Monday, June 29, 2009

Can We Talk EDUCATION?


We are always so distracted by the drama that constantly swirls around our school system and the attention that should be placed on quality education initiatives continues to get usurped by the latest news of the weird. I'd like to refocus our discussion back to education, specifically, The No Child Left Behind Act (or as they refer to it in 'The Simpsons' - No Child Left Alone). Although I agree with some of its premises and intentions, such as disaggregated testing data and early reading initiatives and I agree that it introduces an element of accountability into public school education, I still think that overall, NCLB and the fear of its repercussions has caused much damage to the way we deliver education in our system. I for one, would like to see it - and its stringent requirements dismantled once and for all.

Please read this very important blog entry at Schools Matter and then post a comment regarding how NCLB and AYP have affected your schools ability to focus on educating our children. (Some of you may even have positive things to say?!)

80 comments:

Cerebration said...

For more reading - here are two articles synopsizing the pros and cons of NCLB -

-PROS
http://www.nochildleftbehind.com/education-articles/:)-Claims-Made-in-Favor-of-NCLB

-CONS
http://www.nochildleftbehind.com/education-articles/:(-Claims-Made-in-Opposition-to-NCLB

Cerebration said...

Three years ago, a Harvard study concluded that NCLB was not improving education --

Cambridge, MA—June 14, 2006— The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) released today a new study that reports the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) hasn't improved reading and mathematical achievement or reduced achievement gaps. The study also revealed that the NCLB won't meet its goals of 100 percent student proficiency by 2014 if the trends of the first several years continue.

http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/news/pressreleases/nclb_report06.php

Ken Thompson said...

"Three years ago, a Harvard study concluded that NCLB was not improving education..."

Indeed. I would wager that after three years a prestigious institute could perform a study that shows new math, transformational grammar, TV in the classroom, computers in the classroom, Laptop per Child, made-up master's degrees, charter schools, in school academies, military academies, free breakfast lunch and dinner, after school basketball programs, higher salaries, etc. don't improve education. We've had 30 years of non-stop try-this experimentation with silver bullet du jour proponents claiming success for what is no more enduring than the Hawthorne effect and by the time the truth is out they're passing out shiny new ammo. NCLB is no different. It is here, it will pass and public education will be unchanged. Relax to the solution, folks, the Next Great Thing is surely on the way.

Cerebration said...

Right on, Ken. And the Obama administration is about to put their personal stamp on NCLB - Obama style ($$$$$) - now, they're saying that NCLB has a bad "stigma" and they are looking to "re-brand" its image. Watch for a new name - There's even a contest to rename the law...but it will still be NCLB - only on steroids.

http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/2009/06/tear-down-that-school-house-mr-duncan.html

The Obama administration has made clear that it is putting its own stamp on education reform. That will mean a new name and image for a law that has grown unpopular with many teachers and suburban parents, even though it was enacted with bipartisan support in Congress."It's like the new Coke.

This is a rebranding effort," said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. "The feng shui people believe you need to take the roof off buildings to allow bad chi to escape. Let's hope this helps....

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called the law's name "toxic.

Cerebration said...

Naming Committee for the New Margaret Harris School

On June 1, 2009, the DeKalb County Board of Education approved the merging of Heritage Center and Margaret Harris High School.
Per the policies of the DeKalb Board of Education, a naming committee has been established to make recommendations regarding a name for the school, the school’s colors, and a mascot. At the next meeting of the naming committee, stakeholders are invited to suggest names for the New Margaret Harris School. The committee will accept suggestions at their meeting on June 24, 2009 at 2:15 in Building A.

If you have any questions, please contact John O’Connor, Executive Director for Special Services, at (678) 676-1876.

Ella Smith said...

I do feel that Charter School should also have to be tested and continue to make improvement. Why just public education students. We all know that some private and Charter schools are not successful.

NCLB intent is extremely good. But, students do learn at different paces and have differenet abilities. All children are not going to progress at the same rate. Every child can learn but can not learn at the same pace.

Parents and support systems are also not the same to be there for the children.

It is just not a simple fix and I do feel strongly that it does need to be revived to prevent all the transfers. Remediation and extra-help should happen in the school before students can transfer.

On the other hand if I was a parent in a failing school I would do whatever I could to give my child every opportunity in life. I see why they transfer their children. I would do the same thing if I was in their shoes. We want the best for our children. We do not want to take chances with our children's education.

I agree that NCLB may be an attempt to destroy the public schools as we know it. On the surface it looks good but the consequences to the schools are not good.

Kim Gokce said...

The problem with NCLB isn't the goals or the standards - we need both and these can be tweaked. The problem is with the remedies.

Perhaps it is not completely fair to schools with special circumstances. Perhaps it costs more tax dollars. Perhaps it creates system management problems, including over-crowding at "performing" schools and isolation of "failing" neighborhood schools. But if this means more kids get a shot at a quality education, isn't that a success?

Perhaps the new name should be FCLB - "Fewer Children Left Behind." :)

I suppose I'm leaning towards examining the failures of NCLB and seeking to fix them rather than throwing the whole thing out.

I'm do not easily warm up to the idea that Washington policy makers can devise better answers than we can. But for NCLB forcing DeKalb to examine school performance, what would DCSS have done on its own these past 8 years for children in the lowest performing schools?

We've all lamented repeatedly here about how secretive and insular the BOE and DCSS seem to be ... at the very least, NCLB deserves credit for giving parents a stick, albeit a blunt instrument, with which to beat the administration.

Ken Thompson said...

"...do not easily warm up to the idea that Washington policy makers can devise better answers than we can." Can Georgia policy makers do better? Can DeKalb County policy makers do better? Interesting line of thought that seems to lead directly to Home School...

"an attempt to destroy the public schools as we know it." OK, I'll bite. Is there really a difference between "destroying" the public schools and "fixing" them? Is the difference really all about who loses their paycheck? From this taxpayer's point of view I see a school system that is spending private school dollars to provide a third world education--but it creates a lot of jobs for a cohesive group of voters.

Kim Gokce said...

@ken thompson: "Interesting line of thought that seems to lead directly to Home School..."

Exactly. The process of delegating the responsibility of educating our kids describes in a nutshell how I view any school house efforts.

As a parent, I have trust issues in all matters and public education is not an exception. I think demanding the kind of transparency and accountability you describe is the only remedy for those as wary as I am to hand over my kid to a 3rd party.

I've begun my journey into understanding DCSS with a soon-to-be 3 year old in mind. Within the next year, I will have to face that leap of faith. Right now, I'm not feeling the faith but I'm remaining open and want to believe it is possible.

Ken Thompson said...

@Kim Gokce -- after giving Austin a try we ended up home schooling. If you go that route be careful about the end game and consider moving to a county with lower taxes.

Ella Smith said...

But, when home schooled you miss so much socialization and as the only child Kim currently your son needs them.

Sorry, you can see what side I am on. I am not opposed to home schooling but the social aspect concerns me and now there is the accountability part where the students have to pass the tests in order to get credit for their home schooling which is a good thing.

