Saturday, May 1, 2010

Georgia lawmakers latest results for education



Our legislature has concluded their session for this year. Often, this is a relief to me, as I see many of their actions as a bit frightening (witness the relaxing of concealed weapons law that nearly passed!) Our State PTA does an excellent job lobbying, tracking and reporting on legislation relating to education. (Your PTA dues in action!) They say that although the session has ended, "It may be several days, mid week next, before the House Clerk and the Secretary of the Senate will have final information available."  So, until the governor signs off, these bills are not officially laws.

Some highlights—

From the information in the oral reports, the Education budget has $500 million plus added to the austerity cut, bringing that total hit to about $1.4 billion in next year’s budget.

  • School nurse funding was cut an additional $750,000 (total $2.3M) on top of the cuts proposed by the House ($1.6M)
  • Governor’s Honors Program, agreed with House version to reduce program to four weeks this summer but eliminated all funding for the summer of 2011
  • Restored funding for CRCT testing in 1st and 2nd grade and for ITBS and PSATs

HB 23-Drivers causing an accident while using specified wireless devices shall have stronger penalties than those not using such devices. Drivers under age 18 cannot use a cell phone nor text message while driving. Exceptions are made for driver emergencies, reporting an accident or criminal activity, or using while parked. Penalty is 1 point on the drivers license and/or a fine of $150.

SB 308, the gun bill, was passed in the House in a much different form from the Senate. Hopefully, it will never get passed. It does away with the 1000 foot school safety zone. So, guns can be banned from the building, but not the school parking lot.

The teacher groups were calling out the troops to oppose the governor’s plan to have a uniform evaluation instrument and to include student achievement scores as a part of the evaluation. This provision had been added to SB 521 which deals with more funding for the high school if a student takes a post secondary course on the high school campus. To preserve the funding proposal, the author amended it to a teacher scholarship bill that passed both chambers in different forms in 2009 but was never reconciled. Whether the evaluation instrument requirement will survive in SB 521 or be amended to another bill remains to be seen.

SB 340: Every year, local school systems and private schools must transmit to GA School Finance Commission an electronic transcript of courses and grades for each freshman, sophomore and junior high school student, grading scales used in the school, state required test scores for the purpose of calculating the GPA for potential HOPE scholarships. Currently, only the seniors’ records must be sent. Now you’ll know if you’re child is eligible for HOPE.

SB 496: Creates a new HOPE college opportunity grant for students from low income families if money appropriated from the lottery. Has all the requirements of the current HOPE scholarship except for the B average. About 97% of those receiving PELL grants have family incomes of less than $40,000; 80% have family incomes of less than $30,000. GA Student Finance Commission will administer the program, and use the PELL grant process as a basis for evaluating students. As with the other HOPE, students must be a graduate from a GA high school and a legal resident for 12 months, or if not a graduate from a GA high school, they must be a resident for 24 months.

HB 1013 - Local school boards must publish an annual summary of their SPLOST finances showing each project, original estimated costs, current estimated costs, amount expended last year and in the current year.

HB 400- Fran Millar's BRIDGE, Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy Act finally appears to have passed into law. Individual Graduation Plan is required for all students, created in grade 8 and reviewed annually with the student in high school. The career education program needs to be offered only in low performing schools which graduate less than 60% and receive a state funded grant. If student still does not earn a high school diploma, any industry certification the student earns will be considered in a requested waiver to the SBOE for a high school diploma. This version is permissive on local schools, a good thing in a year when neither the state nor the local schools have discretionary funds for new programs. The State Board of Education has adopted new curriculum and graduation requirements that remove the distinction between college preparatory and career readiness diplomas, increase the requirements for math and science for all students and have very few electives slots available for the student. The Individual Graduation Plan will be a lot of work but may be very beneficial in tracking every student’s achievement in attaining graduation credits.

Another bill sponsored by Millar, Kathy Ashe and others, along with Dunwoody rep, Dan Weber in the Senate, seems to have passed into law allows a "cluster", consisting of a high school and it's feeder schools, to apply for charter status if approved by voters in a referendum. This could be a game-changer for DeKalb schools as clusters such as Dunwoody, Tucker and others could effectively insulate themselves somewhat from the board and administration. Do you think that creating charter clusters would be beneficial? What do you think will be the benefits and/or ill effects of this law?  Here it is:

SB457 - "A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Code Section 20-2-2064 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to approval or denial of charter petitions, so as to provide that a local board of education may act on a petition for a conversion charter school for a high school cluster if approved by a majority of the qualified voters in a referendum; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes."

