The Promise of a Rising Generation How Young Georgia Scholars are Impacting the World
Pushing Public Dollars to Private Schools
VOUCHERS IN GEORGIA ALSO: Teachers of the Year | Annual Legislative Survey | PAGE Membership Tops 97,000
Contents January/February 2020
Vol. 41 No. 3
10 The Promise of a Rising Generation
How Young Georgia Scholars are Impacting the World
2 From the President Use Your Powerful Teacher Voice 3 From the Executive Director Start 2020 with a Winning Approach to Crucial Conversations
PAGE News 4 Dr. Allene Magill Scholarship Honors Georgia’s Education Warrior
20 2020 Legislative Priorities
4 PAGE Membership Continues 45-Year Rise: Tops 97,000
Legal 27 Educators Enjoy No Privacy in School Email
Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists 6 Kristen Applebee, Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools
PAGE Board of Directors 28 PAGE Welcomes Three New Board Members
21 Pushing Public Dollars to Private Schools: Vouchers in Georgia
8 Amy Arnold, Colham Ferry Elementary School, Oconee County Schools
30 Officers & Directors 2019-2020
Legislative 17 PAGE Survey: Georgia Milestones Misses The Mark for Most Teachers
PAGE One Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Our core business is to provide professional learning for educators that will enhance professional competence and confidence, build leadership qualities and lead to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.
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From the President
Use Your Powerful Teacher Voice Nick Zomer
y family recently realized a longtime dream: a Disney World vacation. As we checked into the resort, I noticed a quote from the company founder. It said, “I hope we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started with a mouse.” The fact that this empire started with something so small and seemingly insignificant stayed on my mind as we explored the sprawling campus over the next several days. A cartoon mouse had become a global icon and had stretched far into our lives. I couldn’t help but wonder, if Walt’s idea started with something as small as a mouse, what ideas do teachers have that have yet to be shared? Many educators wonder how, as one teacher in a classroom, they can they make a difference. I say that your thoughts, your words and your observations make the difference! After all, you are on the front lines, charged with determining what happens to our future generations. Look into the eyes of those students who are trusting you for their education. Think about those moments when you celebrated with a student as they finally achieved a goal they believed would never happen. A favorite memory I have of the late Dr. Allene Magill — aside from her presenting me
As we enter the legislative season followed by the 2020 election, do not overlook your ability to influence others as an educator. We must use our ‘teacher voices’ to speak up and let policymakers know what we are thinking. Otherwise, how can they best represent us?
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with my high school diploma — is how visibly upset she would become when she heard someone say, “I am just a teacher.” Those of us called into education are more than “just a teacher.” Would it ever be acceptable for someone to say that they were “just a doctor” or “just a lawyer?” Shaping the minds of tomorrow’s leaders is no small feat. From Classroom to Capitol If Walt Disney could launch a global empire with pencil and paper, what can you do? As we enter the legislative season followed by the 2020 election, do not overlook your ability to influence others as an educator. We must use our “teacher voices” to speak up and let policymakers know what we are thinking. Otherwise, how can they best represent us? Could your one phone call or email to a lawmaker be the pivotal communication that advances education across our state? Our elected officials are selected by their constituents to create laws representative of those who elected them. They are unable to do that if they do not know who and what they are representing. That is where you come in. Use your powerful teacher voice — that voice that can command a classroom full of youngsters — to communicate your views and share your experiences. Independently, we are just one voice. However, when we share ideas, concerns and beliefs, together we can be a mighty sound that helps shape the future of Georgia for generations to come. By daring to take that first small step — by picking up a phone or sending an email — you start the process of changn ing tomorrow.
From the Executive Director
Start 2020 with a Winning Approach to Crucial Conversations Craig Harper
ow often have you harbored ill feelings toward someone because you thought they didn’t follow through on something of consequence to you or your work, and you later found out that they never understood it was their responsibility? Have you ever been upset by what you perceived to be a disrespectful comment and then learned that the offender hadn’t a clue and would have been upset if they’d been aware? Unmet expectations that are never addressed can destroy relationships. Regardless whether disappointments occur at work, in the classroom or at home, whenever you feel others let you down — or you know that you’ve let someone else down — and it’s not acknowledged, then the relationship suffers. As the new year begins it’s a perfect time to think about what you can do to foster relationship using some of the critical skills that are the foundation of Crucial Conversations¹. This researchbased method of addressing issues that represent opposing opinions, high stakes and strong emotions can help overcome barriers and prevent misunderstanding. This column cannot come close to providing a full understanding of a two-day course, however, touching on a few of the concepts may make a difference. The first is Get Unstuck. Whenever you’re dealing with unmet expectations, first figure out what you’re dealing with.
Is this a one-time issue, a pattern of behavior or a relationship issue? Treating one as if it’s another ensures the wrong thing is addressed and with the wrong remedy. You wouldn’t deal with a student who missed an assignment for the first time the same way you would one who’s repeatedly ignored deadlines. The second is Start with Heart. This can be difficult, especially if you think someone has treated you unfairly or with ill intent. If the relationship matters to you — either personally or just to make sure things get done or to have a good work environment — then think about what you really want as the end result. What responsibility do you have for where things are now and what must change for it to get better? Key questions are: “What am I behaving like I want?” and “What do I really want?” and “How would I behave if I really did?” If your motives are selfish or insincere and don’t really consider the other’s interests, then any effort to address it will fall short. The third is Master Your Stories. We are born storytellers. The most tenuous connection to a “fact” or brief observation leads our brains to weave a tale so quickly it “feels right” regardless of reality. And, what feels right mostly depends on how we view the person who is the object of our attention. Students we like get broad latitude on their attitude and behavior, while those with a difficult history of interaction get no slack. A good student misunderstood what was expect-
ed; a difficult student intentionally sabotaged the lesson and wanted to cause problems. Mastering your stories simply means taking a moment to investigate what you’ve just told yourself and why. Often, this circuit breaker allows some mental space to then act appropriately. When you use these three techniques together, you provide a solid evaluative basis to deal with the things that undermine good relationships. Figure out the cause of unmet expectations; understand your contribution to the issue and check your motives to address it; and then recognize the possibility you’ve created a fiction about the other person’s intentions. At that point, you’re ready to have a conversation from a good place. Clearly, there is much more to understand about the Crucial Conversations process. I encourage you to check out the best-selling book by the same name¹. Two more vital elements to great relationships: grace and forgiveness. Extend to others the same understanding you wish for yourself when things don’t go as expected, or you just plain mess up. Grace goes a long way in preserving and deepening human connection. And, importantly, grace leads to forgiveness. All of us can use a lot of both. You decide whether to take the first step. n 1 Patterson, Kerry. (Eds.) (2012) Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High. New York : McGraw-Hill.
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Dr. Allene Magill Scholarship Honors Georgia’s Education Warrior
wo years ago, Georgia lost a warrior for quality education and a powerful voice for students and teachers. Dr. Allene Magill, executive director of PAGE for nearly 14 years, led the organization to become Georgia’s leading educator association, and she played a major role in keeping the critical needs of Georgia students at the forefront. Dr. Magill’s experience in education ran deep. She rose through the ranks to lead three school districts and serve as president of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, and she was an appointee to Georgia Board of Regents. But she was always proud to say that she began her career — and fell in love with teaching — as a paraprofessional, working in a Hamilton, Mississippi, kindergarten class. She earned a teaching degree at the University of Mississippi for Women before returning to Hamilton to teach first grade. Dr. Magill’s greatest satisfaction came from working with children of poverty. She often addressed student physical needs, such as clothing, before the academics, and she always kept snacks in
her room for the children who were hungry. She believed that children should experience high expectations, love and respect, and from the start, she was an outspoken advocate for wraparound services. A tireless, get-it-done, change-agent for education, Dr. Magill left an indelible mark on public education in Georgia, and she left a wonderful legacy. In 2018, PAGE and the Magill family established the Dr. Allene Magill Scholarship dedicated to paraprofessionals seeking initial certification in Georgia. It is the hope of PAGE and the Magill family that, through this scholarship opportunity, others will follow Dr. Magill’s footsteps to create engaging, caring learning opportunities for Georgia educators and students. To learn more about PAGE Foundation scholarships or to n make a donation, please visit www.pageinc.org/foundation.
The first recipient of the Magill Scholarship is Ashley Taylor Beil, a Title I paraprofessional at White Oak Elementary School in Coweta County. She is pursuing an elementary education/ special education degree at the University of West Georgia.
PAGE Membership Continues 45-Year Rise: Tops 97,000
he Professional Association of Georgia Educators began in 1975 with fewer than 100 members, and over a 45-year period, growth has been dramatic and steady. As we begin 2020, PAGE is proud to announce that we now represent more than 97,000 dedicated educators throughout Georgia. PAGE works every day to make Georgia a better place for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Our commitment and advocacy have not only led to phenomenal growth, they have also earned PAGE the esteem of community and governmental leaders statewide. As Georgia’s largest education association, PAGE will continue to be the eyes, ears and influential voice of our state’s most vital resource: those who teach Georgia’s more than 1.6 million children and tomorrow’s leaders. n
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This is a continuing series of PAGE One profiling throughout the school year Georgia's 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists.