One Fed Up Insider said...

I can say by teaching in the middle school setting... When you home school a student then try to get them into a school when they are in middle school.. Most kids do not succeed and wind up being pulled. Some do make it because their parents kept them in swim clubs, boy scouts, church groups, but the ones that did not have that struggle, more socally than academically. But, when you are laging socially the academics are not far behind.

Ella Smith said...

One Fed Up Insider I agree and as a Health teacher I always worry about the Social Health of a child. It is so important in the child's development.

They also have some group programs to get together with other children now when being home schooled which is wonderful for the home schooled child.

Anonymous said...

I am worried that Arni Duncan's plan for NCLB will only make it worse. The vast sums of taxpayer money he would like to spend on even more testing and data analysis are not moving the ball forward. This money needs to be spent on educational programs.

I would like to see a drastic reduction in state testing (CRCT) and the use of a nationally normed test such as the ITBS to monitor academic performance. The ITBS provides incredible detail in the subtest scores. Do you realize how many teachers we could hire just by chucking the CRCT, a pretty meaningless test?

And let's stop labeling an entire school or group of students as "failing" or NI. It is not productive.

On a related note PBS News Hour ran an excellent program on how the stimulus money is being used by states. Watch the video to the end so you can see Georgia...
http://pbs-newshour.onstreammedia.com/cgi-bin/visearch?user=pbs-newshour&template=template.html&query=+ClipCategory%3AClipCategory%3Aeducation&keywords=&category=ClipCategory%3Aeducation&submit.x=15&submit.y=10&submit=Search

Ken Thompson said...

"But, when home schooled you miss so much socialization and as the only child..."

We got that a lot. Doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but we did get it a lot. Something akin to the Lord of the Flies just wasn't the socialization environment we were looking for. Fact of the matter is home schools aren't Skinner Boxes and children learn proper social skills from adults, not other equally or even more unskilled children. I won't even go into bullying...

We also got the guilt trip about pulling a top performing student out of the system, thereby hurting school scores (though money was Austin's real concern). And there is also a bit of herd cohesion--we felt some negative vibes because parents, as Maureen Downey recently observed, believe their public school, Austin in this case, is "as good as any in the country" and to pull your child because she wasn't academically challenged was heretical. I can see their point of view.

While there is always a degree of rationalization, at the end of the day parents do what they believe is the best for their child.

Ella Smith said...

Mr. Ken Thompson, I totally agree and I respect you for your decision totally.

But, I am a supportor of public education. I did run for school board in 2008 and probable will run again because I do care deeply about the future of our children. I respect your decision totally. I hope you do keep your child involved in clubs and outside activities because of the social issue and I hope one day you try the school system again and hope your experience is more positive.

I have had some horrible experiences but I have not turned my back on public education. I still believe in public education and see it as the key to given every child equal opportunity to a quality education. The problem is equality of education at every school and this need to be addressed and I believe it currently is trying to be addressed.

Cerebration said...

I disagree about the lack of socialization of home schooled kids. I know quite a few home schoolers (my niece and nephew for starters) and they are very well socialized - in good ways. Some of the "socialization" kids get in our public schools today are not what many parents seek - in fact, it makes for difficult parenting as you find yourself fighting powerful negative forces and value systems from other families that are nowhere near your own. My niece participates in gymnastics and my nephew is on a county baseball team and wrestles. Most home schoolers make certain they participate in home school groups where they go on field trips together and sometimes share teaching different subjects. I have turned into a big advocate for home schooling - as well as many other alternatives to public school. In fact, I wrote a post about it and several contributors added even more good information.

Here's the link:

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/02/options-to-dcss.html

You can also get there quickly by clicking on the photo under the title "Options to DCSS" on the right panel of the home page.

Ella Smith said...

Cerebration, I do not agree that also in some situation parents get together for activities when home schooling weekly that allow for much socialization, but in some situations this does not happen and this is what worries me.

I respect those who make this decision. As a Health Teacher I do hope that each of these parents make sure their child/children get the socialization skills that they need. I have seen many young children come back into the school who have been totally lost because of lack of socialization skills. I do think home school parents need to work hard to make sure their children receive these skills. Without social skills a child is not healthy.

Ella Smith said...

I do have a child who did have some social skills problems when he/she was young and still exhibits some problems and he/she went to public school.

concerned said...

Clearly, I am not an educator within the school system. I never thought about the educational system until I had children of my own. I am a product of an uninformed school.In college I realized I was vast years behind. Graduating at the top of a low performing school and not knowing that others schools not only offered more arts and music but deeper academic preparation is not the answer either. An awareness of the program is only diagnosing the problem while NCLB seems to put us further in arrears, I think it magnifies an underlying problem.

How to correct it is another topic. Money is wasted with Title I schools and a lot of funding is returned because low performing schools are busy disciplining and testing that no one is looking for programs that work or methods that are proven.

It's going to take an extreme amount of leg work and pushing and praying and trying and failing in order to correct this mass production of downward spiraling education.

NCLB has not fixed the problem...it is just the flood light that was needed to let others see how deep the problem already was!!!!!

Cerebration said...

Boy - truer words were never spoken! "A floodlight to let others see how deep the problem already was."

NCLB has certainly done that - the mandate to publish disaggregated data has opened our eyes to the true inequities in our schools. Sadly, the response by the government has been (IMO) too punitive and ineffective - and too much of a money-maker for the testing and curriculum companies.

Ella Smith said...

Concerned this is so true. How do we fix the problem. We know there is a problem. Do we fix the problem by involving parents? Do we fix the problem by going back and teaching students at the level they are currently on verses putting all students at all levels in the same class and expected the teacher to meet all the children's needs. (How can anyone person do this?) Is the problem fixable by truely giving students the grades they make and stop inflating grades in some areas of the county as have been indicated by the end of course tests? Are there many solutions to the problem that need to be tried?

One thing is for sure-----Magnet schools and school choice school just take more money away from these students who need help and really do not address the problem. The problem needs to be addressed head on.

1. Fail students who need to fail.
2. Try to get more parent involvement.
3. We might need to group students to teacher them on the level they are on verses trying to teach to all level at once. This is why we have so many leaving the school and going to private school. Students are on different levels at the same grade level and to deny this is a problem and not meeting the needs of the groups of students is also a problem.

themommy said...

No.

There are select groups of middle school students who will have completed Math 1 in middle school, so they will complete the "regular" sequence of math by the end of their sophomore year. Though four credits are required, the state offers different options. These students will take AP Calculus in their Junior Year. They will still need a forth credit of math for their senior year.

Ella Smith said...

I know about this. My son took Alg. II and Advanced Geometry as a Freshman. This is math also which does do a fairly good job of grouping students. The other grouping we have is the gifted program and if you are lucky enough to have you child in this program and your child then in in Advanced, and Gifted classses you will not get a better education anywhere than in the public school.

Ella Smith said...

I am lucky currently as my son, (my baby) is in this situation and I feel very lucky as I know he is in a great situation to get a great education. But, this does not mean that I do not see the problem that exist for the average students and the students who struggle in school. These students can fail through the cracks and no one cares except the parents.

