Thursday, May 6, 2010

Let's discuss education - since no one else is

This week's issue of Newsweek has a thought-provoking and saddening column on the state of school science and math standards. More interesting to me is the indictment of education research pertaining to various teaching programs. I know we have touched on the subject before, but while we are all watching the circus being performed by Dr. Lewis, Pat Pope and the board, our teacher's morale has tanked and the quality of education continues to sink. It's time that someone start discussing education reform in DCSS. The question of science education at Fernbank Science Center has been actively discussed here. I love the science center, but I do have to wonder if we shouldn't be spending our time, money and energy on direct, daily science instruction in the everyday classroom. It's a topic with passion on both sides.

" 'There is a dearth of carefully crafted, quantitative studies on what works," says William Cobern of Western Michigan University. "It's a crazy situation.' " Cobern tried to fix that in a study comparing direct instruction with inquiry learning, competing ways to teach science. The smart money has been on the latter, in which students explore a question on their own by, say, growing some seedlings in a closet and others on a windowsill to discover photosynthesis rather than being given the concept by the teacher. Contrary to received wisdom, " 'as long as students are actively engaged, direct instruction does just as well as inquiry-based teaching" in how well kids learn science concepts, he told me. Yet national and state standards push inquiry learning. As Cobern's team diplomatically put it, "Some claims for inquiry methods regarding understanding the nature of science are not sufficiently supported by evidence. ' "

Click here to read the Newsweek article.

124 comments:

Ella Smith said...

This article does make perfect sense to me as a science teacher. For instance, we can do experiments daily and learn fewer things or learn several things in a day depending on the intend of the lesson.

The experiment takes a great deal more time and I may learn the information. However, I could learn the information equally from examples from a short video clip with an explanation and learn several different things in the same amount of time.

Now it makes sense said...

Rather than teach children science (or math or reading or history or art or music or a foreign language), DCSS should teach them how to do "public relations". Then, the DCSS grads can get jobs "fixing" the problems in DCSS utilizing their "public relations" educations. It's too perfect!

Anonymous said...

@ Ella
"The experiment takes a great deal more time and I may learn the information. However, I could learn the information equally from examples from a short video clip with an explanation and learn several different things in the same amount of time."

Now that's where most science teachers and scientists will disagree with you. Science is a body of knowledge, but it is the fastest changing body of knowledge we have to teach. Because of the rapidity of change and the importance of experiments in science, it is necessary to teach the principals of scientific inquiry.

Read the National Teachers Association Position Statement about the teaching of science:
"For science to be taught properly and effectively, labs must be an integral part of the science curriculum. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that all preK–16 teachers of science provide instruction with a priority on making observations and gathering evidence, much of which students experience in the lab or the field, to help students develop a deep understanding of the science content, as well as an understanding of the nature of science, the attitudes of science, and the skills of scientific reasoning (NRC 2006, p. 127)"

http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/laboratory.aspx

Laboratory experiences not only engage students, they also teach them the scientific method.

Anonymous said...

Day after day after day of consistent science instruction is the only way for most students to master the content that constitutes the discipline of science. While Fernbank Science Center Instructors are excellent, once or twice a year instruction in science will not increase student achievement in science. I agree that the millions spent on Fernbank Science Center should be moved into the regular classroom. SST is great, but we could provide that same service at a much lower cost.

Anonymous said...

No matter what model one uses for teaching science, a qualified teacher is requirement #1. While there are some good science teachers scattered throughout the county, there are too many, particularly at the high school level, who simply do not have a thorough grasp on the material. The certification requirements for high school science teachers are quite minimal, in terms of knowledge of subject matter. As has been stated before on this blog, most scientists can get higher paying jobs elsewhere, jobs with far fewer hassles and headaches than dealing with a bunch of kids. If we want good science teachers, we are going to have to pay for them. Otherwise, we will continue to lose them to the private sector and be forced to search far and wide (even outside of the country) for someone to teach our kids science.

We are willing to pay "market" rates / 6 figure salaries for business services in DCSS such at PR, MIS, etc but we do not seem willing to pay for depth of demonstrated knowledge for our teachers.

Ella Smith said...

I also think the value of labs are great tools for teaching. However, they are not the only tool and many tools must be used to teach all the information required in high school.

I teach at a Magnet Science HS and we have equipment and material. However, if we spend all our time just on inquiry learning we could not get through the vast amount of standards that the state does have in the curriculum. At a Magnet Science HS I do believe we provide more inquiry based knowledge that will help a student who is going into a science field and I also believe everyone should love science and this technique is so valuable and should be used in teaching. However, today we even have lab animal dissections on the computer. It really is very cool all the valuable resource available to science teachers and students can learn a great deal from these activities.

The most important thing to a child learning any subject is a good teacher. I think the most important place to have the knowledge of science teachers is in the classroom or the schoolhouse. We spend a great deal of money on frills from coordinators and Lead Teachers of this and that that spend so much time going and learning new information and this information never gets back to the most important elements which are our classroom teachers. Instead of spending money on all the frills we should be putting that money into summer workshops to improve the knowledge and skills of our science teachers in the classroom. It does us very little good to have experts who are not in the classroom or schoolhouse working with our children in every part of the county.

Anonymous said...

There are teachers in every single elementary, middle and high school who are supposed to be teaching science to our kids. Why isn't this working? Do the teachers not know the material? Is the curriculum flawed? At the elementary school level, the teachers who teach science are the same teachers who teach the other subjects (reading, language arts, etc.) and judging by standardized test scores, kids are mastering the other subjects. So why aren't kids able to learning science?

Teacher said...

As a science teacher, I strongly support Fernbank Science Center, because it serves not only as a source of TRULY highly qualified instructors who provide hands-on instruction to thousands of children each year--most have solid backgrounds in a content area, rather than just in the teaching of science--but also as a resource to let everyone who's interested go beyond the GPS to really explore science. Science is a lot more than just information, which is why you need highly trained experts to teach it well. And, it's why teachers who just pass out one worksheet after another, fail so abysmally to excite kids.

And by the way, the program is "STT" not "SST" (which is something else entirely). It's one of the few award-winning programs in DCSS, by the way, and one that's been shown to lead to improved high school test scores and graduation rates. And did you know that Fernbank teachers are responsible for teaching AP courses, as well?

Some people think, put those FSC teachers out in the classroom whre they can REALLY teach! But nothing happens in a vacuum: without DCSS supporting science better than it does, it won't matter who teaches our kids, because the top-down message that "Science Matters" is not being delivered.

Why would any highly qualified science teacher, particularly one with a Master's or PhD in a REAL science, want to work in a classroom that lacks water, supplies, and equipment, in a school with lax discipline, to work off a cart for the first several years until he/she has risen high enough in the hierarchy?

Get real. No teacher is a commodity that can be shifted from place to place, expertise waiting to be plugged in like a hair dryer into whatever socket is available.