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Many thanks to the Georgia PTA for their hard work and excellent reporting.

For additional information, go to Capitol Watch on the Georgia PTA website: www.ciclt.net/gapta

Karen Hallacy
GA PTA
2nd Vice President

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I woldn't blame Dunwody one bit if they want to form a "cluster" and get away a little from the massively bloated DCSS Central Office. I wouldn't be surprised if Dunwoody leaves Dekalb if Milton County is reformed, as the DeKalb County Gov't is just as bloated as the county school system.

Ella Smith said...

I am not totally opposed to merit pay. However, it needs a great deal of studying and needs reviewed with educational committees. Lawmakers are not educators and really should ask for guidance from educators. I am opposed to it without input from educators.

The truth is that our government has continued to put money into our schools without getting returns for the money put in. Most of the money has been put in the following catergories:
Title One
Breakfasts
Special Education
Transportation
Smaller class sizes-however the research indicated that classes need to be a class size of 15-16 to really make a difference and the government cannot afford this

Interesting enough the research does not show that the smaller class sizes have made a difference in test scores and this is the basis for class sizes getting larger again. These decisions are based on data.

Now I do not want larger class sizes. I am opposed to larger class sizes. However, the state legislature can actually back up the decisions they are making. This is the only point I am making here. The decision for class sizes is made by the legislative body and the school board members then have to base their formula for teachers on that class size set by the state.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

Please state your sources that say class size does not impact achievement.

Look at these articles from:

American Educational Research Journal:
"The results are definitive: (a) a significant benefit accrues to students in reduced-size classes in both subject areas and (b) there is evidence that minority students in particular benefit from the smaller class environment, especially when curriculum-based tests are used as the learning criteria."

http://aer.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/3/557

Peabody Journal of Education:
"This book synthesizes research evidence to demonstrate that 1) class size is strongly related to pupil achievement; 2) smaller classes are more conducive to improved pupil performance than larger classes; 3) smaller classes provide more opportunities to adapt learning programs to individual needs; 4) pupils in smaller classes have more interest in learning; and 5) teacher morale in smaller classes is better. The authors suggest that smaller classes improve pupil achievement because they allow teachers to spend more time with individual students, and smaller classes lead to increased student attention."

http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED217111&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED217111

Setting aside the educational jargon your administrative classes have inculcated into your curriculum (I went through all that too), as a teacher of many years, can you honestly say class size does not matter to your students who are having difficulty mastering basic skills or content? Do you have special education classes of 35? If class size does not matter, why don't you have huge classes? Let's fill our remedial reading and math classes and special education classes with 35 students a class.

Class size matters little for students who have no learning difficulties. For example, my daughter was in Briarlake ES Kindergarten and 1st grade classes of 31 students in the 1980's. She came into Kindergarten ready to learn, read fluently by 1st grade and was able to excel - always 99 percentile in every ITBS measure. Her friends who were able to read and learn on their own were fine as well. However, her friends who had learning problems suffered and suffer to this day (20 years later). Those huge classes shaped their lives.

Any teacher knows class size makes a difference in students who need attention to help them keep up with the other students.

I taught for 30 years (regular ed and gifted), and I know class size makes a difference. It's simple mathematics. 6 hours in an instructional day divided by 33 students or 6 hours in an instructional day divided by 23 students. Which classroom day has more minutes per student?

Teachers - weigh in here. Parents who have children that need extra attention - weigh in as well - do you want your children in classes of 35 or 23?

Cerebration said...

"research indicated that classes need to be a class size of 15-16 to really make a difference and the government cannot afford this"

What if we could? Why can't we? 97,000 / 15 = 6,466 teachers. We already have over 7,000 - PLUS another nearly 7,000 "other" employees. What if we reduced class sizes to 12-16??? I think that really would have an effect on education for sure. And - we might need to reopen some of those closed buildings because this kind of plan requires more classroom space.

So many children today need so much more than a teacher. We need to revisit the basic way we educate. What if classes were small and intimate? What if they functioned more or less like families? What if you had the same core group of teachers for the first three years of schooling? What if you - a child with a lot of needs - had this kind of attention during critical years of learning?

In Ohio, they are training parents with a program called Ohio Reads - parent volunteers are trained in teaching struggling students to read better. They come in and work one on one with their assigned student 2 or 3 times a week. It seems to be making a difference for those who struggle. Early reading and early attention is the key to a quality life.

Square Peg said...

The state sets maximum class sizes, but the districts decide how close to the maximum they want to go when allocating points.