I do remember when we did group students and it was much easier for teachers to teach students who were grouped. It was easier to teach a whole class of students who were remedial reading students or average students. I think something might have been lost when we went away from grouping. I understand the reasoning and I may not totally disagree with the reasoning but I am concerned that due to this we may have made the situation more difficult for teachers and the students who do struggle in class.

msbssy said...

Want to improve education, scrap the entire curriculum here in GA. Teaching one grade level ahead should be the starting point. At my daughter's private school, those finishing up K-5 are already reading, counting by 2's, 5's, 10's etc. Performing simple addition, subtraction, using rules such as any number +1 is the next number. Grades 2-5 are taught together, so younger kids are exposed to more advance material. Are these all gifted kids? No, however, the teachers & administrators set higher goals than what is being set in DeKalb's elementary schools and they are not focused on passing the CRCT. Stop lowering standards and expectations based on age,race, & SES.

I've had one son graduate from DCSS HS and another will graduate in 2010--why are high schoolers not deep into dissection in biology classes and reading the classics, many are bored out of their minds with mindless worksheets and test prep. In addition, offer some choice in the types of core classes being offered, by the JR/SR year, the students should be able to choose what type of english class they would like--interested in drama/poetry? Contemporary Fiction? I hated poetry in high school, so in my last 2 years I took a contemp. novel class and read books like 1984, brave new world, then took a greek mythology class--much more interesting than basic Brit Lit/American Lit, much of that was covered in our 9th literature class. For 10th grade English, we learned to write college level term papers, throughout the semester you learned how to do the necessary research, including a trip to the library to learn how to use it. I was taught how to do an outline, write the introductions, transition sentences from paragraph to paragraph, and so on. In 9th & 10th, there were mandatory classes in all core subjects, but by 11th & 12, we were allowed to choose from several different classes to fulfill our core requirements (speech, anatomy & phys., phsyics, animal sciences, drama/poetry, geography, psychology, etc..) My youngest son has yet to dissect anything in HS, by 11th grade we were dissecting sharks, sheep's eyes, that was the fun part of learning, now it just worksheet after worksheet, fill in the bubble--this will be on the GHSGT, etc.etc.

Someone else mentioned grouping by ability, I'm all for it. If a 2nd grader can handle 4th grade work, let them do the 4th grade work instead of having them tutor the other students in the class because they've already finished their assignment.

Just my 2 cents

concerned said...

I'm not sure what to do. I know that just failing a student is not the answer either. The entire purpose of going to school is to learn. We use test to measure a student's ability to recall information that was taught. That's all we have right now and that's what we have to deal with. Grouping has its benefits but it also encourages teasing, which results in students dropping out usually in the middle school.

One of the things I think we need in Dekalb County is consistency. We keep changing, we've gone from SpringBoard to something else....I can't keep up with all the changes we keep introducing. We haven't really seen which system or method can work because we keep changing and we need at least 5 years of something fully functioning to see if it works. What does that do for the children who will graduate...before the change has had a chance to establish roots....well what's already happening...parents have to step in and work with their children and yes we will loose some to private schools but if we focus on the long term goal then we might have a fighting chance.

If we could have determined teachers in a determined class room of students backed up with determined parents....well that would be a perfect world.....

I'm open to helping. I would love to be apart of a task force where honest dialogue lived and the recommendations were taken seriously and not deemed as non-educators, especially since we are suppose to be partners in educating these children. Just keep me posted.

msbssy said...

concerned: why isn't failing a child the right thing to do? What do you suggest be done with kids who can't handle the workload or those that choose not to do the work?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely grouping children of like abiities is beneficial for the children and for a teacher - just ask a teacher who will be honest with you. I am baffled by an administrator who is adamant on combining children of significantly differing levels and insisting that a teacher should be able to address all of their needs - particularly in a class size of close to 30 children.... Be real - even a well seasoned and exceptional teaching professional would have a tough time challenging all of them, Okay educators - Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Putting children with wide variances in learning skills and learning speeds in the same class is "differentiated" teaching. It is a terrible concept and yes, every teacher I have talked to will privately admit that it hinders their ability to teach all the students, including those who need some extra attention.

Cerebration said...

I guess I'm old -- I liked SRA - anyone else remember that? 'Course, when I went to Catholic school, there were still nuns - and they wore full habits... so I'm not really too with it - but my gut tells me that we need to do a better job with the basics - especially reading and early math memorization.

Ella Smith said...

I wish that Dekalb County had springboards or someother type of interactive learning board in every classroom. This is just not the case. We cannot afford tools like this in every class but we can afford to transport kids all over the county and offer all the choice programs that we do. This is my problem. We need to be emphasizing on making sure that new technology is in every classroom in the county and that teachers have every modality available to reach the students with the standards they are trying to teach.

I have a real problem with all the choice schools we have and not even being able to afford the basic needed new technology like springboard or _________ I cannot remember the boards I even use at my school. They are not springboards but they are similar and these should be in every classroom in Dekalb County. There is no excuse. We should make sure this technology is available to our community schools before we start worrying about all the choice schools and draining all the money from the budget.

Anonymous said...

Msbssy,

My son just finished kindergarten in a DCSS school, where he learned to read (he can read beginner chapter books), make change from a dollar, identify nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and add and subract numbers up to ten. I don't think the curriculum is the problem.

Anon South Side said...

I think those who choose not to do the work should receive a failing grade. I also think that those who lack understanding should receive some type of tutoring or analysis. When we fail a student who is trying and receives support from home it does not benefit the child or the school.

Determining which child we're talking about is the hard part.

Concerned said...

Maybe the way we test children should be evaluated. Students have many learning styles but it seems as if the only way we evaluate a child's knowledge is through a written test.

That's all we have right now but does anyone know if any other place use methods of testing?

I think some students will fail no matter what is done but the scale seems to be tilted a little don't you think?

If the only reason some one fails a test is because they don't do the work, I think that's different from a child who is trying and just doesn't get it on can't give the teacher what they are looking for.

Concerned said...

Failing a child is the right thing to do when all the dots are in a roll. In an earlier post you noted that your child was being taught. That's the key. When taught, I think we would have more students performing or testing better. When you're in a class where teaching is limited because of discipline problems with kids or a lazy teacher and when the test time comes....unless you are a self learner the child will probably not do well.

That's all I'm saying, it has to be balanced and fair. Some children are failing because IEP's aren't being followed, material is not being covered in class, and the worksheet is the tool that's being used to say "we've covered this information in class".

My child youngest child is now in private school, she hated math and did not understand it. She had straight "A"........she now understands what's she's doing and is making "B". So in her case testing looked like she knew what was going on but she did not and it would have showed up later...perhaps middle school and the teacher would have said....well, students sometimes do well in elementary but the work is harder is middle school (which is true) and often times "A" students don't do as well........

Maybe they really did not get it in elementary.........

Testing has it's place but it is not everything and when we judge or fail a student just on that its still not a true picture of what's going on.....in my child's case it was a false sense of her knowledge but I already knew that even when I saw the "A" because I review with my kids...not all parents do that and it could have been missed.

