Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cox Northlake Visit:

State Ranked for Big Bucks; DeKalb Policy Vacuum; Impassioned Montessori Plea

By Tom Doolittle

This is a belated report, but it may add some perspective to the statewide CRCT testing allegations that arose since the Cox January visit.

On January 29, State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox visited the Northlake area—Mercer University’s Conference Center; Evansdale Elementary School and Lakeside High School. On the one hand, Cox’s presentation to the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parent Council (DCPC) at Mercer looked like one she would have made anywhere in the state. She came to talk about Georgia’s competitive position for a share of $4 billion “Race to the Top” funds from the Obama Administration. As a bonus, she delivered some spontaneous strong medicine for DeKalb’s stakeholders’ relations with each other and its school system.

The DeKalb remarks were spontaneous, as Cox took questions (comments, mostly) during a refreshing give-and-take while moving through her prepared presentation. Cox, after enduring comments about local budgetary plans and priorities in the midst of her higher-level strategic presentation, summed up the education leadership challenge in this bifurcated (“multi-furcated”?) urban/suburban county. Stopping the audience cold, the statewide official told an audience that included about thirty DCLP parents, “the problem in DeKalb is that you don’t trust each other”—meaning that stakeholders and communities throughout the county need to relate to each other so that that time and energy can be focused on “policy”, rather than pet issues.

Former DeKalb School’s Chairman William (Brad) Bryant, introduced Cox, complimenting the audience in advance as one that would demand a presentation with “some meat on it”—high level policy information and room for give-and-take. He explained afterward, “when I learned that Superintendent Kathy Cox was planning a visit to two of our DeKalb schools, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to have her visit with a group of engaged… parents (and) discuss education policy issues on the national and state level….”. Bryant, now an appointee to the state Board of Education, is recognized by some as representing the Governor’s office consulting with Clayton County’s school board in its remedial efforts in 2008.

Cox’s “Race to the Top” readiness report had some encouraging news, but the 90-minute session might have gone a bit differently if it had been ten days later. The DCPC January meeting predated the now-infamous potential fundraising and economic development disaster over public school testing irregularities.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the test flap will jeopardize the federal money, but from what Cox had to say, we are (or were) well prepared to receive the money. You see, “preparation” is one of the Feds primary criteria for awarding “racing” (as in ready, set, go) dollars. This program is not your grandfather’s government hand-out—the awards are focused on a review of a state’s long-term strategy for improvement and end results—“end” being post-secondary education and get this, professional placement.

According to Cox, here’s where we stand:

(1) Georgia is cooperating with a national consortium with several states signed on to set standards at a progressively higher standard. Note: there is no “federal” body, nor “federal” standard that can subsume a state’s independence.

(2) Georgia’s Performance Standards are a hybrid, formed from those in Massachusetts, Singapore and Japan, each being highly ranked worldwide in specific areas.

(3) Georgia is ranked very highly to receive Federal funds via President Obama’s “Race to the Top”. It is ranked third “Most Competitive” among what is classified as Tier 2 states (by population)—up to $400 million of the $4 billion total.

(4) Georgia’s graduation tests are subject to federal peer review and the science portion has received a federal “green light”.

(5) “Project Express”, exam preparation for re-taking social studies graduation tests has tripled “success rates”.

(6) All goals are “P-20”, from Pre-K to Post-Grad, meaning that all grades are taught to expect to do post-graduate work, whether at a 4-year university of a technology college.

(7) Georgia DOE, University System and Technical School System are working together seamlessly. Linked data now track secondary school graduates’ performance in post graduate institutions.

(8) Georgia has the second most technology schools of all states for post-graduate education.

(9) Technology education is free of charge with a Hope Scholarship available for anyone enrolling in a school (i.e., no B-average requirement). Technology schools may actually meet the requirement for future jobs better than four-year universities do in terms of total “trained” workforce.

(10) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Georgia the top Reform state, based on technology standards and performance.

DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis attended the meeting. While leaving, Lewis mentioned his scheduled “weekend chats” about the 2010 budget constraints and priorities. At least one group, from the Huntley Hills Montessori program, took Lewis’ cue to express its concern for the possible elimination of the “choice” program.

Huntley Hills, Briar Vista and Midway elementary schools have Montessori options for students in their home districts. Huntley Hills parent, Amy Holmes-Chavez said that the elimination of the program would save the school system very little money relative to total cuts required, while dramatically affecting the neighborhoods that are served. In fact, the Chamblee area parent says it’s possible to run the program at a lower cost than traditional classrooms.

Holmes-Chavez wrote later in an e-mail, “Montessori has…worked among students across all income levels, across ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and across learning abilities.” Although the program is in neighborhood schools, the choice advocate said that there has always been room for kids that have their own transportation from other districts.

