Deal signs sweeping education reform into law

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed legislation to take over “chronically failing” schools in Georgia in order to turn them around. The sweeping reform, known as the “Opportunity School District” legislation, still requires voter approval of a constitutional amendment in order to be enacted.

Voters will decide in the 2016 General Election.

The legislation lays the framework for Deal to make appointments to oversee the schools and determine how they will be run.

“By signing the Opportunity School District bill, we are promising better days ahead for students trapped in failing schools,” Deal said. “The power of positive change now rests in the hands of Georgia’s voters, and I know they share my belief that every child can learn and should have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the workforce or for college.

“There are currently 139 schools across Georgia that have received a failing grade from the state accountability system for at least three consecutive years. Too few of these students go on to higher education, too few attain job skills and too few get a high school diploma. Too often this leads to a life that never fulfills its potential. With this new system, we can and will do better.”

– See more at:

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10 Responses to Deal signs sweeping education reform into law

  1. Man! education has truly become the political soapbox. It’s the one profession everyone has a say in. Glad that isn’t how the medical profession works (well, kind of). So, after all this….

    Click to access Overview-2016-K-12.pdf

    Taking money out of education, resulting in lost benefits, teacher cuts, bigger class sizes, inability to lure top educators, moving toward then away from Common Core to form our own state test again (which, by the way, can allow georgia data to look any way it wants just so long as we don’t have to compare our students to others in the country)…etc. Then there is a surprise when this results in failure but now we will form a whole new state entity designed to take over schools, which I’m sure will involve many outsiders to education. Districts that do not allow school level decisions and offer the cheapest cookie-cutter solution to all schools keep those failing schools down. Put competent people who care about the kids and not just promotions in place who can run the school and give them power to do so.
    …I suppose if districts won’t, now the state will.

  2. Charlie Ray says:

    why anyone thinks that the state will/can do a better job then local districts is beyond me. After signing a five year 107 million dollar contract to do all this “high stakes testing” online, it has been a disaster. After three practice runs, the state decided that this year the results of the testing wouldn’t really count for anything. The test online works great for students who have no learning issues and need no accommodations such as reading them the questions. In other words, the schools with the most learning issues are also the schools with the “failing schools” label and are also the schools that the contractor is clearly incapable of accommodating with accurate and secure testing instruments. So guess what, schools in low income areas or in high immigrant areas end up getting the least amount of viable support from the state for testing. Who thinks this won’t happen when they ineptly takeover failing schools and turn them over to private enterprise at great profit to the vendor?

  3. I think you meant to say, ” … still requires voter approval… in order to be enacted.”

  4. Good catch Cell! We copied that excerpt from On Common Ground News – [we gave up on the AJC as almost all of their online news is behind a pay wall]. They have several more posts on the subject if you want to read more. A woman named Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers has the opposing opinion. [BTW, they refer to themselves as ‘A Union of Professionals’, and part of the AFL-CIO, however, unions are illegal in Georgia, so they can’t be an actual union like the teachers’ unions up north. Teachers: please comment if you are a member.]
    – See more at:

  5. @CharlieRay: Are you suggesting that whoever takes over the schools for the state will fail worse than the current leadership? In reality, there is a lot more involved in bringing these low-performing schools up to par; and most of the issues relate to poverty. Unless and until we actively work on our chronic issues of poverty in this country – and especially the southern states – we won’t make any progress at all in educating the children from impoverished, mostly second and third generation single-parent homes.

  6. Below is an excerpt from an email we received from a teacher. We have heard from quite a few teachers having a lot of issues with spring testing using the new “Georgia Milestones”; with content, technical issues and demands to keep 30 young children quiet all day (with no breaks for teachers) >>

    …whomever designed the Milestone’s test does not seem to have been educated in child development. Did they even ASK for educator’s input before it was implemented??

    #1 Grades 3rd & 4th answer sheets are printed in “highlighter bright yellowish ink” in teeny, tiny print, way too small for teachers eyes…much less elementary children. (The first thing I learned in ECE courses was to use BIG font.)

    #2 The two “open response” questions were extremely confusing for essay writing today. MANY students did not see that the first question was supposed to be about 1 page long and the NEXT question was supposed to be 3 pages long. So, after many wrote 4 pages for the first question on the answer booklet, they realized they had to erase the entire essay and start over!! They had to start over because they did not notice the teeny tiny yellow printed number indicating the next page was for the 2nd (longer) essay question. This cut their time to complete the entire writing portion (horrifying task) to only 1/2 of the allotted time frame! (All of THIS extra work was AFTER students had already used scratch paper for “planning their response” (which for some, meant writing an entire rough draft before they even started the first time)! Some kids were in tears. Teachers were not able to see the student’s error earlier because teacher’s were not aware of this confusing aspect on the test until students started asking where to write the 2nd question essay. As teachers, it was so confusing, we had to stop and analyse what had happened. This was a problem in every class that I spoke to. So, I am sure it probably occurred statewide. If this test had been “trial tested” on just a few teachers, these issues would probably have been addressed before administration. I cannot imagine ANY adult taking this test to NOT have seen the confusion beforehand.

    Concerns that should be investigated:

    Why are our schools paying “ENORMOUS” amounts of money on a test that will have to be scored individually when directions are extremely flawed?

    Why would they make answer sheets in light yellow print!!??

    In addition, many students that are extremely high achievers barely answered the essay questions because they are just lazy writers. Therefore, this test tells nothing of their abilities. This writing test is a motivation test…nothing more. And, unfortunately, the motivated ones were the ones that had to completely rewrite their entire responses. Very sad.

    If students MUST do a 3 page essay response, it should be the ONLY item for that day. It should not be in addition to ANOTHER short essay and multiple choice questions. That is just too much for elementary school!