Ella Smith said...

Concerned you are correct that some students just do not test well with pencil or paper tests but may have the information. Do we put too much emphasis on pencil and paper tests. This question was brought up this week by our supreme court and the decision was 5/4 to basically allow test scores to stand regarding evaluated individuals for promotions or just basis knowledge. I think this does send a message as to how important we consider pencil and paper tests.

We do have many accommodations for students who need them if a disability exists but besides from this students are expected to perform on standardized tests.

There is no doubt we put too much emphasis on standardized testing but I do not see this changing anytime soon. In fact I see the situation regarding being able to test test as becoming more important in the next few years as the stakes get even higher in our schools.

Anon South Side said...

I agree with you Ella, even with the limited technology the schools are utilizing them. When a teacher gives an assignment to do research, the should also take the children to the library, have the librarian teach research skills and then require them to do the work....Or take the class to the computer lab and allow them an opportunity to type their paper.....yes it will slow down the speed of teaching the lesson but at least it taught.

I can't tell you the countless assignments, I've had to teach the skill and its been limited because I was as computer savvy as I thought I should be......

Anon South Side said...

Sorry, typing too fast....I meant to say I'm not as savvy on the computer as I should be.....

Ken Thompson said...

Meanwhile back at the farm...

"I'd like to refocus our discussion back to...No Child Left Behind..." and "I agree that it introduces an element of accountability into public school education" then "I still think [...] NCLB [...] has caused much damage to the way we deliver education in our system" and finally "post a comment regarding how NCLB and AYP have affected your schools ability to focus on educating our children".

While excerpted, some may say out of context, these are pretty powerful statements. Introduce Accountability: "Hi mister and ms. school bureaucrat, let me introduce you to my leetle friend--Accountability". Indeed. Now that will be the end of public school as we know it.

Way we "deliver education". You mean like a pizza? Do we give grades too? "Oh, there's little Thad, dumb as post, bless his heart, but let's give him an 'A'. He's really such a dahlin, doncha think?"

Now that's intended to be taken a bit tongue-in-cheek. But only a bit.

NCLB/AYP is not destroying public education. Public education has destroyed itself. NCLB has simply opened a clue store and as more folks wander in and pick up clues it becomes more obvious that denial cannot save this patient. It has had a good run, served many a good purpose in it's day, but that day is over.

Public schools are first and foremost a successful bureaucracy--one which has come to the point of being irretrievably expensive. If NCLB does anything, it removes the political cover that has allowed the system to bloat--"you can't criticize public schools, that's attacking our children". But now it is becoming unavoidably obvious that we are paying private school prices for third world (or sometimes lesser) educations. And by "we" I don't mean the parents, since they are by and large not footing the full bill. By we I mean all of us: individuals (parents and non-parents) and business.

And there is a fundamental flaw in Public Schools that NCLB and especially AYP begin to touch on. We are, current economic conditions notwithstanding, a dynamic, mobile society and public schools are completely out of step with this mobility. Public schools are a product of another time and place, where couples got (and often stayed) married, bought a home, had children, watched them marry, paid off a 30 year mortgage...put down roots. A time and place that no longer exists and hasn't for some time.

These fundamental flaws will not be fixed with tweaks and touch-ups. This won't be fixed in a teacher-training seminar or in-service day, technology is not the savior, and there is no magic rubric and no "teaching to the test". This isn't a house that needs a fresh coat of paint, it is a tear-down. We are facing a sea change.

The real question at this point is not "how will we save Public Schools" but rather "how do we transition"?

Cerebration said...

good points, Ken. I should just say "educating" children instead of "delivering education" -

I like the definition of bureaucracy at the link you provided -

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

So, what do you think of Arne Duncan's plans for education? As I see it, he plans to shut down about 5% of our nations schools and reopen them anew (mostly as a corporate-run charter). The testing is about to grow exponentially, which, IMO will serve to label more schools as failures thus opening the door to more closures - reopenings - corporate control... Good? Bad?

Cerebration said...

Anonymous, as you point out, many children are getting a good education in the early grades in DCSS. But have a look at the CRCT test results at the link below for 05, 06 and 07. You will see that the number of students in Level 1 (did not meet expectations - you don't want students in this range) - has consistently remained in the 20% range. That's a lot of kids not meeting expectations. Some of the level 2 groups seem to have improved, but there are interesting trends. The improvements are in 1st and 2nd grades and then they fall off in third grade. Compare the 07 third grade % in Level 1 with the 05 1st grade score in Level 1 (should be the same kids) and you can see that they start off pretty good - and then there's a big decline (after being in the system for 2 or 3 years.) That bothers me. That tells me that we are sending the system students who are prepared to learn and who do learn in 1st grade, but by the time they reach 3rd grade, they number who are behind has doubled.

Also - check the level 3 (exceeds expectations) numbers - these consistently dropped in 1st and 2nd grades - dramatically. Does this mean that we can expect even weaker 3rd grade numbers in the next couple of years?

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/instruction/testing/files/12638014FE8A4DAAA643C9B903149F85.pdf

Cerebration said...

My point is, there is a scarcity mentality in DCSS. As southside anon has pointed out, there are many schools in the county that are not performing - not doing their jobs - not educating children to a very high level. SOME parents in those schools figure that out early on and get their children transferred to one of the schools that is doing a good job. It's like the starfish story - it makes a difference -- for that one. Only for that one. That's just not right for the ones who must remain.

Cerebration said...

On these CRCT charts, you really want to look at whether a schools majority test at level 2 (meets) or level 3 (exceeds). The level 3 schools are predictable -
Austin, Kittredge, Oak Grove, Briarlake, Evansdale, Fernbank, Kingsley, Laurel Ridge, Livsey, Montgomery and Vanderlyn. The rest show that their students test quite solidly at level 2 - that's ok I guess, but from what I understand, the CRCT is not the hardest test in the world.

Cerebration said...

More DCSS data to ponder - from the state DOE -

Number of Students in 2007: 98713
Economically Disadvantaged: 64.00%
Students with Disabilities: 9.00%
English Language Learners: 6.00%
Did this District make Adequate Yearly Progress in 2007? No

The full 2007 AYP report is available here -
http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2007

msbssy said...

anon south side: promoting a child to the next grade who hasn't mastered the previous work isn't beneficial either. For example, during my rising senior's freshman year, over half his class was failing 2 or more classes after the first semester. geometry & alg II had the highest failure rates. When we questioned the principal and teachers, the answers were they were basically having to re-teach what should have been learned in 7th & 8th grade and many of the students had failed the 8th grade CRCT but the parents pushed to have them promoted to the 9th grade anyway. Of course, there some who weren't doing what they needed to do. Meanwhile, children who had mastered the previous material are stuck in remediation mode even though they don't need it.

msbssy said...

cerebration: in researching the Elem Schools for the upcoming year, I'm looking more at the ITBS scores than the CRCT to evaluate whether or not to pull my daughter from private school. I rather see progress and good scores on a nationally normed test than a test produced by the "educrat" at our state level--I have no cofindence in the state BOE.