DCSS is lucky to have the caliber of teacher we have at FSC. My fear is that these high-level people will give up on teaching here, given the lack of administrative support and the dispiriting remarks by the community they're trying to serve. Science costs money; more money than English, history, or math, because you need supplies and equipment. Without a real investment in both human and material capital, we'll all be back to worksheets.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Teacher!

"My fear is that these high-level people will give up on teaching here, given the lack of administrative support and the dispiriting remarks by the community they're trying to serve."

I think many of these teachers may already be pursuing other options, and i certainly don't blame them. The disparaging remarks from the community have been relentless, including posting of names and salaries and various accusations, on this blog in the past months - ironic, considering the overwhelming support posted here last night for the director of PR for DCSS. Apparently, we value PR more than science. Explains why we are in the state we are in.

Cerebration said...

I take issue with that statement. We (at the blog) certainly do not have overwhelming support for the PR dept. You may wish to re-read the original post - we are very concerned about the spending over over a half million in salaries in PR. In fact, I also included a listing of the costs of related departments, called INFORMATION SERV PERSONNEL ($1,748,053.53 in salaries) INFORMATION SERVICES CLERK ($1,704,062.80 in salaries.)

Yes, people left comments supporting Julie Rhame personally. But how is this different from the people who left comments supporting the science center staff? We allow it all to flow - but the purpose of this blog is to do our best to uncover spending under every rock and have discussions as to whether we think it's still a viable expense - given the state of our economy.

In fact, Anon 5:09 PM, we are so dedicated to an open discussion that we will even leave your comment as posted. But in the future, do not call out this blog as valuing ANYTHING over the direct impact to every single student in every single classroom.

Cerebration said...

Also, Teacher 4:57 - regarding this comment --

Why would any highly qualified science teacher, particularly one with a Master's or PhD in a REAL science, want to work in a classroom that lacks water, supplies, and equipment, in a school with lax discipline, to work off a cart for the first several years until he/she has risen high enough in the hierarchy?

We have plenty of highly qualified science teachers in schools like Lakeside, Cross Keys and Chamblee who suffer these conditions every day and manage to teach their students in spite of the horrible conditions. I applaud them.

Anonymous said...

People with a PhD or Masters in science and not teaching have many more paths open to them. They must have a passion for their field and have a variety of options open to them. They may enjoy teaching, but why would someone who is highly qualified want to teach in schools where their pay is decreasing each year while the work load is increasing, the equipment does not work properly, and discipline is a huge issue? Maybe some scientists (or good teachers for that matter) will stay for a bit, but most will move on to greener pastures.

Today's talk by Ramona Tyson and her transparency message did not motivate the teachers of my staff to be happy to work in DCSS. We will be in the news very frequently in the months ahead. Her words need to be followed by actions, as many teachers have had enough and do not believe that transparency is going to happen.

I am glad that there are good science teachers in the high schools that you mentioned, but lets see how long they stay with the changes in schedules, increased class size, and lower pay.

Anonymous said...

In reference to this Newsweek article, the author Sharon Begley centers much of her article on the findings of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education (DOE) studies.

I was the DCSS point of contact for one of the U.S. DOE's educational software studies in the area of math and language arts.

As a matter of fact, DCSS was the the largest contributor of schools for this study - We constituted 20 schools out of over 100. The study was conducted for the DOE by Mathematica Policy Research, a Princeton N.J. research organization (Reference BOE notes for approval of this study being conducted in DCSS).

The DOE Mathematica Research study I participated in was terribly flawed.

The software in the study I was responsible for coordinating for my schools was not used by students until almost a year into the two year study.

First, DCSS didn't have enough computer access for the 2 classes (28 students each) in the experimental group to use the software the required 2 hours a week. One school didn't even have a computer lab for this study that clearly had stated that all 25 students were to be logged on at the exact same time. That school had to be dropped from the study.

My DCSS supervisor in conjunction with a Central Office coordinator had selected the schools. When I asked her why they would pick schools that didn't have the hardware to run the software, she said they were picked on the basis of low standardized test scores. The idea of having enough working equipment to conduct the study had not been discussed.

When we finally got the principals to agree to give the groups of students 2 hours a week of lab time, it was discovered that none of the 5 schools had enough computers working at any one time to accommodate 28 students. We also had network problems in one school that took months to resolve.

Mathematica used tens of thousands of dollars of DOE study funds to buy portable wireless laptop carts to supplement since DCSS had so many non-working computers. Getting the laptop order processed through DCSS took months. The wireless laptops sometimes took 10 to 15 minutes to boot up, and some would not connect at all.

Compounding that problem was the fact that the teachers were supposed to be participating in this study voluntarily. Many of them did not want to take class time away from students to participate, but they had to participate anyway. I watched the principals tell them they had no choice but to sign the agreement.

When I complained to the Mathematica contact that the study was not being conducted within the parameters they had set up, they told me they had plenty of schools that could provide the data. They could always take us out in the end.

By the second year, my Mathematica contact admitted other school systems had even more problems meeting the criteria than DCSS and had dropped out of the study; thus they needed DCSS data, and they could account statistically for the problems we had encountered. I was skeptical that Mathematica could account for an entire year of basically useless data on a two year study.

The organization the Newsweek author Ms. Begley refers us to as the "experts" on the rigor of educational studies is the "What's Works Clearinghouse" within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education.

If you look at the Principal Investigators for the IES "What Works Clearinghouse" making these determinations, you will find that most are personnel of - you guessed it - who else but - Mathematica Policy Research.

So forgive me if I am looking at this article with some cynicism when Ms. Begley cites the IES as the experts in rigorous research into the efficacy of various educational delivery systems of science and math.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher 4:57

"Why would any highly qualified science teacher, particularly one with a Master's or PhD in a REAL science, want to work in a classroom that lacks water, supplies, and equipment, in a school with lax discipline, to work off a cart for the first several years until he/she has risen high enough in the hierarchy?"

My point exactly. The $7,000,000 we pay of for 29 Fernbank Science Center teachers would go a long way towards supplying science teachers in DCSS with the equipment and supplies they need. Science and math education should be for every child in DCSS - not the the lucky 90 students a semester that qualify for "STT" (sorry for my typo SST before - I actually do know the difference)

Dekalbparent said...

I read the entire article, and it is speaking about both math and science - the two subjects that have been affected most by the inquiry-based models of teaching/learning. The students are supposed to figure out for themselves a mathematical or scientific fact by experimenting with guidance (but not direct instruction) from the teacher. To me, this could be like throwing a pile of books in the middle of the first grade classroom and telling the kids "Keep opening them up and looking at them, feel them, sniff them, look at what they do, and you will figure out how to read." (Well, not exactly like that - maybe I hyperbolize.)

The point Ella made is the point they make - they were surprised to find that it was often more effective for the teacher to just teach what they were to learn if the teacher teaches in an engaging manner. To me, this is saying what other reviews of teaching methods have said - the teacher makes the difference. Ella has been teaching quite a while, and it sounds as if she has found that a lesson can be taught well by a good lecture.