Huntley Hills Elementary School is a Title 1 school in the Chamblee area. Apparently, according to Chavez, more neighborhood families are choosing the public school now. She said the school has made AYP for the past seven (7) years, adding, “we've built a strong school with a rich diversity across ethnic groups.”


Anonymous said...

A couple oversvations.

1) Kathy Cox is running for governor and everything she says must be viewed in this political light.

2) Cox has recently taken a new position regarding the disastrous reform or discovery math. She now claims that it is based on Massachusetts' program which is simply not true. The group Georgia Parents for Math have called her out on this and she has not responded. Mass. does not have mandatory integrated math for all high school students nor does the state mandate that K-12 math be taught using the discovery method.

3) I agree in part that DeKalb county stakeholders are divided on some issues. That is because this is a huge county and the academic programs needed in one group of schools can be very different from what may be needed in another school. However, I think Cox is wrong that we are divided on policy. I think involved parents from every segment of this large county are united in demanding more fiscal responsibility from our administrative office and from our Board.

4) Where was Cox when the Governor was systematcially decreasing education funding for public schools even in the boom years? Oh yes, I think she was trying to force science teachers to teach creationism in the public schools....

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should be observations.

Cerebration said...

Yes, but she IS smarter than a 5th grader!

Kidding aside - I was also a bit put off by her cavalier attitude toward DeKalb. That comment “the problem in DeKalb is that you don’t trust each other” was dismissive and insulting. We have some very serious issues we're coping with - from our top level administrators being investigated for all kinds of illegalities, a lawsuit amounting to millions upon millions of SPLOST tax dollars, to a completely bloated central office to charges of bullying and cheating and now an enormous budget cut on the horizon - one that looks more and more like it's going to come from the backs of teachers and students - not from administrators.

I think you are correct, Anon - PARENTS and TEACHERS in DeKalb are all pretty much on board together. It's the current leadership who does not have the trust of the people.

Anonymous said...

Heard her visit to Lakeside was interesting. The kids reported that Principal Reed was all over them, trying to keep the poorly dressed ones out of sight, getting lots of teachers out to keep kids under control. Highlight was a group was dressed in period 19th century English costume for a class--one boy in drag. Mr. Reed tried to get him to change clothes before she got there, but the boy refused. Cox did see him during her visit, and found him hilarious--although her amusement was not shared by the principal.

However, she did not change the math program for them. Bummer.

Anonymous said...

There has been some talk about instructional coaches on here. Well, here are some e-mails from one from a south DeKalb high school. This individual previously taught middle school for five years. Now she lords it over high school teachers, most of whom have been teaching for nearly thirty years and have specialist and doctorate degrees. She has a master's.

email #1

Good afternoon teachers,

I have been at it about 3 1/2 hours, and I am happy to report that I have scanned all sections of 9th and 10th grade benchmarks:-). But most importantly, I would like to thank the department for doing a great job of preparing answer sheets for us to scan. It may sound small, but with a task of this caliber, adequately preparing answer sheets for the scanning process, makes a world of difference.

Tomorrow, Mrs. **** and I will finish scanning the documents and get your data to you as soon as possible. We will be using the benchmark item analysis sheet to plan instruction and develop our interventions for students.

Just wanted to give you an update. Thanks for all you do.

*****, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts


Such difficult work for $75K a year standing at a scantron machine!

Anonymous said...

Yes the success of our schoools hinge on the ability to get those scantrons in.

The benchmark tests should be done online, but unfortunately DeKalb doesn't have enough computers for the students to all sit down and take the benchmarks. So teachers have to take valuable classtime and administer the tests.

We have hundreds of employees in Information Systems, but little equipment. Very sad and so wasteful.

Anonymous said...

In this email, the instructional coach at the south DeKalb high school bows out of the required weekly America's Choice brainwashing session so that she can "prepare" for her attendance at the America's Choice Hollywood getaway.


Good afternoon,

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed our collaborative planning session this past Tuesday, and I am looking forward to another one really soon.

Because I will be preparing for a conference next week, we will resume our collaborative planning on Tuesday, February 9th. @ 10:00 AM.

Thanks for all you do!

Mrs *****, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts


Teachers are not allowed to skip one of these weekly meetings for any reason. If absent that day, one-on-one session must occur. Can you spell "hypocrisy"?

Anonymous said...

Kathy Cox is not running for governor.

Anonymous said...

In this email, you see how out of touch the coach is in relation to what teachers have to do. The requirement is for teachers to seek out the coach for the info when the coach could simply have placed the info in the teachers' mailboxes. This particular teacher went to the coach's "office" five times and never found the coach there. The next morning the particular teacher found the data in the mailbox with a nasty note explaining that the instructions were for the particular teacher to obtain the data in the coach's office. A problem with coaches: They think they have a supervisory role and that their position has importance. What do they do? Justify their job by tearing down teachers. DeKalb is a joke.


