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The Art of Teaching Science: Questioning Tennessee’s “Opportunity School District”: A Heads up for Georgia’s Take Over Plan?

Anthony Cody, over at Living in Dialog, posted an article written by John Thompson, who blogs at This Week in Education.  Thompson’s article is entitled “Can the Tennessee Achievement School District Move Beyond the Silver Bullets?

His article is an analysis of two interviews with Chris Barbic, Superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) by two journalists, Darrel Burnette (Chalkbeat Tennessee), and John Buntin (Governing magazine).   You can read the Burnett interview here.

Buntin’s is a yearlong series of three articles (so far) about a Memphis high school in the Tennessee Achievement District.  You can read here, the first article, the second article, and the third article.  The third article, entitled “In Memphis, Revolt Overshadows Education Reform’s Successes,” describes the protests that have emerged against the ASD.  After reading the third article it seems clear that the school recovery law has put the local school boards on the defensive as they see some of the schools being assigned to the ASD or some charter management company, with almost no input from the local community.

As will be the case in Georgia, the state recovery school district will be able to take over any school deemed to have chronically failing students.  As I pointed out in an earlier post, there are 141 schools in Georgia that are on the “list,” and could be taken over.  In Tennessee, this has angered the school board in Shelby County (Memphis) where 22 of the state’s 23 ASD schools are located.

In a sense, the schools are sitting ducks waiting for outsiders to come in and take over.  Some folks are not happy about their schools becoming someone else’s cash cow.  In some cases, the charter operators are more interested in how many students are in a school, rather than the need that might exist.

The chairperson of the Shelby County School Board has proposed that the local district will offer transportation to any child whose parent wishes them to go to a school that has not been taken over by the ASD

Is this what we want in Georgia?

Nathan Deal, whose political allies have already established a nonprofit Coalition for Georgia’s future, has begun his campaign to dismantle public schools by creating a Louisiana-Tennessee style take over plan.  The nonprofit will bring in lots of “dark money” or secret donations from individuals and groups that will benefit from the creation of Georgia’s Opportunity School District.

We are beginning a serious battle to preserve democracy and the role that public schools play in our lives.  We need to speak out on what is happening in Georgia by pointing the finger north to Tennessee and west to Louisiana to show that these systems are not as effective as many would believe, and that there is a ground swell of protest against the take over idea, especially in Memphis.

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Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a former high school science teacher and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University. While at Georgia State he was coordina...