There is an amendment to the Georgia Constitution on the ballot in November. It asks if we should change the constitution so that the state can take over local schools that they deem as failing.
As the bill is written the Governor and his appointed Statewide Superintendent will decide what the criteria for failing is.
Presently it is 60 on the CCRPI, which includes a standardized test score in addition to other measurements. If this score remains the same Dawson County Schools would not be affected because our CCRPI is well over 60.
But in a time period where the worth of standardized testing is being questioned and where legislation was passed in the last general assembly to cut back on standardized testing, is this the best way to determine whether a school is doing its job? And remember that score can be changed. It is not part of the amendment or the legislation.
As I have said previously, this has been tried in Tennessee, Michigan and Louisiana.
In all three states legislation has been introduced (and in Louisiana, passed) to dissolve these types of schools systems. But if this is not the answer then what is?
The groups of parents, educators and civil right advocates that I have been working with have written a report, Investing In What Works (http://annenberginstitute.org/publications/investing-what-works-community-driven-strategies-strong-public-schools) which describes what we think would be better.
All of the schools that would be targeted for takeover are in high poverty areas.
Many parts of North Georgia, including Dawson County, have high poverty rates.
More than 50 percent of the children in Dawson County are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
So what is the difference? We think it is the small community that works to help these children with ways to get food the children in need on weekends and in the summer, extra help through programs such as Connections Academy and Next Generation, doctors who volunteer to open clinics and citizens who buy books and clothing. This is more easily done in a community with a small school population such as Dawson County. But what about a school system that has 120,000 students to deal with.
Cincinnati, Ohio is one such school system that has adopted the Community Schools Concept and has seen their graduation rate soar from 52 percent to 85 percent in 9 years.
In my next editorial I will describe the Community Schools concept and how it can help all the children in Georgia.