Why Don’t More Civil Rights Groups Support School Choice?

By Travis Pillow   

Last week, at a gathering of school choice supporters in New Orleans, a pair of Georgia state lawmakers talked about the importance of educational choice, and their efforts to gain support for it among fellow Democrats. State Reps. Valencia Stovall and Mike Glanton both represent parts of Clayton County, south of Atlanta, and have supported charter schools and other school choice legislationGlanton, who also chairs the board of a Clayton County charter school, said he could not understand why some groups that have historically championed civil rights in the school system have not also supported school choice. This transcript of his comments are slightly edited for length and clarity.

Rep. Mike Glanton: I spoke to the Clayton County Education Association, which is a local union, last week, and they wanted to know why I voted for the [Opportunity School District].

I said I have 17 reasons why.  The 17 reasons are my grand children. 

I have 17 reasons why it’s important for me, and my family, that we get this right. My kids can’t afford to have people practice on them. My children get one shot. They get one opportunity.

Now I’m smart enough, and I’m certainly not naive, to know that my grandkids probably won’t have an opportunity to go to a private school. So it’s very important to me … that we make sure that every child has an opportunity for hope and access to a quality education, regardless of their socio-economics.

It’s also important to me to help folks understand, this is a civil rights issue. For me, this is about civil rights. It’s no longer about sitting at the front of the bus, or getting on the bus. It’s about having the opportunity to be educated, and successful, and buying the bus. That’s what we’ve got to instill. …

[The] people who advocate for pro-choice this, and pro-choice that are the same folks who are fighting against against my right, and my choice, to send my kids to the schools that I choose to send them to.

We fought – those of us who are on the front lines, those of us who are old enough to have been, and are in some respects still fighting – we fought for the right to go to the schools we wanted to go to. We fought for the right to vote for who we wanted to vote for. We fought for the right to live where we need to live, and work where we need to work.

But yet, these are the same voices that are trying to silence those who choose educational choice today. Explain that. I don’t understand it. …

It’s more than about money. It’s about climate. It’s about environment. It’s about choice. I travel all around the world. I was in India … I watched kids learning on the floor. Dim lights. No desks. But these are same kids that are showing up on the steps of Georgia Tech, and MIT, and Boston University. Why?

We are at a crossroads here. We are at a place where, black, white or indifferent, if we’re going to move ourselves closer to the global standard for education, then Georgia’s got to step up.

Travis Pillow is editor of redefinED. He spent his early professional career reporting on the inner workings of state government for a variety of news organizations, and became immersed in Florida’s education policy debates while covering schools and the Legislature for the Tallahassee Democrat. tpillow@sufs.org @travispillow.

The views and opinions expressed on CharterConfidential are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.  


CCRPI For Dummies

By Nina Rubin 

I’m no dummy, but it’s part of my job to read and digest Department of Education briefs, white papers, and reports in order to explain educational issues in ways that lay readers can easily understand. That’s why I sat down and tried to come to grips, on a “dummy” level, with something called CCRPI – Georgia’s new College and Career Ready Performance Index. CCRPI is one of those ed-jargon acronyms parents and Georgia voters will be hearing about more and more, and they should know what it means.

Lawmakers in the Georgia General Assembly have just given a green light to a constitutional amendment question that will let voters decide, on the November 2016 ballot, whether the state can intervene in turning around Georgia’s lowest- performing public schools.

If voters pass the amendment, beginning in 2016-17 an appointed superintendent, accountable to the Governor, could select up to 20 schools each year to become part of a state-run Opportunity School District (OSD). There would be no more than 100 schools in the OSD at any given time. Schools in the OSD could be closed, converted into charter schools, or reorganized and re-launched under new leadership. An Opportunity School would remain under the supervision of the OSD for a minimum of five consecutive years.

The “trigger” that could make a school eligible for intervention is CCRPI. Schools reporting CCRPI scores of 60 or lower (on a 100-point scale) for three consecutive years become possible candidates for state intervention.

What is CCRPI?
CCRPI is a state school accountability metric which replaces a previous federal system called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which was part of George W. Bush era education legislation, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education offered flexibility waivers allowing states to opt out of NCLB. Georgia chose that option in 2012. In opting out of the federal system, the state was required to develop its own metric.

CCRPI, which was developed as part of Georgia’s $400 Million Race to the Top award, was intended to be a more comprehensive assessment that would put a measurable focus not only on math and reading, but on all academic areas, and would also factor in student demographics and special populations with more subtlety. An overarching goal is to assess how well prepared students are for college and careers.