Good afternoon teachers,

I wanted to ask if you would so kindly stop by Room ** tomorrow during your planning to pick up your benchmark data, so that you will have an opportunity to start thinking about our strategies for reteaching the items/standards students missed on Pretest B.

Your task...
Before next Tuesday's meeting (February 16, 2010), please review your item analysis sheets for each class to determine how you will target instruction based on what students have not mastered. Also, please complete the data talk form attached. This will help us keep our conversations focused and also help guide our thinking process about what students need.

My task...
I will prepare each of you a set of the Unit 2 recommended formative assessment pool selections for learning stations or group work (which ever term you prefer).

Please be thinking of other activities and/or tasks we can use as interventions.

I think we are really on to something good. Thanks for your team work.
Ninth grade ELA is the best!

Mrs ***, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts

Anonymous said...

In this email from the language arts coach, I decry the poor sentence structure. (They are called fragments.)


Good morning,

Just a reminder about our collab meeting @ 10am. Please bring your item analysis and data talk sheets that you received last week.

We will be discussing the outcomes of your data. What students will need to be targeted and how will we target them. Also, what strategies will we implement to do so.

Thanks and see you then.

Mrs ***, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts

Cerebration said...

Tell me she doesn't really use smiley faces.

Anonymous said...

Mrs ***, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts

Hey C Lew, see above, and please fire her first when you make the budget cuts!

I have a Masters, but I was told a long time ago never to be pretentious enough to put it next to your name. A doctorate is one thing, but putting the M.Ed smacks of self importance.

Anonymous said...

Kathy Cox is running for State Superintendent again. I wish she was running for Governor, because she would surely lose.

The power of incumbency is so strong in this country.

Anonymous said...

original poster here. Yes, Cox is running for reelection as State School Superintendent. She is not running for governor. Sorry for the error- mind not working correctly last night.

Anonymous said...

State of the School System Address

The DeKalb County School System
State of the System Address
Presented by Dr. Crawford Lewis, Superintendent

Friday, February 19, 2010
7:30 AM Refreshments
8:00 AM to 9:00 AM Superintendent's Address

Oglethorpe Power Corporation
2100 East Exchange Place
Tucker, Georgia 30085

The event is FREE but RSVP is MANDATORY

Anonymous said...

Re-reading this e-mail makes my blood boil. The instructional supervisors/instructional specialists just assign teachers ridiculous busy work. Scantrons? Whatever! We do not need Gloria Talley's Army of 545 instructional supervisors/instructional specialists. Those positions needs to be cut by 90 percent. If we are going to have any instructional supervisors/instructional specialists, they need to be auditing classes often. Decatur has every principal audit as least one class per day. These instructional supervisors/instructional specialists are incredibly entitled, bossy, condescending, arrogant and disengaged.

I pray that Lewis and the BOE realizes how unimportant Talley's army is, and we put the focus back in the classroom. The army of instructional supervisors/instructional specialists is the first place to make budget cuts. And if it's true that the CEO's office budget rose 10% in the last year, the BOE should be furious. I propose cutting the CEO office budget and staff by 20% as the first budget cut to be made!!


Good afternoon teachers,

I wanted to ask if you would so kindly stop by Room ** tomorrow during your planning to pick up your benchmark data, so that you will have an opportunity to start thinking about our strategies for reteaching the items/standards students missed on Pretest B.

Your task...
Before next Tuesday's meeting (February 16, 2010), please review your item analysis sheets for each class to determine how you will target instruction based on what students have not mastered. Also, please complete the data talk form attached. This will help us keep our conversations focused and also help guide our thinking process about what students need.

My task...
I will prepare each of you a set of the Unit 2 recommended formative assessment pool selections for learning stations or group work (which ever term you prefer).

Please be thinking of other activities and/or tasks we can use as interventions.

I think we are really on to something good. Thanks for your team work.
Ninth grade ELA is the best!

Mrs ***, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts

Cerebration said...

We need clarification on who exactly make up the "instructional specialists" - we've been told that many of these are "specials" teachers like art, PE and music. If so - that's terrific. If not, and these are people who are in place to monitor teachers, then they should be cut long before the teachers. There are 444 people with this job title in the 2009 salary schedule.

"Instructional Supervisors" are such as the writer of these emails. There are 64 people with this job title in the 2009 salary schedule.

Anonymous said...

I aksed my son's teacher about "instructional Supervisors", and she instantly rolled her eyes. The instructional supervisors like to assign busy work like how exactly a bulletin board should look like. The instructional supervisor who has five years of experience talked down to the teacher who has 20 years of experience like the teacher was a five year old. The instructional supervisor likes to assign work but doesn't bring anything to the table for the teacher.

I know all the Montesorri parents are up in arms about budget cuts. before you ask for any kind of property tax increase, implore the BOE to cut the bloat, like the army of instructional supervisors and specialists who add nothing except assigning busy work to our teachers. My son's teacher would also like to be able to use eSIS and her ten year old computer without it locking up once a day.

Anonymous said...

f you data sort the state Salary and Travel Excel spreadsheet for DeKalb (found on the state of Georgia site) you will find 49 Graduation Specialists. I spot checked these specialists by going to DeKalb Schools middle and high school websites. The names I spot checked were called Graduation Coaches in the schools.

I did an AutoSum of their salaries and it totaled to around $2.8 million yearly. Adding benefits in brought the total to around $3.4 million yearly. This was Perdue's baby, but he has cut funding dramatically for these coaches due to the budget crunch.

Anonymous said...

Another email from the instructional coach at a south DeKalb high school. Please note the emphasis of classtime on teaching to the test. Content means nothing to these folk. Only the test means something. We are expected to "remediate" each student for each question the student misses on the worthless benchmark assessments created by the County instructional coaches based on a "pacing guide" that is not followed on the benchmark assessments. Go figure.


Hello all,

Attached are some suggested learning activities for small groups . We've used several of these to assist 11 grade with GHSGT prep. as well. I would suggest using the formative pool (when I get the copies) plus the attached activities for reteaching/interventions before the post test. If you need assistance with setting up your groups or would like a helping hand with monitoring your learning centers, I will be happy to come in and support you with implementation.

The attached learning activities address the following benchmark B standards/elements:
Benchmark question #2 ----------------inference
Benchmark question #3----------------main idea

For future reference, figurative language sort---addresses difference between simile/metaphor.
Personification, allusion, and hyperbole sort cards are also included.

Remember: As you begin creating your groups, please use item analysis data to do so.

That's all I have for now. Thanks for all you do, and thanks for your contributions in today's meeting.

Mrs ****, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts

Cerebration said...

I think graduation coaches are part of the budget cuts. At least beyond what is funded by the state.

Anonymous said...

Here is an example of what the instructional coach at a local south DeKalb high school spends her time creating for the teachers she "helps" to remdiate students who do not understand "inference." Your tax dollars are hard(ly) at work. LOL.


Exercise 3

Blended Families

A new type of family evolved in the last twenty years: the blended family. With divorce common, more families are becoming blended. This means they include children from different marriages into a new family. If Jane’s mom marries Bill’s dad, Jane and Bill become step-siblings and the family becomes a blended family.

While most blended families get along, some blended families face trouble. A child is suddenly forced to allow others into his home and his intimate family. Sometimes, the child has trouble changing. So the child doesn’t get along. Trouble may also occur when a child hasn’t healed from their parents’ divorce. The parent may be ready to move on before the child, so the parent gets married. A child who is still hurt may reject this new family, the new parent and the new brothers and sisters. This problem can be difficult when the parent and the step-parent puts pressure on the child to accept his new family. The adults may feel connected. Still, what reasons does the child have to form ties with people who are strangers? Sometimes parents think their child is hurting them for getting the divorce. Usually, the child is just showing his feelings. Most blended families, however, work hard and eventually appreciate each other.

Short Response
1. What does the author imply about parents? Support your answer with details from the passage.








Anonymous said...

Here is an example of an additional remedial "assessment" teachers are to have ninth graders take if they do poorly on a benchmark assessment in the area of what we used to call reading comprehension.



Assessment Name:___________________/Date:____________

For many years the Chinese and Japanese have practiced the unusual hobby of making tiny trees. This hobby, called bonsai (bon - si), probably began in ancient China to show admiration for trees growing on mountains or cliffs. The gardeners appreciate how these trees have struggled under harsh growing conditions in order to survive. Because of strong wind, poor soil, and the need to root in tiny cracks, full grown trees look small and twisted. Bonsai gardeners try to create trees that look like old twisted trees to honor such determination and will to survive.
To produce these tiny trees, gardeners select a tree, such as an evergreen, maple, larch, or beech. The gardeners put seeds, cuttings, or a very young sapling in a tray made of shallow earthenware. The future tree needs to be placed off-center so that it can be more easily pruned, or trimmed and cut, into an irregular shape.
Once the tree is planted, the gardeners shape it by wrapping branches with wire to force their growth in a certain direction. In this way, the gardeners can make almost any shape they like over time. One branch can spread sideways, for example. Other branches can stay short and close to the dwarf trunk.
Once the tree is established, gardeners must also control the rate of growth. They do this by sometimes re-potting the bonsai. Each time, they skillfully prune just the right roots to reduce growth and produce the tiny, twisted branches.
Fully grown bonsai which would normally be 15 or 20 foot trees, range from barely two inches to an average of two feet. They take at least five years to create. With this much time and care required, it's not surprising that the gardener is proud of the grown bonsai as a work of art. It honors those qualities that have enabled trees in nature to survive by barely hanging on.
Source: University of South Florida. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology. 2005. .
1. What would be a good title to this passage?
A. “Planting a Bonsai Tree”
B. “The Art of Bonsai”
C. “How to Shape a Bonsai”
D. “Five Years From Beginning to End”
2. How do gardeners control how fast a bonsai tree will grow?
A. By planting seeds and watering young saplings.
B. By planting the tree off-center in a shallow tray.
C. By planting cuttings and wrapping the branches with wire.
D. By planting the tree in different pots and trimming the roots.