Kristen Applebee Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools
Applebee’s students created giant paper mâché Claus Oldenburg-inspired pop art, and they will experience Oldenburg’s work up close this March at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
By Meg Thornton, PAGE One editor
risten Applebee, who was named the 2019 national Outstanding Teacher of Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired, does not take for granted that she is likely the only person in Georgia who teaches visual art full time to the visually impaired. Some states do not have a school for the blind at all, and not every school for the blind has an art teacher. And there is no class on how to teach blind children to make art. Applebee learned by trial and error. An accomplished artist in her own right, her work has appeared nationally in scores of solo and juried group shows. She is also a writer and the author of an interactive storybook, “The Body Language of Veronica Sue.” Before joining the Academy seven years ago, Applebee taught art in five colleges in three states, including graduate courses at The Ohio State University (where she earned her master of fine arts) and Wesleyan College, where she designed the Early Childhood Expressions course and remains an adjunct faculty member. 6 PAGE ONE
Applebee’s approach to teaching is fully immersive, exploratory, experiential and tactile. Her students range from verbal, non-verbal, low-vision and blind. She tends to start new lessons with a question, such as “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘balance?” Students then brainstorm a flurry of concepts: physical balance, balancing equations, a balanced diet, balanced check book/budget and balanced government. They also discussed what happens when things are out of balance. Four weeks are divided into four projects with varied media to help students internalize the four types of balance in art: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial and crystallographic. She believes that retention increases by digging fewer, deeper holes of knowledge. “My students learned how Tibetan monks make sand mandalas, and then they made their own radial balanced, tactile mandalas,” she says. “Next, they learned about the art of Alexander Calder, inventor of the mobile, before
making their own asymmetrical mobile from the medium of their choice. Andy Warhol was studied before students made paper stencils for their own silk screened, crystallographic balanced images.” To improve school culture, Applebee changed the academy’s physical environment. Her students created 32-foot back drops for concerts and musicals, painted a giant solar system and a montage of Georgia landmarks on school walls, and transformed the cafeteria for a Land of the Rising Sun-themed prom. Applebee also swapped out the school’s framed artwork, displayed for more than 15 years, with fresh student work. Another priority is community bridge building, such the bond she formed with Georgia College and State University. GCSU’s art professor and students present printmaking workshops to her students and helped her class set up a screen-printing shop; the university’s photography professor helped her students create a large fabric mural using January/February 2020
Over four weeks, students internalize the four types of balance in art: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial and crystallographic. Retention increases by digging fewer, deeper holes of knowledge. ACHER OF T
TE the more they learn,” she adds. “I always look for sources in the community and the state that reinforce the units I will teach any given year.” The PAGE member also provides an invaluable resource to others. Through her blog, kristenapplebee.blogspot.com, she shares with a national audience richly detailed lessons and images of the work that best helps her students thrive.
Macon’s Museum of Art and Science inspired them to create wire, paper and fabric quilts; origami-inspired sculptures; and ugly mugs. Her classes have also visited The Kentucky Museum of Science, The Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, The American Printing House for the Blind and The Sluggers Museum & Factory. Applebee has run the bases with students during kick ball, has taken them hiking, fishing and canoeing, hoisted them on to horses, bicycles, tractors and mechanical bulls. “The more they experience first-hand,
their bodies as silhouettes; and the printmaking department made tactile coloring books for her students. For a lesson based on pattern, the art professor made silk screens of her students' drawings, which they then printed and handpainted. The work was exhibited at the Allied Arts Gallery in Milledgeville. Work from another collaborative project hung in a gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last year, and, as of this writing, was on its way to Ireland. Applebee maintains that learning should not be contained within four walls. “For students to become lifelong learners, we must show them that the world is their classroom,” she states. Her charges studied the Lion King before visiting Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts to experience the real masks in advance of making their own from clay. They also closely examined Jim Henson’s work before creating hand puppets. And after making shadow puppets, students appreciated experiencing Indonesian shadow puppets. A visit to
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Amy Arnold Colham Ferry Elementary School, Oconee County Schools By Meg Thornton, PAGE One editor
eteran educator Amy Arnold, who teaches students with communication disorders, ranging in severity from lisps to nonfunctioning vocal chords, is guided by measurable goals. “I am a self-proclaimed data nerd and proud of it!” exclaims the K-5 speech pathology teacher at Colham Ferry Elementary in Oconee. “Every lesson must maximize time to stretch skills towards growth, yet not too far as to discourage the student.” Her students know what they are working on, their current data, where they are headed, and that they will be rewarded for achievements. Every month, teacher and student stretch to meet more goals. “When I measure progress and teach my children to selfmonitor as they are able, we all meet goals,” she adds. Fun is always balanced with work.
“When we play, we communicate! We just play hard meeting those goals,” she says. A recent favorite game is Cozmo the robot. “I had no idea how much a child would work for just a few minutes with my new friend, Cozmo,” she notes. In her first year at Colham Ferry eight years ago, Arnold asked kindergarten teachers and administrators if they would permit her to screen speech needs of incoming students during registration. The answer was a resounding “please do!” The school did not own screening protocols for 80 students, so Arnold created procedures free of cost. “After two days of mass screenings, I found myself in a pile of data [but] the knowledge gained was worthless without action, and waiting until August to intervene would be a disservice,” she recalls. The kindergarten teachers had piles of data, too. So Arnold combined the find-
The school’s use of registration data evolved from a stack of irrelevant papers to an effective data-driven practice. Every year, the school has improved its interventions and expanded its practices related to acceleration of skills prior to kindergarten. ‘We now use our kindergarten registration data to intervene in more depth by inviting targeted students to ‘Mustang Academy,’ a week of accelerated learning practices prior to their first day in kindergarten,’ says Arnold. 8 PAGE ONE
ings and documented detailed letter, sound, number, shape, color and communication knowledge. As is common, many students who are weak in speech are also weak in academics. Therefore, the school’s intervention packets evolved to include basic academic skills as well. Arnold called parents of targeted students to welcome them and share her insight and expectations. “The conversation was not centered on weakness in any way. It was centered on success,” she says. Interventions were then distributed to the now informed, encouraged and eager rising-kindergarten parents. The school’s use of registration data evolved from a stack of irrelevant papers to an effective, data-driven practice. Every year, the school has improved its interventions and expanded its practices related to acceleration of skills prior to kindergarten. “We now use our kindergarten registration data to intervene in more depth by inviting targeted students to ‘Mustang Academy,’ a week of accelerated learning practices prior to their first day in kindergarten,” says Arnold. One small idea, screening speech needs, led to a permanent culture change related to instructional practices. Speech work involves language, fluency, voice and articulation. Each skill is addressed in a careful hierarchy with the purpose of mastery of communication across settings and across listeners, says the teacher. For example, for stuJanuary/February 2020
EAR FINA L
ACHER OF T H
dents working on articulation, generalization lessons are key so their message can ultimately be understood in their community. The child moves from isolation, to words, to phrases, to sentences, to structured conversation, to conversation within the controlled environment of the speech room, to the classroom, to home, to success and independence wherever the child communicates.
The success of the school’s speech program is evident beyond data. “There are so many students who I have recordings of, and you just can’t understand what they’re saying. And then six months later, you can. If you [share that with] a parent or another teacher, everybody’s joyous because of the accomplishments the children have made,” Arnold told The Oconee Enterprise newspaper. She also
‘When we play, we communicate! We just play hard meeting those goals.’
credits her colleagues. “When I need help carrying a skill over, they’re supportive. When there’s an intervention we need to put in place, they’re supportive.” As a sophomore at Auburn University, Arnold found her calling after her greatgrandmother suffered a stroke on her 90th birthday. “That negative turned out to really spark my career because I was watching her rehabilitation process and realized that it was pretty cool,” Arnold told The Enterprise. The Monroe County native earned a bachelor’s in communication disorders and a master’s in speech language pathology from Auburn. She has presented at many conferences and is a member of the American Speech-Languagen Hearing Association.
Gwinnett’s Kerensa Wing Named NASSP National Principal of the Year
erensa Wing, the principal of Collins Hill High School (Gwinnett), was named the 2020 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. A strong collaborator, Wing’s innovations at Collins Hill have taken root and spurred important changes. For staff, a fresh approach to a professional learning community protects valuable collaboration time by using common planning periods. For students, reconfigured advisement periods ensure every student a dedicated 27 minutes with the teacher dedicated to connecting with and advocating for them. And after cutting Advanced Placement enrollment red tape, participation jumped January/February 2020
by 200 students over three years and 300 more AP tests were taken. Moreover, on average, 69 percent of AP students have scored 3 or higher. On another front, Dual Enrollment participation has swelled three-fold in three years to include 150 students. Wing views her job of hiring, retaining and training the best teachers as the most efficient path toward equity for students, reports the NASSP. A Gwinnett County educator for 30 years, Wing helped open Collins Hill in 1994 and became an assistant principal there in 2002. She was named Lanier High School’s first principal in 2010 and
then returned to Collins Hill in 2014 as its principal. A graduate of GCPS’ Quality-Plus Leader Academy Aspiring Principal Program, Wing earned a bachelor’s from Oglethorpe University, a master’s of education from Georgia State University, and an education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University. — Meg Thornton PAGE ONE 9
The Promise of a Rising Generation How Young Georgia Scholars are Impacting the World By Scotty Brewington
hether it is finding innovative ways to rid our landfills and oceans of plastics, helping third-world countries find access to clean drinking water, creating ways for Alzheimer’s patients to enjoy a more peaceful night’s sleep or teaching a fellow student how to use a motorized wheelchair, Georgia’s students are thinking big and changing the world. These young scholars — all from different schools and parts of the state — share several things in common: a passion for learning, a desire to use science and technology to positively impact their environment, a deep empathy for others, and unwavering support and guidance from their teachers. Here are four Georgia students who are using their imagination and ingenuity to change the world around them and improve the lives of those they encounter every day.
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Aditya (Adi) Bora Junior, Johns Creek High School When Johns Creek High School student Adi Bora learned that his classmate Jason struggled to use a self-controlled motorized wheelchair due to his cerebral palsy, Adi was eager to help. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta had loaned Jason a motorized wheelchair, but had taken it back after just two months when it was evident that he lacked the necessary hand coordination and fine motor skills to use it. Two years earlier, two seniors in Dr. Steve Sweigart’s engineering class had created a basic prototype “Joystick 1.0” device to help Jason practice maneuvering his motorized wheelchair. After those two students graduated, Bora, then a sophomore, took their prototype to the next level, interviewing occupational therapists, physical therapists and doctors and staff at CHOA to redesign it to make it even better. “The seniors came up with a prototype, but they cast it off to the side when they graduated. When I came in as a sophomore, I took that idea and created a second prototype that was more usable,” Bora said. His final design was a gamified joystick that could be mounted to Jason’s current wheelchair to allow him to practice his fine motor skills. The lightweight, portable device called the “Independence 1000” provides audio and visual feedback to create a training environment where Jason can independently practice hand movements identical to those necessary to control a motorized wheelchair. In addition to allowing Jason to practice using directional controls for the wheelchair, the device — the first of its kind — also collects data to monitor his improvement and can be used to help develop new products and programs for people like Jason. To see if the device was improving Jason’s overall coordination, Bora spent countless lunch hours over two to three months working with Jason, collecting data and tweaking his design. Eventually, January/February 2020
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Adi Bora designed a gamified joystick mounted to Jason’s wheelchair to allow him to practice fine motor skills. The lightweight, portable device called the “Independence 1000” provides audio and visual feedback to create a training environment where Jason can independently practice hand movements identical to those necessary to control a motorized wheelchair. he was able to see some improvement, though it was gradual, as is often the case with occupational therapy. “Jason’s condition is such that it is difficult for him to control a motorized wheelchair, but it is possible that his hand-eye coordination could improve,” Bora said. “Everyday, I came in at lunch and found motivation to work on this project because of how much enthusiasm Jason had for it. He would be so excited to use the device. I always found that so motivating to go in and work with him.” “The cool thing about Adi is that he really made a connection with Jason. It wasn’t just a project for his engineering class,” said Kathleen DeBuys, Johns Creek High School’s department chair of community-based instruction and Jason’s teacher. “Adi was able to listen, understand that problem and create a solution. He spent most of his lunches hanging out with Jason in the special ed classroom trying different things. They really made a personal connection, which was really cool.” Bora’s motorized wheelchair training system won numerous awards at the county, state, national and international levels, including first place at the Future Business Leaders of America State Competition, top 10 out of over 75 projects in the International NASA Conrad Challenge, the Intel Excellence in Computer Science Award and the Grand Award at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair. Ultimately, despite its innovation in the field, the Independence 1000 turned out not to be the best option for Jason. Though he could use the device to get his wheelchair going, his responses weren’t quick enough to stop it, DeBuys said. Bora hopes that over time, Jason will be able to continue using the device to improve his fine motor skills enough to one day reach his dream of using a motorized wheelchair. In the meantime, the two have remained friends. “There are a lot of smart kids, but there is a heart in Adi that makes him different,” said DeBuys. “Very rarely do you see a 17 year old this passionate and excited.” Bora’s passion for robotics and 12 PAGE ONE
engineering began early. As a freshman, he applied the knowledge he learned from being on the school’s robotics team to build a pair of self-tying shoes for a relative who couldn’t tie his own shoes because of impairment in his hands. The final prototype was an autonomous shoelacing system that allows people with physical limitations to tie their shoes with a Bluetooth app that tightens and loosen the shoes through a portable, rechargeable device. The autonomous shoe-lacing system placed first in the Fulton County Technology Fair, first in the Fulton County Science and Engineering Fair, and first in the Georgia State Student Technology Competition. As a sophomore, Bora worked on the Independence 1000 and this year, as a junior, he’s working on a device to help soothe hyperactivity in patients with neurological impairments, specifically those with autism. He currently has a prototype that uses machine learning and vibration motors in a bracelet to detect this behavior and provide a soothing effect. “Every year, I learn more about the prototyping process — how to take an idea to an actual prototype that can help someone,” said Bora. He came up with this most recent idea while at the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program over the summer. Bora’s cousin — the same one for which he designed the self-tying shoes — is autistic. “People with autism and other neurological disorders often engage in behaviors such as clapping their hands or hitting their hands against their heads. This is often disruptive in social settings, but can also be detrimental to a person’s health,” said Bora. “I am working on a device that uses machine learning to predict hyperactivity in people with disorders such as autism. Once this hyperactive behavior is detected, I am using a series of vibration motors to provide a soothing effect to hopefully minimize this behavior.” Bora thanks his teachers for their guidance. “Both Dr. Sweigart and Ms. DeBuys have been amazing mentors for me and have been instrumental in the successes I have had in my projects. I honestly couldn't be more thankful for the help they have given me,” Bora said. For example, “Dr. Sweigart showed me the importance of putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are trying to develop technology January/February 2020
for in order to develop the most impactful solutions, and Ms. DeBuys made me believe in myself and taught me that I should I never just toss out an idea because other people may think it is ambitious.” After high school, Bora hopes to attend MIT and study computer science and electrical engineering. He got the chance to visit MIT over the summer. “In high school, I have found a few people with the same passion for learning, but when I visited MIT, it’s a different type of environment.
Everyone is creating new things — no idea there is dumb,” he said. “I think it would be a great career to work for a big company, creating new technologies to solve problems.” “I have taught Adi for three years and he is one of a kind,” said Sweigart, who also serves as the career technology department chair at Johns Creek High School. “He is bright, but he also has an empathy side to him and a desire to work with people with special needs. He really looks beyond himself and asks how he can solve problems for other people.”
Isabella Parker Junior, Harrison High School A junior at Harrison High School in Powder Springs, Isabella Parker is working on a device that can be placed on the bed of a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia so that when they lie down, it will play soft music to improve their sleep quality and overall mood. “My grandfather is currently at a memory care facility after having had several strokes, and they have a separate place there for patients with advanced Alzheimer’s,” said Parker. “I wanted to create something to help them have better sleep and increase their emotional range, which deteriorates fast with Alzheimer’s patients.” Parker is developing a pressure-activated speaker system that plays soothing music that functions as white noise to help patients get better sleep, which in turn helps to improve their overall emotional state. The device is a 9-inch by 15-inch pressure mat that can be folded into different sizes. It lays flat under a fitted sheet and is activated by the pressure of a patient’s head on the pillow. “They don’t have to remember to turn it on at night because it’s automatic,” Parker said. “Depression and anxiety are common in Alzheimer’s patients and music helps to calm them down and alleviate their stress.” The automatic white noise device is Parker’s junior science fair project as part of the Harrison Biomedical STEM Program. The program offers a select group of students a variety of advanced
STEM opportunities in two pathways — bioengineering and advanced healthcare — woven throughout the high school curriculum. This year, the program includes nearly 100 students in grades nine through twelve. As a freshman, Parker created a device to help patients with traumatic brain injuries or those who have suffered a stroke relearn how to write. Her research was built on studies that show writing things down helps to process them into longterm memory more effectively and increases communication skills. The 3D device, called the Kinesthetic Approach to Retraining Memory Muscle (KAT RAMM), uses a tracing device to help patients develop better coordination, writing and communication skills. “I wanted to help students in my school who are in special ed and not verbal communicators — and also people who have had strokes — to help them communicate while they are healing,” said Parker. “A stencil and wrist mount traces as you move your wrist, Continued on next page
As a freshman, Isabella Parker created a device to help brain or stroke-injured patients relearn how to write. The 3-D device uses a tracing mechanism to help patients improve coordination, writing and communication skills. “I wanted to help students in my school who are in special ed and not verbal communicators — and also people who have had strokes,” she said. January/February 2020
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giving you the fluidity of writing, but also limits how much your wrist moves so that you are not over exaggerating the movements and straining your muscles.” The KAT RAMM earned second place at Georgia Tech’s InVenture competition and won the Accessibility Award, presented by 3Doodler, at the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in Dearborn, Michigan. As a sophomore, Parker created a charm that can be worn on a bracelet to detect the presence of lead in a drink. “Originally, I wanted to create a charm that held a piece of paper that when you put it in a drink, it would test for date rape drugs, but my teacher said I couldn’t do that because it wouldn’t be good for a high school student to work with those chemicals, so I decided to test for lead instead,” said Parker. “Places like Flint, Michigan, still have a water crisis — and we are a developed country, where it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it is — but there also are developing countries having trouble getting clean drinking water. I wanted people to know that they weren’t getting poisoned by their own water.”
The bracelet includes a small heart attachment that can be dipped in water, revealing a faint color change if there is a presence of lead. “Isabella is very unique. She is very well rounded. She’s in band, she’s very articulate, and she’s super intelligent. She is able to take that creative side of her that she uses in band and apply that scientifically as well,” said Paulette Allard, coordinator of the Harrison Biomedical STEM Program. “Isabella lights up when she talks about what she is doing.” Parker’s teachers at Harrison High have supported her endeavors by helping her fine-tune her idea, understand various ways to reach the same goal and by providing lab space, access to a 3D printer, materials and more. “And academically, they always push me to do my best, encourage rigorous classes and all offer to help outside of class. I am taking three AP classes in the spring and I know all of my teachers will be there to help,” said Parker. After high school, Parker hopes to attend medical school and one day become a cardiothoracic surgeon. “I really just want my projects to be helpful to everyone — not something that you have to have technology to use,” said Parker. “The bracelet charm, for example, is a simple, easy way to test your water without having to buy a $50 lead testing kit. I just want to help as many people as I can.”
Jack Whittenmore 8th Grade, Madras Middle School Last year, as a seventh grader at Madras Middle School in Coweta County, Jack Whittenmore remembers learning about countries in other parts of the world like Saudi Arabia that struggle with providing citizens with clean drinking water despite having plenty of accessible saltwater coasts. “They have big plants and other ways to desalinate water, but they are very expensive. I thought if I could make a smaller, more accessible way then more people could use it and it could save some lives,” said Whittenmore. “I wanted to make an affordable way for countries to get fresh water that was easier to do and more self-contained.” Whittenmore developed a device to turn saltwater into drinking water. His desalinating device, the Salinity Saver, uses heat from the sun. Water is heated in the device, causing it to condense onto a funnel and then drip down into a separate freshwater chamber. The salt is so dense that it can’t move with evaporated 14 PAGE ONE
water, so it is left behind in the outer chamber. Ultimately, the prototype was able to desalinate 1,000 parts per million of saltwater per one milliliter. Earlier this year, Whittenmore took his small self-contained prototype to the county science fair, where he won, then to Georgia Tech, where he won the state’s first place K12 inVenture Prize for middle school. He then competed at the national level at the Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in Dearborn, Michigan. “The device works with artificial saltwater, but cannot yet fully desalinate ocean water,” said Rhonda Lewis, Jack’s seventh-grade life science teacher in the school’s REACH gifted program. “However, Georgia Tech offered to help him get a patent for it and I believe they are working with him in that process now. All of the kids say he’s going to be rich!” Whittenmore, who is grateful for the support he has received, said, "Coweta County School District helped me get a Coweta Water January/February 2020
Jack Whittenmore’s desalinating device uses the sun’s heat to turn saltwater into drinking water. The heated water condenses onto a funnel and drips into a freshwater chamber. The dense salt can’t move with evaporated water, so it stays in the outer chamber. Ultimately, the prototype was able to desalinate 1,000 parts per million of saltwater per one milliliter. “The device works with artificial saltwater, but cannot yet fully desalinate ocean water,” said Rhonda Lewis, Jack’s seventh grade life science teacher, adding that Georgia Tech is continuing the project with Whittenmore. Education Team sponsorship from the water department to help fund my trip to Michigan for the national competition.” Furthermore, he added, “My teacher, Ms. Lewis, encouraged me the whole way, and even went to nationals with me in Michigan, where she helped me fine-tune my display and project explanation.” This wouldn’t be the last time Whittenmore would be inspired by the sea. After being stung by a stingray this summer while on a Florida beach vacation with his family, Whittenmore found inspiration to create a device to repel stingrays and sharks. “It was the most painful thing ever,” he said. “I wanted to develop something that keeps people away from sharks and stingrays so they don’t have to experience that same pain.” During his research, Whittenmore found that there are several different existing technologies that deter sharks and stingrays through the use of magnetic fields. “There are several patented devices out there that mainly just use a magnet in something like a bracelet,” he said. “I want to use an electromagnet, which could be cheaper and stronger.” He is currently working on a drawing of a prototype of his electromagnet device and plans to collaborate with scientists from the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources on Sapelo Island and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center through a recent connection made through Donald White, Coweta County’s science content specialist. Next year, Jack will be a freshman at Newnan High School. After that, he hopes to attend a college with a great marine biology program. “I want to be a marine biologist. One of my favorite things is the ocean and I love animals – especially the strange ones like the ones in the ocean,” he said. “One of my dreams is to scuba dive to be out there with the animals.”
Mikelison Womack Senior, Morrow High School When Mikelison Womack was just in eighth grade, he noticed how much styrofoam was being used in his school cafeteria. That same year, the theme of the First Lego League robotics competition was focused around the issue of sustainability. Womack had the upcoming robotics competition and the cafeteria styrofoam in the back of his mind when his Dad shared a Stanford University article with him about how mealworms, the larva of a darkling beetle January/February 2020
that can be found in North America, could eat and digest styrofoam. Womack took the idea and ran with it at the FLL robotics competition, presenting his team’s research project based on how mealworms could be used to help combat the global issue of styrofoam and plastic litter. But this was just the beginning. For the next three years, Womack continued researching the effects mealworms could have on the future of Continued on next page PAGE ONE 15
After discovering that mealworms can degrade plastics — and therefore decrease the amount of plastics and styrofoam that go into our landfills — Mikelison Womack tested the fecal matter the worms produce after eating the synthetic polymers and polystyrene to see if it could be used for agriculture. He discovered that the matter was not toxic and, when applied to potting soil as a fertilizer to ryegrass seeds, the plants actually grew at a faster rate. recycling and their ability to biodegrade synthetic polymers and polystyrene to create a safe fertilizer for crops. “I decided to test it to see if the mealworms could not just eat and digest styrofoam, but also soft plastics like what is found in diapers and hard plastics that are used in things like water and tea bottles,” Womack said. Womack took four empty containers, each with 50 mealworms, and filled one with five grams of styrofoam, one with five grams of plastic water bottles, one with five grams of non-biodegradable diapers, and one with five grams of apple as the organic control group. Each week, he observed the containers and weighed what was left of the material to see how much the mealworms ate. “I kept data for about six weeks to see if they could go through their whole lifecycle and they made it. They turned into garden beetles,” Womack said. “I had to hurry up and put tops on the containers because they started flying. It actually scared my mother because the containers were set up in our kitchen.” After discovering that mealworms can degrade plastics — and therefore decrease the amount of plastics and styrofoam that go into our landfills — Womack wanted to test the fecal matter they produce through the digestive process after eating the synthetic polymers and polystyrene to see if it could be used for agricultural purposes. He discovered that the fecal matter was not toxic and, when applied to potting soil as a fertilizer to ryegrass seeds, the plants actually grew 16 PAGE ONE
at a faster rate. Womack’s vision is to build dumpster-like bins that hold mealworms, plastic and styrofoam on top, divided by a permeable mesh that allows the mealworm excrement to fall to the bottom, where it can be collected, packaged and sold at hardware stores as fertilizer. This year, as a senior at Morrow High School in Clayton County, Womack is experimenting with the special bacteria found in the inner-line intestine of the mealworms called exiguobacterium. He is looking for ways to extract or cultivate the bacteria and ultimately create an eco-friendly chemical that can mimic the effect of the bacteria in the intestines of the mealworms that can be used to breakdown the plastic and styrofoam found in our landfills and oceans. What started as a research project for an eighth-grade robotics competition has turned into a multi-year research project that has won Womack awards at science fairs at the school, county and state levels. Earlier this year, at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair in Athens, Womack was one of two students selected in the state to compete in the GENIUS Olympiad, an international science fair held in New York. There, he won a silver medal. Womack credits his school for fueling his success. “Since beginning at Morrow High School, it has been instilled in me to be excellent without excuses. The faculty and staff push my peers and me inside and outside the classroom,” he stated. He also credits his science teacher. “Ms. Javone Richardson (science, honors biology and honors chemistry teacher) is constantly asking what are my next steps and what materials I need to make it happen. She has influenced the way I think, learn, and how I carry myself on a daily basis.” After high school, Womack plans to go attend college and major in physics and environmental studies. Eventually, he wants to become a mechanical engineer. “I would like to start my own waste management company based on my research and work with environmentalists to use waves to collect trash in the oceans and create stations to breakdown the plastic and styrofoam,” said n Womack. January/February 2020
PAGE 2019 Legislative Survey
Georgia Milestones Misses The Mark for Most Teachers G
eorgia’s educators shared insights on critical education issues in PAGE’s 2019 Legislative Survey. Key findings include: Assessments. Most educators — nearly 60 percent — do not think the Georgia Milestones provide information to improve student learning. Standards. Approximately 38 percent agree the Georgia Standards of Excellence are valid and appropriate, but 35 percent do not. Vouchers. The majority of educators across the state oppose private school vouchers, both tax credit vouchers and the newest version, Education Savings Accounts. Student Mental Health Needs. Nearly half of educators report that between
10 and 25 percent of students in their Assessment & Accountability schools have unaddressed mental health Survey responses indicate assessments current standardized testing needs and an additional 16Georgia’s percent indiare often unhelpful toprogram educatorsprovides as a educators with information to improve student learning. cate that 25 to 50 percent of students fall lever for improvement. More than 59 into that category. percent Stronglyof respondents reported that the agree Teaching Profession. Forty-nine perstate’s current testing program — the cent of educators would not recommend Georgia2%Milestones — does not provide teaching as a career. them with information to improve stuThe survey explores issues flagged as dent learning.Strongly About 19 percent were Agree important by educators as well as those neutral on thedisagree question and 21 percent 20% 24%do. that have captured policymakers’ attenindicated the tests tion. PAGE’s legislative team uses survey Educators have a more varied view of results to inform its advocacy work onNeither local agree assessments. More than 38 percent behalf of Georgia’s educators and pub-nor disagree reported that local assessments, those cre19% Disagree lic school students. Selected findings ated or selected by their school districts, 35% are highlighted below. Some findings provide value to them. Approximately 27 intersect with PAGE’s 2020 Legislative percent were neutral on whether local Priorities (see page 20). assessments were valuable, and nearly 30 percent disagreed/strongly disagreed that Continued on next page
Georgia’s current standardized testing program provides educators with information to improve student learning.
Rate your support for A-F grading of schools.
Strongly agree Strongly Support
Do not support
Neither agree nor disagree
Strongly do not support
Rate your support for A-F grading of schools.
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they provide value. (About 5 percent of educators indicated the question was not applicable.) Respondents’ views diverged on whether the letter grades assigned to their schools by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement accurately reflect schools’ progress. The grades are based on schools’ scores under the state’s accountability system, the College and Career Ready Performance Index. Approximately 42 percent of respondents do not feel the letter grades mirror progress, but nearly 38 percent do. About 20 percent neither agreed or disagreed. Nearly half of educators — 47.9 percent — do not support the use of A-F letter grades to rate schools. Approximately 27 percent support using the letter grades, and a slightly smaller portion, 25 percent, are neutral. PAGE 2020 Legislative Priority, Assessment & Accountability: The General Assembly reduced the number of state tests under Senate Bill 364 in 2016, a bill PAGE vigorously championed. Lawmakers created a pilot to develop an alternative to Georgia Milestones with Senate Bill 362, which PAGE also supported. PAGE’s legislative team continues to advocate for and work with policymakers to reduce the number of state tests students are required to take. PAGE also supports the elimination of the A-F grades applied to schools by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
Georgia Standards of Excellence Educators’ views of the Georgia Standards of Excellence are mixed. When asked if the standards are valid and appropriate, close to 39 percent strongly agreed/agreed, but nearly that many — about 34 percent — disagreed/strongly disagreed. Approximately 27 percent were neutral. Significant changes to the standards would be very disruptive, according to nearly 45 percent of respondents, with another 38.8 percent reporting they would be moderately disruptive. Close to 17 percent of educators said significant changes would be a little disruptive or not at all. Vouchers Georgia’s educators do not support private school vouchers. Nearly two-thirds oppose expanding the existing tax credit voucher program, which has a $100 million price tag each year. Approximately 59 percent do not want an Education Savings Account program, which would be the state’s third voucher program. PAGE 2020 Legislative Priority, Vouchers: PAGE has consistently and strenuously opposed efforts to expand the state’s two existing private school voucher programs, the tax credit voucher and the special needs voucher. PAGE also opposes attempts to create a third voucher program. (See voucher article on page 21.) There are currently two bills to create an Education Savings Account, or
Select the percentage of students at your school who have unaddressed mental health needs.
18 PAGE ONE
How likely are you to recommend a career in education?
Student Mental Health Needs Educators raised concerns about students’ mental health needs in previous surveys, and it continues to be a challenge, according to their responses this year. More than 46 percent of educators reported that 10 to 25 percent of the students in their schools have unaddressed mental health needs. An additional 15.5 percent indicated that between 25 and 50 percent of students fall into this category. A small portion, 5.1 percent, reported that 50 percent or more of their schools’ students have unaddressed mental health needs. One-third of teachers report fewer than 10 percent of students with unaddressed mental health needs. More than 7 out of 10 respondents believe an increased focus on students’ mental health needs will improve educational outcomes as well as school climate. When asked about the type of mental health supports needed in their schools, about 69 percent of educators identified training for parents and guardians. Approximately 56 percent called for additional school counselors and a close third was wraparound services for families, which was reported by 54 percent of educators.
ESA, voucher: House Bill 301 and Senate Bill 173. The bills were introduced in the 2019 legislative session. Legislators could approve either bill during the 2020 session. PAGE encourages educators to express their concerns about vouchers to their legislators.
Less than 10 percent
10 to 25 percent
25 to 50 percent
Greater than 50 percent
Neither likely nor unlikely
PAGE 2020 Legislative Priority, Mental Health and School Climate: The state’s funding formula for public schools, the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, funds one school counselor for every 450 students and one school social worker for every 2,475 students. Both are above the recommended best practice of one counselor for every 250 students and the same ratio for social workers. The legislature approved $1 million for additional high school counselors and enriching counseling programs in Title I schools in 2019. These funds are valuable but fall short of needs across the state. Assuming salary and benefits of $50,000 per counselor, 20 counselors can be funded with $1 million. Georgia has 176 schools where 70 percent or more of students are identified as low-income based on their identification as direct certification: They live in families that receive food stamps or welfare, are homeless or in foster care, or are migrants or unaccompanied youth. In an additional 408 schools, 50 to 69 percent of students fall into this category. PAGE advocates for increased funding to place more counselors and social workers in these schools. Teaching Profession The challenges of attracting skilled people to teaching and helping them grow and thrive so that they remain in the profession persists. More than 48 percent of respondents reported it is unlikely/very unlikely that they would recommend teaching as a career. Approximately 23 percent are neutral and nearly 29 percent would recommend it. When asked about factors that influence their decision to stay, over 51 percent of respondents indicated salary was the most influential factor. Two issues that are interwoven were the next most commonly cited factors: school climate, which was ranked most influential by 20.3 percent of educators, and principal/building leadership, noted most influential by 17.4 percent. Principals have a large role in shaping school climate. PAGE 2020 Legislative Priority, Teacher Retirement System: The Teacher Retirement System is a crucial tool to recruit and retain teachers. The General Assembly recognized its importance and invested approximately $700 million in the program between fiscal years January/February 2020
2016 and 2020. TRS will continue to attract teachers if legislators maintain the program in its current form. Georgia faces a teacher shortage in math, foreign language and special education, and 44 percent of new teachers in the state stay in the classroom five years or less. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs continues to slide. Diminishing TRS would exacerbate these challenges. PAGE strongly urges the General Assembly to preserve the Teacher Retirement System. About the Survey PAGE surveys its members every year to gather their feedback on issues that have been shared by educators or have been identified as focus areas for policymakers. Members are invited by email to participate in the survey, which is conducted online. Almost 5,700 PAGE members from across the state participated in the 2019 survey. • The majority of respondents
are classroom teachers: 68.7 percent. Paraprofessionals and school-level administrators are the next largest groups with 7 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. • Respondents were split fairly evenly in years of experience across five-year increments (e.g. 1-5 years, 6-10 years, etc.). • Approximately 62 percent work in Pre-K through fifth grade, 23 percent in grades six through eight and 28 percent in high school. About 6.5 percent indicated they do not work in schools. • Nearly two-thirds of respondents — 64 percent — work in Title I schools • About 83 percent of respondents are white, 12.5 percent are black, 1.8 percent are Hispanic, 1.6 percent identify as an unlisted race, and the remainder are less than 1 percent each. • Approximately 83 percent of respondents are female and 17 percent are male. PAGE staff appreciates the time and insights that members generously shared. n Thank you!
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2020 Legislative Session
2020 PAGE Legislative Priorities Assessment & Accountability Support efforts to design accountability systems that foster increased student learning and enhance instruction: • Reduce overreliance on standardized tests by limiting assessments to the minimum number required by federal law. • Eliminate A-F grading of schools. • Review Teacher Keys Effectiveness System and Leader Keys Effectiveness System to ensure these educator evaluation systems continue to provide constructive support for instructional improvement.
Mental Health & School Climate Increase access to student mental health supports inside and outside schools to promote student wellbeing and academic success: • Fund school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers at recommended levels. • Increase funding to deliver mental health training to classroom educators. • Enhance access to external mental health supports, including telecommunication and mobile counseling in rural and hard-to-staff districts as well as collaborations with state agencies and other service providers.
Teachers Retirement System of Georgia Ensure the Teacher Retirement System remains a strong and effective educator recruitment and retention tool, one which legislators have commendably supported: • Continue to fund TRS at the level needed to preserve its fiscal strength, extending lawmakers’ deep and valued commitment to the state’s educator workforce. • Require a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis — including the impact on Georgia teacher recruitment and retention — of all proposals to modify TRS.
Private School Vouchers Invest public resources effectively to advance learning for public school students: • Oppose attempts to expand Georgia’s two existing private school voucher programs or add a third voucher program. • Add necessary transparency and accountability requirements to the state’s current voucher programs.
PAGE Day on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 • Banquet Breakfast at Sloppy Floyd • Meetings and Lunch with Legislators Register now at pageinc.org
Pushing Public Dollars to Private Schools
Vouchers in Georgia By Claire Suggs, Senior Education Policy Analyst
he General Assembly approved two private school voucher programs over a decade ago and some legislators are pushing to add a third program. One is financed through the state’s general fund at a cost of more than $29 million and the other with $100 million in tax credits issued every year. Despite the steep price tag, lawmakers and taxpayers have little information about these vouchers, particularly the tax credit voucher. Basic information about students and schools in that program is unknown. The poor academic track record of voucher programs in other states indicates Georgia’s program cannot confidently expect to do well. Despite this, legislators attempted to add a third voucher during the 2019 legislative session, one frequently referred to as an Education Savings Account (ESA). Before launching another voucher that consumes state resources, a comprehensive evaluation of the existing voucher programs should be completed. Lawmakers must make sure they use state dollars effectively and, more importantly, that participating students reach high levels of learning. Every dollar diverted to vouchers is one less dollar available to invest in proven supports for students and educators including high quality teacher induction, putting more counselors and social workers in schools, full funding of the state’s student transportation formula, and more resources for high-poverty schools Vouchers in Georgia Two voucher programs exist in the state: the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship and the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program. They differ in key ways, including the types of students they January/February 2020
involve, how they are funded and how much information they share with the public. Students may receive both vouchers concurrently if they meet the eligibility criteria. Georgia Special Needs Scholarship The General Assembly created the state’s first voucher program, known as the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, in 2007. It is for students with specific disabilities who are under an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.² To be eligible, students must also attend a Georgia public school for the full academic year before seeking a voucher, and one of their parents must be a state resident. Though the program is designed for students with special needs, participating private schools are not required to provide special education services or follow students’ IEPs. When a parent accepts a special needs scholarship for a child, “he/ she is refusing to provide parental consent for special services under IDEA in a public school district.”³ In practice this means students and their families lose
the protections provided by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) including being in the least restrictive environment and due process rights when parents disagree with a school about the services provided to their child.⁴ Funding: The amount students get under the special needs voucher program is equal to the state funds that the students’ school districts would receive or the tuition and fees at the private school, whichever is lower. This cost is financed through the state’s general fund, which is funded primarily with income and sales tax revenue. There is no cap on the amount of state dollars that can be directed to the special needs voucher program. In the 2017-2018 school year:⁵ • The average voucher award was $6,672. • The total program cost was $29,025,673. Voucher Recipients: The number of students receiving vouchers has steadily climbed since the program’s inception. In Continued on next page
Vouchers by Another Name: A New Label, Same Effect The language that voucher proponents select to label and discuss vouchers has evolved. While traditional vouchers, which transfer state funds directly to private schools, still bear the name, new forms of vouchers do not. Proponents use more appealing rhetoric, including SCHOLARSHIPS, SAVINGS ACCOUNT, FLEXIBILITY, OPPORTUNITY, and CHOICE. These words obscure the intent of the new voucher programs: to shift public resources to private schools. At the same time, the means by which they shift resources—tax credits and donations to private nonprofit organizations—shield the expansion of government activity in a new sector. This obfuscation helps protect the programs from the legal challenges and political controversy that traditional vouchers often spark.1
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the 2017-2018 school year:⁶ • 4,664 students received a voucher to attend a private school. • Nearly 54 percent of students were white and two-thirds were male. This differed from enrollment in Georgia’s public schools, where white students made up about 40 percent of all students, and 51 percent were male. • More than half of students—53 percent—were in middle school and 39 percent were in elementary grades. Fewer than 10 percent were in high school. This also varied from public school enrollment where approximately 47 percent of students were in elementary school, 23 percent in middle school, and 30 percent in high school.⁷ • Students enrolled in 249 private schools located in 56 of Georgia’s 159 counties. • Students attended public schools in 122 school districts before receiving a voucher. Accountability: Participating private schools are required to conduct pre- and post-academic assessments and report results to the Georgia Department of Education and to parents. Private schools decide which assessments to use and are not required to administer Georgia Milestones, the state exams that measure academic achievement for K-12 students in public schools. This makes comparisons between voucher students and public school students difficult, and one has not been done to date. According to the school-selected assessments, in the 2017-2018 school year:⁸ • 89 percent of voucher students made learning gains of one year or more in reading. • 87 percent of voucher students showed gains of one year or more of learning in math. No process exists to identify schools that are not serving students effectively and remove them from the program. This differs from Indiana and Louisiana, which lead the way in setting high accountability standards for voucher programs. Both states require private schools participating in their voucher programs to administer state assessments. Both also impose sanctions on persistently low-performing private schools, including removal from the voucher programs.⁹ ¹⁰ 22 PAGE ONE
Transparency: Data on several important program elements are available to the public and updated annually in a report prepared by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). This includes: • Participating students: grade level, race, gender, and eligibility. • Affected school districts: number of students who have withdrawn to receive a voucher. • Participating private schools: name, location, number of voucher students, tuition. Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program The legislature approved Georgia’s second school voucher program, the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit program, in 2008. The program has broad eligibility criteria. Students entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, or first grade may participate regardless of past attendance in a public school, and students at all other grade levels may receive a voucher if they attend a public school for six weeks. The attendance requirement is waived if students are homeschooled for at least one year, have a documented case of bullying, or would be required to enroll in a school designated low-performing by the state. Funding: The amount students receive varies: the maximum award is capped at the statewide average of local and state expenditures per student. For 2019, the cap is $10,387.¹¹ The average tax credit voucher was $4,008 in 2018.¹² The program is financed through $100 million in tax credits issued each year. Georgia taxpayers receive a dollar-fordollar reduction in their state income tax bill up to $1,000 if filing singly and $2,500 if filing as married in exchange for donations to private voucher-granting organizations, commonly referred to student scholarship organizations or SSOs. Corporations can receive a credit up to 75 percent of tax liability in exchange for contributions to the SSOs. The 2008 legislation that created the program limited tax credits to $50 million. Legislators frequently introduced bills to lift this cap in subsequent years. They succeeded in pushing it to $58 million in 2013 and to $100 million in 2018.¹³ Voucher Recipients: In 2018, 13,895 tax credit vouchers were awarded,
though the number of students who received vouchers is not known. Students in 13,360 families received vouchers, 535 fewer than the number of vouchers issued, indicating that some students received more than one voucher or that siblings got them. Students who receive tax credit vouchers may also receive special needs vouchers. The state does not track the number of students who receive both. Data on voucher students is limited to the number of participating families in each quartile of Georgia’s annual Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).¹⁴ This information revealed differences in who is using the vouchers. In 2018, 60 percent of tax credit vouchers were distributed to students in families in the two highest income quartiles of the AGI.¹⁵ Students whose families were in the lowest quartile received the smallest portion of vouchers. Accountability: The tax credit voucher program has few accountability requirements, and those in place focus primarily on finances of the SSOs, the organizations that distribute the vouchers, rather than student success. The SSOs must submit an independent audit each year to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Participating private schools are not required to assess or report academic achievement for voucher students. Nor did legislators set metrics to assess participating schools’ effectiveness in meeting students’ academic needs and remove those that are not. In addition, lawmakers did not establish a system to ensure participating students, private schools, and student scholarship organizations comply with eligibility requirements. No state agency, including the Georgia Department of Education or the Georgia Department of Revenue, is charged with collecting and verifying student eligibility data. Legislators’ failure to apply accountability standards for students’ academic achievement is a stark contrast to the approach they chose for public schools. Lawmakers set extensive accountability requirements for public schools and the educators who work in them through the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), as well as the Teachers Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) and the Leaders Keys Effectiveness System (LKES). The CCRPI assesses the perforJanuary/February 2020
Figure 1: Highest Earning Families Got the Most Vouchers in 2018
mance of schools and districts achievement fit that category. 32 26.4 while TKES and LKES seek to The legislation does not gauge the effectiveness of teachers identify data sources for 28.6 and building leaders. the analysis or require state 26.4 24 Lawmakers took one step agencies to gather information toward accountability for the tax about the program. credit voucher program in 2018. Transparency: The tax credit That year, the General Assembly voucher program does not col16 approved House Bill 217, which lect any information on affected 13.8 increased the cap on tax credits public school districts or on from $58 million to $100 milparticipating private schools. 8 lion annually. The bill included Information is restricted to a a new requirement: In 2023 the few categories related to the state auditor must submit an ecostudent scholarship organizanomic analysis of the program to tions and the family income of 0 the chairs of the Ways and Means voucher recipients. The follow1st Quartile 2nd Quartile 3rd Quartile 4th Quartile AGI AGI AGI AGI Committee of the Georgia House ing information is collected: of Representatives and the Finance Source: PAGE calculations based on data from the Georgia Department • Participating students: famof Revenue 2018 Calendar Year Qualified Education Expense Credit Committee of the Georgia Senate. Report. Income data reported is Adjusted Gross Income. ily income by category; The report is to include: • Student scholarship orga• Net change in state revenue nizations: name; number of • Net change in state expenditures benefit.” However, an assessment of vouchers awarded; total number of • Net change in economic activity voucher students’ academic achievement individual and corporate donations; total • Net change in public benefit as well as participating schools’ value of contributions from individual HB 217 does not define “public effectiveness at fostering increases in and corporate donors; and the total dolContinued on next page
Georgia Education and Policy Expert Claire Suggs Joins PAGE Legislative Team
AGE welcomes to its legislative team Georgia education and economic policy expert Claire Suggs. As former senior education policy analyst of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the longtime analyst has deep knowledge of education policy. At GBPI, Suggs specialized in school funding, vouchers and the intersection of poverty and education. Recently, as chief of community engagement for the Clarke County School District in Athens, Suggs fostered relationships among communities and schools. Previously, as senior associate at the consulting firm Kronley & Associates, Suggs identified best practices to improve public schools and devel‘Our seasoned legislative oped strategic plans for staff of Margaret Ciccarelli, foundations and educaJosh Stephens and Claire tion- and youth-focused Suggs comprise a formidable organizations. While team for PAGE as we working at Southern research and advocate for Education Foundation, she important education advocated for state policies legislation in Georgia.’ to expand access to public postsecondary institutions. — PAGE Executive Director Suggs is also a longtime Craig Harper contributor to PAGE legislative affairs. She has
authored several articles for PAGE One magazine on the impact of Georgia education policies; presented frequently on behalf of PAGE to state lawmakers, educators and communities; and was a regular contributor to the PAGE Week in Review legislative news video. “Throughout her career, Claire has identified and advocated for supporting and strengthening public education,” states PAGE Executive Director Craig Harper. “She bolsters PAGE’s strong legislative capacity and efforts due to her knowledge of education finance, legislation and policy. Claire also has significant relationships and influence at the Capitol, state agencies and with our advocacy partners. Our seasoned legislative staff of Margaret Ciccarelli, Josh Stephens and Claire comprise a formidable team for PAGE and our members as we research and advocate for important education legislation in Georgia.” At the start of her career, Suggs supported workforce development programs at Focus: HOPE, a civil rights organization in her hometown of Detroit. She earned a master’s degree from the LaFollette School of Public Policy at the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Michigan.
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A New Measure of Family Income
Lawmakers amended family income reporting requirements in 2018 as part of legislation that hiked the program’s cap to $100 million. The revisions include replacing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which is not frequently used in the education sector, with the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is more common. The new measure will be used to report 2019 family income data. Category
Adjusted Gross Income Through 2018
Federal Poverty Level Beginning in 2019
Category (FPL=Federal Poverty Level)
First AGI Quartile
Up to $14,359
Up to 125% of FPL
Second AGI Quartile
$14,360 to $31,718
$32,186 to $64,375
125 to 250% of FPL
Third AGI Quartile
$31,719 to $66,333
$64,375 to $103,000
250 to 400% of FPL
Fourth AGI Quartile
$66,334 and above
$103,000 and above
Above 400% of FPL
lar value of tax credits approved for individual and corporate donors. The scholarship organizations are also required to report donors to the Georgia Department of Revenue, but that information is not made available to the public. Additional information about data required from public schools and
private schools participating in the tax credit voucher program is available in the appendix. Education Savings Account: The Latest Version of Vouchers Many lawmakers in Georgia and around the country are eager to adopt Education
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24 PAGE ONE
Savings Accounts (ESAs), the newest iteration of vouchers, which one proponent described as “vouchers on steroids.”¹⁶ Legislators in five states have set up these new vouchers. Georgia lawmakers tried to become the sixth during several legislative sessions, most recently the 2019 session with Senate Bill 173 and House Bill 301. Under the ESA voucher model, states deposit funds into accounts established for each participating student. The funds can be used for private school tuition as well as other educational expenses, such as tutoring, online and home schooling, curriculum materials, therapeutic services and higher education. Arizona established the first ESA in 2011. Four states followed suit: Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.¹⁷ The programs vary in student eligibility, funding, administration, accountability and transparency requirements. The impact of ESAs on student learning is not known. The programs are new and data is limited. Three states require nationally normed tests but Arizona and Mississippi do not. Given their similarity to traditional vouchers, ESAs likely have a comparable effect. Most evaluations show voucher programs have either a negative impact on student outcomes or no effect.¹⁸ ¹⁹ Evaluations of voucher programs in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio reveal participating students lost ground academically. Where there have been positive effects, they tend to be small, and it is often unclear whether the results are due to the voucher program or other factors, such as changes in accountability requirements.
Recommendations: Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Collect and report the following information annually: 1. Participants’ family income data 2. Type of assessments each school uses 3. Number of years participating students are in the program 4. Retention rate of voucher students at each participating school
Recommendations Georgia lawmakers adopted private school vouchers more than a decade ago, ahead of most states but without the transparency and accountability measures many states subsequently implemented. Eleven states with traditional voucher programs require standardized assessments to measure student learning, as do 11 that have tax-credit vouchers.²⁰ ²¹ If lawmakers choose to continue funding the state’s two existing voucher programs, they should take steps to improve their transparency and accountability. Gathering this additional information will provide a more complete description of who is accessing the program, as well as insight into their experiences. This information would be very helpful to families considering the program. Under current practice, basic information about the tax credit voucher program is unknown. Lacking these data, the program’s fiscal impact and effect on student achievement is unknown, and it is unclear how the program will be evaluated in 2023 without it. This leaves lawmakers ill-equipped to make decisions about the best uses of the state’s limited financial resources. Given the significant gaps in information about the existing voucher programs and the failure to evaluate either program after more than a decade of operation, adding a third voucher program — an Education Savings Account voucher or another type — is premature at best, foolhardy at worst. It raises the possibility of creating a program that fails to meet students’ academic needs and squandering financial resources that could be invested in proven strategies including: • A state-wide, high-quality induction program for new teachers, prioritizing those in high-need schools. This will help lower the number of new teachers who leave.²³ Approximately 44 percent of new January/February 2020
teachers in Georgia leave in their first five years, which undermines instruction and raises costs for districts.²⁴ • Reduce counselor/student and social worker/student ratios to the recommended best practice of 1:250 for both from current levels of 1:450 and 1:2475 respectively.²⁵ ²⁶ • Full funding for the student transportation formula. The state covered about 15 percent of districts’ cost to bus students to and from school safely in fiscal year 2017. Districts must allocate
local funds to cover the rest instead of directing them to the classroom. With fewer students spread across larger distances, transportation costs are particularly hard for rural districts to manage.²⁷ • Increase funding for low-income students by adding an “opportunity” weight to the K-12 funding formula. Georgia’s formula, the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, does not account for the additional needs lowincome students often bring to the classroom, which require extra dollars to effectively address.²⁸ Lawmakers can serve Georgia’s students well by strengthening the transparency and accountability requirements for the existing voucher programs and investing state funds in programs that have proven benefits for students. These are better choices for Georgia’s families than expanding vouchers. Continued on next page
Recommendations: Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program Collect and report the following information annually: 1. Participating students • Gender • Race • Current grade level • Grade level at program entry • Criteria under which the student is eligible for program • Assessment of academic progress as measured by Georgia Milestones or MAP • Number of years in program • Number of students who also receive a special needs voucher 2. Affected school districts • Name of school districts that voucher students previously attended or would have attended • Number of voucher students who withdrew from each district 3. Participating private schools • Name • Location and tuition • Number, race, gender and family income measure of voucher students • Assessment of academic progress as measured by Georgia Milestones or MAP for all voucher students and by gender, race and family income 22 • Number and percent of voucher students retained annually 4. Student scholarship organizations • Donor names and number of years contributed to SSO
PAGE ONE 25
Endnotes 1 Hackett, U. (2019). Attenuated governance: How policymakers insulate private school choice from legal challenge. Policy Studies Journal. 47(2) 237-273. 2 Qualifying disabilities for the Special Needs Scholarship are: autism; deaf/blind; deaf/hard of hearing; emotional and behavioral behavior; intellectual disability; orthopedic impairment; other health impairment; specific learning disability; speech-language disability; traumatic brain injury; or visual impairment. See: https://www.gadoe.org/ External-Affairs-and-Policy/State-Board-of-Education/ SBOE%20Rules/160-5-1-.34.pdf 3 Georgia Department of Education. Special Needs Scholarship Program Parent Responsibilities. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://www.gadoe.org/ExternalAffairs-and-Policy/Policy/Documents/PARENT%20 RESPONSIBILITIES%20FTP.pdf 4 National Center for Learning Disabilities. (2017). Vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax incentive programs: Implications and considerations for students with disabilities. Retrieved October 15, 2019 from https:// www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/SV-ESA-TIWhite-Paper.pdf 5 Georgia Department of Education (2018). Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program End of Year Report 2017-2018 School Year. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://gosa. georgia.gov/research-evaluation-auditing/research-reports 6 Georgia Department of Education (2018). Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program End of Year Report 2017-2018 School Year. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://gosa.georgia.gov/research-evaluation-auditing/ research-reports 7 PAGE calculations based on March 1, 2018 FTE Count by the Georgia Department of Education. Retrieved from https:// oraapp.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_enrollgrade. entry_form 8 Georgia Department of Education (2018). Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program End of Year Report 2017-2018 School Year. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://gosa. georgia.gov/research-evaluation-auditing/research-reports 9 Indiana Department of Education. (2018). Choice Scholarship Program Policy Instruction Indiana Seriously Deficient Determinations and Procedures. Retrieved October 31, 2019 from https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/ choice/16-seriously-deficient-determination-proceduresfebruary-2018.pdf 10 Louisiana Department of Education. (2019). Louisiana Scholarship Program Participation Guide. Retrieved October 31, 2019 from https://www.louisianabelieves.com/ docs/default-source/school-choice/scholarship-programparticipation-guide.pdf?sfvrsn=10 11 Georgia Department of Education. (2019). SSO Scholarship Cap for 2019. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://www.gadoe.org/schoolsafetyclimate/ Documents/2019%20SSO%20cap.pdf 12 PAGE analysis of data from the Georgia Department of Revenue 2018 Calendar Year Qualified Education Expense Credit Report, retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://dor. georgia.gov/calendar-year-qualified-education-expense-creditreport 13 The cap will drop to $58 million in 2029 if lawmakers do not make any changes to the existing program. 14 For the 2018 Calendar Year, the adjusted gross income quartiles for Georgia are: 1st—up to $14,359.00; 2nd—from $14,3600 to $31,718; 3rd—from $31,719 to $66,333; 4th-$66,334 and above. (Georgia Department of Revenue. 2018 Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit. Retrieved October 14, 2019 from https://dor.georgia.gov/qualified-educationexpense-tax-credit 15 PAGE analysis of data from the Georgia Department of Revenue 2018 Calendar Year Qualified Education Expense Credit Report, retrieved October 8, 2019 from https://dor. georgia.gov/calendar-year-qualified-education-expense-creditreport 16 Khadaroo, S. T. (2015). “Nevada’s ground-breaking school choice law: Help or hindrance to public system?” Christian Science Monitor. June 3, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2019 from https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2015/0603/ Nevada-s-groundbreaking-school-choice-law-Help-orhindrance-to-public-system 17 Nevada passed an Education Savings Account program in 2015 but the program was not implemented 26 PAGE ONE
Appendix The Accountability Gap: Standards for Voucher Schools Fall Short Georgia’s accountability and transparency standards for private schools participating in the tax credit voucher program are significantly lower than its requirements for public schools. Public Schools
What we know about students
Tax Credit Voucher Program
Family income measure
Year and grade level of first enrollment
School district of residence
Cost to state
✔ Public Schools
What we know about schools
Tax Credit Voucher Program
Name of school
School district/voucher school location
Number of students/voucher students enrolled: total & by race, gender, grade level & instructional category
Student/voucher student mobility rate
Cost to state
Student/voucher student academic performance, aggregated and by sub-group
School accountability consequences
*Special education, early intervention program, CTAE, etc. after the Nevada Supreme Court found its funding mechanism was unconstitutional. In 2019 the state legislature repealed the law. 18 Carnoy, M. (2017). School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved October 17, 2019 from https://www.epi.org/publication/school-vouchers-arenot-a-proven-strategy-for-improving-student-achievement/ 19 Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. (2016). Evaluation of Ohio’s edchoice scholarship program: Selection, competition and performance effects. Washington, DC: Fordham Institute Retrieved October 17, 2019 from https://fordhaminstitute.org/ ohio/research/evaluation-ohios-edchoice-scholarship-programselection-competition-and-performance 20 There are 25 traditional voucher programs across 14 states: 15 require standardized assessments, 11 require public reporting of results, and seven require independent evaluations. There are 21 tax-credit voucher programs in 18 states: 20 require standardized assessments, eight require public reporting of results, and three require independent evaluations. 21 American Federation for Children Growth Fund. (2019). The school choice guidebook 2019. Washington, DC: Same. Retrieved October 21, 2019 from https://www. federationforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2019Guidebook-10.2.19.pdf 22 A consortium of 10 school districts in Georgia received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to use the MAP assessment as an alternative to the Georgia Milestones as part of a pilot program. Approximately one-third of the state’s districts use the MAP assessments. (NWEA. (2018, October 1). Georgia districts team with
NWEA to launch Georgia innovative assessment pilot [Press release]. Retrieved October 31, 2019 from https:// www.nwea.org/content/uploads/2018/10/NWEA_GMAP_ October-2018.pdf 23 Ingersoll, R., & Strong, M. (2011) The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: A critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research (81)2, 201-233. 24 Henson, K., Stephens, C., Hall, T. & McCampbell, C. (n.d.). The 2015 Georgia Public P-12 Teacher Workforce. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Retrieved from https://www.gapsc.com/Commission/research_ publication/downloads/2015%20Status%20Report.pdf 25 The American School Counselor Association. (2017). The school counselor and school counseling programs. Retrieved October 31, 2019 from https://www. schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/PositionStatements/ PS_ComprehensivePrograms.pdf 26 National Association of Social Workers. (2012). NASW standards for school social work services. Retrieved October 31, 2019 from https://www.socialworkers.org/ LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=1Ze4-9-Os7E%3D&portalid=0 27 Suggs, C. (2015). Shrinking State Funds Trigger Student Bus Safety Concerns. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://gbpi.org/wp-content/ uploads/2018/02/2018-Georgia-Student-TransportationReport.pdf 28 Owens, S. (2019). Education in Georgia’s Blackbelt: Policy Solutions to Help Overcome a History of Exclusion. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. https://gbpi. org/2019/education-in-georgias-black-belt/#_edn33 n
Educators Enjoy No Privacy in School Email By Matthew M. Pence, PAGE Staff Attorney
wenty-five years ago, email was another frontier in the wild west known as the Internet. Today, it is an essential communication tool for school systems and their employees. Email is a fast, efficient way to communicate critical material to colleagues, parents, and students, but before educators hit reply or send, they need to be aware of certain rules governing email usage, as well as best professional practice.¹ First, educators should remember that school email belongs to the school system, not the individual educator. It can be easy to forget this. After all, email comes equipped with a name — that of the educator — and it has a password that may be unique to the educator. Neither of these change the fact that the email remains the property of the school system. Because the educator does not own the email, he or she cannot assert any privacy interests in it. Sending a school email from a personal device or while on personal time does not change this. Privacy interests in school email remain the interests of the school system, subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Georgia Open Records Act. FERPA and School Email FERPA is a federal law that governs two major issues: the release of educational records and student confidentiality. Both of these are pertinent in the context of emails. First, FERPA mandates that parents have the right to inspect all educational records maintained by the school system regarding their child. The law is murky as to whether an email is an educational record for purposes of FERPA, but it is best to operate under the assumption that it is. In short, if an email has a child’s name in it or discusses a child, then parents may certainly want to see it, or at least the portion of the email concernJanuary/February 2020
ing their child. A good rule here is to ask yourself if you would like the parent to read what you are saying about the child in the email. If the answer is no, then avoid saying it in an email. FERPA also protects student confidentiality, so information regarding students can be shared only with others who have an educational right or need to know such information. Under FERPA, a child’s parent will always have the right or need to know information about the child, so emailing with a parent about a child’s academic progress or behavior will not constitute a violation of the law. For FERPA purposes, the test remains about the individual receiving the information. When sending an email with information about a student, ask yourself if the person receiving the information has the right or need to know it. If this person does not have that right or need, then do not send the email. Common issues here include emailing with family members who do not have a legal right or a need to know the information (like aunts/uncles or grandparents), or sharing information about one student with the parent of another student. Make sure not to email with family members who do not have a legal right or need to know information about the child. A family member does have a legal right or need to know the information if the family member is a custodian of the child. Also, make sure not to tell one parent information about another child in the classroom.² Sharing confidential information about a student over school email with someone who does not have a right or a need to know that information could subject the school system to an adverse legal action under FERPA. Moreover, it is a violation of Standard 7 (Confidentiality) of the Code of Ethics for Georgia Educators, which means that the Professional Standards Commission
could sanction the educator’s certificate for the email. Responding to Parent Emails The decision of whether to respond to a parent email ultimately rests with the individual educator. Use best professional judgment here. If you believe that a phone call instead of a response email is warranted, then you are free to do just that. It is best practice to document this for communication log purposes. Sometimes, parent emails can be angry, hostile, and/or demeaning. These types of emails are meant to hurt; they are also meant to get a reaction. It is never good for educators to react to those emails with another email. A better solution is to forward the email to an administrator with a request for assistance in responding. Georgia’s Open Records Act The Open Records Act is a Georgia law that mandates documents housed by public entities, including school systems, be revealed to any individual making an open records request. This law benefits the public at large, but it is also a useful tool for parents. Oftentimes, members of the public request emails in a quest to prove that the school system is wasting taxpayer money or failing to properly educate children. Emails of any public entity are subject to the Open Records Act so long as one of its many exceptions does not apply. Under the law if a requestor of the emails meets certain procedural requirements in requesting those emails, then the school system must legally share the emails. The Open Records Act does not require the school system to inform the educator that his/her emails have been the subject of an open records request. In short, so long as the law says the document or email must be released, then the school system must release it — and within a very small amount of time. Continued on next page PAGE ONE 27