Ken Thompson said...

"what do you think of Arne Duncan's plans for education?"

In three years there will be a Harvard study that shows the early gains were neither sustainable nor replicable and all that has occurred is an increase in cost and further transfer of funding to the feds. That is where we are heading anyway.

I would pose these questions to the blogsphere:

1) is educating your children a primary parental responsibility on the order of shelter, clothing and nourishment?

2) whose schools are they--the parents whose children attend, or those businesses and other individuals who cover a significant part of the cost, or some edu-crat who has toadied their way through a system of guild socialism with poser credentials, or is it some Washington bureaucrat who can't draw a straight line between his agency involvement and the constitution?

If you answer "yes" to 1) and "the parents" to 2) then isn't it about time the parents stepped up the plate with some personal responsibility and just a smidgen of per-child financial contribution? If, on the other hand, your answers are "no" and "yeah, yeah, that last one--the feds, let them handle it", then things are going your way.

No Duh said...

We don't even have mediocre expectations for our students. We have "just give them the ability to work at McDonald's" expectations.

This from yesterday's AJC, from Fulton County (but I wouldn't doubt DeKalb is working on a similar program).

"Students Honored for Job Readiness Skills

Fulton County school system students have developed skills to compete in the local job market, and some 160 teens were certified work-ready. Five recent graduates received a gold award for showing they excelled in applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. They are..."

THEY RECEIVED A GOLD AWARD!!

Dekalbparent said...

Wait a minute - let's research the designation "Work-Ready" before denigrating it:

"The backbone of the initiative is the Work Ready Certificate, which assesses the real world skills of Georgia's workers. Georgians can use their Work Ready Certificate to prove their work readiness to potential employers."

"The Work Ready assessment is administered by ACT's nationally accredited WorkKeys® system and measures both core skills and work habits. Core skills assessments measure skills in applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information, three skills that are highly important to the majority of jobs in the workplace. The work habits assessment measures work-related attitudes and behaviors in areas that are trainable and coachable, such as carefulness, cooperation, discipline and drive."

http://www.gaworkready.org/pages/view/what-is-georgia-work-ready

"The Georgia Work Ready Certification Program is a complete solution for making quick comparisons between a person's skill levels and the job requirements by providing a portable skills credential, the Georgia Work Ready Certificate, which is easily and universally understood and valued by employers and certificate recipients. Through the Georgia Work Ready program, skills that employers consider essential to job success are measured and documented by the Georgia Work Ready Certificate. Certified skill levels are then matched with existing or customized job profile requirements."

http://www.flintrivertech.edu/econdev/WorkReady.php

I personally see this as a step in the right direction.

Cerebration said...

This is an initiative of Governor Perdue's. He is very focused on tech schools/colleges. If you ever visit a tech college in GA, you will find brochures that explain the program in-depth. If you would like to be 'certified' in certain areas, or software like Microsoft, you can take the tests at tech colleges and get endorsed. It certainly would help to show proof that you know how to use "Word", instead of just saying so. (Example, I know a lot of people who think they know how to use Powerpoint -- and they truly don't.)

Anonymous said...

I asked the question, why do students drop in their performance in the 3rd grade and were doing so well in 1st and 2nd grade. An educator told me that 1st and 2nd grade shows a reflection of what is taught at home. Beginning in the 3rd grade is a reflection of what is taught in school. Now I don't know if this is true any comments?

Cerebration said...

Yes, I think so and that was my point (made with too many words)... We send the school system children who have learned and are ready to learn more and they do well for a couple of years and then the scores drop off, which indicates poor teaching.

Now, we see that the newer students have lower scores in 1st grade than they did a couple of years ago. Why? Have our demographics changed? Have more parents chosen to send their children to private school? Have families seeking quality schools left DeKalb in search of better schools?

Anon South Side said...

Cere....I think that more parents are starting to homeschool and/or send their young children to smaller private schools. Like the T.V. show Cheers...they want to go were somebody knows their name......

It's really interesting because the parent(s) that work with their children at home are the ones looking for options other than the traditional public schools...

I can certainly understand why charters and school choices are becoming popular.

Anon South Side said...

Msbssy...you're right promoting a child that has not mastered a skill is not beneficial to the child or school and certainly if teachers have to reteach basic fundamentals it deters the learning process. The questions are what do we do with children when we realize they have missed vital principles, who's responsible? Can we rearrange and create another class and put those students in that class in hopes that we can bridge the gap...like ELT in middle school. Wasn't that why that class was created??? What do you do when a child passes the class with an A or B and still fails the CRCT does that child remain behind? How did they pass the class work and fail the CRCT?

Cerebration said...

msbssy - my son was in that situation as well. However, in our case, the principal was using that as an excuse. The 8th grade teachers did a fine job teaching Algebra 1. We simply had horrible - horrible teachers that freshman year. (Even the art teacher failed half her students!) It was a blame game.

Anon, you're correct. I've met a lot of people who are turning to private schools or are home schooling. There are terrific groups of home schoolers in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Gwinnett, etc. A majority of them do it for exactly the reason Ella was concerned about -- socialization -- the kind they want their kids to have.

No Duh said...

mea culpa dekalbparent. That article didn't give nearly the explanation you did. It was certainly laughable as written.

So this work-ready thing sounds like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Hopefully, this designation will allow these students an opportunity that may have passed them by while interviewing with the masses.

Of course, it's all moot if employers (particularly in the service industries) continue to hire and never fire monosyllabic, angry, lazy and rude people.

Anonymous said...

Actually, on most standardized tests, including the CRCT and the ITBS, third grade is when students are expected to read the entire test to themselves. This is the main reason for the drop.

Cerebration said...

So - if by third grade, they should be able to read the test - what is the problem - are they not up to the expected reading level - or is the test written at a higher reading level?

Ella Smith said...

I have only taught at this level for about a year even if I am certified K-12 but to my understand the 3rd grade I believe (I could be wrong) (grade school teachers please help me) is where reading comprehension starts to play a big role. Before that alot of the testing is done on an individual basis to see if students have mastered skills and is marked off as mastered. In the 3rd grade I believe the math also becomes much more difficult. IS this where multiplication, division, reading problems and 3, 4, 5 digit addition and substration problem start to be introduced.

There science books and social studies books also require more comprehension and the student begin getting more homework assignments and independent assignements that require reasoning skills.

Someone tell me how far off base I am. I have not taught young kids in a long time and my baby is going to be a sophomore in high school.

Anon South Side said...

Ella, I believe you are correct. Comprehension is expected and it must be practiced if its not a natural everyday occurrence in your house. Teaching parents how to do this is a class all by itself. Learning not to tell your child exactly what to do but allow them to reason is a process. I've learned to slow down long enough to walk them through most times so that their deductive reasoning sharpens.... Something as simple as What are we having for dinner? Instead of saying don't worry about it when its ready you'll find out or we're having chicken, peas and rice....simple ask, what do you think we should have, or what do you smell cooking? This type of questioning leads into a dialogue instead of a monologue. Everyone is thinking and responding.