3. Why does the gardener plant the bonsai tree off-center in a shallow tray?
A. Because it is easier to create an irregular shape.
B. Because the containers have wire in the middle.
C. Because the containers have cracks in the middle.
D. Because it is closer to the side and easier to water.
4. What method of organization is used to support the main idea of this passage?
A. Comparison and contrast
B. Cause and effect
C. Chronological order
D. Bulleted lists

5. Describe how and why the hobby of bonsai started and what characteristics of the bonsai are emphasized by this hobby. Use details and information from the article to explain your answer








Anonymous said...

Here is an email from an America's Choice functionary who was called to a south DeKalb high school to meet with the 9th grade teachers who are being forced to teach America's Choice instead of "real" English to the students. Please note the robotic nature of the functionary's intent to have the teachers perform rote instruction and the incredibly false happy tone of the email. I was at the meeting and can assure you that it was 1 hour and 15 minutes of heated argument between the America's Choice functionary (with the instructional coach in cahoots) and the English teachers who detest the America's Choice indoctrination. DON'T WASTE MY TIME. We were actually told to "teach the children how to think like testmakers."


Just wanted to follow-up after the QC collaborative planning last Tuesday. I appreciate your willingness to meet weekly to plan collaborativley for students to be successful! I encourage you to follow what Ms. *** [a teacher] is modeling in using the benchmark class profile to plan targeted instruction. I know that [the instructional coach given as a first name] has given you the data and will be happy to help you develop the class profiles. Now you will have the actual information about what your students know and can do and will be able to select specific strategies from the Educator's Toolbox to promote learning. Remember that the daily student work from the strategies will help you sort students who know the standard and students you will need to reteach or pull in a small group during the work period. Also, I encourage to remember that QC is about students interacting to construct knowledge so, please reduce your time talking to them to increase time in the work period for them working and your monitoring their progress. I know that Ms. ** and Ms. ** [both teachers, one a special education inclusion teacher] have made that shift as well - you may want to observe their class - students are working to construct knowledge!

Let me know how I can support you making this shift. thanks, [America's Choice functionary given as a first name]


Note how the America's Choice ladies are listed by first name, but the south DeKalb high school's English teachers are listed by their last names. I feel so warm when I'm with the America's Choice robots -- NOT.

themommy said...

I think DeKalb choose to keep funding the graduation coaches at all schools.

I know that some are very good. At our high school, we had one that was great but she left. I didn't even realize that we still have one until recently.

I have a senior. What is she doing?

Cerebration said...

I don't follow that example for teaching inference - in fact, I probably can't make an inference about the parents using the information in that passage. My child had a lot of trouble with inference - so I'm familiar.

Here's a good website with lessons for teaching inference -


Teaching inferential reading (which directly correlates to comprehension) needs to be done with direct instruction. The teacher must take the time to talk about inference and drawing upon prior knowledge to make conclusions and inferences. Then the teacher must help students take apart the passage to find out what inferences can be made while reading out loud. It's complex but direct instruction. Students who have trouble with inference will not improve by quietly reading passages on their own and writing their "inferences". That simply won't work - believe me. When we sent our child to a private school that specialized in LD, they properly and directly taught these kinds of things and we watched our child's reading ability and comprehension improve dramatically. For example, the teacher spent about 2 months analyzing the story line and characters in "Walk Two Moons". The idea is to provide direct instruction that goes deep into a topic. It works.

Anonymous said...

Below are three emails sent by an America's Choice employee to teachers. I won't name names, but I will say she is most unpleasant to deal with. She is rude and condescending to teachers and is, in fact, a former DeKalb employee, who drank the Kool-Aid and joined America's Choice.

There is no discourse with this woman. It's like George Bush's "You're either with us or against us." I dared challenge some of the requirement of AC curriculum and was told I wasn't standards based (the implication being I'm a bad teacher). She doesn't follow through on things she says she'll do that are necessary for teachers to "implement the program with fidelity," and then criticizes teachers for not doing x,y, or z.

