Saturday, June 27, 2009

What in the heck is going on here?


I’m confused. I need people to come to this blog to enlighten us. There are some things going in the leadership of DeKalb County schools that are perplexing and a bit shocking. Allow me to simply list them and hopefully you will fill the comment box with details regarding some of these issues. These are all events just from the 2008-09 school year:

• The Marine Corps Institute, after much attention, focus and debate, has been sidelined. The Marines have not signed the “Memorandum of Understanding”. Sadly, in order to make room for the marines, caught in the middle are over 40 children with highly special needs who were moved from their school (Heritage), where they were happy and thriving and merged in with Margaret Harris High School, another school for children with special needs. Now, these children face the prospect of attending school in the same small building their whole lives. And what is the plan now for Heritage? After all of the debate, it was finally ‘revealed’ by Dr. Lewis that he was only planning to use it for one year for the military institute anyway. So what will become of Heritage school and park?

• Pat Pope. All of a sudden, one day out of the blue last December, the DeKalb County DA stormed Pope’s office and confiscated her computers along with other work items. Dr. Lewis, who asked for the investigation, said he would reveal results in one week. Months later, we were told that the DA was very busy and the results would not be available until May. Now, it is nearly July. Any news?

• Cheating! We all know the story. The AJC revealed suspicious increases in test results last September for Atherton ES. Dr. Lewis vehemently defended the school’s results and leadership. Now, it has been proven, and apparently the principal and AP have admitted erasing students answers and changing them to correct answers – catapulting the school from the 10th percentile to the 77th. And so to respond, Dr. Lewis sent out a system-wide memo asking all 13,000+ DCSS employees to send these two cheaters a note of support. Has anyone in the system written one? What is the Board’s response to the scandal? Is anyone in the school system going to admonish these people for their behavior and hold them up as a warning to anyone else pondering such an action?

• Dr. Gene Walker, one of our newly elected school board members has immersed himself in a controversy so deep, I wonder if he can possibly render any effective decisions as a BOE member in the future. According to a report by Atlanta Unfiltered, his other role as director of the DeKalb Development Authority has created a huge divide among members of the BOE, inciting a majority of them to go so far as to file a lawsuit which originally named him in the complaint (the amended version deleted references to Walker). Walker was just about to take part in voting on a bond structure increase from around $20 million to $50+ million benefiting the Sembler Company, members of which donated around $20,000 to Walkers school board campaign. The vote was to have taken place on June 18th. The Board retained legal counsel on June 17. Walker recused himself from the vote. The remaining authority members voted to postpone the vote. What are we to do about a Board of Education who has plummeted so low into the abyss that they resort to lawsuits?

• Meanwhile, our school system as a whole continues to hold the label “Did Not Make AYP.” We have a bullying problem so bad that one family has claimed it drove their child to commit suicide. Yet, the $350/hour retired judge Dr. Lewis hired to investigate, found no evidence of bullying in her verbal (not written) report. We have an imbalance in school populations that leave some schools, like Lakeside, so crowded from transfers that they must bring in 22 trailers, while other schools like McNair, Clarkston and Towers as well as many elementary schools have hundreds of empty seats (totally nearly 4,000 empty seats.) We also boast new buildings with national recognition for being “green” (Arabia) while simultaneously, we have buildings with grounds so overgrown that homeless people have been found living on campus! (Cross Keys)

How can we ignore the disparities – not only in structure but in test scores and delivery of education? What is going on here? Has this billion dollar school system simply become too massive and wily to control? Is the system such a big spender, with so little oversight that the opportunities for corruption have flourished? Is there anyone with a strong focus on the future and a plan of action as to how we will get there? When I visit the school system’s website and look up the Strategic Plan, I find a one page description of a plan that was approved in 2006 and introduces the theme, “Premier DeKalb Schools - Setting the standard for Excellence through unity and purpose.” The page has a bit more information with some boxed text that reads, “The Strategic Plan will be reviewed with the full incoming Board of Education members January 2009. Dr. Sonja Alexander, Director of Professional Learning will lead the effort of the strategic plan review. Please monitor the website for continual updates.”

Well, it’s now July and I’m still monitoring and waiting for updates. Does anyone out there know anything?

66 comments:

Ken Thompson said...

Change must come via the ballot box and this will require a concerted effort by voters. This can start with a concrete, no BS, list of what the next school board needs to do, then grill candidates on whether they agree and if they do how and when they will get it done.

I'm sure we all have issues near and dear to each.

First on my list would be transparency, deep and broad--there should be no need for an open records request because anything subject to open records should already be published.

I want to see the title, job description, reporting structure and credentials for each and every employee. I want to see not just an overall budget, but I want to see operating budgets with detailed breakdowns for each school. I want spreadsheets that back up the financial components. I want extensive details including contact points, meeting times, phone records, agendas and minutes for the textbook selection/adoption process. While that begins to go to the state level, each district has some involvement with publishers.

Then I want detailed student performance tracking. I want to see not just the nth grade year to year system or school performance, I want to see cohort tracking. I want performance on nationally normed assessments, not just locally created "how great we art" tests. I want these tests published after use--I've seen them and most parents would be appalled.

I want GIS and demographic data used for growth planning, budgeting and redistricting. I want to use this in conjunction with financial and budget data to create my very own "SimSchoolSystem".

I want full disclosure of the candidate and their immediate family's financials. That may seem intrusive, but problems with nepotism are rampant in poorly supervised government operations and public school systems fit that description.

Finally, I want all source materials available to the school board on-line for public review. This includes budget proposals, meeting agenda and minutes, phone records, RFPs and their responses, etc.

For a candidate to get my vote they need to give me details of what commitments they will make to support an informed and educated electorate. Any candidate whose modus operandi is obfuscation and misinformation should not be in any elected office, but particularly not in one dedicated to education.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the student that was killed crossing the street in front of her own school! It was never made clear what school system administrators did to work with the county when the principal raised concerns about student safety.

We have so many darn Central Office administrators, but they don't do much more than pushing papers and blaming others for mistakes.


Second-grader hit, killed in DeKalb school crosswalk
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, February 02, 2009

Cameron Dunmore headed off to school early Monday to start his day in the gifted program at Princeton Elementary School in south DeKalb County.

His older sister had seen the 7-year-old second-grader to the corner in front of the school on South DeShon Road. That’s when it happened — a parent’s worst nightmare.

Police say as Cameron crossed the street at the school crosswalk at 7:30 a.m., he was struck by a sport utility vehicle that did not stop for the crosswalk.

A crossing guard was on duty and had carried a stop sign into the street, and other vehicles had stopped, police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.

“But for reasons unknown, the SUV driver did not stop,” Parish said.

Cameron was pronounced dead on the way to a hospital. The driver, Shirley Ogilvie, 40, was taken to a hospital after appearing distraught over the accident. Parish said Ogilvie would be charged with vehicular homicide.

The boy’s grandmother, Linda Smith, said there was a traffic light in front of the school, south of Stone Mountain, when it opened in August 2007, but the light was removed shortly thereafter. She said her grandson would still be alive if the light had not been removed.

“It’s such a busy street,” she said. “We told them they need it, but they said we didn’t.

“They’re going to put a light there now,” she said. “I know it.”

She doesn’t blame the driver for her grandson’s death.

“I know that lady wasn’t meaning to do it,” Smith said. “It’s a moment you can’t get back.”

Cameron walked a block and a half to school each day. His older sister had walked with him to the corner near where the accident occurred, Smith said.

“She had turned her back just before he was hit,” Smith said. “When she heard about what happened, she knew it was Cameron because he had just left her.”

Neighbors say they urged DeKalb County officials to put a traffic light at the school crosswalk. Resident Regina Hill said neighbors got together and signed a letter appealing for a traffic light at the intersection. Hill said she personally delivered the letter to the county government headquarters building in Decatur.

Princeton Elementary Principal Juanita B. Letcher said through a spokesman that a parent spoke with her last school year about safety concerns at the intersection, and that Letcher herself also had concerns “about traffic in the area,” said DeKalb schools spokesman Dale Davis.

Letcher said she contacted county officials about her concerns. She said county personnel did an assessment — although no traffic light was installed.

County officials did not respond to questions Monday about whether they received complaints about the intersection or had plans to install a traffic light there. County spokeswoman Kristie Swink issued a statement from Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis.

“As a father, I am particularly pained by this tragedy,” Ellis said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dunmore family.”

When school ended Monday afternoon, a DeKalb County police officer with a radar gun was just north of the school stopping cars for speeding.

Within yards of the crosswalk, two more signs show pedestrian icons, one with an arrow pointing to the crosswalk.

Parish said DeKalb had not had a school crosswalk fatality until Cameron’s death Monday.

Ella Smith said...

Ken Thompson transparency is a problem I also have. We hear about many reports but the public has no access to them. We do not even have access to the minutes of the board meetings. You can go in and read them but it is my understanding you can not copy them or can not take a copy out.

All these documents should be online for us all to see.

I do think that there has to also be an effort made not to micro-manage day to day operations of the school system. This is not part of the school boards job. This is what got Clayton County in all the touble it was in.

Cerebration said...

Nice comment, Ken. I very much agree but must point out just how difficult it is to campaign and get the word out. It's very hard to get more votes than someone with lots more money (mailings, etc) and name recognition. Emory Lavista Parent Council hosted a couple of very good debates, however, a very small percentage of constituents attended and heard the candidates messages.

The League of Women Voters had a very good online debate/Q&A review of the candidates, but it was hard to find.

I sorely wished the AJC would use some ink to actually print candidate Q&A and position statements - they reach so many more voters. I was disappointed in their coverage - they didn't serve to inform, they simply reported results, IMO>

Running for a school board post requires a huge grass roots effort and a large support group if you are to beat someone with deep pockets and monied supporters.

Voters in DeKalb need to spend more time really evaluating the school board candidates - you really have no idea how much power they have over your life and the lives of your children.

It's so important to be informed. Your childrens' futures are at stake. Too many people still fall for the old race-baiting - north/south politics. No one "gets" anymore than anyone else. Please learn more about what your candidates think, feel and know about education and running a billion dollar organization - made from your tax dollars.

Also - and I think most importantly, find out what their motivation is for running... where their heart is.

Cerebration said...

And thanks for reminding us about the tragic death of Cameron Dunmore, anon. This is a very real and graphic (albeit extreme) example of the price our children pay for the inaction of bureaucracy.

Dekalbparent said...

We have had calls for participation from more community members before - but I REALLY, REALLY want to ask again. If any of the blog's many readers/non-posters have ANYTHING to contribute, please do. We need to know what the problems are in all the schools - we have under-populated schools and parents going to great lengths to get their children into other, [very] crowded schools. What is happening at your own schools, folks, that pushed you to this decision?

We have heard a little - bullying, not enough AP offered (great posts on this, everybody - if AP classes benefit the average student by pushing them a bit, then they should be an important priority). We need to hear more. I am positive that a lot of schools have REAL problems. If we know what the problems are - really, no us vs. them generalities - we can begin to address them. How can the district fix itself without a big picture?

Ella Smith said...

Cerebration, you are so correct.

It is all about name recognition and if you get into a run-off anything can happen because voters do not come back to vote for run-offs.

I think it is important to know why the person is running and truely how committed a person is to make changes to improve the school system. Regardless of who is elected as your school board member they also are just 1 out of 9 individuals and only as a group can they make a decision. Individual each one of them have no power.

I feel we do have some very strong school board members currently. I do feel that they are trying to make positive changes. I do feel that two positions are not representing their district appropriately.

Anonymous said...

The AJC should pursue answers and not accept the usual, "we don't keep records", "its a personnel matter", "not available for comment".

This is the crux of the problem--secrecy. Thats' a lot worse than a "lack of transparency"--a diluted concept.

Secrecy goes to corruption, not just arrogance. Mainly, it invokes the ethos of "complicity" from people we trust to pursue the truth. They have much bigger reasons to "let things go". They are simply involved in the corruption.

The one that got me was the "research" that was done for five counties receiving Clayton students (in Henry's case, throwing them back in the pond).

Every single county had an explicit policy and numbers regarding out-of-county transfers. The AJC accepted (ACCEPTED) DeKalb's response--"we don't track the students, we have no data"!

Can you imagine a reporter just walking away from that one?

The AJC has a reason for doing so--it of course is "inexplicable".

Cerebration said...

From WSB - During a news conference on Tuesday, CEO Burrell Ellis introduced seven board members who will oversee the development of the Office of Transparency and Accountability.

"Since taking office in January, we've been inundated with a growing number of requests from citizens and employees that a variety of county departments be investigated because of allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse," said Ellis.

Ellis hopes to choose and Inspector General by the fall.


Let's hope the school system follows the CEO's lead!

Anonymous said...

Hope?
Ellis is the CEO of the county government--he and only he can do this and he did.

Now....who is the CEO of the school system? That's right, Mr Secrecy and "Secret Police" himself.

Who exactly are you "hoping" is gonna institute a transparency board?

When you look at all of the differences between the "accountability" and "exposure" given to (against) our county government compared to the inexplicable silence and ignorance surrounding the school system...
...and which one demands more tax dollars again?

Right cerebration..."whats' going on?"...what's going on Mr. US Attorney...what's going on Ms DA...what's going on Mr. Derwin (oh I forgot...he was killed when he included the school system in his list of ivestigative targets.)

Cere--you keep after the small stuff and you'll ultimately unlock the bigger picture secrets of 75 years of patriarchal power in DeKalb County and why anyone who's anyone (Cox's AJC) looks the other way.

Look no further than the architects, engr, contractors on school trusts and committees. Then which ones are on the state chamber of commerce board of directors, etc, etc.

You will also find the same people keeping everyhting secret at Grady Hospital.

That is why blogs like Georgia Unfiltered are so important--they expose "leadership" affiliations and sources of corruption.

Nice list btw--send it to Georgia Unfiltered.

quill said...

While I understand the need and tendency to vent in a blog such as this, Let's try to stay on point with "what's going on...."

Since the beginning of May, a number of administrative reassignments have taken place in our high schools. It seems almost as if a shakeup is occurring, but no one seems to know or explain why. Change solely for the sake of change is not necessarily a good thing. Is there some way a list of these reassignments could be published? Why were the Principals and Assistant Principals moved? What is the expectation of the school system as a result of these changes ? Are parents even aware of the changes? (Is there any truth to the supposition that bonuses were given to these administrators to compensate them for the inconvenience?)

Another issue; Construction, repair, renovation at the high schools:
I won't pretend to have all the information but I do note that some schools seem to find a quicker route to getting things done ....why is that? Is there a need for lobbyists to help a 30yr. old school building get air conditioners repaired and roofs fixed prior to recently constructed schools getting new auditoriums, specialized academies, newer technology? Who prioritizes the SPLOST project expenditures and what is the basis for doing so?

...Does anyone know what's going on in the texbook warehouse? I know that Jim Robinson and his staff are no longer employed there. What gives?

Cerebration said...

quill, we did cover some of these issues in a couple of past postings --

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/06/committee-reports-from-june-8-board.html

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-end-of-year-as-we-know-it.html

Here's a quote from the report regarding the $10k bonuses -

Additionally, I must tell you that Dr. Lewis was forced by Dr. Walker to admit that yes, it’s true – the seven principals that he is moving to underperforming schools will each get a $10,000 bonus for their trouble! He defended his action, stating that he had a meeting with representatives from the federal government who assured him that he could use the Title 1 Stimulus money for these bonuses. (The money does not come from the general fund, however, some argued that even so, stimulus money should be spent more wisely.)

Cerebration said...

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/04/check-out-these-numbers.html

The above posting also opens your eyes to the fact that we have an abundance of unused "seats" in many of our schools. There are funding penalties for that from the state - I think the imbalance is a pretty serious problem. I'd like to know what is causing it - why are so many students leaving their home schools? The AYP transfers are out of control - and schools like Lakeside, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Druid Hills are being inundated with transfers, causing severe over-crowding at these schools.

I don't see how simply putting new principals in these "failing" schools will stop that trend. More needs to be done to stop the bleeding...

Anonymous said...

You ask whats going on?

I be teaches in DeKalb school's for 9 year's.

Them children's needs to learn how to be-have they selfs!!!

pscexb said...

I like many of the points that Ken raised however a reality to consider. There is a cost to transparency. I'm all for government entities being more 'open and transparent' and using web based 'self service' interfaces to allow citizens to query information on their own. Providing systems like this will require a one time capital investment in technology and possibly additional personnel. Is it worth it? IMO, yes however when the lay citizen looks at overall priorities of the school system, it is sometimes hard to justify. There will be a return on investment however it may not be realized until several years.

I should point out there are some citizens that would like to see additional cutbacks on PDS 24 however I find broadcasting BoE meeting an important part of transparency. Heck, I'd like to see BoE committee meetings broadcast also since many important discussions are held there. Could you imagine broadcasting meetings when textbook discussions are made then re-running them.

DCSS will be rolling out their Instructional Data Management System (IDMS) soon that will provide the kind of student reporting you mention. Again, school systems has the data but not a good means of delivering the information in a consistent format. You may want to ask your local school about it as I understand they have begun training for administrators. There will also be a parent component to this also.

Along the same lines, I 'believe' the school system has a GIS however lacked funding to train someone how to use it. There was an opening for a Director of Planning for a few years. The position was cut when they eliminated open positions then added back recently when the BoE acknowledged the need for that position.

What you want from candidates seem reasonable. I would want a candidate to allow citizens to have an understanding of how the process works, as long as it does not compromise the system and/or does not violate any privacy laws. You want candidates to make decisions based on the data and information available, not based on the 'squeaky wheel'.

Change will come with an engaged and informed electorate. That is definitely the starting point.

pscexb said...

Quill asks about Construction, repair, renovation at the high schools. IMO, this is one of the more transparent areas within DCSS. There is a website:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/

that provides a lot of information regarding the program.

There will always be those that do not agree with the project list and/or priorities. That should not take away from the fact the when initially compiled, it was done based on needs not wants.

Things happen that causes some schools to have an immediate need (Murphey Candler ES comes to mind). Some things happen because of the 'squeaky wheel', threats of investigation by the local media, or legitimate issues. There was a serious air quality issue, partially due to leaks in the roof, at Murphey Candler that expedited that situation. I believe there was also a HVAC issue with Canby Lane ES that required immediate attention. The situation would determine whether funding came from the general or SPLOST budget.

Ken Thompson said...

Here is a report of DCSS transparency, or rather lack thereof, regarding the investigation into alleged bullying. You have to begrudgingly admire the attorney-client privilege tactic. But it makes the conspiracy theorist in me suspect intentional secrecy.

Anonymous said...

Guilty, I'm a South Side parent attending North Side schools because of sheer frustration. The problems consist of but are not limited too:

Discipline --- I have raised my children to be respectful but they were missing key instructional time because a majority of others were not exercising respect for learning. Group punishment is rampant, my kids still had to be respectful but it was totally unfair.

Expectations --- My children were making great grades but receiving assignments that were not explained or taught in class but they were expected to produce work. For example they had to write a Thesis and had no ideal what it was...they received a handout. Or they had to type a paper but when they went to the computer lab, they played games instead of learning how to type. This was in elementary and I made sure they learned.

College Prep --- Middle School taking a foreign language class as a core subject and not an elective this was mind boggling to me..the reason given to me was that they did not have enough students interested. While the North side offers Spanish, French and/or German as a core course.

Activities --- Middle School not having honors chorus or orchestra. Not participating in honors choir that's put on by Dekalb County, Not participating in things like Science Olympiad, or preparing for the Academic bowl two weeks before competition, things like that. So it appears that the North side kids are smarter...no they are just prepared.......

I'm sorry that the North side schools are crowded but my tax dollars don't say south side and my child is entitled to the same type of educational experience that's given on the north side.

If it were equal then I would never have applied to move. Several of us made our voices and concerns known with no change. We volunteered to assist and were rejected.

The programs have to be consistent across the board and they are not.

Since being on the north side the constant yelling and screaming has been cut by 70%....no joke.....

They actually have recess....south side elementary schools say they can't...they have to teach and their is not time. I went to other schools and asked how can you do it.....one principal said its tough but we manage to give 15 minutes a day, the more specials you have the easier it is to schedule recess...what a concept...I came back and spoke with the principal and still no recess and no it was not a charter school that gave me input...........

Everyone on this blog...spend a day, half a day on the South side just go to the cafeteria during lunch they have cups on the table....red, yellow and green and if your table's cup is put on red you have the wonderful opportunity to have a silent lunch even if you weren't talking loud....all it takes is one and the entire table is shut down...this is elementary they are too young to be responsible for another child's mouth. The teachers are in the lounge getting their second break because they also get one when the children are gone to specials!!!

Attending board meetings is a joke....I would love for the way that's handled to change....voicing your concern and not getting a response is what happens when you go to a principal on the south side..............

I'm involved and I've gone through the steps only to find that each school is ran and governed by the principal not the county or the regional directors, or the school board....then when you voice your concerns you'll labeled and your children are punished.....and that I won't do again, so North side parents, teachers, students and administrators....again I'm sorry for the overcrowding but I am trying to educate my children in a place where academics are number one and you expect children to succeed and prepare them for college instead of saying not all children are college material and I need my points for remediation so we can't do this or that.....

Cerebration said...

Thank you, anon!! I really appreciate your candor and perspective. I think your points to discipline, and lack of access to extra programs like science olympiad and others is enlightening. (I have to tell you though, the same "cup" theory of lunchroom discipline was used by Mr. TIppins at Oak Grove several years ago. I was as mortified as you.)

I do know that most of the current board is committed to creating better schools in South DeKalb. They have mandated that Dr. Lewis do so - and expect him to improve the AYP status of many schools. Principals are at the core of this turnaround - thus the reshuffling of what Dr. Lewis considers highly qualified principals.

Please continue to share your insight with us - and with the entire board and Dr. Lewis. It's important that your experiences are understood.

========

psc - you need to apply for the job of Director of Planning!!

Anonymous said...

http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/atlmainstream0629.html

DeKalb widens bullying probe; judge bills $20K, or is it $170K?


June 29 – The DeKalb County school system plans to spend tens of thousands of dollars to investigate bullying that’s said to have led to the suicide of a fifth-grader at Dunaire Elementary.


But, whatever the school district may learn, its attorneys say the written findings are not subject to public disclosure.


DeKalb drew nationwide attention in April after Jaheem Herrera, 11, returned home from school and hanged himself in his bedroom closet. Jaheem’s mother said she had complained repeatedly to school administrators that bullies had tormented her son at Dunaire.


Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore (right), a retired Fulton County judge hired by the school district to investigate the Herrera case, reported last month that she found teasing and name-calling, but no sign of bullying before Jaheem took his life.

Now, Moore has signed an extension to her contract with the district. The new deal calls for her to “fully investigate all reported allegations of bullying at Dunaire Elementary School within the last three years.”


Moore will be paid $325 per hour through Oct. 30 under the consulting agreement. The extension was signed June 19.


School officials have repeatedly denied requests filed under the Open Records Act for a copy of Moore's written report. Her contract requires that she report her findings in writing, but the report is incomplete, lawyers said in a letter Friday.


In any event, the letter said, the district will not release Moore’s written findings because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.


Moore’s contract makes no mention of legal representation or other legal services. A school system spokesman has said Moore is not representing the district in the Herrera case.


It remains unclear how much Moore has billed the school district. Officials have refused to release copies of her invoices, but wrote that she billed $3,423 in May and $166,995 in June.

(We assume the June figure is a typographical error and they meant to say $16,995. If that's the case, Moore has rung up charges of $20,378 so far. If it's not a typo, the tab is $170,378).


Dunaire reported 11 incidents of “threats/intimidation” in the three school years ending in May 2008, according to the state Department of Education. In that same period, the school reported eight incidents of battery, 22 of disorderly conduct, 98 fights and 134 miscellaneous rule violations.

Anonymous said...

This is just one more example of Crawford Lewis' incopmetence. Thousands of thousands to a judge for a verbal report, which the public will never hear.


http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/images/Judge%20Moore%20Addendum.pdf

http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/images/DK%20ORA%20Response%20062609.pdf

Cerebration said...

If those invoice amounts are true (and I would tend to think they are, since this was a written response from Alexander & Assoc (Josie Alexander's group) to Jim Walls' Open Records request.

At any rate - at a total billing so far of approximately $170,000 that would equate to around 500 hours of work at $325/hour, leaving some for expenses. And we're only at the tip of the iceberg.

It's interesting that the reason for refusal of the requested documents is "work product" and "attorney/client" privileges. I wonder if this means that they are preparing to defend themselves in a lawsuit over the matter, instead of simply fact finding....

Cerebration said...

This is very telling -- remember, this is an ELEMENTARY school - with around 600-650 students total.

Dunaire reported 11 incidents of “threats/intimidation” in the three school years ending in May 2008, according to the state Department of Education. In that same period, the school reported eight incidents of battery, 22 of disorderly conduct, 98 fights and 134 miscellaneous rule violations.

quill said...

Before we jump on the bandwagon of calling a career educator imcompetent, let's remind ourselves that Dr. Lewis is essentially governed by the Board of Education. These are elected officials, not all of whom are as well-versed as Dr. Lewis in the business of educating our children. Also, he and his staff do need to exercise caution before speaking or publicizing reports on cases where litigation is pending. Think about it...... If information is prematurely disseminated and the county is successfully sued, then the TAXPAYERS foot the bill - not good.


Regarding discipline....

A school is a merely a microcosm of the community it serves. Discipline problems at school are a reflection of discipline problems at home. Schools are expected to do a lot regarding school discipline even when resources(personnel) are limited and county directives(area superintindents) tell them not to suspend so many students.

Cerebration said...

True, quill. That's exactly why I said the Dunaire stats were so telling. This is a difficult social group apparently.

However, even though Dr. Lewis is a career educator and his intentions are good and he is a very empathic person, do you think that running a BILLION dollar a year organization - which is what the school system has become - should somehow require someone with more business background? That person, coupled with an Assoc for Instruction - as well as other department Associates who would function more as Vice-Presidents - could possibly run this monster more like a big business - tempered with the mission to serve. I'm just wondering if the times haven't evolved to where that's what we really need.

BTW - that's what we need more of on the Board as well. They're better than they were - but the antics are still out of bounds. There are 2 or 3 members who need replaced.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon "Southside": God bless you and your efforts for your kids! You forgot to close your comment with, "And I rest my case." You pretty much nailed it. As a young person, I was in a similar situation and my parents snatched me out of there quick - yours will thank you if they haven't already!

@pscexb: "Change will come with an engaged and informed electorate. That is definitely the starting point."

We are in trouble. The average citizen does not vote. The average member of the voting electorate has no idea who is running for BOE much less an idea of who to vote for on election day.

