Teachers Want Representation on Education Reform Commission

A hodgepodge of different teacher associations in the state are calling on Governor Nathan Deal to rethink the composition of his Education Reform Commission, which will recommend a new package of education proposals later this year.

Their main complaints: the Commission that Gov. Deal announced last month includes zero active classroom teachers and too few parents of public school students.

The signatories of the joint resolution include representatives from the following groups:

  • Georgia Association of Educators
  • Georgia Federation of Teachers
  • Georgia Retirees Educators Association
  • Professional Association of Georgia Educators
  • Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices (TRAGIC)

The resolution specifically calls for each of the five organizations above to have representation on the Commission so it will hear “input from individuals and groups who confront the challenges and successes of Georgia’s public education system on a daily basis.”

A technical point here: The Commission does seem to include some former classroom teachers, including 2011 Teacher of the Year Pam Williams. But it would seem that none are currently teaching in a classroom or would be directly affected as a teacher by the eventual changes the Commission recommends.

You can read the full press release for yourself below the fold:

Education Groups Issue Joint Resolution Seeking Representation on Education Reform Commission

ATLANTA —  On January 21, 2015, Governor Nathan Deal’s office released the names of the members of his “Education Reform Commission,” which the Governor has convened to “study the state’s education system, including its funding formula, and provide recommendations intended to improve the system, increase access to early learning programs, recruit and retain high-quality instructors and expand school options for Georgia’s families.”

This commission is charged with an extraordinarily wide examination of our public education system. Unfortunately, the members of the commission do not represent a wide array of backgrounds. The Education Reform Commission lacks fair representation from those who would have first-hand knowledge of our state’s public education system. As currently constituted, zero active classroom teachers, one principal, and five Superintendents serve on the commission. In contrast, the committee includes ten legislators and seven representatives from charter schools or education consulting firms.

The commission does not include representatives from our state’s leading teacher organizations or parent representatives whose own children are subject to the “reforms” that might be suggested by this commission.

The undersigned organizations, representing thousands of Georgia educators, parents and students who have a direct stake in the success of our state’s public education system, have established a joint resolution to call for fair representation. We ask that each of the undersigned organizations be granted representation to be placed on the commission immediately.

Our organizations exist to see Georgia’s public school systems remain strong and vibrant, while serving the educational needs of all of Georgia’s children. We believe current and active educators and parents must be included in any discussion regarding the future of Georgia’s schools.

Sid Chapman, President
Georgia Association of Educators

Verdaillia Turner, President
Georgia Federation of Teachers

Bill Sloan, President
Georgia Retirees Educators Association

Margaret Ciccarelli, Director of Legislative Affairs
Professional Association of Georgia Educators

John Palmer, Vice-President
Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices

20 comments

  1. To their point, this is an establishment panel looking at an establishment entity.

    There will be three outcomes: More “Flexibility” for school systems, more funds for LBOEs (not students or schools), and no solutions for why minorities and poor kids perform poorly.

  2. saltycracker says:

    It’s just another massive networking social committee meeting at the best places.

    But if they were serious they would do a survey of all working teachers with 5-15 or so years of experience prior to burnout holding for early retirement. From that group just might be some good ideas, unless all they majored in was “education”.

    The technology to allow the best and brightest of our teachers to conduct certain classes from one end of the state to the other is a must. That would also involve using methods such as offered by the Kahn Academy.

    We might want to start by getting our teachers around the state to leave their heavy local dialect at home when preparing kids for the real world….

    • Dr. Monica Henson says:

      The Georgia Virtual School already is doing that (allowing the best & brightest of our teachers to conduct certain classes from one end of the state to the other).

      I had conversations this week with State Superintendent Richard Woods and Associate Superintendent for Virtual Schools Jeremy Spencer. Look for a higher profile for GAVS in the new administration at GaDOE, along with an increased focus on quality online teaching and learning–and that’s a good thing for all of Georgia’s students.

      We buy Advanced Placement courses from GAVS, and we’ve added their core academic credit recovery courses to our portfolio at my school. Good stuff happening at GAVS.

    • benevolus says:

      You don’t even have to do a survey. I don’t think there is any mystery as to what must be done.
      As someone mentioned on another thread, you’ve got to separate the special needs kids out so that teachers in regular classrooms can concentrate on teaching.
      You’ve got to inspire and motivate as many parents to get involved as possible.
      Start there.