I am a good teacher. Teachers, students, and administrators will tell you that. I love my students and I actually, until this year, enjoyed teaching 9th graders. Many high school teachers avoid 9th graders and the, um, special challenges they bring to the classroom. America's Choice has sucked the joy out of my teaching. Instead of being allowed to do what I do well, I'm told that because I dare disagree with America's Choice, I must be a bad teacher. I will be requesting that I do not teach 9th grade next year.

I paste these emails below because I want readers of this blog to see what their tax dollars have purchased-a former "literacy" coach incapable of composing a coherent email.

1."Hello, ELA Coaches and QC Teachers,
One expectation for second semester QC ELA implementation is to determine what performance assessment are being used and are working, we want to know to what degree student work reflects rigor and the level of use of ACT Formative Item Pool. So, for Unit 1 that you have recently completed , will you collect 3 papers from each QC teacher at you school that represent "best work" on the end-of-unit writing, "LIfe at the Crossroads" to bring to the Coaches' meeting on the 19th OR email me and I will come by to pick up? Danquel, will you collect any papers on the 19th? We will use these to determine what students can do and still need to learn. Also, will you ask which QC teachers used the suggested Formative Item Pool questions that the coaches aligned to Unit 1 district prebenchmark and determine if scores improved?
thanks so much *****"

2. "Hello!
please find attached the final draft of the second semester RUAL modified plan - this is a target, not an absolute! we wanted to make sure teachers had information they needed and a roadmap to plan for second semester. Unit 4 teacher lesson plans will arrive February 22 and we will make sure you receive. As you look at the rationale on the document, notice some planning issues we need to talk about today to determine how we will proceed: access to the Romeo and Juliet text for 2 weeks, access to copy of the video of R&J, copies of poems for the poetry section of unit 4. Also, we know teachers begin to get nervous now - "am I really preparing students for EOCT..." and may want to interject other things in the curriculum,....so, we want to address that: see in Unit 3 work on EOCT-type questions, a "mock test", and then in UNit 4, Shakespeare and Poetry, the daily vocabulary, weekly vocabulary tests, reading comprehension tests, and writing will address specifically the 4 EOCT domains.

we will ask for your "coaching" help in making sure teachers have access to texts and then in offering suggestions for EOCT vocabulary, EOCT-type questions and writing tasks.
(note: ***** teachers, I included you on email for information only - not extra work!)
thanks *****"

3. "Will talk with u we'd when I am there
Thanks ****"

Anonymous said...

While we're on the subject of bloat, let's not forget the millions invested in "Parent Centers" at select school sites. These are effectively off-site Central Office bloat cushy jobs. Look at the staffing levels and hours, then look at the actual number of parents who use them. The district would be better off tutoring the very few parents who ever used them on an individual basis rather than keeping these fully staffed and resourced drains wide open sucking money that could be used to help the children.

Anonymous said...

THNAK YOU DCSS TEACHERS for letting us see the inane e-mails from the America's Choice people and DCSS instructional specialists and supervisors. I would leave at the end of the year too if I was a teacher and had to put up with such nonsense.

I'd love to see some DCSS teachers record audio from groups meetings with AC staff and instructional staff. The e-mails are bad enough, but us parents would love to actually hear the nonsense.

Every single instructional specialists and supervisors needs to get back in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post by Anon 6:45 PM!!!

Parent Centers definitely need to be axed in the budget cuts. When the economy is great and property tax revenue is pouring in, then yes, Parent Centers are a nice luxury. But with the budget at crisis status, bam, they are an easy cut.

It's problematic that there are no metrics to measure the effectiveness of parent centers. As the great Ernest Brown always asked, where is DCSS' ROI - Return on Investment?

Every salaried position related to parent centers needs to be eliminated. The former staff can apply for teaching jobs, but they should not be guaranteed a job. The cuts are going to be harsh, but parent centers are just like instructional supervisors & specialists: We can no longer afford them, especially when the ROI is very questionable.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 4:18 pm

I'm truly sorry you have to be subjected to such poor educational practices.

Am I the only one to notice that the following passage from the grammar exercise created by this instructional coach has a subject verb disagreement?

"This problem can be difficult when the parent and the step-parent puts pressure on the child to accept his new family."

The compound subject is formed by the words "the parent" and "the step-parent". The verb puts is singular.

"When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb." (source: Purdue University Online Writing Lab http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/599/01/)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:31 pm

I think you or someone should send this email or its contents to Audria Berry, Executive Director of School Improvement - audria_berry@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

I believe Dr. Berry is over America's Choice.

The only good thing I can say is that this person has moved on and is not teaching DeKalb County children.

The "stream of conscious" edu-babble is almost beyond belief. I was embarrassed for her poor grammar use - run on sentences, little use of capital letters to begin sentences, etc.

She either doesn't know how to write a proper sentence or she does not respect her customers enough to use proper grammar.