During the last election, I was spotted in the polling place and asked more than 3 times while waiting in line, "Who should I vote for for BOE?"

I tell folks who are upset about the Town Brookhaven project or mad at their County CEO for one reason or another, "Did you know that the budget for the School System approaches $1 billion and the County only approaches 3/4 of that at best?"

Should you care if you don't have kids or have retired? Oh boy, you should!

Cerebration said...

Yep - it' really jumped out at me today in the AJC - Shirley Franklin has a $56 million gap to her proposed $541 million budget.

That's a little over HALF the DCSS budget! Let me repeat -- The city of Atlanta budget is a little over HALF the DCSS budget!

Dekalbparent said...

Anon Southside, let me add my thanks. This is information we need. It's one thing to here there are inequities (which I believe) and a whole other thing to have them enumerated.

I am particularly sad that when you and several others volunteered to help the school provide opportunities that hadn't been offered (Sci Olympiad and Academic Bowl) you were turned down. We hear "the parents at the poorly performing schools are just uninvolved, and that attitude is passed to the children". Not necessarily the truth, huh... I am wondering what benefit the principal of the school sees in actively promoting a second-rate educational environment with no parent involvement - does it just make life simpler for him/her???

By the way, both my kids had the green/yellow/red cup thing at their elementary schools (including KMS), along with the screaming principal. That's what happens when you don't have recess.

Dekalbparent said...

P.S. Anon/Southside: Please keep posting and spread the word to others. We need to have the contributions of all our DCSS parents.

Never underestimate the power of a concerned group armed with information.

No Duh said...

@Quill: "Also, he and his staff do need to exercise caution before speaking or publicizing reports on cases where litigation is pending"

I don't know that any litigation is pending. Has Jaheem's mother actually filed a complaint?

Dr. Lewis certainly didn't "exercise caution" when he "spoke" to all the employees of DCSS in his love fest letter. And in that case there IS litigation pending.

Ella Smith said...

There is something to this. I have seen the truth manipulated. I have been around along time and have seen many things I thought were wrong so the email Dr. Lewis sent I felt was minor compared to many other things I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Celebration and Dekalbparent.....thanks for your appreciation.

Many of us are looking at Arabia Mountain in hopes that she will produce a good quality educational environment that expects her students to not just achieve but to soar. Then North Dekalb will begin to see a decline in transfer request. But if Arabia is just a pretty building with nice things in it that aren't being used like Redan Middle who had keyboards and no classes then know that we will still try and move are young people. South side parents like myself aren't interested in a building or what a program says its going to do on paper....we want it to be fully functional just like any other intelligent, hard working, college graduate parent on the North side would want. After all we are coming to the North side to old buildings and trailers so don't believe the hype.... In fact we are constantly being told that we are just making things worst by taking our children to the North when we could stay and help pull up the numbers for AYP. I've actually been in some of the meetings held on the North side and that audience is spoken to differently than when the same office comes to speak to the South side.

Please keep posting, I'm still fighting but not as hard. I'm still sharing information so that other parents know what's going on too.

I'm looking forward to continued dialogue with this blog. If you have a question, just ask and I'll be more than happy to share from my experiences.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Celebrate what did you all do to stop the use of the cups on the table or is it still going on?

Cerebration said...

As I recall, several of us (PTA members) chatted with school leaders about the cups - we had a little group who persuaded them to stop. In fact - it was worse - before the cups - he actually had a REAL traffic light in the cafeteria. RED, YELLOW, GREEN -

I remember trying to convince him that these children need a break to be free and chat with their friends just as much as adults. I challenged him to come down to where I was working at the time - Georgia Power and witness the food court at lunch time - it's MUCH louder.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank had cups on the tables also. I HATED it and was actually asked to leave once by one of the "monitors" for talking to my child when I stopped by to have lunch one day. I hope they stopped the inane practice.

quill said...

Arabia Mountain.....

What exactly were the criteria for students' acceptance into this school? Is it a magnet school or does it have a pseudo designation to bypass certain governmental regulations?

....I am sure that Arabia Mountain will become the flagship facility of the county - second only to Miller Grove High School. I believe that the county will do its best to accomodate the academic concerns of the Arabia Mountain community and county as the new year opens. The watchful eyes of hundreds of parents will ensure that students' needs are met in this state-of-the-art building.

...Meanwhile, old southside high school buildings like Redan, Stone Mountain, and Clarkston patiently await their turn at seeing some of those SPLOST dollars go to work on their campuses.


QUESTION: How many of you who comment in this blog actually work for DCSS? just curious....

Cerebration said...

This is taken from the Arabia brochure/application -

Arabia Mountain High School Magnet Programs Applicants Must:
• Complete the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Test (Students Currently Enrolled in Grade 8)
• Three Recommendations
• Compose a Magnet Program Essay
• Complete a Magnet Program Student Interview
• Attend the Magnet Program Open House Session

Arabia Mountain High School for 9th – 11th grade students of all instructional levels will serve as DeKalb’s “Going Green” environmentally friendly high school. Arabia Mountain will provide parents and students instructional programs with a strong college prep, career oriented foundation. Integrated learning opportunities will be offered during the modified schedule by a staff trained to deliver specialized performance based standards. The instructional program will also infuse parents and students support through parental involvement tasks, service learning for students, and uniforms to build a more structured culture.

Magnet Programs
2009 – 2010 - Environmental, Energy and Engineering Magnet Program
2010 – 2011 - Health Medical Magnet Program
DeKalb Schools Health Medical Magnet Program (grades 10 – 11) and the Environmental, Energy and
Engineering Magnet Program (grades 9 – 11) are designed to support students aspiring to become physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, dentists, engineers, soil conservationists, microbiologists and other environmental and medical related professions. Interested parents and students must apply for admission to the high school magnet programs.

Rising ninth grade students will need to complete the prerequisite courses to enroll in the Health Medical Sciences Program for grades 10 – 11. The tentative implementation date is August 2010.
Career Technology Programs / Pathways
Career Technology Programs will prepare students in grades 9 - 11 to transition successfully to postsecondary education as well as acquire technical skills and knowledge needed for immediate employment or a future career. High school Career Technology Programs simulate real life experiences and are the first step to engaging in a career path. Students will explore environmental, engineering, healthcare, child care, business, and computing career pathways.


Magnet Programs Continuation Guidelines
• Students must maintain a core numerical average of 80 or higher
• All students must complete 20 hours of “Going Green” community service
• Seniors must complete a senior project specific to their major program of study
• Students must participate in an academic competition and participate in student organizations or clubs
• Parents must complete 10 parental involvement service hours each school year

Magnet Programs Transportation Option
The Transportation Department will provide magnet high school students the option to be transported to the magnet sites from six strategic regional satellite pickup locations at six high schools. All high school students attending the magnet programs will be picked up at the designated high school regional satellite pickup locations and transported to the Memorial shuttle. Direct transportation from the Memorial shuttle to the magnet high school will be provided for the students. The high school regional satellite pickup locations are subject to change based on student enrollment. Parents will be responsible for transporting students to the regional satellite pickup locations in the morning and from the regional satellite pickup locations in the afternoon.