      HOW to get this done is hard though.
      Teaching special needs kids is expensive. You might end up with essentially 1 to 1 teacher/staff to student ratio for them.
      If we could get parents motivated and involved, I believe that would also (eventually) go a long way to solving the administrative problems that so many school systems have. But first leaders would have to stop denigrating public education or teachers every chance they get. Doesn’t seem like that scenario is within sight though.

      • Dr. Monica Henson says:

        “…[Y]ou’ve got to separate the special needs kids out so that teachers in regular classrooms can concentrate on teaching.”

        This statement is staggering in its complete and utter ignorance, not to mention a violation of longstanding federal law.

        My son was a “special needs kid” who took Advanced Placement classes in high school and earned a university bachelor’s degree in history. Thank God he wasn’t “separated out” so the teachers in regular classrooms could “concentrate on teaching.”

          • Dr. Monica Henson says:

            It depends on why the student is acting out, but regardless, a strong administrative response is generally needed. A kid being a jerk in an otherwise well-run classroom with an accomplished teacher in charge—>strong administrative intervention with the kid that requires parental response. An unskilled teacher ceding control due to lack of classroom management training—>strong administrative intervention with the teacher that requires teacher response, combined with administrative action to get the kid back in line. An ineffective teacher teacher boring the living daylights out of an entire room with outdated techniques, hence the acting out by one or more kids—>strong administrative intervention with the teacher that requires teacher response, which, if teacher response is not forthcoming, BOE response to lack of teacher response (unfortunately, extremely rare).

              • Dr. Monica Henson says:

                I’m accused of that, on occasion, almost as frequently as I’m accused of being a Libertarian. 🙂 Blue Dog Democrat here.

            • benevolus says:

              Thank you.
              Perhaps “special needs” is too broad a brush, but there are kids with behavioral problems that disrupt classes.
              “Strong administrative response” sounds very similar to “essentially 1 to 1 teacher/staff to student ratio” , and if “strong administrative response” is different than ‘separated out” please advise. I’m just not sure where we differ.
              I have always respected your comments and I am certainly no expert but I would genuinely like to be well informed on this subject.

              • Dr. Monica Henson says:

                Thank you for your kind words. Agreed that kids with behavioral problems can be disruptive. However, there are myriad reasons why a “behavioral problem” might arise. True emotional/behavioral disorders, diagnosed and confirmed, generally result in alternative placements, such as therapeutic treatment centers with their own classrooms and very small staff-student ratios.

                What I call “garden variety bad behavior” can generally be controlled in almost any instance by skilled classroom management plus accomplished teaching, supported by a no-nonsense administration. It’s not a matter of class size, and the significant majority of educational research on the issue of class size demonstrates that teachers don’t change the way they teach just because their classes increase or decrease. Bad teachers teach poorly whether they teach ten kids or 35. Accomplished teachers use a variety of instructional strategies that engage kids’ attention well, and, just as importantly, they genuinely like kids. You’d be surprised how many people have gone into teaching that either don’t really like kids, or have grown to dislike them.

                Accomplished teachers that have strong instructional skills (read: don’t lecture all class period long, don’t sit at their desks while kids are supposed to do “silent seatwork,” etc.) also have few discipline issues, regardless of whether they teach Advanced Placement or what I call “Encore English” made up of kids taking a class for the second or third time. The discipline problems that do arise, these teachers are frequently able to handle on the spot due to the strong relationships they build with their students, combined with peer pressure from the class due to the strong sense of classroom community the teacher has cultivated. These teachers rarely kick kids out of class, because they don’t have to. When they do write a disciplinary referral, you can bet your bottom dollar that it gets the administration’s attention. These teachers can teach a class of 35 as well as they can teach a class of ten.

                “Strong administrative response” means an administrator that gets involved at the level where the involvement will produce the needed change. It has nothing to do with class size or teacher to student ratio. Many disciplinary problems in classrooms stem from teacher behaviors (or lack of them) rather than student behaviors. A skilled administrator can recognize this and provide training and support to the teacher so that the teacher doesn’t create conditions that lead to disciplinary problems. Having said that, strong administrators do not assign the newest, least skilled teachers the classes that are filled with the weakest students and/or those the most likely to act out if they don’t have capable teachers.