How CCRPI is different from AYP?
CCRPI moves schools away from the all or nothing, pass/fail mentality that repeatedly doomed schools with poor academic performance to the lowest rungs – especially those serving a high number of students in poverty.

The first CCRPI scores were released in 2013, based on 2012 data. The latest scores, for 2013-14, were lower for most schools than the previous year. It is not clear why the scores are trending lower, but it could be because of the activation of additional criteria for measurement, coupled with schools’ learning curve on how to earn more CCRPI points.

How is the CCRPI score derived?
There are three components to a school’s CCRPI score:

Achievement (60 points) 

  • Content mastery on Georgia’s new standardized test called Milestones (which replaces the CRCT
  • Post-high school readiness and student progress on career pathways
  • School’s graduation rate over four years, and adjusts for certain populations that might take five years to graduate

 Progress (25 points) A more nuanced measure of student progress based on a    students’ past academic history and compares students with “like” score histories.

Closing the Achievement Gap (15 points) Looks at the bottom 25% of school’s student population compared to state averages. High-performing schools may earn more on the Gap size than on Gap change. Lower-performing schools may earn more on change than on size.

Challenge Points (Up 10 points can be awarded for indicators that a school is going above and beyond targets in its efforts to address achievement). This is an opportunity for high-poverty districts, schools with many English Language Learners and/or students with learning disabilities to earn additional points. Beginning in 2013-2014, schools received ratings based on their financial efficiency and school climate, but these ratings were for the public’s information only and were not factored into the school’s overall CCRPI score. School climate is not measured in online schools, and it is not know yet whether alternate challenge points could be measured for virtual schools.

What are average CCRPI scores in Georgia?
In 2013-14, for the state as a whole, CCRPI average scores were:

  • 72.7 for elementary schools
  • 73.8 for middle schools
  • 68.4 for high schools

How did your school score on CCRPI?
Find out here.

Where are the “chronically failing” schools?
There are 141 “chronically failing” schools in the state, concentrated in these locations.

  • Atlanta (27)
  • DeKalb County (26)
  • Richmond County (21)
  • Bibb County (14)
  • Muscogee County (10).  

The remaining schools are scattered around the state. The full list can be found here.

What do Charter School Leaders Say?
Matt Underwood, Executive Director of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (GCSA’s 2015 Charter School of the Year), posted a long analysis of CCRPI on his school blog, and you can read it here.

Chris Clemons, who leads Latin Academy Charter School, asserts that CCRPI is a better metric than AYP. “It incorporates all of the most important dimensions of a schools functioning. Schools should be measured on their student-based outcomes above all other measures. The extent to which factors are weighted against other factors always merits close attention, but I do not currently see any issues with CCRPI that could be said to miss the mark.  CCRPI certainly broadens the scope of data points that are incorporated in understanding school performance and allows for more incisive analysis than AYP.” 

Pataula Charter Academy’s Kylie Holley has written on this blog (What Data Collection Can Miss) about the disconnect between the rave reviews her school received for school climate when it earned AdvancED accreditation, and a less optimal school climate score from the state.

Learn more about CCRPI
For a data-driven critique of CCRPI, see Jarod Apperson’s article “Bending the Curve; Why CCRPI Misleads Educators.”

For a look at how schools that could be targeted for takeover are working to improve their CCRPI scores, this story illuminates the strategies several Savannah-Chatham public schools are using. http://savannahnow.com/news/2015-04-04/savannahs-targeted-takeover-schools-focus-improvement

In a confusing twist, Neighbor Newspapers reported recently that a school with the lowest CCRPI score in Fulton County, had the highest School Climate score! McClarin Alternative School in College Park, which at 49.9 ranked the lowest in south Fulton schools’ 2013-14 CCRPI, came out on top in this month’s inaugural school climate ratings, based on information gathered during the same school year.

Nina Rubin is Director of Special Projects & Strategic Initiatives for the Georgia Charter Schools Association.

The views and opinions expressed on CharterConfidential are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. 


One Charter School Won’t Wait for the State to Turn Around Student Performance

[Editor’s Note: Here’s a closer look at the efforts taken by Ivy Preparatory Academy, a state-authorized charter school, to improve the performance of boys in their Young Men’s Leadership Academy. Nobody understands the mandate to “improve or close” better than Georgia’s public charter schools. If passed, the Governor’s proposal for Opportunity School Districts (OSD) will put the same pressure on all public schools. We think that’s a good idea.]

By Aileen Dodd,

The leaders of Ivy Preparatory Academies are not waiting on state intervention to address declines in student achievement at Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy (IPYMLA).  