The other point they made is that most of the studies they found that supported the inquiry-based programs were seriously flawed - too small a sample group, no control group, homogeneity among groups - and there was no real proof from these studies that the method was effective. We found this when we checked on studies of America's Choice - they were all done by the same people, and they looked at single schools. Not good science.

The question the article raised for me is whether there are places in the US that are devoting enough energy to evaluating the programs. How much of a restrictive force has NCLB exerted nationwide? Are there places where teachers are still teaching the way they want, trusted by administration to produce good progress by year's end?

In DCSS, I think KMS teachers are still allowed flexibility and creativity (are the other magnets allowed flexibility too?), and the IB program (at least the high school part of it) is not required to follow the Ga curriculum. Those teachers are quite creative and have high expectations - lots of students who never had to work hard for an "A" have gotten their first "C" in an IB class. Could these teachers and their methods have a message for DCSS about trusting teachers to do a good job?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to several of you for pointing out the methodologic flaws of the research reported in the Newsweek article. We certainly can't take what we read at face value.

Good teachers can make all the difference. I am glad we still have some good teachers in DCSS. I just wish we had more, and I worry with all the bad press and low morale, DCSS will lose its best and brightest (teachers and students).

Anonymous said...

Science teachers - weigh in.
Do you agree with NSTA?
"For science to be taught properly and effectively, labs must be an integral part of the science curriculum. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that all preK–16 teachers of science provide instruction with a priority on making observations and gathering evidence, much of which students experience in the lab or the field, to help students develop a deep understanding of the science content, as well as an understanding of the nature of science, the attitudes of science, and the skills of scientific reasoning (NRC 2006, p. 127)"

Can science content be taught without labs?

Cerebration said...

Wow, what fascinating input Anon 6:49 PM - thanks for enlightening us. Things are never as they seem on the surface, are they? I hope you'll share your thoughts with Newsweek.

And I do hope our science teachers at Lakeside, Chamblee and Cross Keys will hang in there. The salary cuts are insult to injury to great science teachers who suffer with virtually no science lab or working equipment. I guess that answers your question, Anon 7:27 PM.

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 6:49 - I get your point, but Ms. Begley is not referring to a study that IES did, but rather to IES's review of other studies that were done on different programs.

I cannot speak for or against IES, and your experience gives me pause, but I don't know if I would discredit the conclusions completely. I know that I have been able to learn science and math from a talented, engaging teacher even without doing lots of labs (my schools did not have much in the way of labs.) The most confusing experience I had in math in school was when the teacher taught 6th grade pre-algebra using Cuisenaire rods.

Cerebration said...

Of course, a lot of Lakeside's freshmen students participate in STT at Fernbank. I don't think Cross Keys has many students in the program - not sure about Chamblee.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Dunwoody always has quite a few in STT. I heard Ms. Tyson say yesterday that there are 400 applications for STT.

Anonymous said...

As for STT, all the high schools have a maximum number of seats, depending on the enrollment of the high school. For some schools, Lakeside, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, Tucker, the number of applicants far exceeds the spaces available (by at least 3:1). At other high schools, there is active recruiting to fill the seats, but ultimately, all high schools have students in the program.

Anonymous said...

In my high school chemistry class, we did labs frequently. We received little direction and supervision as the teacher used much of the time to grade papers. I would have learned more from traditional lectures. Much of learning science is learning concepts and methods, and in the case of chem and physics, performing calculations. Labs are useful to supplement and demonstrate but are ultimately less important than the teaching. With an effective teacher who knows her stuff, you can learn science, with or without a lab, but without a good teacher, you cannot learn from the lab alone.

Ella Smith said...

DekalbParent you do understand what I am trying to say exactly.

The Science Magnet High School I teach at has inquiry-based models of teaching/learning as part of our charter and it is used on a regular basis. However, it is not the only method we use to teach Science. It is one of several methods we use. Some students do need more direct engaged instruction than others and the inquiry-based models of teaching/learning may not be as affective as other methods. We use these methods much more in our magnet science non-core classes of course that students take as electives due to their interest in science.

I am floored at the salaries spent at the Fernbank Science Center. That is a great deal of money in one location in Dekalb County for Science. Not one of my four children have taken one class there and we live very close and my students like science. I am sure many students in many areas of the county do not have much access to the Fernbank Science Center either. I am not indicating I am not in support of the Fernbank Science Center. However spenting that much money on Science Teachers for a few takes my breath away when I see the lack of equipment and supplies that the super science teachers that my son does have must work with. It does seem a little unfair to all the students in the county. However, I am very supportive of all summer workshops and activities that goes on at the Fernbank Science Center.

I currently team teach with 2Science teachers with PHD in research areas of science. They are in the classroom. I would like to see more of these teachers in classrooms. However, from experience just because someone has a PHD in science does not mean that these individuals are good teachers. It means they are knowledgable in an area. Does having knowledge mean you can teach?

Anonymous said...

We cannot properly teach science without labs.

If you look at colleges, there are rarely science classes that are taught without a lab requirement.
Yes, it is much easier (and efficient) to do a demo in front of the class, show a video, give notes, or give an example, but in order for students to see themselves as active learners and participants in the classroom we must include hands on experience. When students have sense of ownership on a project, they are usually more engaged and will work towards success. I do love showing video clips in my class because they give my kids an opportunity to see some things that I cannot show them in the the classroom, but it is not a substitute for lab experience. Science teachers are at an impass with the budget cuts and larger class sizes. It is unsafe and ill-advised to try most labs with a group of 35 students, yet the classes that will be packed with 35 students are the classes that probably need lab experience the most. These will not be the motivated, top students. Those students will be shuffled into accelerated/gifted/magnet classes that have far fewer kids. The students that will loose out are the students that struggle. These are the students that typically fail their GHSGT.
FYI: The basic science content knowledge required on that test is shameful. No wonder our nation lags sadly behind in science if our kids are not properly prepared for that.

The latest craze in science education is inquiry based learning. When studying this in my master's classes I sometimes imagined it could get as extreme as throwing a kid who doesn't know how to swim into the pool and saying, "now learn how to swim." Inquiry based learning, just like every other learning method must be approached properly and scaffolded properly. Giving the background and allowing students to invent their own questions is a fabulous way to get kids excited and interested in science. (In this way, it's a bit like what Ms. Frizzle taught us all- Take chances, get messy, make mistakes!) Watch a 5 year old child sit with something that they question, and you will see him come up with an experiment and learn something. The problem with inquiry based learning is that it takes longer and you don't have as much control over what they may learn (it may not fit into a standard-gasp!). This flys in the face of convention when we eat sleep and breathe benchmarks, GHSGT, EOCT, CRCT, and all the other common acronyms we govern our lives around. However, inquiry based science is what allows us to invent new medicines and build new devices that save lives. We can't raise a generation of drones.