Dekalbparent said...

Once again, Anon Southside hits the nail on the head.

The DCSS admin definitely needs to consult you and your neighbors about how to fix what's wrong!!

Ella Smith said...

Anon Southside you said it so well.

I think, when looking at test scores it is important to also understand that when the test scores start to drop the level of reasoning and comprehension, general knowledge, and basic facts start to rise.

It is another think to complete homework, and complete assignments then to learn or retain the material learned short-term or long term. We are not testing students for long-term memory information when students do not have the skills and in some situations may not have the basic ability, or even want to put things into their long term memory.

There is no easy answer. It is always easy to blame the teachers. It is not always the teachers fault. It also is easy to blame the situation on the parents. In some situations this may not be the problem.

The research does show one thing for sure and that is that students of college graduates normally do better in school. Another way to say this is that students whose parents are educated seem to value the educational opportunities that they have and achieve better at school. This would leave me to believe that the environment plays a big factor on the achievement of our students.

Anon South Side said...

We're all looking for the perfect combination. Or at least a majority of good teachers, students, and parents all under the same roof. Teachers are cautious of parents often times because they or one of their colleagues have been burned by one or two parents. Parents are on the defense because they've experienced a teacher that's tired or not interested. The fact remains that we have good parents,teachers and students and we also have the ones that cause trouble..

We are all human and sometimes we have situations that distract us from doing what we want to do and need to do.

I still think that when we set standards the are the same for the entire county we're headed in the right direction and yes I know that their are exceptions to the rule...it just can't be the norm.

Since education is key to educating the kids we have to do something before we have a large number of children that grow up uneducated and become parents.

No Duh said...

Hmmm...

I think one of the biggest problems facing any solutions discussions for what ails DCSS (and school systems throughout the counntry) is our collective thin skins. We've even seen it on this blog.

We have north and south side generalizations, but do we have north and south side FACTS?

Some generalizations can be backed by statistics -- like Ella's point that statistically college graduates produce better educated (educable?) children. But, even that generalization can not reach a 100% fact.

To me, generalizations are not fact -- but, nor are they fiction. To me, they are the starting points for a discussion on improving our methods as we educate children.

If our thin skins never allow us to accept basic generalizations as stakes in the ground instead of as racist or classist insults, we (those of us who want ALL children to have the same opportunities) can NEVER even begin to solve our problems.

If Dr. Lewis or the BOE is going to be villified as racists for clearly pointing out DCSS' weakest links (apartment dwellers, lower income families, Spanish speakers, etc.) then a solution will be impossible to embrace!

We can not reeducate the generations of families that have failed to grasp the educational opportunities that were presented to them when they came through the system. But, can we help change their mindsets in regard to how their children view education? Can we help them redefine "success" in their communities.

Frankly, I'm tried of looking backward for the cause of why SOME groups of citizens (STATISTICALLY and in GENERAL) have not grabbed the brass ring.

I want to be able to say "Look people, the races have SELF-segregated. I am nearly 50 years old. I did not enslave anyone's great grandmother. My parents didn't either. I do not patrol the borders of Texas hunting down Mexicans. I am -- and my children -- are not the problem! The problem is we are wasting time arguing about WHY there is a problem!"

Let's embrace the generalizations, not as labels, but so we can get to work.

Anon South Side said...

Okay No Duh....what facts can you bring to the table and what can be done to change them. All stats are based on a controlled group of data and no one poll or survey will catch everyone.

I nor my parents haven't pulled down anyone's property value, robbed anyone on the street, spent time in prision or had babies as teens nor are we on welfare.....

I am--and my children--are not the problem either!

I agree that we should use the past only as a start so what's next!

Dekalbparent said...

OK - so we have this knowledge from Anon Southside and the other parents who transferred their children:

Their neighborhood schools have failings too major to tolerate.

The parents made efforts to participate to change their schools for the better - as has been repeatedly brought up as a solution - and were met with a brick wall.

What is causing the intolerable problems in those neighborhood schools - the lack of discipline, the failure to spark the students' imaginations, the lack of enrichment opportunities?

We know some of the problem is administration who refuse to let parents participate. Why?

Some of the problem is teachers who are overwhelmed and dragged down by the poor atmosphere. Are the students starting school (in kindergarten or 1st) with a poor attitude and resistance to being there? Or is the attitude change happening later - like 2nd or 3rd?

Can we know if the lack of interest is coming from their homes - it's easy to say oh, lack of interest comes from families who see no point to education, is this the case? Is it that there seems to be no real connection between real life and the [canned] curriculum the kids are getting? I remember being in first grade and reading the Dick and Jane books (now you know I'm old) and being hard-pressed to relate - these kids didn't look like me or anybody I knew, my neighborhood didn't look anything like theirs, and I had never heard of the games of hopscotch and jacks.

I think there is a REAL difference between schools in this county, and I think that just saying "stay in your neighborhood and participate" is simplistic and unworkable. Until we know why we have differences, we can't know how to fix them. Throwing money is NOT the answer.

Cerebration said...

No hopscotch and jacks? Wow, Dekalbparent, I'm so sorry!

I believe in a little thing called modeling. It works very well in special education which is why parents advocate so hard for their students with disabilities to attend 'regular' classes.

My neighborhood - the Lakeside community is full of people a whole lot smarter than me. Since we're so close to Emory and the CDC, we are chock full of doctors, research scientists, epidemiologists, lawyers, "C" level people, etc. etc. And we also have an abundance of artists of all types. Basically, their children enjoy all the benefits of life with a highly educated, highly-compensated parents (usually two) with high expectations. When you are raised with people who use every moment as a teachable moment and who treasure and value their children so as to spend hours, weeks, months and years of quality time with them, these children soak it up. These people travel with their children to places that open up their world and they are such good people that they come in to the schools and share their knowledge.

My son's 2nd grade class had a dad in it who traveled a lot for work (he was one of those incredible brains who chase down diseases in the world). He made it a game for the kids to keep track of where he was at a given time. Then he would come in and tell them about his travels, often bringing them (yes, the whole class) trinket and things like pieces of lava. He was like a rock star to those kids.

These people, parents and children, are chock full of knowledge, behavior, kindness and intelligence that when shared in the classroom becomes, for those who don't enjoy such worldliness, something to model. Behaviors, vocabulary, excitement, kindness, creativity are all things that cannot be taught by one teacher - they must be modeled. I know my children have benefited greatly from the wonderful parents in our community and their willingness to share their world with all of us.

Now, the question is - how do we replicate at least part of this in schools with parents of little means or education? In Ohio, the state has implemented a program called Ohio Reads which trains highly involved, interested parents in the basic teaching methods for early reading. These parents volunteer their time to boost the reading skills of children teacher identify as needing support. There are many other ways to utilize volunteers in the schools - especially in the early years - which could result in boosting children's abilities. The school system has to open their minds to alternatives to boosting that early learning ability for every child in this system. Surely we can come up with some ideas.

No Duh said...

Right on Anon South Side! My point exactly. Let's repeat after you "what's next"?