Administrators have been taking proactive steps to turn around student performance at Ivy Prep’s single-gender school for boys since declines were noted on the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and benchmark exams.

In May 2014, Ivy Prep Academies contracted the services of Yardstick Learning, one of the nation’s leading strategic management consulting firms that specializes in the organizational transformation and  turnaround of struggling mission-driven organizations. Yardstick, part of a task force to improve student achievement at IPYMLA, has been meeting with administrators to discuss enrollment, instruction, and examine policy and procedures at Ivy Prep schools. Yardstick has provided support services to K-12 school districts, universities, and charter management organizations in six countries.

“We’re the first to admit when a policy or procedure isn’t working, and we work tirelessly to fix it—that’s what being a charter school is all about for us,” said Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academies.  “The Yardstick team is eager to continue its work with Ivy Prep and respond to the urgent needs of IPYMLA. Their track record of successfully turning around struggling organizations is impressive.” 

In addition to organizing a turnaround team of consultants, local and national education experts and administrators, IPYMLA began other school improvement measures:

Last fall, the school added a new level of coaching and support for IPYMLA teachers called “Ivy University” (Ivy U), which is led by Dr. Nina Gilbert, founder of Ivy Preparatory Academies. Dr. Gilbert launched Georgia’s first single gender charter school for girls in 2008 and currently is Executive Director of the Ivy Prep Foundation. Under her leadership, Ivy Prep experienced tremendous growth, and now operates three single gender charter schools serving over 1,200 students throughout Metro Atlanta.

IPYMLA also invited parents to join the effort to turnaround the test scores of their own scholars. IPYMLA launched a pilot program called “Academic Parent Teacher Teams” or (APTT) to improve student achievement. The outreach gets parents more involved in the education of their scholars and equips them with the tools and training to enrich their children’s studies in Language Arts and Mathematics at home.

IPYMLA, located at 1807 Memorial Drive, is a school of 360 students. Nearly eight in ten scholars qualify for free or discounted lunch. The single-gender school was among 141 struggling schools—27 of which are neighboring DeKalb County Schools—included on a state list of struggling schools that could face a state takeover to improve student performance on standardized test scores tracked by the Georgia College and Career Ready Index. Many of the 141 schools have high populations of low-income students and received accountability scores that were below 60 on an index that measures the efficiency of schools.

Nearly 30 percent of IPYMLA’s students come from DeKalb County elementary feeder schools currently on the state’s struggling schools’ list. Some of those students have seen growth at Ivy Prep. According to results from the 2014 CRCT: 

Nearly 30 percent of IPYMLA’s students come from DeKalb County elementary feeder schools currently on the state’s struggling schools’ list. Some of those students have seen growth at Ivy Prep. According to results from the 2014 CRCT: 

  • YMLA middle school scholars out-performed their district counterparts in math with 82 percent of students meeting and exceeding standards compared to 76 percent of DeKalb students meeting and exceeding.
  • YMLA elementary scholars also out-performed their district peers in reading with 94 percent of students meeting and exceeding expectations compared to 91 percent of DeKalb students.

The progress made makes administrators hopeful that the task force can reverse declines.

“We believe this network of support from the community, our partners, and our parents will improve the performance of our scholars at YMLA,” Wiley said. “We all have a stake in their success. We will not wait on a tentative state program to step in and fix our school when we as a community can produce results working together hand in hand.”

Gov. Nathan Deal’s recovery effort would require a constitutional amendment to launch.

Administrators at Ivy Prep Academies welcome the state’s participation in the effort to help economically disadvantaged students have access to quality schools regardless of their addresses. It is a space that Ivy Prep Academies has been working in successfully since it launched its flagship high-performing charter school for girls in Gwinnett in 2008.

Parents have been supportive of IPYMLA’s plans to fix itself. IPYMLA, which opened in 2011, is one of two state charter schools on the needs recovery list that includes 139 traditional public schools, many of which have been underperforming for more than a decade.

“We have always taught our son that it is not okay to give up,” said Pamela Jefferson, who has a fourth grader at IPYMLA. “Perseverance is one of the values also taught at Ivy Prep. I don’t think the declines in student performance are the school’s fault. Some students are excelling. My son knows what’s going on in the world. We sit at the dinner table and talk about math. He loves to do research. If you want your son to excel, parents and children have to change old habits and work hard to lead the change at home.”

D. Aileen Dodd is president of D. Aileen Dodd & Associates Media Services and media relations coordinator for Ivy Preparatory Academy

The views and opinions expressed on CharterConfidential are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.