    I am glad that this year is only a pilot year and students cannot be held back. But, I believe that a LOT of these stress inducers could have been worked out in advance. I hope these tests have no impact on students’, teachers’, or schools’ services or funding until the tests are improved.

  7. Just wondering says:

    Someone is making a great deal of money on all the many test that our students are required to take each year,. Some form of evaluation is necessary, but have we gone too far in testing our children.? In Georgia we seem to have gone from one test to another. Has that improved the education of our children?

    There is about a month left in school. Teachers should be able to continue to teach our students, but everyone is testing.

    This is not just a concern in DeKalb, All over the state it is testing time.

  8. As a high achieving parent and a person who was a Dekalb Employer’s Upper level Management type manager. I supervised at times staffs in-house of 200 plus employees . My employer had over 5,000 employees, only 2,600 when I started back in the late 80’s. A child is not high achieving if they are not capable of writing well. A monkey could fill in the dots, or a computer could be programmed to take a fill in the dots test. Now, being able to actually think, and write an essay shows whether or not that individual has real high achievement abilities.

    We have seen in Atlanta how easy it was for teachers, test coordinators, Principals and Big Bev were able to have their cheating conspiracy with the fill in the dots type tests. Writing style and ability to construct a pervasive argument are unique to each individual. Even in STEM fields, which I exclusively worked in require their degree holders to write thesis in graduate school at Masters level even. Then in the workplace a STEM employee must write reports, presentations, letters along with business e-mail. Workers today at a professional level do more of this than ever before, since organizations hire less secretaries and administrative assistants engineers, scientists, etc…, must do their own writing. High achieving great fill in the dot test takers must also be above average essay writers under pressure. The workforce demands it!

    I inherited on my workforce a gardener who everyone knew was illiterate (I’ll call him “B”). He was in his 50’s at the time. I was several supervisory levels above him and ended up being the selecting official on most job panels out of my office (department). We had a gardener foreman position open. One of the other employees who liked to stir the pot at work, encouraged B to apply for the position. Of course B, was not chosen for the position, because even a gardener foreman position requires, reading, being able to do reports, write up daily work actives, make budget requests, etc… Then employee A, the agitator encouraged employee B to file an EEO suit because he was non-selected for the job. Employee A, thought my boss was the selecting official and on the panel. Instead, it was me, a white female and then two black male supervisors directly above the position. A few months later an EEO investigator from DC, is knocking at my door to ask me why I and the panel did not select employee B, a 50 something year old black male. I told him that employee B is illiterate and could not perform the duties of the job. He then handed me his typed application and said this is well written. I said perhaps you might ask him to read this application to you out loud. I told him that the application and the composure of the written statements were done by a female. I told him that after a while one can easily tell reading applications if a male or female wrote it. Females have different writing styles than males. (I had worked for general contractors in the past, one made applicants fill out applications in the job trailer. I have witnessed numerous, applicants leave when told they could not take to the car for wife or girl friend to help most likely to fill out). I told the EEO investigator that I suspected his daughter who was in college was the writer of the application. I also told him that I offered the applicant when I first found out that he was illiterate through the chain of command that I took him aside privately and offered that I could get him either through the formal work channels some literacy training or I was willing to help him myself privately after work. I again told the EEO investigator just simply ask him to read you his application. Here are the job position description, it clearly says the ability to write xyz and communicate with abc. The EEO case was dropped. This is why ii is imperative that all students must be able to effectively communicate through the written word.

  9. When you speak of issues related to poverty and students speaking other languages I have personally witnessed pockets of success. I have studied about schools successful with these students and standard findings about how to best help them. More often than not, it takes teachers who are much more dedicated than most to get the biggest gains with these students. It really does take teachers who can commit nearly their entire lives to their students as if they were their own family…but I’ve seen it and it is incredible (those students’ growth compared to others whose teachers clock out at 3:00. What I’ve dound/noticed that works….
    “Extra time”. If the kids could get 1-2 extra hours every day AND homework help for the homework they cannot do and have no one to help them (or even no homework at all….what? You say:)
    “Smaller classes”. I cannot say I’m for the standard recommended class size across the board given by districts/states. That’s ridiculous. There needs to be judgement for those in difficult situations. I’m not saying 15 here and 40 in a class at another school, but a little less students would help tremendously….even though I know parent A would always say “why does school Z get 5 fewer students in their class? That’s not fair.” Sadly, that’s what stops it from happening.
    “Most effective teachers here”. While every school has the normal bell curve of teachers, we could use a slight skew in these schools to promote other teachers to get on board. 😉
    “Teach the standards”. The biggest issue I find is that teachers misconstrue accommodations, differentiating, and interventions as remediation. I’m not even a big fan of that word as it suggests you lower the level of teaching. The grade level expectations should be a bare minimum of grade level standards. Spending time teaching skills from lower grade levels always results in less time teaching what needs to be taught.
    “High expectations”. The teachers who believe their kids will get there….even if it take all year…see the greatest results.
    While we wish we could convince and teach every parent to be the best supporter of education (checking grades, keeping track of attendance, offering discipline, etc.) the truth is the school is often the only path to future success and often achieving that in 4-5 hours of instruction each day doesn’t cut it.

  10. We agree with you 100%, worldunitenow. Our mantra has always been that our administrative leadership somehow continues to make educating students into ‘rocket science’ – thereby requiring more highly-paid administrators and contracts for programs, testing, ‘data collection’, etc. When in reality, as had been done for centuries, all education really requires is a really good teacher, with an assistant and a support staff in school (media specialist or librarian, reading specialists, math specialists, etc) – and a low rate of students to teachers. Exchanging every redundant administrator for two teachers (a nearly even financial exchange) would go farther toward improving student outcomes than just about anything else we could do.

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