First, let's define a successful elementary, middle and high school. And, let's define an unsuccessful one. Perhaps we use three categories to define.

Academics
Atmosphere
Parental Involvement

A school performing successfully with academics is perhaps scoring well (or steadily improving)on standardized tests, there is no need to push students through the system whether they are ready or not, the library is well-stocked, learning is clearly valued.

A school with a successful atmosphere would have a friendly and welcoming feel, guests are welcome, students feel safe, students don't bully, the building is well-maintained (even if it's old), the students respect the restrooms and the property as a whole.

Perhaps successful parental involvement could be defined as an active and fully functioning PTA, parents reading to the younger grades, parents volunteering in the library, attendance office and front office. Parents volunteering to do things in the school that may not directly affect their own child.

And let's assume an unsuccessful school is the opposite of all of the above.

Could one solution be creating "sister schools"? Matching schools (one successful and one unsuccessful) that could help one another? PTA members could help build up the organization in an unsuccessful school. Administrators could mentor other administrators. Etc.

Who should be responsible for communicating the value of education to the surrounding communities? DCSS/BOE or the parents in the community -- or a marketing firm?

At an unsuccessful school, who should be responsible for uniting the power and abilities of the Anon SouthSides out there? Who identifies and mobilizes the parents who do value education in the community (the exceptions to the generalizations I was talking about)? Could the principal possibly do this?

I've always thought it makes no sense to require magnet parents to volunteer X number of hours at the magnet school. Wouldn't their time be better spent volunteering at their home school? Most probably a school people are trying to get out of!

Let's scream it from the rooftops, people: "What's next?!!!"

Cerebration said...

Here's an example of the difference in parent involvement in north DCSS vs south.

In the north, we have very active parent councils - the Emory Lavista Parent Council, the Tucker Parent Council and the Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys Parent Council. Emory Lavista and Dunwoody, etc are extremely hard-working and host monthly meetings on highly relevant topics regarding education, GA legislation and DCSS.

Here is what DCSS lists for the remaining districts -

Avondale/Cedar Grove/McNair/Columbia Elementary Inactive

Clarkston/Stone Mountain/Stephenson/Redan (including Miller Grove and Lithonia clusters)Inactive

Anon South Side said...

I love the concept of partnering schools. If Wadsworth and Kittredge had to do the exact same thing (not saying that Wadsworth is a failing school…but Kittredge has a track record of success) if they had to work together that would stop the huge…Head Principle in charge and the schools aren’t the same mindset. Then we can begin to measure apples to apples. If Chamblee partnered with Arabia because they are both on 7 periods (again not saying that Arabia will fail but again, Chamblee has a proven track record of a Magnet/school choice/resident program that has worked. This would encourage accountability and consistency between schools.

If one school can minimize sagging without uniform enforcement then surely if we co-labor together and see what works in those schools we can minimize it at other schools as well.

If Chamblee Middle can have an orchestra without the possibility of not having one because of points, then perhaps Chapel Hill can do the same. Especially since the two programs are suppose to mirror each other with a magnet program housed within a resident program. I really don’t understand the total magnitude of points but if Chapel Hill has to put their points on instruction then can’t the county come up with something that will still allow them to get the instructional help and still have the same extra curriculum activities like chorus (which they don’t have and orchestra which is in jeopardy of being deleted because of points).

Anon South Side said...

Why not have joint PTA’s. The PTA’s that are “successful” include a segment or line item to adopt a low performing school and come over to assist. Likewise, the PTA’s that’s struggling for active membership include in your line item to send a delegate over to see what the “other side” is doing. I remember hearing about an elementary PTA that handled all the school parties. All the teachers had to do was come to the cafeteria and pick up their party packs and food. All the children had the same thing and that took away from one class having a great party because of parental involvement or lack there of and another class having nothing. If we look at this thing from the thought Dekalb County and not individualize it from school to school we might be on to something. It really is going to take everyone that’s involved working together. Because the North Side does not have 100% parental involvement/participation/great teachers/studious kids either nor is it exempt from problems like sagging pants/uninvolved parents/disruptive kids/failing students.

We can we get this put on the agenda for the Board????

Maybe we can start with mutual respect of school property. I’ve been to schools that are old and they are better maintained than newer schools. Our janitorial staff can only do so much. Stuffing the toilets with tissue and missing the toilets is upsetting and unsanitary. I would love to hear from the schools that don’t have these issues say how this is handled. Can we have school contests to see who can have the cleanest school and reward those who do and sanction those who don’t. I know that we shouldn’t have to reward people for proper hygiene, but we have to start somewhere.


If the parents could come together from both sides and silence the “right hand does not know what the left hand is doing” we could have a united voice when approaching the Board. They could no longer say the North Side gets what they need because they come out and voice their concerns and the South does not. We have to come together if this thing is going to work. I know for a fact that some South Side parents have spoken up and gone through the proper channels with zero results (I’ve personally been apart of several efforts.)

I think someone gave a great example of the Emory area volunteers. If we started doing things as a County, then at least once a year an Emory volunteer can offer themselves to another school or create an opportunity within their workplace or profession to go into these other schools and do this. We could create a County Calendar and have the same event county wide and rotate. If we are pushing the efforts through sister programs would we still have great turnouts? At least then we’ll be able to see if it’s just the Southside not participating. For example, if Midvale sponsored a function (carnival or something) at Avondale Elementary (since they are both IB programs) would the Midvale and Avondale stakeholders come out and support it at Avondale Elementary or visa versa?

At some point we’re going to have to regroup our groupings….. We currently have regional groupings…..we might have to do something radical and cross the invisible line and match schools by programs offered and then we’ll be able to see more clearly where the line begins and ends….. what do you think?

This will cause people to come out of what they know as their neighborhoods and redefine that word. Most…well all of the involved South Side parents that have moved their children North already have somewhat of a feel for that because those of us involved leave our homes regularly to spend time on the North Side ( PTSA/PTA/ competitions/sports/concerts/volunteering/practices…..it is our choice but now I’m proposing the same to my North Side family even if you’re not attending school over here.

Cerebration said...

Redefine the word "neighborhood"?! I don't think that's what people want. In fact, I think people want the opposite, they want to re-organize our school system into smaller school systems with much more control and autonomy over their region. The system as is - is much too large and wily to be effective.

Anon, you said "They could no longer say the North Side gets what they need because they come out and voice their concerns and the South does not."

What exactly do people in the South think the North gets that they don't? Be specific please. I hear this a lot and I hear that it has to do with test scores, but I don't see how that makes it seem like the North 'gets' more than the South. Oddly, one woman in this past election actually ran on that platform - that she would take money from the north end and bring it south! I think you've said it yourself, it has to do with better behavior, high expectations and more involved parents. All of the "things" we "get" in the north involve parent volunteers - they do not come from DeKalb County School System. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these schools are successful in SPITE of DCSS, due to parental involvement.

