About a dozen schools across Middle Georgia are at the bottom of a state ranking for student performance. They could be in for state intervention under a new bill in the state House.
A group of high-ranking Republican lawmakers has signed a bill that would create a new state job: chief turnaround officer.
That person would oversee “turnaround coaches” to work with the state’s lowest-performing schools to help fix leadership problems or address community conditions — such as poverty or homelessness — that can hold students back.
But just days after the bill was published, there’s talk that it’s a little vague.
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The measure could get its first hearing this week.
Voters turned it down last year. Most people agree that some students aren’t served well by their schools, but many critics saw OSD wresting away local control of schools without doing enough to support students who have big challenges outside of school.
“I listened to the OSD debate very closely and I listened to the negatives that were brought up during the OSD debate,” said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, author of House Bill 338, the turnaround proposal.
“One of the things I try to recognize in this legislation is there are two main reasons, in my opinion, and I think in most peoples’ opinion, that a school is not successful. One is leadership and one is external factors,” Tanner said.
The chief turnaround officer would pick the schools that are in “greatest need of assistance.” That would depend in part on factors that he or she chooses, but also on the “chronically failing schools list.” That list from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement names schools that have spent three years at the bottom of the Career and College Readiness Performance Index, a score that depends on factors including student test scores.
In Bibb County, the elementary schools on the list are: Barden (which closed in 2016), Brookdale, Bruce, Hartley, Martin Luther King Jr., Riley, Southfield, and Union. The other schools are Ballard-Hudson and Appling middle schools, plus Southwest High School.
In surrounding counties, the list includes Peach County’s Hunt Elementary School and Twiggs County High School.
Bibb County school board President Daryl Morton opposed the Opportunity School District plan. He said Tanner’s bill looks like “OSD 2.0.” Several school boards — including Bibb’s — opposed OSD.
Morton said the implementation — the description of what the new officer could do — seems vague.
“I don’t see anything in this that means that this turnaround officer is going to have some new innovation or additional resources or something that is going to produce a different result,” Morton said.
Tanner, however, said the new officer would be a conduit from schools to the Legislature.
“We’ll look for this chief turnaround officer to help guide and direct and advise the General Assembly of what other resources they may see … that are necessary. The key, I think, is identifying where the problems lie, then we can identify the best way to solve them. And it may be that a lot of the resources are already available. They may not just be going to the right places,” Tanner said.
Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association, said she thinks the bill is a good start.
She said some of it needs clarification, such as the chain of command among the elected state school superintendent, the turnaround officer and staff in the state Department of Education’s school improvement staff.
But she also said that sometimes it takes a “set of outside eyes” to see where help may be needed, and that there are many parts of the bill they do support.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee