Tag Archives: Atlanta

Media: “Education donors ought to give attention, money to rural Georgia” in Atlanta Journal Constitution

Yesterday, my colleagues and I published Education in the American South: Historical Context, Current State, and Future Possibilities. Our hope is that this report sparks a conversation about the need for greater attention to and investment in education in the South, particularly outside of major cities.

In an op-ed published yesterday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I look at Georgia’s student enrollment and test score data to argue that funders need to focus on the communities outside of metro Atlanta if they want to improve education for a lot of high-need kids:

Of the 1.8 million students enrolled in Georgia public school districts, just 52,400 of them – less than 3 percent – are enrolled in Atlanta Public Schools. Even throwing in the school systems surrounding APS – Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties – accounts for just 439,306 students, or 25% of all students statewide. 

That means that three out of every four public K-12 students in Georgia goes to school outside of metro Atlanta.

And yet policymakers and philanthropists involved in education continue to disproportionately focus on Atlanta. Philanthropic funders spend $453 per person in metro Atlanta, compared to $329 per person in other parts of the state. Students and schools throughout Georgia’s mid-sized cities, small towns, and rural communities aren’t getting the attention they need and deserve. 

For more detail about how this dynamic plays out across the South, take a look at our report here. And you can read my full piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution here.

Campbell’s Law, Cheating, and Atlanta’s NAEP Score Gains

11 Atlanta educators were convicted this week in a shameful conspiracy to alter student test scores. The Atlantic and other news outlets have been quick to call this an example of “Campbell’s Law,” the theory that any quantitative measure of accountability will quickly be corrupted by manipulation or outright cheating. Taken to the extreme, Campbell’s Law suggests we shouldn’t use data to make any policy decisions.

The truth is that the Atlanta story is far more complicated than that. Although 11 educators were convicted of cheating on state tests (and it would likely have been 12 if not for the death of former Superintendent Beverly Hall), the city made remarkable improvements on low-stakes measures of educational progress such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NAEP is far more difficult to game, and it requires higher-order thinking skills than Georgia’s prior state tests. And yet Atlanta under Hall tied for the biggest NAEP gains in 8th-grade reading (see graph below). Its gains were bigger than those of other celebrated “reform” cities like New York, the average of all large cities, and Georgia as a state. Atlanta’s students were also making far more progress than the nation as a whole. Continue reading