Monthly Archives: March 2016

2016 Legislative Session – Education

Georgia’s 2016 legislative session came to a close last Thursday at midnight (or so). The Georgia Legislature passed a number of bills related to education and are sitting on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk where he has until May 3rd (40 days) to veto them or sign them into law.
Senate Bill 364 revises the annual performance evaluation for public school teachers and leaders.
SB 364 also reduces the amount of state mandated testing required. Currently, there are 32 state mandated tests in grades K-12. This bill reduces the number of state mandated test to 24 by removing social studies and science milestone tests in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7.
SB 355 enacts the “Student/Teacher Protection Act” to end punitive testing consequences for both teachers and students related to federal, state, and locally mandated standardized assessments. It allows students to opt out of state mandated assessments if:

  • requested in writing by the parent or guardian of a child diagnosed with a life threatening or
  • serious health condition
  • an order is issued by a licensed therapist or physician

HB 801 revises the requirement for HOPE scholarships by increasing the student’s grade by 0.5 for a grade of B, C, or D in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics college courses identified by the Board of Regents.  Courses should be academically rigorous and required for or leading to employment in high demand fields in Georgia in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
HB 659 provides for transparency and accessibility of school district and school level financial information. The following information is to be made accessible to the public:

  • school site budgets and expenditures
  • cost of all materials, equipment, and other nonstaff support
  • salary and benefit expenditures for all staff
  • cost of all professional development
  • total cost of facility maintenance and small capital projects
  • cost of new construction or facility repair reported on a per square foot basis
  • school district annual budget
  • annual audits on the system finances
  • ratio of expenditures to revenues

HB 792 authorizes those 18 or older as well as those enrolled in a post secondary institution to carry stun guns and tasers on campus.
HB 777 allows bus drivers to use a cell phone as a two-way radio
State Budget – A majority of the state budget goes to education

  • $300 million for districts to eliminate teacher furloughs, increase instructional days, and increase teacher salaries
  • $222 million in bonds for capital outlay
  • $124 million for enrollment growth and training and experience
  • $29.4 million for Move On When Ready increased enrollment
  • $14.3 million in bonds for school buses
  • $8 million in bonds for vocational equipment
  • $8 million for the State Commission Charter Schools supplement
  • $3.2 million for information technology supporting local school systems
  • $3 million for charter system grants
  • $2.5 million for film and audio-video grants for middle and high schools
  • $300,000 for RESA personnel for PBIS
  • 3% raises for lunchroom workers, bus drivers, nurses, RESA personnel and others

SB 329 expands dual enrollment options.
SB 348 allows charter systems and strategic waiver systems to have career academies if they have a decision-making governing council and are certified by TCSG.
SB 258 ensures the assessed value of property for a taxable year shall not be increased beyond the initial assessment value established by the board of tax assessors during an appeal.
SB 275 prohibits any local board of education (or any governing body of a county, city or other municipality) from adopting any code of ethics which prevents the board members from discussing freely outside the meeting the policies and actions of the board except for executive session.

Superintendent Green’s Goals And Self Evaluation

Dr. Stephen Green’s first day as Superintendent of DeKalb Schools was in July 2015. He established the following goals for the ensuing 2015-16 school year:

  1. Develop and implement a board-approved academic curriculum.
  2. Continue to develop policies, processes, and programs that will sustain and further progress in the effort to regain full accreditation.
  3. Work collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to gain support for the E-SPLOST V campaign.
  4. Engage with the broader DCSD community as a means of gathering data to better meet the educational needs of students in the district.
  5. Devise and deploy an action plan to relieve overcrowded schools in the Region I cluster.

Based on a mid-year self-evaluation, in January Dr. Green reported the following level of attainment of the stated goals:

  1. Curriculum—CIA (squared) team: Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Accountability—created a rigor-meter and found that while most teachers are using the available framework, much of the teaching and learning does not reach the synthesis and application level. Given that, a vendor has been selected to conduct a curriculum audit to determine next steps.
  2. Accreditation—Submitted a document for full accreditation on December 18, 2015. As such, full changes in staff appointments will take place on January 11, 2016. A decentralized structure is being implemented to push decision-making to the local and regional levels. According to Dr. Green, this should decrease turnaround time in decision-making.
  3. E-SPLOST V—The E-SPLOST vote will take place either in March or May 2016. This means that there will be a compressed schedule of engaging the community. SPLOST monies will assist in relieving overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster.
  4. Engaging the community—specific focus on the Cross Keys cluster—The superintendent developed immediate, short-term, and long-term goals to relieve overcrowding. He also regained trust and credibility in the area, and developed a relationship with MALDEF.
  5. Overcrowded schools—addressed above

The next steps of the evaluation process are to engage the school board and agree on conditions of the evaluation, including refinement of the timeline, goals, evidence (data), and documentation necessary to demonstrate the superintendent’s proficiency or lack thereof. All steps of the evaluation process must be completed by June 30, 2016.