I'm sure that lab based classrooms trump a classroom based in worksheets. My students love doing labs, and have said that is what makes science fun and interesting for them. As for inquiry based labs beating traditional labs, I think the jury is still out. I belive like most things in education (open classroom model ring a bell?) such a major push towards inquiry based education will die down. A combination of "traditional" and inquiry based labs is probably best. Moderation is always the key in much of life.

In short- a good science teacher that has control of her own classroom will generally sow the seeds of successful scientists. Try to cram her in a classroom with 35 unruly kids, force benchmarks down her throat, or cut all funding, and her chances for success drop immediately. It's killing us (science teachers).
I would like a portion of that $7,000,000 please. I'll use it well, and my kids won't have to travel to a science center once a year to get what they will get daily in my classroom.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent 7:32 pm

"Ms. Begley is not referring to a study that IES did, but rather to IES's review of other studies that were done on different programs."

So sorry, I guess my post was too long and confusing.

The point is that many of the IES reviews of these different programs were/are done by Mathematica Policy Research. IES is relying on this company which is flawed in its own research.

This is the organization that I interfaced with when I was a DCSS employee. Mathematica Policy Research was contracted by the DOE to do educational research studies into the efficacy of software that appeared to have educational validity. The DOE commissioned them to do the definitive studies. DCSS schools worked hand in hand to do these studies. I coordinated between the DCSS schools involved in the studies and Mathematica.

My concern is from firsthand experience with Mathematica is that their research designs were allowed to be contaminated in order to complete the studies the DOE was paying a substantial amount of money for.

In a scientific study, if the experiment is contaminated by too many variables, the study is rerun. That was not the case in this study. The money was allocated by the DOE, and the study results were given even if the design was not followed due to too many uncontrolled variables.

It's hard to trust the IES reviews when the reviewers run studies that have too many uncontrolled variables, and use the corrupted data anyway.

That was my point.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cere for posting the video. We need to keep this on the front burner.

Rumor is that McNair high school bought some books too. I hope for their Principals sake not over a 1000 copies!

So that it is clear parent like Dr. Simpson. He was a really great Principal at Miller Grove. He inspired those "C" students for not everyone is a scholar.

The problem we are having is the number of books and the sneaky way she did it.

SHE KNEW SHE WAS WRONG!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Re Fernbank and STT:

The 90 STT students a semester have been continually trotted out as the justification for continued support for a $7,000,000 educational center that employs 29 teachers.

What an extremely inefficient and environmentally unfriendly way to provide science education.

Anonymous said...

@ Dekalbparent

Go to this IES link to see the companies that the IES reviewers are affiliated with:
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/aboutus/investigators.asp

Kim Gokce said...

My 2 year old learned what a hypothesis is watching a baby Tyranosaurus Rex on Dinosaur Train on PBS. Anyone could ask him, "What is a hypothesis?" and he'd parrot the PBS character flawlessly, "An idea you can test." And he understood it quite well, in fact.

My hypothesis is that a qualified teacher can teach science or math via one, two, or seven methods in the space of one course. A high quality public education organization can provide tools and supplies for its teachers to leverage and then leave the application of those resources up to the teacher in the classroom.

For s/he is best situated to assess the learning needs of each given class and even individual students. If we have teachers who are not capable of doing this, then we do not have a methodology problem, we have a recruiting and training problem.

Anonymous said...

"The disparaging remarks from the community have been relentless, including posting of names and salaries and various accusations, on this blog in the past months - ironic, considering the overwhelming support posted here last night for the director of PR for DCSS."

All DCSS employees' salaries are public record. That's goes with the territory when working for an entity that gets its funding from taxpayers. If I get my salary from taxpayers (which I did for 30 years) why shouldn't they know the names of the employees who receive their tax dollars, and why should the people who pay my salary not be entitled to know what they pay me?

Every teacher, bus driver, superintendent or...

3 Fernbank Exhibit Designers:
$97,365, $86,895, and $105,900 respectively with salary and benefits for a total of $290,169 a year

...should have their salary and benefits evaluated by taxpayers who foot the bill.

source: state salary and travel audit

Anonymous said...

Whether you can teach science to a student without labs is dependant upon many variables, the two most important being the student and the teacher.

For a student who wants to major in science, or medicine, or engineering, then direct instruction, studying hard, AND lab work will go far. The student is self-motivated, he doesn't need all the bells and whistles, the science interests him. I know, because that was me.

Now, I taught science for a number of years, and the majority of students aren't interested in learning science, inquiry lessons don't work because they aren't interested in the subject enough to absorb the background information. So I taught them the other stuff - how to read science, how to learn science, what their best learning methods are, how to measure stuff, how to survive a science class. It was a fair bit of demonstrations, and some labs, but mostly activities. Direct instruction won't work here at all. Complex labs won't either. Using the method of learning that they like to use best, that works. Mix it up, don't bore them. Play music. Give them incentives.

But, in both cases, the NSTA has hit the nail on the head with regard to safety. Accidents in labs increase dramatically when there are over 24 students in the class. Unless your students are AP, I wouldn't recommend doing labs if you have over that number.

Anonymous said...

Kids cannot learn science without good science teachers who have a mastery of the material they are teaching. This is hard to come by in most parts of the US, but particulary hard to find in our DeKalb high schools. The problem is especially acute for physics and chemistry. All the labs and equipment in the world will not solve this problem.

Cerebration said...

Wow. "3 Fernbank Exhibit Designers:
$97,365, $86,895, and $105,900 respectively with salary and benefits for a total of $290,169 a year "

At $65,000 package per teacher (according to Dr Lewis, that's the average - and it always made him cringe) - these 3 designers are costing the same as 4.5 classroom teachers.

This is a good example of why a public/private partnership should be looked at for Fernbank Science Center.

Anonymous said...

Anybody know if the 150 Central office layoffs include anyone at the science center?

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

Learning is not just by watching. Learning is effective when you use all your senses and when you have to do things with your hands. Like experiments. Yes, it's more time consuming. It also plants the lessons a lot deeper.

Teachers, am I right here?

Shayna said...

A few points -- I am pleased to report that my HMS 7th grader is in the process of actually dissecting a frog! My ninth grader reports dissecting a pig's heart in 7th grade. Package comes with scissors and scappel and pins and a box. This is at least a 2 day project and he is very excited about it. The class is working in groups of 4.

On a different front a 10th grade LHS chemistry teacher had to buy chemistry lab kits with his funds on his own at Target a year or two ago in order to run labs at Lakeside because the facility is so poor.

Anonymous said...

A friend of ours works at Fernbank Science Center and he spends hundreds of dollars, out of his own pocket, for materials for experiments each year.

Anonymous said...

All good teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their personal money, so that they can give their students more than what is provided by DCSS.

Anonymous said...

My child has never disscected anything but a flower in 7th grade. He had a good biology teacher. His class did a few very simplistic water experiments in 9th grade biology but they had 32 students in the room and it was too many to really do an experiment. He has done nothing in chemistry because all the labs are broken. No gas and many of the lab stations have plumbing problems. At best, they might get to watch a video of kids in a nice, clean new school in another state do chemistry experiments. The majority of his chemistry class is "taught" by the students reading the book on their own and taking online tests.