I downloaded Gwinnett's proposed 2011 budget. Their proposed student/teacher ratios for regular classrooms for 2010-2011 are approximately what Dekalb's were for 2009-2010. Dekalb plans to increase by 2 more students per regular classroom teacher in 2010-2011.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
Excellent post.

Why is it that parent/taxpayers settle for so little? Why not demand more resources go into the classrooms rather than admin and support? DCSS has it upside down. There is money there. It is just not spent on students. Look at Decatur City Schools. They have a budgetary surplus, a large percentage of low income students, and wonderful test scores. Compare their admin and support numbers and compensation percentages to DCSS.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:31 pm

100% agree!
Thank you.

Of course class size matters. Anyone who has ever planed for taught and graded a class understands this. There is only so much time in a day and in a class period. That time has to be divided among the students a teacher is responsible for. The more students, the less individual time and attention each one can possibly receive.

Interesting article form ed week on the topic:

"Tennessee researchers found that poor and African-American students appeared to reap the greatest learning gains in smaller classes."

http://www.edweek.org/rc/issues/class-size/

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:11 am

All the studies I read say class size matters most to students who are low performing - well, isn't that always the case? If that weren't why not pack 35 into a special education class? Why not put 35 into a remedial reading class? How about 35 in an ESOL class? If the state has such excellent research on class size doesn't matter, why would they set limits on these special classes. They even limit gifted classes to 17 (or is it 18 now)? They could save twice the money they spend on gifted if they went to 36 students per gifted class. And our whole educational budget would be balance if our special education and remedial math and reading students special classes had 35 in each class. The lions share of teaching personnel dollars go to special education teachers because they have such small classes.

The state can't have it both ways. They can't say class size doesn't matter and then cap the class sizes of these special needs groups. Most of these special needs groups spend part or much of their day in regular education classes. What happens when they are in the regular education classroom? Is that where class size doesn't matter?

The state legislature is trying to cut the budget just like Ms. Tyson is trying to cut the budget. Adding more students to every regular ed classroom is an easy way to do this with no thoughtful analysis. Don't you think there might be a "tiny" bit of bias in their use of studies that show class size doesn't matter. I can cite numerous studies that says it does - most particularly for those students who have special needs.

Ella Smith said...

The Class Size Debate by Alan B. Krueger, Lawrence Mishel, Jennifer King Rice is a good book to read on the topic as it is a debate all through the book. Highly qualified teachers is by far the most important tool to students’ achievement.

There actually is plenty of research indicating that effective teaching is much more critical than class size. In fact, the Tennessee STAR study, considered one of the most trustworthy pieces of research on the benefits of lower class size, found that good teaching was more than twice as important as class size when examining measurable student learning.

However, as a teacher I am hard pressed to think of a research design, however, that will accurately measure other important things that emerge when considering class size. How do we put a number on the value of personal attention, more chances to get feedback on your writing--or three kids in your reading group instead of six? How do we measure the effect of custom-tailored, differentiated learning made possible by smaller numbers of students? However, even something as simple as more time for parent conferences is extremely important to students’ achievement. While it is true that a top-notch teacher will adapt to almost any conditions, should not we consider reasonable class sizes an investment in children.

On the other hand look at all the money put into Title I schools. Are we seeing an investment for our dollars spent? Are the test scores going up in those schools? These schools have very small classes. These schools have extra materials. These schools have extra lead teachers. Do we have any accountability for the tax dollars spent at these schools? Are test results or students achievement scores going up? This is where the problem lies in itself. The federal government for instance in 2008 spent approximately $13,898,875.00 and still on the federal website the percentage gain since 2007 is pending. This data has not been posted. The federal government has been throwing tons of money into Title I schools without seeing results since 2007. This is why we are going to start to see changes in governmental policies and we are going to see merit pay become a reality. Even through I have all kinds of negative feelings about merit pay. In many ways, I am totally opposed to merit pay and in other ways having taken classes the last year in Administration and Leadership I can see some benefit in merit pay if handled correctly with input from all stakeholders involved. I cannot see government officials wanting to continuing to pour tons of money into a system to improve test scores or students’ achievement and not see the improvement in the students’ achievement over a number of years. The government wants to see results for the extra money they spend in Title I schools and they want to see improvement in all public schools. I am sure most taxpayers want to see improved student achievement for all the Title I money that the federal government is spending.

Ella Smith said...