PAGE Welcomes Three New Board Members
tee to the superintendent; as school hospitality chair; as a PTO representative and as a PAGE building contact. She also serves or has served her community as a Girl Scout leader; as a trained Court Appointed Special Advocate for the Ocmulgee Circuit; and as a University of Georgia Delta Gamma Fraternity director and as vice president of programming and a board member for Delta Gamma Alumnae Association. Carter’s professional development history runs deep. She has received training in project-based learning, PBIS coaching, standards assessment, ESOL and in promoting a positive learning for African American students, among other training. She has also added academic coach, ESOL and reading endorsements to her certificate. She previously taught special needs students at Morgan Middle and for the county’s alternative education program, as
Amy Carter, a sixthgrade teacher since 2004 at Morgan County Middle School in Madison, is the new PAGE board of directors representative for District 11, serving 12 districts south of Atlanta, including Morgan, Henry, Rockdale, Clayton and Walton. The social studies, reading and language arts teacher said she was “mentored by excellent teachers,” and she has followed suit by having mentored many pre-service educators. She has also served as a team leader and a district vertical team member for social studies. “I have seen a major overhaul of social studies and worked to implement new standards, strategies and rigor into all curriculum areas,” she noted. In leadership roles, Carter has served as a team leader; on an advisory commit-
Amy Carter, District 11
well as ninth through 12th grade at Jasper County High School in Monticello. At the University of Georgia, she earned both a bachelor of science in social science education and a master’s in early childhood education. As a board member for District 11, Carter is committed to ensuring that teacher voices are heard, and she especially looks forward to “working with PAGE members and lobbying for our teachers at PAGE Day on Capitol Hill.” — Meg Thornton
Continued from page 27
Emails involving individual students cannot be revealed under the Open Records Act to a member of the public, but emails regarding scheduling, supplies, general complaints about the work environment, among others, will most likely be revealed due to an open records request. As noted above, there is no clear directive from Congress or the Supreme Court regarding the status of emails as educational records for purposes of FERPA. The Open Records Act may negate this in favor of releasing the emails to the parents. Best Practices With all of this in mind, here are some good tips for best practices with school email. First, as analyzed above, assume that the email may be revealed to another party. Do not put something in email that you are not comfortable with another party, usually a parent, reading. Second, as school email remains the property of the district, it is best for educa28 PAGE ONE
tors to use it specifically for school purposes. Use of school email for unrelated matters could be construed as a violation of Standard Five of the Code of Ethics (Public Funds and Property) for Georgia Educators. It could also be a violation of a local school system’s fair use policy. Common issues here are using school email for second jobs or side businesses, forwarding spam or solicitations to colleagues, or contacting policy-makers. In fact, it is standard practice for PAGE to request that educators contact policy-makers from personal, not professional, email. Third, follow these quick email professionalism rules: check for spelling and grammar errors, keep the email short, and do not be terse or use a negative tone. Make sure to know the difference between reply and reply-all. Finally, an email is a permanent, written record. While there are instances where the written word takes out an element of ambiguity, there are other times
where writing is not necessary. Sometimes it is better to speak than to write. Know n those times. 1. This article does not analyze or incorporate any local board of education fair use/ email policy. PAGE encourages all school system employees to review local board policies, including policies that govern the school system’s rules for employee usage of professional email. 2. Often this arises in the special education context, usually in discipline matters. Federal law limits a school system’s ability to discipline special education students. For example, if two students get into a fight at school and one of them is served through special education, their punishments may differ. It is a violation of confidentiality to email the parent of the general education student and explain that the other child did not receive the same punishment because of his status as a special education student. January/February 2020
Mary Case, District 3 Mary Case, a fourthgrade teacher and ESOL lead at Norton Elementary School in Snellville, is the new PAGE board of directors representative for District 3, covering Gwinnett and Fulton counties. An educator for 37 years, Case has served all K-12 levels. A native of Jamaica, she counts as a strength her ability to work effectively with people of varied cultural backgrounds. In her first year of teaching at Gwinnett, she was named runner-up for Cultural Educator of the Year. Case began her teaching career in 1981 working for the Jamaica Ministry of Education. She taught all grade levels and was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She also served as a guidance
counselor and as a principal. After immigrating to the United States in 2002, she taught at Gwinnett County Schools for three years before teaching in Miami, Orlando and Orange County schools in Florida. In 2013, she returned to Gwinnett County. A spiritual person, Case writes that her faith has been shaped by difficult experiences in her life, including abuse, a mysterious illness and the loss of her infant son. Her journey in overcoming challenges and her love of writing led to her in 2018 to author the book “In the Face of Adversity, Giving Up is Not an Option!” Her advice to anyone who is struggling and cannot see the silver lining behind the dark cloud is “do not lose hope.” In her words, “Make sure you per-
severe long enough to reap the benefits of your blessings.” Case earned a master of arts in education from Wake Forest University; a bachelor’s degree in educational administration from the University of West Indies and a diploma in teaching from Moneague Teachers’ College in Jamaica. In addition to her ESOL endorsement, she has earned endorsements in reading, exceptional student education and gifted. — Meg Thornton
Joy Robinson, District 8 Joy Robinson, a fourth-grade teacher at Lake Park Elementary School in Lowndes County, represents District 8 on the PAGE board of directors. As a board member, Robinson said she will be a voice of PAGE, representing the interests of educators and students in her southeastern Georgia district The lifelong learner and participant in PAGE Professional learning maintains that knowing your students is at the core of effective lesson design. “Knowing one’s students and their families gives an educator great insight, enabling the teacher to truly design instruction that caters to each student’s needs,” she recently told PAGE One magazine. “Having a relationship with student families further reinforces trust that the educator will share helpful information about the student and that the information will be received well. When all the pieces are in place and operating smoothly, authentic learning will occur — and with it, the byproduct of increased student achievement.” Considered a teacher leader and an influencer among her colleagues, Robinson takes an active role in education at all levels. She has served on her school’s redesign and improveJanuary/February 2020
ment teams and was instrumental in developing standards-based social studies units, leading to proficiency gains. In her community, Robinson has served on the Parent Action Committee and the Community Partners in Education committee, which she has chaired. On the district level, the Google-certified educator has served on both the system technology and learning management system committees, as well as on the district’s instructional framework and advanced ed strategic planning teams. On the state level, she presented at the Georgia Reading Association forum on standard implementation and served on the Georgia Milestones review team. And
as part of PAGE’s South Georgia School District Network, she has fond memories of working closely with the late Dr. Allene Magill on Burke County’s district transformation initiative. Robinson is a career-long member of PAGE, beginning in college. She also serves as her school’s PAGE building representative. “All of my experiences with PAGE have aided in molding me as an effective educator,” she added. Robinson earned a degree in early childhood education from Valdosta State University, graduating magna sum laude. In 2018, she was named her school’s n teacher of the year. — Meg Thornton PAGE ONE 29
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PAGE Officers & Directors 2019-2020
Dr. Hayward Cordy Past President
Megan King Secretary
Lamar Scott Treasurer
Mary Case District 3
Lance James District 7
Jennie M. Persinger District 9
Dr. Shannon Watkins District 5
10th Mc Du
Khrista Henry District 10
Rochelle Lofstrand District 4 (Atlanta City, DeKalb)
Dr. Oatanisha Dawson District 1
Dr. Susan Mullins District 6
Joy Robinson District 8
TaKera Harris District 12
Amy Carter District 11
Brecca Pope District 2
Daerzio Harris District 13
Vickie Hammond Retired Members
Dr. Sheryl Holmes Retired Members
PAGE ONEâ€‚ 31
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R ESERVATION P LEASE VISIT:
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Have You Moved or Has Your Contact Information Changed? Update your contact information at www.pageinc.org/ membership.
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OFFICERS President: Nick Zomer President-Elect: Lindsey Martin Treasurer: Lamar Scott Past President: Dr. Hayward Cordy Secretary: Megan King DIRECTORS District 1 District 8 Dr. Oatanisha Dawson Joy Robinson District 2 District 9 Brecca Pope Jennie Persinger District 3 District 10 Mary Case Khrista Henry District 4 District 11 Rochelle Lofstrand Amy Carter District 5 District 12 Dr. Shannon Watkins TaKera Harris District 6 District 13 Dr. Susan Mullins Daerzio Harris District 7 Lance James DIRECTORS REPRESENTING RETIRED MEMBERS Vickie Hammond Dr. Sheryl Holmes
32 PAGE ONE
The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the editor: Meg Thornton, firstname.lastname@example.org; PAGE One, PAGE, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contributions by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2019-20 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2020 .
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Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students online Master of Arts in Teaching Programs Elementary Education online Health and Physical Education online Middle Grades Education P-12 Spanish Education Secondary Education Special Education online Certificate Programs Applied Research and Evaluation online Curriculum and Pedagogy for Social Justice online Educational Leadership Tier I and II online Instructional Technology online School Library Media online Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students online Endorsement Programs English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) online Online Teaching and Learning online Reading online Teacher Leadership online Gifted In-Field online
The COLLEGE OF EDUCATION at Georgia Southern University offers a wide-range of high-quality, innovative master’s, specialist’s and doctoral degree programs as well as endorsements and certificates. Designed to accommodate busy, working professionals, many programs are available online. The college’s offerings are ranked in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Graduate Education Programs.”
GeorgiaSouthern.edu/COE STATESBORO • SAVANNAH HINESVILLE • ONLINE
Learning, Inspiring. CONTINUE
Mercer University’s advanced teacher education programs provide relevant, timely professional learning for Georgia’s classroom educators. Whether you’re looking to enhance teaching expertise or add new content knowledge to your teaching certificate, professional development with Mercer University allows you to cultivate lifelong learning while enriching your students’ classroom experience.
TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP. 800.762.5404 email@example.com
ADVANCED TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS • Curriculum and Instruction, Ph.D. ↗ • Elementary Education, Ed.S. • Elementary Education, M.Ed. • Middle Grades Education, M.Ed. • Secondary Education, M.Ed.
• Teacher Leadership, Ed.S. • Autism Endorsement • Coaching Endorsement • ESOL Endorsement
• K-5 Math Endorsement • K-5 Science Endorsement • Reading Endorsement • STEM Endorsement
↗ GRE or MAT required for this program.
Mercer University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Education programs that lead to initial and advanced certification in Georgia are approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC).
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PAGE One magazine, published by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, covers topical issues impacting public school educators t...
Published on Feb 12, 2020
PAGE One magazine, published by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, covers topical issues impacting public school educators t...