Science education in DCSS is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Do any of the administrators in DCSS, who make more money than our teachers, ever spend a dime out of their own pockets for anything? Why are teachers put in a position where they are essentially performing community service, earning low wages and spending their own money, while administrators in the system are paid salaries comparable to what they could earn in the private sector?

Fernbank Volunteer said...

FSC is SO not a source of DCSS's financial woes: rather, it's a community resource that the community should work on changing and improving, if its current accomplishments aren't up to par. But getting rid of 30-plus strong and creative science teachers, just doesn't fit with focusing on kids and what they need. Because one thing they sure do need, is better science teaching.

Teachers at Fernbank Science Center are paid on exactly the same pay scale as teachers everywhere in the County. They are DCSS teachers, and went through the same hiring process as all other teachers. If they have a PhD, they make more money than if they have a Master's. If they have experience, they make more than if they don't have experience. If they were in a classroom teaching the same 200 students each day with carts and crumbling plaster and without water (and Cerebration, you used the right word, "managing", about teaching under these conditions), they would make exactly the same salary as they do working at FSC.

However, at FSC, teachers teach a lot more kids than in a classroom setting: 130-plus students (average) each day in an outreach program; about 50 each day in a single-visit program, and, yes, just 16 each day for 2-8 days in STT.

STT occupies only a small part of any FSC teacher's time, and not all FSC teachers teach it. STT students are selected from 8th grade applicants based on how many students will be in the high school they'll attend the following semester. Applications depend on how much middle school teachers promote STT. Not surprisingly, there are big differences throughout the County in how interested middle schools are in telling students about STT.

There is a fixed formula based on the school census that determines how many kids per high school come to STT. Every effort is made to have ALL high schools represented. Some schools send way fewer kids than others, and if families move out of the district they lived in when they applied, then the student no longer can be counted in the former school's census. In other words, a Cross Keys freshman-to-be who's admitted in May to STT won't remain part of the Cross Keys STT quota if he moves out of the Cross Keys area by the time August comes around. And so he won't be able to attend STT, because he'd be taking a place that belongs to a Cross Keys student. That prevents other Cross Keys kids from coming to STT, because they did not apply.

You can check the current enrollment for 2010 if you doubt that every high school that had middle school applicants, who then chose to go to STT (many don't--they select other programs instead), is represented. Call FSC and ask about it. I did.

Getting into STT is highly competitive, possibly because it is a program that changes lives. One way it does so is that it teaches students how to study, take notes, pay attention, and think. That's one reason that the EOCT pass rate for STT students is almost always 100% or just below it. Those stats are publicly available.

There are about 34 teachers at FSC. Their salaries are in the same range as teachers' salaries throughout the county, as stated, but because many have advanced degrees and decades of experience, they tend to have higher salaries.

If the community objects to paying more experienced and more educated teachers higher salaries, then it's consistent and fair to object to FSC salaries, because so many teachers there fall into those categories. But I doubt whether most people, especially other DCSS teachers, would support that view.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:38 pm
"If they were in a classroom teaching the same 200 students each day with carts and crumbling plaster and without water (and Cerebration, you used the right word, "managing", about teaching under these conditions), they would make exactly the same salary as they do working at FSC."

What a bleak description of the science instruction environment our kids are going to be in every day. The prospect you describe doesn't seem to justify spending millions and millions on a science center with 30 teachers. Quite the contrary. Your scenario sounds like ANY infusion of money for science in the regular education classroom would be welcome - certainly $7,000,000 annually that DCSS pays to support Fernbank Science Center.

How many experienced science teachers with masters degrees could we have for $7,000,000?

DCSS could have 120 science teachers with 4 years of experience in the classroom teaching science every day. There is NO substitute for day after day after day of consistent science instruction taught by a competent science teacher.

Where did I get that figure? $7,000,000 divided by $58,000 (4 years of experience with a masters degree and I included benefits).

Do you think 120 science teachers might have an impact in our middle and high schools (we have 40 of them)? I guarantee our science teachers would not have 200 students a day, and our students wold not be packed like sardines into their science classes. Science should be for every child - not just the lucky few.

I too feel that we need to be..."focusing on kids and what they need. Because one thing they sure do need, is better science teaching. "

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:38 pm

"However, at FSC, teachers teach a lot more kids than in a classroom setting: 130-plus students (average) each day in an outreach program; about 50 each day in a single-visit program, and, yes, just 16 each day for 2-8 days in STT......STT occupies only a small part of any FSC teacher's time, and not all FSC teachers teach it."

You're correct in that the vast majority of FSC instructors are not teaching STT everyday. 90 students a semester going for a half day to Fernbank Science Center do not require 30 teachers each day to teach them.

Regarding the Outreach program, if Fernbank teaching was all outreach, then we wouldn't need all the maintenance, administration and support (36 personnel are admin and support versus 29 certified teachers). We could dispense with the physical Center entirely and let the FSC instructors work out of a high school to save millions a year in admin, support and transportation costs.

BTW, I had many science instructors using outreach to teach my students over 30 years (average of twice a year). Most did not arrive until 10:00 to teach the class. The class was around 1.5 hours, and then they left. They only taught my class which I can assure you did not have 50 students. Afternoon classes were similar in length and attendance.

Of course, anyone who sees all the buses that come to Fernbank Science Center everyday knows that Outreach is by no means what Fernbank Science is all about.

Thousands of buses a year arrive at FSC over the school year bringing classes of students for their once or twice a year science lesson.

Doing the math, did you realize that those school buses can’t even leave the schools until 9:00 am and must be back before 2:00 pm? Then calculate how long the students are in transit. Maybe they can get to FSC by 9:30. Consider the thousands of hours of instructional time lost as those students sit on the bus.

Due to these transportation constraints, FSC personnel generally only teach a maximum of 2 classes a day when they are at Fernbank.

I took hundreds of classes to Fernbank over 30+ years, and the classes usually average around 1.5 hours. They generally teach a class in the morning and a class in the afternoon. Their actual teaching time is around 3 hours a day if they are teaching those general level once or twice a year classes (not STT). Three hours a day is considerably less than most science classroom teachers.

Transportation issues are the biggest inefficiency of delivering science in a science center by transportating busloads of kids into a central location.

Only in DCSS would we ignore the costs of a program like this ($5,000,000 in salaries and benefits alone) with rising oil prices driving this expense higher and higher.

Only in DCSS would the environmental impact from all those buses transporting thousands of students for a once or twice a year experience at FSC not be considered. Is this really an environmentally sound way to deliver science education to students? It certainly isn't an economical one.

