Public schools face declining tax digests and declining enrollment. Where are students going and why?
From Michigan to Oregon to Newton County students are opting out of public schools and dollars are joining them. Now you see them; now you don't.
American curriculum has become so politically correct, so mired in sensitivity, so watered down (think integrated math) and so federally driven to the trough of government cheese that students flee leaving closures and consolidations biting the dust.
Teachers can't teach what they know to be true and correct. They are bogged down in guru chatter on text complexity eating up their planning time as they eat lunch standing up and race to the top of the bus line to gobble up the fumes of afternoon bus duty.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports a decline in public school enrollment in 16 states and some in double digit declines.
Still, private and parochial schools pop up with SACS accreditation like dandelions dotting the landscape as home school cooperatives make strong showing at the Georgia Home Educators Association and powerfully align with legislators, so powerfully in fact that fiscal year 2013 Accel regulations fund Dual Enrollment tuition for unaccredited home school students. First-time SAT scores for non-public school students soar.
Quality teachers are leaving to teach in private schools too. In the meantime the American Association of School Administrators commissions a white paper wondering why enrollment is in decline. It's not that hard to figure out: Offer better schools.
Data from one example illustrates how schools can combat the decline by offering high quality even in austerity. Eastside High School in Newton County enjoyed a 17.5 percent increase in its graduation rate over the past five years (fiscal year 2006 -- fiscal year 2011). AP pass rates (scores above a 2) improved by 4.91 percent over the same period; math scores on the high school graduation test improved at a range of 9 percent to 23 percent based on student subgroup; biology and physical science EOCT scores blew the doors off county and state averages, and the school exceeded statewide performance on eight of nine statewide assessments in 2011 including physical science and math. In fiscal year 2012, the school exceeded county and state cohort graduation rate averages. Parents will choose this, or find something else.
And legislators are listening. HB 149 began the push with a successful Move On model transferring high school FTE to colleges. HB 186 and HB 326 packed more punch. HB 186 fully funds dual enrollment and mandates that secondary schools (grades 8 11) notify all eligible students of all early college options no later than April 1 of each school year or risk violation of law. HB 326 dumped Accel into the general fund no longer pulling from HOPE-eligible students' 127 lifetime credits.
The last 100-year shift in public education emerged with the agrarian to industrial societal shift; will the next be characterized by dollars and technology allowing in-state students to participate in cooperatives managed across state or county lines? You tell me.
Jeff Meadors represents District 1 on the Newton County Board of Education. Email him at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.