Interesting brainstorm you had. I am concerned though, that your ideas all seem to involve even more volunteerism on the part of parents from successful schools. I understand your idea to share PTA's or to mentor to another school or host events for other schools, but you have no idea how much work it is just to keep it going for your own school, as a volunteer, much less to place the responsibility of success of other schools on those same (often burned-out) volunteers. Have you ever been in charge of a carnival or field day or a school play or art night or a family dance? All of these things are implemented by volunteer parents within the PTA and they are a whole lotta work. Without a whole lotta thank-you's.

That said, parents from the south end of DCSS are always welcome to attend the PTA and parent council meetings in the north and ask questions and learn. I'm certain that if they showed an interest, they would be supported by successful groups as they endeavor to start their own. (There's a huge difference between attending events and making events happen.)

BTW, most of the very active PTA's I've been involved in DO volunteer extra time to help out schools that struggle. Many parent volunteers from Shamrock, for instance, used to volunteer their own personal time to tutor students at Idlewood and other feeders so that children could be better prepared for MS. Parents from Oak Grove volunteer to read and help at a couple of struggling schools nearby. (No, no one is actually willing to get in their car and drive 15-20 miles to help out in another district - but that is too much to expect of a volunteer, IMO.

In addition, many schools qualify for Title 1 funding for after school tutoring (from reputable outside providers), yet don't implement decent programs. New, highly effective leadership in struggling schools is what's needed, not asking already heavily used parent volunteers to volunteer some more, somewhere else.

Dr. Lewis says he is pushing his 'parent center' agenda and expanding parent centers this coming year. I hope he is able to generate parental involvement in children's education. He has Title 1 money for this as well. He should know how it's done - he too sent his children to schools in the north end - as did Johnny Brown.

I've said it before, jumping ship only makes a difference for the child whose parent pulled him or her out - it won't help the system at all - or the children "Left Behind".

===========================

ps - if you think the buildings in the north are old, but well-maintained, I would invite you to take a tour of Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

Cerebration, I was waiting for someone to address the suggestion of fostering schools all over the county. As a working parent on the north end of the county, it is really hard at times to be as involved as I want in my own child's school. Yes, it is excessive to think that parents would be willing to drive 15-20 miles to help out consistently. Until the neighborhood parents take on active participation and ownership of the schools in their neighborhood they will stay just as they are. Sorry, probably not what people want to hear but it is is true.
Perhaps administration doesn't always throw open the school doors with big hugs and kisses but I think they are winable. And yes, even very involved parents don't always get the thanks that they deserve. And yes, sometimes they get beat up on for being involved. It is up to each one of us to get informed and be involved.

Anon South Side said...

I’m not referring to test scores. I’m referring to resolving issues, like the cups in the cafeteria, taking at least one field trip, recess….things like that. We’ve presented possible alternatives to the above mentioned and have not gotten pass first base.

I know that the PTA’s are ran by volunteers. I have been a very active participant in PTA since my oldest was in kindergarten. I’ve headed up carnivals, bookfairs, academics, school pictures, chaperoned field trips, field day, movie night, campus clean up, cookie dough fundraiser, many other fundraisers counting the money making sure all the products came in, sorted them and delivered them to parents, called the ones that did not show up, dealt with problematic parents, honors days, picnics, room mom, I’ve been an officer (President), attended PTA training, held committee chairs, helped with committees that weren’t my committee but saw a need to help, cleaned out the refrigerator in the teachers’ lounge, swept floors, cleaned out closets, and the list goes on. So yes I know what it takes and I also know that a few people can accomplish a great deal of work. I’m not saying that people should abandon their own schools or immediate neighborhoods what I’m saying is share the knowledge with those that may not know. We can’t as volunteers just send out a memo. Someone is going to have to work and show up to actually help out. Otherwise we would be like the teachers we commented on that just passed out another worksheet.
I know it won’t be easy. My ideals may not be answer but I’m still here listening and waiting for someone to come up with a solution that we can all live with and move on. Having a combined carnival and switching from locations year to year, still to me is not a terrible ideal but maybe we aren’t ready for that yet.

Although my ideals are based on volunteers we could tweak them to include administration from the schools and the county level. I know about the lack of thank-you’s. My kids were always at the schools even when they had a butt load of homework to complete and yes it is a thank less job.

Now, I can’t speak for the entire South Side but the schools my children have attended send representatives to the council that come back and report to the PTA. I promise that some of us are really involved and we ….no I have worked my self into burn out. After I attended training, I came back with ideals that I tried to implement. I’ve attended meetings all over the county and that’s why I can speak personally that meetings are conducted and handled differently at least on the elementary and middle school level. I’m new on the High School level.

So when the volunteers gave their own personal time to tutor at the other school was it approved first by the Principal at Idlewood? Did the principal allow the school to be opened later during the day or was it immediately after school?

I can certainly understand that it would be difficult to get someone to drive that far just to volunteer and its equally difficult to get someone to volunteer 15 – 20 times a quarter on this side of town because that school is failing in addition to spending time at their own school. With the number of failing schools on this side especially middle schools…it would require me to do triple time trying to take up the slack.

Okay, so maybe with the leadership change, the newly assigned principals will be open to these suggestions and maybe we can jump start the parents to try to be involved again.

We’ve said those exact words to Dr. Lewis and we thought it would make a difference but it has not. I know that two years ago we forfeited a lot of Title I money back from which it came and that’s sad. My reference to old schools being maintained was not North vs South, it was some schools maintain their buildings and some don’t. That’s why I asked for someone who’s in an old building for suggestions. Okay what’s next……..

Anon South Side said...

I'll continue to be involved with the schools my children attend and for me that means driving 15 - 20 miles because it is my choice. Unfortunately that leaves my neighborhood school without one person that would have gotten in their with both feet and hands.

Cerebration said...

I hear ya, anon southside. You may just need to admit that there aren't enough people like you to make a difference in your home schools. That's sad, but probably true. It really is up to the leadership. It really is up to Dr. Lewis to search high and low for the best principals, teachers and innovative ideas for parents to implement. And his parent centers darn well need to do a band up job of getting the area parents to step up to the plate.

Mentoring is good. Doing it FOR them won't work. You know - teach them to fish.....

Ella Smith said...

Interesting points, Anon South Side. I wish that we all had that kind of time. I do not have time to volunteer at my own son's school because I work full time. Parents are so involved with jobs and activities for their children I doubt that the sister PTAs will work but it might be a suggestion to the county PTA group to try to get more involvement in all the schools in the county. It might be nice to try to foster similar programs to the Emory-Lavista Council in all parts of the county. This definitely is something to work toward.

Parent involvement is one of the keys and Dr. Lewis has pushed this agenda very hard and has had many parent conferences and opened parent centers in the county.

One thing that we must do is teach our children to read and encouraging parents to set aside time in their busy schedules daily to have children read at home. We also should make sure our children have basic math skills. The school system and the parents are going to have to work together to ensure that this occurs.

Anon South Side said...

I agree with you both....

Anonymous said...

Anon South Side-

Gosh I hope your child is now at my child's high school so you can work with us this year! It may be a "north side" school but it is low on parent involvement and we would welcome someone so committed and with such great ideas.