But don't worry too much. The Fernbank Community is very powerful and know how to work the system. This is a wonderful part of their community - beautiful and convenient for their kids. Fernbank parents have already figured out that regular science ed instruction isn't working in DCSS (like you). They will fight for this program that serves many of their kids through STT and for the beautiful well kept greenspace that graces their community. And they will probably win.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank Volunteer (or anyone else),

At the Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council meeting on Wednesday Ramona Tyson mentioned (revealed) that there had been ongoing litigation with the Fernbank Museum, initiated by the museum.

It sounds like both sides have agreed to sit down with each other and fire the attorneys and try to negotiate a solution.

Does anyone know the gist of the complaints?

Anonymous said...

" Why are teachers put in a position where they are essentially performing community service, earning low wages and spending their own money, while administrators in the system are paid salaries comparable to what they could earn in the private sector?"

Why? Because the money goes to PR and most non school house administrators ran away from teaching because they wanted more money and more free time.

Cerebration said...

No one is saying shut down the program - we are wondering if we shouldn't work on a public/private partnership - this program is expensive. And in DCSS, every additional expense you spend on one student, takes something away from another somewhere else.

Teaching in Dekalb for God Only Knows How Much Longer said...

While I truly understand the concern over funding of Fernbank and its structure, I would say its one of only a few brightspots in Dekalb specifically designed for high achievers. Remember, that most of the "extra" money (grants, Title 1, special programs, etc.) is designed to enhance the education of the low achieving students. We generally neglect the needs of the gifted ones, especially in high school.

By the way, has anyone given thought or voice to the idea that next years GHSGT in math will be taken by students who started high school with a new flawed "Math 1" curriculum. Math teachers don't even know what the "new" test will look like. Are we really expecting schools to make AYP (not that it really means anything - but the public does want to know)

.........Wow, just wait until after next Monday's Budget meeting. Hopefully, a lot of things will be clearer.
At our school, we are still trying to plan next years schedule based on the notion that will lose a number of teachers.

Man, This really bites!!!

Dunwoody Mom said...

That's one reason that the EOCT pass rate for STT students is almost always 100% or just below it. Those stats are publicly available.

I'm sure the pass rate on the EOCT is 100%. Again, STT is a program in which the students are chosen, based on their grades, their applications, teacher recommendations...Only the "best" science students are gong to be chosen. The students who could use this additional science instruction are getting left behind.

This is most likely the reason that DCSS has required the Fernbank tachers to come up with a plan in how to re-deisng the Fernbank offerings to reach students throughout the county.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Okay, I apologize for the spelling. It's early and the coffee has not kicked-in.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the litigation related to FSC and Fernbank Museum is that the museum tried to sue FSC over use of the Fernbank name (which of course the science center has had for decades). The museum is also interested in taking of the forest. The museum uses a few FSC teachers to give programs in return for some use of the building. The problem with the musuem is that its first priority is making money.

Dunwoody Mom said...

It was nice to see that both sides realized the only one coming out ahead on this litigation were the lawyers.

Anonymous said...

No matter how anyone feels about FSC, here lies the problem. It is easy to kill the entire center for a quick savings, but do you really believe the money will go to science? Who will ensure that process? With Gloria Talley gone, there is no one leading instruction (FSC falls under her dept). Let's be realistic, unless a special bank account is set up for "science" to hold those funds, the money will be sucked up in a nanosecond by myriad other needs in Central Office or to pay off legal fees, buy inspirational books, or whatever. Any plans to change the current model need to occur slowly and deliberately and with the right people at the table.

I am very glad to hear that the FSC teachers have been asked to come up some new ideas. They are the experts in science education, and spend time in schools throughout the county, and thus have a pretty good sense of the vast range of needs, abilities, experiences, and environments in our county.

As for the comment that the money from FSC could be used to hire large numbers of science teachers with advanced degrees, good luck finding those teachers. As it stands, the DCSS has to search far and wide to find science teachers every year. Chemistry and physics teachers are especially scarce because someone with this expertise can often find a job in industry.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:19 am

"The problem with the musuem is that its first priority is making money. "

I don't know why that's a bad thing. FSC has no incentive to make money since DCSS taxpayers pay $7,000,000 a year for it. Perhaps that's why you see so much of its funds going for admin and support (55%) as contrasted to teachers (45%).

Fernbank Science Center needs to become self sufficient at best. They could charge DCSS to put 90 students a semester through STT.

At the very least, FSC needs to seek as much alternative funding as possible and cut costs in the admin and support end.

In addition, providing science education by putting thousands of students in buses is not an environmentally sound way to present science education.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:40 am

"As for the comment that the money from FSC could be used to hire large numbers of science teachers with advanced degrees, good luck finding those teachers. As it stands, the DCSS has to search far and wide to find science teachers every year. Chemistry and physics teachers are especially scarce because someone with this expertise can often find a job in industry."

Well, I guess according to your argument, we can't get science teachers anyway, so we might as well keep Fernbank so we can provide a quality science to a handful of DCSS students. Just come out and say that.

Maybe someone should tell Ms. Tyson so she can let the state of Georgia know that DCSS can't provide quality science instruction for all our students so we've chosen to provide it for the very few.

Teacher from another country said...

Here are the recorded student contacts by FSC staff for the school year just past.

39,981 student contacts through Single Visits
96,589 contacts through Outreach Programs
Almost 75,000 contacts in the Planetarium

Not bad for 30-plus teachers!

Unless you believe that the only effective science education is sitting in a classroom and working through a curriculum written by people who clearly don't understand science (see:GPS)--and some people do, and that's why we have worksheets and low science scores--then you must realize that science taught at a Science Center, in real labs (the forest), with equipment that you have to go and visit (AEL lab, observatory, planetarium, tissue culture facilities, organ dissection, can give learning a vitally important dimension. No one ever got turned on by a worksheet.

You may see an FSC teacher in your classroom for only 1.5 hours, but what you don't see is the other schools and classes that teacher does on the same day: the morning programs that were already presented; the evening or weekend programs and classes; and the time spent developing and presenting a Prof Dvlp class at the request of DCSS Administration, which calls on FSC staff often for this purpose.

Disliking (envying) FSC teachers for their "easy" life is nothing new to DCSS. Similarly to those looking at FSC, it's easy for parents to look at a HS or MS teacher on block scheduling and say, "you're only teaching 4 1/2 hours each day--what's up wiht THAT?"

But all teachers know that measuring teacher-time-in-front-of-a-class does not tell the whole story. Teaching is much more about planning, designing good lessons, grading appropriately, and helping students make the most of hteir abilities, than it is about standing up in front of 30 kids and spouting content. What the student sees--the final "delivery" product--is the tip of a very deep iceberg of classroom management skills, care, control, consistency, and knowledge.

FSC instructors are a powerful resource for turning around our county's science achievement. Perhaps the community should take a more active--and positive--role in providing input to the Board about what it would like to see FSC become. Is the best use of all this expertise to assign FSC teachers to classrooms? Why would ANY highly qualified teacher choose to stay in DCSS unless the system makes a serious, and immediate, commitment to suport science teaching?