Regarding Annoymous 6:54 statement about Dunwoody starting their own school system

That would be interesting. Milton used to be a county itself and I actually work in the old Milton county. There is a great deal of conflict regarding the percentage of tax dollars that come from the northside of Fulton. Milton would be a very rich county and school district if this did happen. However, Sandy Springs would continue to be a part of the county school system. To pull into your own school district is very exprensive and most cities like Sandy Springs do not do this. However, the Dunwoody city and Dekalb County have so much bad blood we could see anything. However, pulling away from the school system is totally different than pulling away from with the city government. You do not see this as frequently anymore.

Anonymous said...

I thought it took a constitutional amendment in Georgia to establish a new school system since voters added a constitutional amendment many years ago against starting any more school systems. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Class size does not matter?

Why am I paying $20 000 a year for my child to be at The Lovett School where Lovett says class size matter?

With a larger class size homogeneity is lost...causing instruction to go all over the park in term of accessibility.

Anonymous said...

Here's the GA constitution on establishing new school systems:

http://law.justia.com/georgia/constitution/conart8.html

SECTION V.

LOCAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Paragraph I. School systems continued; consolidation of school systems authorized; new independent school systems prohibited. Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits. Existing county and independent school systems shall be continued, except that the General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more county school systems, independent school systems, portions thereof, or any combination thereof into a single county or area school system under the control and management of a county or area board of education, under such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe; but no such consolidation shall become effective until approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each separate school system proposed to be consolidated. No independent school system shall hereafter be established.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Interesting note: Dunwoody Springs Elementary, which is a charter school in Fulton County, just made the decision not to renew their charter. They basically said that the flexibility the charter gave them earlier they can now get from Fulton County Schools.

Dunwoody could only get control of their schools by either leaving DeKalb County, something even Fran Millar indicated would probably not happen or getting State law re-written. Neither of those are likely to happen, though in this political climate, I would not be surprised to see someone try to amend state law.

Anonymous said...

One interesting thing about the "dunwoody" movement -- the more ineptitude/scandal that comes out of the county level, the easier it is for the Dunwoody movement to get what they want from the state legislature.

First, the Dekalb County Commission made the huge mistake of announcing that they would penalize north Dekalb County by not doing any capital improvements in North Dekalb because the North Dekalb commissioners had voted against using the tax for capital improvements (because the voters had been promised the tax would be used to offset property taxes). The very next legislative session: permission for Dunwoody residents to vote on incorporation.

Next, after years of negotiations between Dunwoody and Dekalb County over the price to be paid by Dunwoody for Dekalb parks within the city limits, no progress had been made. Then, a jury found that Dekalb County and Vernon Jones had discriminated against white employees in the parks department. The very next legislative session: legislation is passed giving Dunwoody the parks for a nominal fee PLUS a requirement that the county turn over moneys still on hand from the parks bond that should have gone to improve Brook Run but were never spent.

My prediction: all of the current scandals going on at DCSS will result in the creation of a separate Dunwoody school system during the next legislative session. This is great news for the students of Dunwoody. It is unfortunate that the other unincorporated areas of Dekalb have not come together to achieve similar victories for their neighborhoods.

Cerebration said...

Well, if the condition of the roads in Dunwoody is any indication of what could happen to the schools, then I can see why they are trying to proactively break away. Over here in the Lakeside cluster - we have little recourse. We just continue to watch our building crumble while the system creates gorgeous new special facilities like Arabia - and cram more and more transfers into Lakeside (where we don't require essays, test scores, or uniforms). Now we have 21 trailers covering our tennis courts and over 1700 students in a building built for 1300. The traffic congestion is outrageous. We do have architectural plans for construction - but nary a shovel of dirt has been turned. Judging from the snail's pace and minimal work being done at Cross Keys (the ONLY high school not even scheduled to receive an auditorium) - I am not encouraged that Lakeside will be looking bright and beautiful very soon. If breaking away could get our projects started, I would personally lead the effort.

themommy said...

The Constitution has to be changed for any new system (not just Dunwoody) to be formed in Georgia. This includes Milton as well.

(The strongest advocates for Milton County have suggested raising private funds to pay two counties to merge, which I guess would then permit them to become a new county.

In GA, a Constitutional amendment has to be first passed by each House with a 2/3rds vote and then by a majority of voters in a General Election.

I believe that Jan Jones pushes the Milton County legislation even though she knows that state wide approval is unlikely. To many voters across the state will be concerned about what happens in their backyard to vote to open the door.

I do think that the threat of a city of Dunwoody school system is a great tool to use to get parents on the southside fired up about perceived inequities.

Ella Smith said...