It's mind boggling that DeKalb County taxpayers paid $8,000,000 for this system, and we're on the hook for millions more in the salaries and benefits of the personnel that are administering this system.

Anonymous said...

Now you see why I said Title 1 funding decisions made at the Central Office have a real disconnect with the classroom. More Title 1 funding decisions need to be made at the local school level by teachers and principals and less at the Central Office level. Those millions of Title 1 dollars are supposed to level the playing field for students in low income schools. Teachers need to be involved in the decision making process of Title 1 expenditures, a situation that is not happening in DeKalb Schools.

Anonymous said...

We don't have to accept Title 1 funding. Crawford will never admit it, because he does every thing possible to bring in money so he can contiue to build an army of blind loyalist. But we send more money on ridiculous expenses realted to Title 1 and CRCT than we would if we brought the focus back on the classroom and solid teaching techniques. We can opt out of NCLB and Title 1. Heck, Crawford and Marcus Turk could go to jail if the Feds ever invesitgated how overly inflated over FRL's are that bring in Title 1 dollars. We are in fact cheating the system. DCSS administrators have actually coached parents what to put down on the FRL applications.

Anonymous said...

That's so sad because kids in Title 1 schools really could use the additional funds. Teachers should be making most of the decisions about Title 1 funds since they know their classrooms' needs.

It is heartbreaking to read the missives from the instructional coaches and the semi-literate email from the America's Choice representative. And to think we spent $8,000,000 on this program and are spending millions more a year in salary and benefits to run it.

I feel so sorry for the teachers. I would have hated to teach like that - using grammar scripts that don't even have correct grammar. Teachers can at least go to another county to teach. But the kids are stuck with this lemon of a program. They can't get out the situation we put them in.

Taxpayers need to pay attention, write those BOE members, re-elect new ones if these aren't responsive. Lewis is not doing a very good job. He really needs to retire.

Anonymous said...

I taught in DeKalb a while back. I never had an issue with the Science Coordinators - they knew who I was and they were always pretty supportive. But after Marion Reeves (who was awesome) left, there seemed to be a lot of turnover.

The graduation coach in our building was excellent, better than our counselors (our school's counselors were not well-regarded among the faculty), almost like a social worker in some ways, which many students needed.

Instructional supervisors - now, I had a few people come through who had checklists - you don't have x y or z on your bulletin board....you don't have a word wall (an elementary school concept) on your high school wall...you don't have bell to bell instruction if you have your students clean up after the lab...that child is reading, you should have something better for her to do when she's finished with her work. Really. Useless people. Who never taught science...haven't taught in ages...and grade teachers on a checklist.

Dirty secret - it only aggravates teachers. If you look at an annual eval form for a teacher there are two grades possible: 1) Needs improvement (which requires a ton of documentation) 2) Satisfactory (which requires a simple signature from teacher and supervisor). No grade for excellent, although that always came out in the remarks. Look hard at a school, you won't find schools booting bad teachers because the bar is set kinda low. So if you know that your borderline NI, best get your M.Ed or Ph.D and move up to the county level because teaching is not your bag.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 10:27 PM

I completely concur! What will it take to get someone in authority from the state or the federal government to investigate the financial irregularities going on in DCSS. Where are our elected representatives? Brad Bryant? Mike Jacobs? Fran Millar? Jill Chambers? Dan Weber? Do they not read the newspapers? Perhaps they all need to be replaced when they run for re-election -- just like the DCSS BOE members must be replaced. It's not just misusing Title I funds and encouraging/ overlooking fraudulent sign-ups for Free-or-Reduced Price Lunches/ Breakfasts. Something very, very wrong is going on with "vanishing" Per-Pupil funding that cannot be accounted for. Class action suit, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Parent Centers have a proven track record across the country as being an effective tool in school reform. I can't attest to how they are or aren't working in DeKalb, but know that the idea wasn't a bad one. As always with DeKalb the devil is in the details. They are funded with Title 1 dollars.

Keep in mind that Title 1 dollars can't be use to supplant local dollars. So, if a kindergarten class has earned a para, then that para must be paid for with local dollars. If the para is "unearned" then Title 1 dollar may be used. I know of a Title 1 school that has more K paras this year than K classes.

A few years ago DCSS had to return one million dollars to the Feds for unused Title 1 dollars. Dr. Lewis acted furious but no one lost their job. I suspect it hasn't happened again but I don't think that was the first time it had happened.

Finally, DeKalb can't opt out of Title 1 and NCLB. The state could but didn't and won't especially in these trying economic times.

Anonymous said...

"Parent Centers have a proven track record across the country as being an effective tool in school reform."

That may be true, even though I'd like to see a metric to measure their effectiveness here, but the reality is a parents center is a luxury. Even if title 1 funds are used for some or most of the costs, it doesn't cover everything, like benefits, supplies, etc.