The exodus of teachers from DCSS, which many are predicting will incrase once the dust has settled from all the layoffs (and by the way, other metro GA counties have already informed their staff about who's getting cut), reflects teachers' views of how hard it is to do what they love in the absence of admin and curriculum support.

The real question is not, how can we get rid of this wasteful, useless FSC? It is, rather, how can we KEEP highly qualified teachers in ALL areas form fleeing DCSS?

What's lost sight of, because teachers have no voice in DCSS, is how all this chaos impacts us. Everyone has a view of how and what we should teach. But our views are rarely sought, and never by the BOE or Administration. As the nattering goes on, we see our personal dreams of nurturing children's potential drowning in a sea of silly standards, incompetent and corrupt administrators, mean-spirited comments by the parents whose children we spend long hours helping, and inattention by everyone, parents and administators alike, to the serious discipline needs of our students.

FSC is a great resource. Keep it, change it if needed, but support it in the meantime--it's one of the few visible signs of excellence in education that we have.

Anonymous said...

In case any teachers or staff at FSC is reading this blog, I would like to say that I LOVE FSC and the idea that anyone would want to do away with it is ludicrous. As someone said, more of the $$ and resources go to bringing lower achieving students up. Let's keep a little for the higher achieving students (yeah, I get that there are some magnets). STT did change my kids lives. Also, in high school, students can take as an elective Independent Study science classes at Fernbank. As far as I know this is open to any student that wants to take it. Students do need to furnish their own transportation, though. This class also changed my child's life, contributing to their love of science and pursuit of science as a career. I agree that FSC should come up with some new ways to make more of their offerings/expertise available to more of DCSS students, but please, FSC staff, do not think you are not appreciated judging by some of the comments here. Let's focus on the big picture and not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Do ya'll realize that a student in DeKalb doesn't have to pass a science (or any other class, for that matter) until HS?

Anonymous said...

"Let's focus on the big picture and not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. "

I'm glad your son had such a great FSC experience, but "focusing on the big picture" means looking at every dollar spent for science going to provide quality science instruction daily for all students. FSC instructors are well respected by everyone in the county.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:02.

Thank you, you are absolutely right about the Advanced Studies classes--open to everyone in the County, but sadly, attended by far too few HS students.

And yes, some FSC staff do read this blog. We are also community members, parents, graduates of DCSS, and thinking individuals, in addition to being teachers. We care about our schools. And we vote!

Thanks for your supportive comments.

Anonymous said...

If you want to get some long impassioned posts, just talk about making any changes to Fernbank Science Center. Long, impassioned posts will follow.

Let's look dispassionately at the latest post:

"39,981 student contacts through Single Visits
96,589 contacts through Outreach Programs
Almost 75,000 contacts in the Planetarium "

Single visits to a Science Center cannot replace 180 days of consistent daily science instruction in a science classroom.

Single visits and Planetarium visits represent almost 115,000 students on buses coming to FSC. Since DCSS bus drivers are paid up to $36 and hour (and this is "extra pay" for them for at least 4 hours - they charge while they sit there and wait you know) + gas (buses run around 8 mpg) and maintenance, the transportation cost to DCSS alone must be astronomical.

115,000 students translate to around 3,800 buses (30 to a bus) DCSS pays annually for students to attend a single visit lesson or a lecture in the planetarium.

Someone want to take a stab at calculating what those 3,800 bus trips belching fumes into the air a year cost DCSS.

All the while, we have so many students crammed into decrepit science classrooms with little or no equipment.

This is not good business nor sound educational practices.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher from Another Country 10:52 am

"FSC instructors are a powerful resource for turning around our county's science achievement."

Okay. Every single 9th grade student takes the science EOCT:
Consider these DCSS science achievement facts Fall, 2009:

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

If Fernbank Science Center supporters would put even half of the effort they are putting into "saving Fernbank" into lobbying Ms Tyson and the BOE to reduce the overstaffed and overcompensated admin and support area, I doubt this discussion would be happening.

Anonymous said...

Knowing that DCSS is having a budgetary crisis makes it easy to think that we should sacrifice the education of children for the sake of saving do$$ars. Sounds good, but everything is not so clear. Surely, we need to restructure the program to save money and run it more efficiently, but it is ludicrous to suggest that it should be eliminated.

I teach in a Dekalb County H.S. I can say with 100% certainty that those same high achieving students would not be adequately served in a "sit down and learn" classroom. They would be placed in classrooms with students of the same age, but not the same intellectual desire or capability.
We should always promote, support, and defend student achievement and encourage impressionable minds to become lifelong learners.

By the way, I don't teach science but I'm always encouraged when I hear these same Fernbank students relate their experiences to me. It's a shame that we only offer it to them during their freshman year.

Cerebration said...

Biology:
Number tested: 3,161
Pass rate: 52% (Georgia 64%)

Physical Science:
Number tested: 2,536
Pass rate: 63% (Georgia 71%)

This is the issue that keeps coming back in my mind. Let's say that 180 or these freshmen in biology of the 3,161 who are tested completed the STT program. As stated, they have 100% pass rates on EOCT. We also know that schools like Chamblee and others have high pass rates even among their non-STT students. Therefore, if we factor in so many high-scoring students that we are aware of, against the countywide average stated above of 52%, then the bell curve on this test must look upside down. Obviously, there is a large group we are serving very well - but the 52% pass rate shows that there must be a large group that we are failing miserably.

We are only advocating for better science instruction for those students. If you really look at science spending objectively, Fernbank is usurping a whole lot of funding and not really serving to improve overall performance countywide for everyone. Surely, these FSC educators can put on their thinking caps and figure out ways to help ALL DCSS students understand science better. And yes, (horror of horrors!) that could include spending more time teaching in regular, everyday science classrooms. Maybe the resulting frustration and shock at the lack of supplies and labs will turn them into science advocates for every student—not just those who find their way to the planetarium.

Cerebration said...

That said, I am also of the opinion that Title 1 money could and should be spent on direct supplemental instruction for students in Title 1 schools. Perhaps implementing after-school science labs as a Title 1 - direct instruction program would improve science scores. It seems our Title 1 dollars have been sucked up by administrators cramming "programs" into teacher's work days. Teachers don't need programs - they need additional support. Students need support. Some serious changes need to be made to the way DeKalb spends Title 1 money - this is tens of millions of dollars.

Anonymous said...

As a scientist, I really hate to see the only evaluation of successful science education and programs to be pass or fail on the EOCT. This is why science education in our country is so far behind that of other countries and why our U.S. grad schools in science are filled overwhelmingly with foreign students. The value of a place like Fernbank Science Center goes way beyond the EOCT.

Seems like the poor scores on EOCT biology may be more a reflection of weak science education K-8 than a reflection of weak biology in the 9th grade. By the time kids arrive in high school, so many are already uninterested and unprepared in science. Why is this? Maybe we need to ramp up the standards for our elementary school teachers in terms of science knowledge, skills, and interest.

Cerebration said...