I also have heard that North Fulton is working on Milton as a county again. I have heard this will be the first change. I actually heard a radio station talking about it this spring on my way to work.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Dunwoody. It appears that Dunwoody did not win their first battle according to the newspapers. I am sure they will continue to fight for what they feel is right.

Actually Fulton County School System is filing for a Charter School System so if passed this school will be part of a charter system.

Anonymous said...

Cere-- your cluster DOES have recourse. You can form your own city as well. Several years ago everyone thought dunwoody would never happen either.

Personally I think the mismanagement at the DCSS level is finally getting to the point where people are starting to get fed up. Even people outside the system don't like what is going on and the arrogant attitude shown by the people in charge of it -- and this is going to make it easier for folks like the dunwoody movement to achieve support outside of their borders.

Ella, I am not sure what you mean by dunwoody losing its first fight.They were successful in their litigation against the county with regard to taxes -- and they were also successful in achieving a legislative solution to the problems created by the county's unwillingness to transfer ownership of the parks in the city limits.

Anonymous said...

Regarding title 1 money not helping schools improve:

Title 1 money is not being spent on students. It is being spent on corporate programs/ products that teachers do not want or need.

For example
At our school, Title 1 $ was used to buy palm pilots for the department chairs to do classroom observations with. (I want to be clear, this was NOT at the request of the department chairs). The observations were "check box" type walk throughs. Not helpful to anyone (teacher or observer). The "data" was then uploaded to somewhere, never to be seen again. Waste of money and teacher time. No benefit to students.
There are many more first hand examples of this sort of thing.
Don't say title 1 funds get no results. Rather, say they are being misused.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 1:27: "Ella, I don't know what you mean by Dunwoody losing its first battle ..."

I think she may mean the case of HOST:

Host Rulling Goes in DeKalb's Favor

Anonymous said...

From the AJC on April 30 and April 22:
HB 908 is a budget-related bill that would allow school systems to expand class sizes over the next three years to save money.
It also eases restrictions on how systems spend money on some instructional programs, media centers and professional development.
Just in case it was not apparent to everyone, the libraries will possibly have no money for books,online resources, magazines or newspapers for up to 3 years. We hope that the county will send some funds to the libraries and not take all of the money.

Ella Smith said...

Kim I read something on your page sent out. I read it in a hurry. Did I read it too fast and misunderstand what I read about a court heard case in the Fulton County Courts regarding Dunwoody and Dekalb. This could have easily happen. Please set me straight. I read something real fast last week sent out on your site Kim about a decision regarding Dunwoody and Dekalb. Did I misunderstand what I read?

Ella Smith said...

Title I money should be spent to improve achievement of students. When it is not this is a problem. When the federal government cannot justify the continued spending of money then new strategies have to be used.

I agree that many administrators in charge of Title I money throughout the country have not spent the money correctly. This may be the problem with the results. Who do we hold accountable. Who is going to be held accountable is teachers and this is not fair but this is what is happening so merit pay is going to be the new trend due to lack of improvement in test scores.

Georgia will probable not get the Race To the Top money in August because of lack of merit pay in place which puts Kathy Cox in a horrible political situation. She may be in trouble politically in the fall.

Anonymous said...

Ella 3:47 pm

Agree.
The only group held accountable = teachers.
No accountability for programs.
No accountability for County office.
No accountability for school board.
No accountability for the makers of these high stakes tests (GHSGT and EOCT). (How do we truly know that these tests are fair, reliable, valid, accurate etc.. Have you ever really read one? Ever seen the answer key? A detailed explanation of scoring? No you have not. And you are not going to. Unlike the SAT and the AP exams that do release these things promptly.)
We were told that "accountability" was the whole reason for all these federal and state education mandates. If so, why does the accountability begin and end with the classroom teacher?

Anonymous said...

"Georgia will probable not get the Race To the Top money in August because of lack of merit pay in place which puts Kathy Cox in a horrible political situation. She may be in trouble politically in the fall. "

I'm not too worried about Kathy "let's take the word evolution out of teaching biology" Cox gets voted out. She should have been standing up for students and teachers a long time ago. An eleventh hour appeal is too little, too late.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella 10:44 am

"There actually is plenty of research indicating that effective teaching is much more critical than class size. In fact, the Tennessee STAR study, considered one of the most trustworthy pieces of research on the benefits of lower class size, found that good teaching was more than twice as important as class size when examining measurable student learning. "

You have a reputation as a good teacher Ella. My understanding is that you teach special education.
Do you honestly believe you can do just a good a job with a class of 32 special education students as say 15?