Magnet Programs Parent / Student Notification
Lottery Date – April 3, 2009
Parent Response Deadline - Parents of students accepted for placement in the Magnet Program at Arabia Mountain High School must accept or decline the placement using the Magnet Program Student Placement Status form by May 1, 2009. If the notice is not returned by May 1, 2009, the student’s placement will be declared vacant and the next eligible alternate will be offered placement.

Cerebration said...

Environmental, Energy, and
Engineering Magnet Program
Implementation Date
August 2009
Program Grade Levels – 9 - 11
Eligibility Requirements – Students must:
• Reside in the DeKalb County School District
• Submit a complete School Choice Application
• Submit a complete transcript
• Meet all grade level promotion requirements
• Earn a core numerical average of 80 or higher
• Demonstrate satisfactory conduct
• Earn an 80th percentile or higher complete
composite score on a norm referenced standardized test
• Compose a satisfactory essay
• Attend the selected Magnet Program Open House
• Submit three academic recommendations
• Complete grade level prerequisite courses with a
satisfactory grade
• Complete a student interview

Health Medical Magnet Program
Tentative Implementation Date
August 2010
Rising ninth grade students will need to complete the prerequisite courses to enroll in the Health Medical Sciences Program for grades 10 – 11.
Program Grade Levels – 10 - 11
Eligibility Requirements – Students must:
• Reside in the DeKalb County School District
• Submit a complete School Choice Application
• Submit a complete transcript
• Meet all grade level promotion requirements
• Earn a core numerical average of 80 or higher
• Demonstrate satisfactory conduct
• Earn an 80th percentile or higher complete composite
score on a norm referenced standardized test
• Compose a satisfactory essay
• Attend the selected Magnet Program Open House
• Submit three academic recommendations
• Complete grade level prerequisite courses with a
satisfactory grade
• Complete a student interview

Cerebration said...

There are also Career Tech programs available -

Career Technology Programs/Pathways
(Grades 9 – 11)
Agriculture / Environmental
_____ Agriscience
Family and Consumer Sciences
_____ Early Childhood
_____ Culinary Arts
Healthcare
_____ Therapeutic Services (Nursing)
Business and Computer Science
_____ Small Business Development
_____ Financial Management Accounting
_____ Computing
Engineering and Technology
_____ Engineering
_____ Energy Systems
Student placement is contingent upon:
• DeKalb County School District residency
• A complete School Choice Application
• A complete transcript
• Lottery

Cerebration said...

Arabia Mountain High School
Magnet Program
Interview Questions

(A panel of 4 people will evaluate the answers to the following questions)

Describe a successful or unsuccessful experience which has improved your life.
What are your reasons for wishing to participate in the program?
Why do you feel that you are qualified to participate in this program?
What are your best skills or talents (strengths)?
What areas do you need to improve (weaknesses)?
Describe a situation in which you or the team you were working with created a solution to a problem.
What are some of your professional or career goals?
Describe something of which you are most proud.
Describe an academic experience which has prepared you to be successful in this program.
What type of people do you most enjoy working with?
Have you ever participated in a competition? Why was it interesting?
What additional activities, interests, or achievements would you like to share that you believe would make you a good candidate for this program?

Cerebration said...

sorry quill -- you asked! DIdn't mean to inundate you with Arabia info - but I wanted to emphasize how complex the process appears -- it seems much easier to get into Chamblee...

Also-the building itself is the same size as Miller Grove. They were projecting 1,076 students for 09/10 made up from 350 from MLK, 250 from Lithonia, 126 for the Environmental etc magnet and 350 systemwide - (not sure how many they got)

(ps - I can tell you that I do not work for the system.)

No Duh said...

I don't work for the system either.

Cere, you crack me up. I'd say it's easier to get into Chamblee -- it's apply in elementary school for KMS and wait for your name to be picked.

If the administration is really putting the student applicants through all this to gain a spot at Arabia Mountain, I don't see how it could not be filled with excellent students. It's a little like asking "singers", "actresses" and "artists" for their GPAs before giving them a seat at DSA.

It's all very interesting.

Anon from the Southside. Welcome. We all need to walk a mile in each other's shoes, so thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights.

Don't know if your child is an AYP transfer or an Administrative Transfer or a lucky magnet winner, but wondered if you aren't concerned that the North Side schools are only hiring a new teacher when the transfers flood in. Therefore, your child could be assigned to a teacher that is just as bad as the ones you just left. (And, trust me, the north side principals are not in a position to fire any teacher or even request they be transfered out of their school.)

I've often said that the building doesn't educate the child. So, what good could transferring do? But, are your child(ren) really getting better teachers, supplies, experiences, educating in the northside school (again, a generalization, not knowing which schools you transferred from/to). Or, is the school ATMOSPHERE simply calmer, and less punitive? Also, are you still at the elementary level?

Like you say, I should just pick a southside elementary and hang out for a while. Let me see if I can ask my question more succinctly. If you could take a magic wand into your districted elementary school, what would you change? And, if these changes came instantly true, would they help all the children in the school -- no matter their abilities and socio-economic backgrounds?

Night all...

themommy said...

The process to get into the Arabia Mountain magnet component is similar to what the process was in the original days of the high achievement magnet programs.

The vast majority of students at Arabia had to simply pick the focus they were interested in for the career tech side and turn in the required information.

Just in case anyone hasn't heard, as of a few weeks ago, anyway, the 10th and 11th grades haven't filled.

Anon South makes points that are valid and true, but I want to make one correction. At the middle school level, foreign language is never a core course, rather it is offered (when available) to students who meet standards based on testing (ITBS or CRCT). At most middle schools, the majority of students don't take foreign language as anything but a 9 week elective exposure type course. Even at Chamblee Middle school, where the magnet students get German, the non magnet students have not, until a year or two ago, had the option to enroll in a foreign language in 7th grade. (Can you say two totally different schools in one building?)

I have long argued that the money the system is spending on the magnet programs first needs to be spent on art and music for every elementary school and foreign language for every middle school.

Anonymous said...

Anon South Side..

Kim, yes my children are already saying thank you...it was a little tense transitioning but we worked with our children and they are doing well.

Great point about the teachers being hired just to fill a spot on the North Side, I wrote many transfer request to many schools and was rejected before AYP was available to me. My child is an AYP transfer this was initially a problem because of the perception of the type of kids coming over from that pool. So we worked very hard to shed the AYP transfer jacket. My child had exceeded on the CRCT which helped him to be able to escape the newly hired teachers. A plus for us but maybe not others. This is one of the reasons why I was scolded for leaving because my child's scores would help the South Side make AYP but would have failed in preparing my child for college, even if they walked away with multiple scholarships. I need for them to complete college not just get in.