                Do we need more administrators with previous experience as accomplished teachers to be able to train the new and the low-skilled teachers? Of course. Do we need more administrators with the backbone to deal effectively with classroom jackasses that are not interested in learning and are preventing their classmates from learning? Hell yes. The problem is that the schools that are filled with the students most in need of strong teachers and capable administrators have a lot fewer of both–and that’s not a parent, kid, teacher, or principal problem. It’s a dilemma that needs to be solved at the district and board of education level.

                My charter school is filled with a high percentage students who have previously been long-term suspended, expelled, incarcerated, you name it. Diagnosed, bona fide behavioral issues in some cases. Kids with ankle bracelets and probation officers. The majority of our students attend school online from home, but a substantial number of them who live close enough to one of our blended learning centers attend those facilities, and those students are usually the ones who have been “problem kids” in their previous schools.

                In three years of operation, we have had a grand total of two student fights and zero assaults on staff. How are we doing it? For one thing, we have a superintendent who was a National Board Certified Teacher herself with a strong record of student achievement with needy students (that would be me). We have a Chief Leadership Officer who supervises the program coordinators in all the centers who was himself an outstanding math teacher with good EOCT outcomes by his kids in one of DeKalb County’s “worst” high schools. We were both high school basketball coaches, and I think there’s something to be said for coaches often having a knack for getting through to kids and connecting well with them, but that’s just my own speculation. We have a Chief Academic Officer who was both a strong science teacher and a certified guidance counselor before coming to us. Our interim Chief Development Officer, who oversees our agency partnerships with Families First, Wellspring Living, Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies, and the Department of Juvenile Justice, among others, is an experienced high school history teacher and longtime administrator who loves kids and gives parents her cell phone number. We hire Program Coordinators to run the centers who share our track record of student success in the classroom, and we support them. They in turn hire qualified center staff with passion and enthusiasm, and they help them cultivate the skills that an accomplished teacher possesses. Our Board of Directors expects nothing less and measures what we do on a regular basis against clear standards set by the State. We don’t complain about the “quality” of our students, or their parents. We take what comes through our doors, and our doors are wide open, as any public school district’s should be. The difference is that our arms are also wide open, and the leadership is skilled and knows what it’s doing. We welcome every single child with love and encouragement, no matter how needy, no matter how difficult the circumstances, no matter how involved (or not) the parents, if they are even still in the picture.

                We have not long-term suspended a single student, nor have we expelled any. I hope we never have to.

                • benevolus says:

                  Thank you.
                  The only thing I would say in response is that – if I understand correctly- you are in one school and perhaps have been able to select exceptional teachers and administrators. I would think a typical public school system would have a capability spectrum like most any other large group; a Bell curve- a few exceptional, a few not very good, and most somewhere in the middle. And this is not likely to change. So we have to build a system with that reality in mind. I am not saying accept mediocrity- we should always strive to be better- but if we build a system that only accepts exceptionalism, what happens to those who aren’t exceptional? My ideas are intended to explore ways to provide the best system for as many as possible, and I believe they reflect what I have read that most of the rest of the successful systems around the world do.

                  Anyway, I’ll leave it there as I am just a businessman who cares (but no kids).

                  • Dr. Monica Henson says:

                    You are correct that we are a single-school district, with a charter that has the broadest flexibility waiver. What the system needs to do in order to “only accept exceptionalism” is to recruit it wherever possible, hire it, retain it, and leverage it to build more exceptional staff. Many “average” and “developing” performers, if supported properly and encouraged, have the potential to become exceptional. Those who refuse to accept training and support need to be weeded out as early as possible. This will only happen when boards hold superintendents responsible for evaluating principals on the frequency and quality of teacher supervision and evaluation. Thank you for caring–we need more people who care enough to ask the questions you ask.

  3. Dr. Monica Henson says:

    Provost Academy Georgia headquarters is on Edgewood Avenue downtown in the Woodruff Volunteer Center. We have brick and mortar blended learning centers in Atlanta, Marietta, Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Albany, Fort Stewart, Fort Gordon, Georgia Baptist Children’s Home, and Wellspring Living.

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