid of older tenured teachers and principals so he can hire younger and cheaper followers.

  7. Teachers matter says:

    I also was at a meeting with Dr. Pringle where she mentioned the five choices but did not elaborate. Thank you, Stan, for helping me understand a change that will directly affect my colleagues and me. It would be nice (and unheard of) if teachers were consulted and their opinions considered. I cannot wait until you are a board member!

  8. Dekalbite2 says:

    Write the governor and state superintendent and whoever is responsible for approving a charter system your opinions on this configuration for DeKalb Schools. IMO – you don’t give a school system administration (the same people are still running the school system that Crawford Lewis appointed or the old ousted BOE hired) that almost lost accreditation and is still struggling to regain accreditation more flexibility. It’s not like the school system administrators who have driven achievement to historically lowest levels and is has placed our students academically behind every metro system including demographically similar systems is capable of the greater freedom of decisions that comes with charter status. We need more supervision from outside the “Friends and Family group”, not less, in order to bring about change that is beneficial for our students’ academic success.

    Here is a link to the governor. Let him know how you feel about giving DeKalb Charter School status and giving the current administration (which is really comprised of the old administration personnel ) greater control over our students’ learning environment:

    https://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form

    Very easy to drop Governor Deal a line on your opinion of giving the DeKalb administration MORE leeway to make decisions on students’ learning environment. We are all voters in the upcoming Governor election, and nothing is more important in DeKalb than getting our school system on track.

  9. bettyandveronica1 says:

    “…said Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “Also, central office staff will continue the strategic planning work for addressing academic achievement in preparation for the upcoming CRCT and EOCT tests.”

    What the heck is this supposed to mean??? Why the heck are we not in school Monday? At this point the “holiday” should have been taken away. These kids should be looking at a different schedule for the crct (waste of time and money) and eoct. The schedule should be changed to include 3 more days added to the end of the year and EVERYTHING should be pushed back. We already lose way too much time after the crct!
    There is a lot of common but no sense at the palace.

  10. Gregory Walker says:

    betty – I think the reason the holiday wasn’t ‘taken back’ (and why these snow/ice days won’t cut into Spring Break) is that too many families have planned activities around those open days, activities which have a decent economic cost (especially Spring Break). To cancel those would risk simply having a lot of kids ‘missing’ that day and to incur the wrath of their parents. It cuts both ways. I do agree with you, though, that the whole schedule should just be pushed back – simply missing a week of school can’t be good in the long run.

  11. Tim McGaughey says:

    Stan:

    Thank you for the informative summary of the flexibility options.
    
      For whatever reasons,  DCSD has narrowed it's choices to the first three of the flexibility options that you list.  And  I cannot see DCSD choosing "status quo" for the reasons you state.  DCSD won't be willing or able to allocate enough funds to meet the class-size standards mandated by the "status quo" option.   Unfortunately, I expect DCSD will opt out of the State's minimum requirements under "status quo."
    
  12. Stan Jester says:

    Good Morning Tim.
    Trenton Arnold, Regional Superintendent for DeKalb Schools, is heading up the school district’s flexibility advisory committee. He told me at one of the community engagement meetings that the State DOE will not let DeKalb Schools choose any of the decentralized options. Trenton was not able to provide specifics. I’ve been meaning to contact Lou Erste, Charter Schools Division Director at the State DOE, for clarification.

  13. @Stan: Trenton Arnold “will not let” … interesting.

Comments are closed.