I agree that the building does not make the educational experience better, that's one reason we did not apply to Arabia. I'm watching to see if what they say they're going to do....they do. It could be an option for my middle schooler. New is not better....it's just new, as we've seen with all the new buildings on the South Side. Another reason we did not apply to Arabia, my child would have been penalized because the middle school did not offer year around foreign language which is a pre-requisite to the field of study that my child is interested in. Again, this is not fair.

The school atmosphere is better. In particular when it comes to sagging pants. My son's don't sag...we never started that and they just aren't interested...Praise God!!!!

I still have elementary age children but I pulled the youngest and now that child attends private school. I am serious about educating my children and I wish I had done my research before but I didn't so I'm working with what I have. I do not enjoy driving all over the city but education is just that important to my husband and me. I liken it to back in the day when Black children walked miles to go to school...now I just drive miles....

If I could change things, I would have recess, I would have meaningful tutoring for those who need it....the schools base their current year tutoring off of the prior years CRCT results...so if your child needs help with fractions but the CRCT results show that the school needs help with addition that's what they tutor.....but then you'll receive a letter saying tutoring is being offered but your child is in the class in vain since that's not what they need help in.....that's insane to me but that's the way it worked while I was their.

I would also make sure that they were being prepared to compete in academic bowls. I would plan programs to assist the community and encourage my staff to do the same. I would have incentives through my PTA to reward good behavior and have competitions of all kinds because everyone has something they can do. On awards day everyone would get something in elementary because its elementary and I could find something that has improved. I would go after parents and find some that would come in and assist with different things like reading to the kids and offer reading assistance to parents if they could not read themselves. I would in essence make school and the learning process fun because they have too long to be in school to hate school by the time they are in the 2nd grade!!! That's why we (South Side) loose them my the time they hit middle school.

I believe all children can learn especially if we apply the many types of learning styles and not just the traditional sit in your desk and listen to the teacher lecture method.

I have children in HS, MS and Elementary. I am a temporary employee of DeKalb County. My first job, however is to ensure the education of my children and to advocate for my kids.

Again, its been a pleasure being a part of this group. Lets keep the dialogue going.

Anonymous said...

Anon..South Side

My youngest is blossoming because the children are enjoying school and homework is a review of what was learned and is used as a tool for teacher to see what areas need improvement. Whether it is the entire lesson plan or one child. If its one child that child get tutoring to assist in understanding. I am excited that I made that move for my child, I've seen growth and the joy of learning return....and that's the whole point, a love of life time learning........

Anonymous said...

South Side anon....

Thanks themommy for the clarification. I thought it was just this school. I think one of the majors hardships come because as a school district we have diversity with no consistency. If all the middle schools had the same requirements entrance into these specialized HS may be more uniformed. I'm sure Arabia had not really considered that all middle schools did not offer year round foreign language before making it a pre-requisite for a 10th grader for the Health Medical Magnet Program. Some parents inquired and I'm not sure if its been adjusted. Does anyone know?

Knowledge is power. In order to participate in the STT program (one semester of taking hands on science from 8:30 - 11:00 at the Fernbank, you can only take this in your 9th grade year and must apply in the 8th grade ) but a student cannot be apart of the magnet program. Great information to know!! Does anyone know why its limited to non-magnet students? I ponder things like this even when it does not apply to my own children...probably because I know it applies to someone's child.....

Cerebration said...

Those are all great suggestion, anon. You should compile them in letter form and send them to each member of the board and Dr. Lewis and Gloria Talley. I would think they should form some focus groups made up of parents like yourself to find the root causes of your votes of no confidence in your local school. You could enlighten them if they choose to listen. Keep up the good parenting - that is what will make the most difference in the end.

BTW - If your home school that didn't make AYP is a Title 1 school, I hope you know that you are entitled to mileage reimbursement for all your driving. It's part of NCLB - $.585 per mile. You file with the county, the county reimburses you and they get their money back from the feds.

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon Southside:

Wow - your three posts provide quite a list of things to think about. While I think the traffic light/cups thing in the cafeteria was used north and south (Fernbank had a traffic light, too, as well as a screaming principal), there were a lot of differences in what you describe. Jeez - they have keyboards and no keyboarding class in the middle school??!

What struck me most was that a lot of the things I took for granted in elementary school (academic bowl, science oly, parents reading to kids, parents helping out in classrooms) weren't just absent in your schools, they were actively discouraged! When I think back, most of the above extras in my kids' school were afforded because of parents - a teacher had to be nominal sponsor of something, but then it was actually done by parents.

Again, I wonder what reason the principal(s) have for refusing this sort of involvement.

I agree with Cere about your compiling all these observations (they are not complaints, because you have every right to expect your schools to provide all they can, using every resource they can - especially parents). You should bring them to the attention of your Board reps (both your district and your superdistrict). Bring them to the attention of all the Board. They want to know why parents don't stay with their own neighborhood schools and support them - here's an answer. I wouldn't stay and bang my head against the wall either.

Have all the other parents who also felt forced to transfer their kids tell them the same thing.

themommy said...

Anon Southside

Because Arabia Mountain is so far and I don't even a child that falls in the eligible age range, I hadn't paid much attention to the requirements. I would venture to say that most middle schools in DCSS offer little to no foreign language.

Within the last two years, I have addressed the board and asked them to define minimally acceptable parameters for each level of schools. That is to say, for example, to make as a matter of policy that every elementary school must have art, music and PE. They all agree (or so it seems) but they refuse to take action.

As to the magnet students, they have opportunities that are not offered to the rest of the high school community including advanced science courses and very advanced math classes that are not offered to even students who are equally (or more) qualified academically at the rest of the high schools. I cry no tears for those magnet students inability to participate in SST.

Anonymous said...

to the mommy

City of Atlanta (Grady) and Fulton County provide excellent advanced math courses in their high schools. If you want an advanced math program in your high school, perhaps you could consult with Gloria Talley and she might be able to help your math department with this.

BTW, resident students at Chamblee high school can and do participate in the advanced math course. It is not limited to magnet students.

themommy said...

Anon

But outside of Chamblee, they don't offer the same course at the other high schools. However, this will change in the next few years as many middle schoolers are on the fast track to complete the state's math requirements by the end of 10th grade.

DCSS is going to have to offer them advanced math above and beyond AP calculus

Cerebration said...

I have to assume that you are talking about the block schedule, correct? On the 7 period day, it's impossible to complete math requirements by 10th grade.

The block is very expensive to provide. As I've posted here before, schools on the block have to offer students 4 more credits each than on the 7 period day. If you have a class of 300, that could mean offering as many as 40 (1200 credits at 30 students per class) extra classes (with teachers and supplies) per graduating class.