Ya wanna cut millions from DCSS:
No parent centers
No take home cars for administrators
No more 545 instructional specialists
No more Executive Directors of Corporate Wellness
Contract out many services like HVAC, grounds maintenance, custodial, etc.
No more ridiculous expenditures like $300,000 for BOE TV lights, $300,000 to redo the fine condition Mountain Industrial complex parking lot, etc., etc., etc.

Anonymous said...

If you are upset that only half of our personnel actually teach students, I urge you to write every BOE member.

Cerebration has a link on this blog just above the Recent Comment section (front page of the blog) that allows you to write one email that will reach all BOE members.

Quote them the information posted on the Dekalb Website Fast Facts page:
Employees Total 13,842
Teachers, Media Specialists and Counselors 53.1%
Support Personnel 42.3%; Administrators 4.6%

Here is the address to see these numbers:

Letting the BOE know how you feel with an email is very effective. I wrote all of them and I've heard back from 3 of them already.

Anonymous said...

Here is the latest email from an instructional coach at a south DeKalb high school. As I understand it, she is supposed to be going into classrooms and assisting teachers in implementing America's Choice strategies. Instead, she lords it over the English teachers as if she were their supervisor and deals almost exclusively with "data" talks that amount to little less than nothing but her sitting there and mouthing the various nonsensical America's Choice acronyms.


Good afternoon 9th grade teachers,

Now that we all have our benchmark data and have had an opportunity to review each class, Tuesday's meeting will focus on having our data talks and additional interventions you will implement prior to Posttest B.

Please bring the following resources to the meeting:
Item analysis sheets
Completed data talk sheets (with student names included)
Please be prepared to share ways you have used your data to form your small groups since our last meeting.
Bring suggested activities and/or tasks to target standards and elements

I will have formative item pool selections.
I will also bring suggested unit plan for Unit 3 - Shakespeare, so that we can begin thinking about our plans for the upcoming unit.

Have a great weekend; I will see everyone next week.

Mrs ***, M.Ed.
DCSS Office of School Improvement
Instructional Coach-English language arts


Oh, yes, and her great idea for teaching ROMEO AND JULIET is to use the "jigsaw" method in which students are divided into groups with one group being responsible for one scene and other groups responsible for the other scenes. They then "put the pieces together" when they share what each scene is all about. What ignorance! How can you truly comprehend what the second scene is without having read the first? There is no hope for DeKalb County Schools!

Anonymous said...


PLEASE act on this. Crawford and crowd, especially Talley, are in the midst of royally screwing up DeKalb schools before the end of the year when she gets gone FINALLY. For instance, these instructional coaches that people have been writing about and posting email from, well, they are NOT going to be cut. Who IS going to be cut? The instructional COORDINATORS, you know, Coordinator for Math, Coordinator for World Languages, Coordinator for Language Arts, etc. Can you believe that? Individuals who ACTUALLY do something of worth at the County Office are being flushed while these loser nobodies like the instructional coach who sends out email after email about "data" will be kept. It is insane that anyone thinks a person with a Master's Degree and who has taught less than five years at the middle school level is of any consequence to pass judgment on high school teachers who have been teaching nearly three decades and have doctorates, not in education, but in content areas!

PLEASE contact the politicians. PLEASE contact WSB-TV and other media outlets. Let your voice be heard! PLEASE, PLEASE help the teachers take back the school system from these idiotic, venal administrators.

Oh, and, by the way, word on the street is that Talley's successor will either be Audria Berry, the person in charge of the instructional coaches, or Gwen Bouie, who, pardon my harshness, has not one clue about instruction, well, about much of anything except herself and her own needs.

God, PLEASE help us!

Anonymous said...

I taught for 30 years in DeKalb. Wwe had better scores when we only had 4 coordinators for the content areas (and we weren't that much smaller) - Language Arts coordinator, Science coordinator, Math co-ordinator, and Social Studies coordinator.

There was a lot less paper work/busy work for teachers and the Central Office administration wasn't always looking for multi-million dollar programs to fund. We're facing a higher pupil teacher ratio than I've ever seen and that includes when I started teaching in 1970. It appears we are going backwards in high gear.

We are too top heavy in Central Office employees as well as every other support area. Only 50% of our personnel actually teach students. As for instructional coaches, I think they should be done away with entirely - something I don't think any of DeKalb's teachers will dispute.

We need "boots on the ground" - that means personnel in the classroom teaching our kids.

Every parent should mail your BOE members - ask that the Central Office slims down and that the instructional coach positions become classroom teaching positions.

Has anyone even read some of the inane and insulting emails (see above on this blog) sent to our veteran teachers? It's like they're tying teachers hands who want to work with kids.