Actually, I totally agree with the statement that a good teacher is more effective than small class sizes, but I disagree that the two variables can be fairly evaluated separately.

Good teachers can get good results in large classes, but most will say they get better results with small class sizes. Good teachers can be successful in so many other venues than teaching. If we want to keep them in teaching, then we need to be looking at what causes them to leave. Loading them up with large classes is taking a very short term view while student needs are long term.

Good teachers don't leave teaching because they are not given highly motivated, perfectly behaved students with no learning difficulties. They don't even leave because they want higher pay or more praise from their supervisors.

Really great teachers will stay teaching our children if they have:
1. Decent (meaning small) class sizes
2. A clean and safe environment for their students
3. The freedom to teach in a manner that is compatible with their own teaching style
4. Learning resources and materials that benefit their students

If a school system fails in any one of these 4 provisions, they will experience higher attrition among good teachers.

Parents need to ask if the past and present DCSS administration and its support group have been or currently is meeting all of the needs listed above to retain good teachers for our children.

Ella Smith said...

Actually as a special education teacher I do read EOCT and GHSGT frequently. I cannot discuss what is on the test. However, in my opinion the tests are very fair in most cases.

The state does put out old tests and answers keys to old tests of the EOCT and GHSGT. I have several of them that I use as practice tests and other high school teachers who know about them also use as guides. These are valuable tools as a high school teacher.

Annonymous 6:06 I agree with much of what you say. However many teachers also leave because of all the BS around them and the favortism they see given to many teachers who know the right people who may not be 1/2 as good of a teacher as they may be. However, they are placed in prime teacher positions because of who they know instead of their teaching abilities.

I also agree that accountability should be on all levels. However, this is not what I see happening in the future. I see a push for merit pay even from the federal government underway. I am trying to get adjusted to the idea and look for the good and bad in the situation. If this comes to pass I do believe there should also be accountability and merit pay for all administrators. The administrators pay should be based on the test scores of their school, cluster, and school district. If this is going to come about it should be fair.

I think there are teachers who have become apathetic about their job and it is going to be costly.

I actually was a regular education teacher for about 15 years and in fact was a regular education teacher at Riverwood High School in the last 10 years and the Student Support Chairperson and 504 Chairperson. My original certification is in regular education. I actually do teach in regular education classes now al but 2 periods a day and many days I am the only teacher in class and I still know what it is like to have 30-40 students in class. I team teach one Health class and we have 40 students in that class. It is fair to assume I have only taught special education. However over 1/2 my career has been as a regular education teacher. I have taught Biology and Health and PE.

Anonymous said...

If DCSS provided:
1. Decent (meaning small) class sizes
2. A clean and safe environment for their students
3. The freedom to teach in a manner that is compatible with their own teaching style
4. Learning resources and materials that benefit their students

.....we could have our pick of great teachers. I never hear Ms. Tyson talk about the ideal classroom, and what concrete steps she can do to ensure DCSS achieves it. Of course, I never heard Dr. Lewis talk about that either. Parents/taxpayers expect so little and spend so much on their administrators. DCSS has over a billion dollars counting Title 1 funds to spend on 97,000 students. And our administration is holding up a sign saying "Will work for food".

Anonymous said...

Amen Anon 7:46.

If those conditions were met, I and other teachers who have left DCSS or are looking to leave DCSS, would gladly stay. Also, more parents would consider DCSS instead of flocking to educate their children elsewhere.

Ella Smith said...

The freedom to teach in a manner that is compatible with their own teaching style is a wonderful thing.

I do see more and more collaborative planning starting to occur as it is a best practice now and this does not set well with teachers who like to do totally their own thing. We are currently implementing this at Northsprings now and in certain parts of Fulton County and teachers who like just doing their own thing do not like to have to plan and be on the same page and offer the same learning opportunities throughout the same subject or grade level. This is a difficult change for many teachers I work with now. However, the teachers did not have a choice but to participate and academically be doing the same lessons in their classes.

I see teachers have less choices in their classes and more directions as to how they present lessons in the future. I am sure this will not go over very well with many teachers either. I have learned a great deal from the other Biology teachers, and other teachers I collaborate with and I feel it has made me a stronger teacher. However, it takes a great deal of time before and after school to collaborate and this is a big problem with collaborative planning. There already are not enough time in the day so it means longer hours for teachers for the same pay.

Ella Smith said...