Anonymous said...

from Anon South Side

I am well known at the county level, trust me and many of the parents that left before me tried and tried. They tried to keep us separated and feeling as if each of us at Isolated situations.

When we realized this we all called and it was stopped by I think they are called regional something's now........

At any rate many of my colleagues grew tired and just moved their children and not one of us has regretted the move....that statement all by itself should let anyone know how bad it is. All schools have issues but I have not had one issue on the North Side that was not dealt with like I had some sense. I was not belittled or spoken to as if I was a thug on the street with no educational background. I was treated like I was part of the team. Its the difference between teaching me how to fish as opposed to me being happy that you gave me at least one small frail fish. PTA meetings are not overflowing with parents on the North Side or the South Side. It has always been a small minority that does the work for the benefit of the majority and its the same on both sides of town. The difference is when the North Side speaks things change.

I noticed that you all used the words "use" to use the cups. I'm no longer at the elementary school but last I heard it was still going on.....

I wish I knew what to do to fix this. I wish more importantly that it did not need fixing.

Ella Smith said...

Anon South Side, you have given me such insight. Thanks so much for your posts.

Anonymous said...

Statement for the North Briarcliff Civic Association newsletter (1,000 households):

Lakeside High School--Newsweek Rankings Slip-up

Newsweek’s ranking of the 1,500 best public high schools in America placed Lakeside #195 in the nation last year. That was the highest ranking for any high school in DeKalb County and one of the highest in the state of Georgia. This year, however, Lakeside did not even appear in Newsweek’s rankings at all! To find out why, I met with Ms. Cindy Mosley, LHS's vice principal for instruction, on Thursday morning, June 26. She indicated that the reason Lakeside didn’t appear in the Newsweek rankings this year was simple: Lakeside’s outgoing principal, Ms. Angela Moton, who was responsible for submitting the necessary data to Newsweek, failed to do so this year.
Ms. Mosley further informed me that the necessary information had now been sent to Newsweek. Based upon that submission, Newsweek indicates that Lakeside would have ranked #315 in the country and seventh in Georgia this year if its information had been properly submitted. Although this ranking does represent a drop compared to Lakeside’s relative standing last year, note that within DeKalb County Lakeside still places a strong second to first-ranked Chamblee High School (#215) and ahead of what would have been the third-ranked DeKalb School of the Arts (#370).
After the front-page article on high school rankings appeared in the DeKalb Neighbor on June 24, many readers might easily have jumped to the false conclusion that a catastrophic meltdown had occurred at Lakeside. That is emphatically not the case. Despite some slippage in the rankings this past year, Lakeside remains one of the very best public high schools in Georgia.
--Larry Foster

Anonymous said...

Druid Hills' outgoing principal must have forgotten to submit his data to Newsweek also. DHHS made the list every year from 2005-2008, but went missing in 2009.

Here's the data for Lakeside from the Newsweek website, as of today. The columns represent year, national ranking, number of AP or IB tests taken divided by number of graduating seniors, percentage of students receiving subsidized lunches, and percentage of graduating seniors who received at least one "passing" grade on an AP or IB test. I think these last three categories are more useful than the ranking, which naturally fluctuates.

Lakeside's percentage of seniors passing an AP test has dropped every year. The number of tests taken, perhaps an indicator of access to AP courses, is down from its peak. The percentage of students with subsidized lunches is also down.

2009: #315, 2.582, 26%, 44.1%
2008: #195, 2.844, 33%, 44.2%
2007: #226, 2.578, 28%, 50.6%
2006: #135, 2.87, 27%, 52.1%
2005: #106, 2.689, 26%, n/a
2003: #182, 1.985, n/a, n/a

The numbers are similar to Chamblee's, #218 on the revised list, but clearly Chamblee is encouraging more and more students to take AP courses. So their ranking is trending up, and Lakeside's is trending down.

2009: #218, 2.926, 29%, n/a
2008: #238, 2.636, 29%, n/a
2007: #178, 2.777, 28%, n/a
2006: #280, 2.24, 25%, 44.9%
2005: #328, 1.873, 3.8%[sic], n/a
2003: #220, 1.866, n/a, n/a

See http://www.newsweek.com/id/201160/
You can filter by "Georgia", see past years, etc.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, 1 minor typo in my transcription of the Newsweek data for Chamblee - s/b #236 in 2008, not #238.

mykidsmom said...

I think this list would be somewhat more relevant if the scores on the AP exams were factored in. Does anyone know what they are not? Are the scores really relevant to colleges or are they just interested that students take AP courses?

As it is, you have students being pressed to take AP courses who really should not be taking those courses.

Cerebration said...

Mr. Mathews of the Newsweek poll only assesses the number of tests given in a high school divided by the number of seniors. This is why so many schools pressure students in ALL grades to take an AP class - especially if your school (like Lakeside) loses a couple of hundred students in each class between freshmen and senior year.

Mr. Mathews believes that the access to AP courses and the attempt by students to try them, will better prepare them for the rigors of college. No more than that - no less. Believe me, I've discussed this with him a few times.

Cerebration said...

For an interesting read on AP courses - written by an AP teacher who also served as a grader, go here -

http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-uses-and-misuses-of-advanced.html

mykidsmom said...

I suppose Mr. Matthews argument has some merit.

Cerebration said...

I think it does - he is very correct in his thinking. He also advocates for struggling students and minorities to challenge themselves. His intentions are good.

Sadly, schools - who are slaves to data tied to compensation - have figured out how to pander to the stats. I agree that a pass rate should be included as well as the graduation rate across 4 years - at least in naming schools "Challenge" schools.

Anonymous said...

Three more things -

AP and IB scores are relevant to colleges because they are national exams run by College Board, the same group that does SATs, so, unlike grades, they can be compared across schools and districts.

The Dekalb website has some aggregated data on AP scores, 2004-2008, on their testing page.

I think the "Best High Schools" index is misleading, but if you're a parent whose child needs the challenge of AP courses, the index, along with its "E&E" ranking (percentage of seniors who "passed" an AP test) does say a little about whether offering such courses is a priority at a high school.

- 10:58 Anonymous, a.k.a. Lakeside Mom (having issues with Javascripts today)

Anonymous said...

Of course, AP exams are run by College Board, but not IB. Not my day for minor mistakes.

Mathews makes the point that including scores in the general index would cause schools to game the system by restricting AP to the top students, which is the opposite of what he wants to achieve.

mykidsmom said...

Thanks for the link to the article - very informative as to the AP process.

Well, I can really see both sides of the argument - LOL. On one hand the "best school" rankings would be better served if the scores were a part of the evaluation process. However, if they were, I could see schools actually discouraging all but the "best" students from taking AP.

Cerebration said...

Exactly true. Maybe the answer is for Newsweek to better clarify what the listing really means. I agree with the premise of the "Challenge" but I hate the fact that principals tout it as if it's a statement about the quality of education overall at their school. It is not.