All the future changes are going to put more and more strains on educators. The moral is already bad enough for teachers through the state. Now teachers need building of moral and support. I sincerely hope this is what happens. However, I am fearful that more and more pressure will be put on teachers. I am close to retirement myself. However, all I can do is advocate for teachers. It really is a hard job. Teachers work hard. The pressure is getting worse each year.

I do see changes coming in the future. I can only hope that the state and federal government do take in consideration all the stakeholders opinions. This is really a must. Otherwise teachers are going to leave the teaching field as soon as possible and the shortage of teachers in this country and state will be much bigger than predicted in the future.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps DCSS would function better if it were divided into 3 or 4 separate school systems. It is so big that it is hard to govern. I think one of the reasons that Decatur City has such a good reputation is that it is smaller. It is more responsive to the needs of the community it serves. They don't have as much infrastructure because they don't need it. More of their money can be spent in the school buildings.

Kim Gokce said...

@Ella: "... court heard case in the Fulton County Courts regarding Dunwoody and Dekalb."

I can only imagine that would have been about the Georgia Supreme Court's ruling on HOST. They ruled in favor of Dunwoody receiving this money directly from the state but I believe they did not get any support for the claim against previous $$$.

Anonymous said...

"I do see more and more collaborative planning starting to occur as it is a best practice now and this does not set well with teachers who like to do totally their own thing."

My nephew is a middle school math teacher in rural East Tennessee in a very low income Title 1 school out in a remote area. He has an MBA, and was a very successful businessman for many years. But he's always wanted to teach. Five years ago at age 34 he got certified to teach middle school math (god love him). He's passionate about math beyond belief - also the coach of the baseball team - they're having a winning season! Unbelievable hours, so tech savvy, loves math, loads of energy, looks for what motivates kids. He's had to do collaborative teaching for the last two years. He doesn't like it. My sister (his mom) and I have been telling him to look for a different school system - more money, more materials, less pressure, more freedom to do pursue his dream.

We're hopeful we'll get him to decide to move to a better situation.

Anonymous said...

Parents, please be concerned about our school libraries. Due to the state funding waivers, we may not see any money for new library books, magazines, or other resources next year. Normally, by this time I have met with my media committee about ordering materials for the fall. To date, I have not put together a magazine order and I am wondering if I will be able to order GA Book Award books so my students an compete in the reading bowl next. year.

Anonymous said...

Creating less of a choice in how to teach and present material to students will mean that the best and brightest people will not go into teaching. My best teachers were the ones that taught the standards the way they say fit.

That meant going for a scavenger hunt at the Met for a field trip. Rewriting our version of the Julius Ceasar, casting the play, acting it out, and video taping it. Doing hands on Chemistry experiments and taking field trips to see real chemists at work and get to ask them questions about what we were learning about.

I do not see all teachers doing the same exact thing, as best practices. I have worked this way and also been able to be a "free spirit" and teach the way that I want to teach the material that needed to be covered. I was a better teacher and cared more about my students' learning when I had the freedom to control what took place in the classroom. I was able to develop multi-subject thematic units and engage my students in big thinking. I was able to say on a subject or topic until my students understood the material to the point that I was comfortable. I was also able to teach in a way that engaged all of my students and at the time I had 38. I was able to help my students by using flexible grouping based on strengths and weaknesses. When I taught in this fashion, I had a true grasp on what each of students' strengths and areas of need were. I also had ownership of the teaching being taught and knew that I was accountable for the learning that my students did or did not do.

Teaching the same way as everyone else, made me feel like a robot. I can honestly say that I had no buy-in into my students' learning or the curriculum. I did what I had to do and left each day. I knew that I wasn't the best teacher that I could be, but I also knew that my job depended on me being with everyone else-no matter what. I left that job as soon as I could and have never looked back.

I am not sure who says that teaching the same way is best practices, but I do not buy it. I do not see bright, intelligent people getting into teaching or for that matter staying in teaching, if they have no flexibility on how they are able to create and facilitate their lessons.

I have worked all over our country with many great young teachers. I have worked with Teach for America teachers who are bright and intelligent folks. Most leave the program after their 2 years are up. Many leave not, because they do not like teaching, but because of the bull that goes along with the job. They want to teach the children and provide them with the quality of education that they themselves received and see that the fight is too large and not easily won.

Our education system is in big trouble. If teaching the same way on the same day is considered best teaching practices, I am so glad that I have resigned from DCSS and chosen to homeschool my son.

Our children deserve to stay on a topic until it is mastered and not simply move on, because that is what the lesson plan says and that is what is happening in the other classrooms. Our children deserve to have teachers who are free to use teachable moments and go with them, even when they are not in the lesson plans. Our children deserve to have creative lessons and life experiences outside of the brick and mortar classroom, so that they can experience learning first hand. Our children deserve to have the best and brightest people and not robots who do what they are told without any care or thoughts.

No great teacher is going to stand for merit pay, if they are not in control over what is being taught or the way it is presented to their students.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

re "Collaborative teaching"

How much teacher buy-in is there for collaborative teaching or is this something coming from the top down?

Just like learners have different styles, teachers have different styles. Ignoring different teaching styles is just as detrimental to the educational process as ignoring the fact that students have different learning styles.

Ella Smith said...

We still have our own teaching styles. We do the same labs. We give the same tests so the tests can be compared and see how our children are learning compared to other students in the department in the same subject. We are teaching the same units at the same time. There still are differences in the way we present material but the same activities many times are given to the students.

I see both sides of the situation totally. However this is a way for administrators to keep up with how teachers students are achieving in class. I have learned from others a great deal. Do I like collaborative planning? No. However, we do not have a choice. We either do it or look for another job.

However, I do think it is important that students can go from one class to another and the teacher is on the same unit. This is important for the children. Weaker and inexperienced teachers have the support of more experienced teachers and get ideas from them. We are teachers who are suppose to be meeting the needs of students and sometimes some of the things that might benifit students are not things we like. Many times we see teaching as a field we can close the door and do whatever we want without collaboration. I do think this is changing today. There is much resistance to this change. It takes a great deal of my time also and there are many things I do not like about it. However, I also can see the benifits in it also.

Anonymous said...

If a teacher is successful without collaborative teaching or any other kind of scheme the armchair educational experts come up with, why on earth would the administration want to mess with success? This is exactly why we have so much attrition with good teachers leaving the teaching field. This "my way or the highway" attitude has many good teachers choosing the "highway".

When my daughter was young, she went to Kittredge, and they did collaborative teaching on each grade level. I was not impressed. It felt contrived to me.

I've never understood why administrators can't get out of the way and let good teachers teach the curriculum. This micromanaging is ridiculous. I loved regular ed and my kids had huge moves up in standardized test scores way back when they were only used as feedback, not for accountability. They came from a rough area and many were ESL. I threw out the English textbook, and they published their own books - what writers they became! They wrote their little fingers to a nub every single day. And my principal loved it. But the DCSS Central administration wanted us to be on such and such a page every day. When pacing guides came out, I didn't believe in them and didn't enjoy it. So I left regular ed and went into a gifted position. I found that I could teach in the gifted program the way I used to teach my 4th graders. Loved gifted, looked back with nostalgia on 4th grade (my favorite), but felt my choice was the best one for me and for my students.

Teaching is the one field that if you're unhappy, you should seek to change your position or your job because your attitude effects the most vulnerable people - kids. Move out, move over, or move up - that's the choices.

Anonymous said...

A correction to the original post. Thanks to a very strong grassroots effort, from alumni and supporters of the Georgia Governor's Honors Program, the program has not been eliminated!! As reported in the UGA newspaper, the Red and Black, on April 29:

"Budget news on Thursday wasn’t all doom and gloom for the participants in one state-sponsored education program — a program holding a place in the hearts of several University students.

Former participants in the Governors Honors Program — a six-week summer camp for gifted high school students — were frightened when they learned the program might face the budget ax, but the Legislature decided to save GHP, shortening it from six weeks to four.

Will Burgess, a freshman from Woodstock, said he did all he could to organize other GHP students to fight for the program.

Burgess created a petition and got more than 1,700 signatures, he said.

“It’s one of those things that unifies the state education. system,” Burgess said, adding that GHP is an incredible recruiting tool for the state’s University System.

“I know plenty of people that would’ve gone to college out of state if it wasn’t for what they got from GHP,” he said. “It teaches leadership.”

Some on this blog would argue that GHP is akin to a magnet program, and serves only a small segment of talented and gifted students, but it truly is one of the last bright spots in our state's education portfolio. Great news!!

Dekalbparent said...

I need to back up the importance of the two Anon postings about the library funds.

Until now, the school systems were required to set aside a certain percentage of their allocation to each school for the express use of the media centers.

This three-year "relaxation" of the rule means that the school DOES NOT have to set aside ANY of the funds for media center use. If the administration of the school feels that percentage would be better used for something else, the media center gets NOTHING.

No magazine subscriptions, no new books, no updates to research book series, no newspapers, no new videos for classrooms, no money for repairs of damaged books...

This is serious. Really serious.