As a scientist, I really hate to see the only evaluation of successful science education and programs to be pass or fail on the EOCT.

Oh - you ain't seen nothin' yet! The RTTT is heavily based on the proliferation of charter schools and merit pay for teachers - based on exactly those types of test scores. All teachers would agree with your point, Anon 1:43 PM.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:43 pm

I agree. EOCT scores just measure the most basic understanding of science content. It's pretty unsettling though that the most basic science content is only being mastered by around half of our students.

Have you visited some of the science classrooms in DCSS and seen some of the deplorable, crowded and unsafe conditions our students contend with every day? DCSS science teachers are buying supplies out of their own pockets in order to teach the curriculum. How are we to attract the best science minds to teach in these conditions?

"Why is this? Maybe we need to ramp up the standards for our elementary school teachers in terms of science knowledge, skills, and interest."

Do you really think just "ramping up the standards" will fix the problem? It would be nice to just write some words into the science standards, and then suddenly science is taught in depth to all K-8 children. It doesn't work like that in education any more than it works like that in real life.

Like you, my husband is a scientist, a virologist. He needs a certain level of support at CDC to be successful. He needs lab space, lab equipment, lab supplies, lab personnel, support from the administration, etc. All the scientists there seem to lobby constantly for these things. No one talks about "ramping up the standards", and then he'll be a better scientist. Every scientist I know understands that he/he needs a certain level of support in order to be successful, and that support costs money. So budgetary expenditures among labs become extremely important, often much to their dismay.

Schools are like that too. How the budget is spent has a big impact on the classroom. Fernbank Science Center takes a substantial amount of the science instruction budget - at least $7,000,000. There are only 30 teachers in Fernbank Science Center. Most of their classes are single visits once or twice a year for over an hour by a classroom of children. Can this compare with daily science instruction in a classroom with a competent science teacher?

$7,000,000 can go a long way towards quality science instruction in DCSS. But it can't just be done by taking funds from FSC. DCSS has way too many admin and support positions (8,500 of them to less than 7,000 teachers). A good analogy is if CDC only had a handful of people with science and medical backgrounds actually working in labs or the EIS office. How much of the core business would get done?

I urge you to go into some DCSS science classrooms, talk to the middle and high school science teachers, and ask them if DCSS is meeting the needs of the everyday student in DeKalb. Find out what some of them go through every single day because of their passion that all students master science content.

Cerebration said...

Support is key. I hear a lot of talk about "Accountability" and a lot of talk about "new programs" and a lot of money going for "instructional supervisors" but I rarely hear talk of supporting teachers in the classroom. This really isn't rocket science - accountability is fine - but teachers need supplies and support.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 12:48 pm


Great point! We've gotten to the point that virtually no Title 1 funds ($30,000,000) are spent for direct instruction of children or for science and technology supplies.

Hollywood trips, way over 100 highly paid non-teaching staff at the Central Office and schools, and enormously expensive, ineffective programs are where the money collected by DCSS for the lowest income students is being spent.

Title 1 has become like a charity that has most of its donations going to the administration and little to the group in need it was given for.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration 3:10 pm

"This really isn't rocket science - accountability is fine - but teachers need supplies and support."...

...and students need teachers - as many of them as the budget can spare. There is no substitute for teachers. All of the instructional coaches and expensive learning programs will not make up for a reasonably sized classroom with a competent teacher.

Anonymous said...

Why are kids not getting the basic science foundation they need in elementary/middle school? Is the problem the curriculum, the teachers, or both? Are the k-8 teachers not educated/qualified to teach science? Science education is failing well before kids reach high school. All the labs and equipment in the world will not make up this critical deficit. The issues are the teachers and the teaching.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:45
I am a science teacher in DCSS in here is my two cents on the subject. I hold degrees in biology and organic chemistry. I did not major in education. The problem lies with how teachers are taught in college. I have had more math than a math education major. I have even had to help math teachers in my building with teaching their content. Many were not even required to take calculus to get their degree. Science education majors are taught watered down content in college. The science and math for education majors is not rich in content. Many of my colleagues are very good with lesson delivery but are unable to master the content. You have no idea how hard it is to reteach a student a concept that they were taught incorrectly the first time. Until colleges/universities reevaluate their degree requirements I do not think we will see much improvement.

Anonymous said...

"All the labs and equipment in the world will not make up this critical deficit. The issues are the teachers and the teaching."

Great science teachers make or break science for students. I prefer really good doctors when I'm sick, but I like to go to a doctor that has clean exam rooms and basic medical equipment.

How do you propose DCSS attracts great science teachers? By packing more students in their classes (up to 35), giving them inadequate science facilities, and asking them to buy supplies out of their own pockets? Would this attract you to teach science in the schoolhouse?

Science teachers are just like anyone else. Good ones go where they are supported and where they have less concerns about student safety which is by the way has become a tremendous concern for science teachers and becoming more so next year.

Why don't you ask some "good science teachers if they feel they can be as effective with enormous class sizes and scant supplies.

Why don't we have small class sizes (24 is considered the safe limit for lab experiences) and ample supplies? The answer we hear from Ms. Tyson is that DCSS cannot afford it.

The science budget needs to be scrutinized to see if most students are receiving basic science instruction in a reasonably sized class with a competent teacher and ample supplies. Any other expenditures for science instruction can come after all students have these prerequisites. That's should be a right - not a privilege.

That's what this whole discussion about FSC has been. No one seems to want to admit that we do not have adequate science resources (plenty of good science teachers and adequate science equipment). Therefore, de facto we have decided to use FSC as the way to provide a quality science instruction to the very lucky few.

Cerebration said...

I was reminded today that the Georgia Performance Standards have not been updated since something like 1998. DeKalb has no curriculum of it's own - they more or less will direct you to the state when you ask about curriculum. Heck, if I visit my small school system in my hometown I can access pages and pages of in-depth curricula detailing each grade level and each subject. I can't find much at all regarding DeKalb's curriculum.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the DCSS curriculum webpage. There is a pdf file called A Blueprint for Success.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/instruction/curriculum/

The file has a lot of verbiage, but it's last date on the blueprint was 2007-2008.

It looks like some folks spent a lot of well compensated time writing this up, but then the short attention span of the DCSS administration dropped any pretense of a DeKalb curriculum and moved on. I don't think they think anyone would be interested in looking at this outdated information, and indeed I found virtual cobwebs on the document.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 3:45

I know for a fact there are middle school "science" teachers who have never majored in science or science education. They are the unlucky social studies, or language arts teacher that is teaching out of field the maximum ammount of time they are allowed. No offense, but would you want your child's social studies teacher teaching your child science when the teacher never had to study it at any advanced level?

In addition, how does DCSS plan on attracting qualified teachers if they offer them 35 kids per class, no a/c, no equipment, no desks, and no planning?

Ella Smith said...

The standards are constantly being updating. I just got an email today about the changes of the updates of the standards for science for next year which are different than this year which affect the GHSGT in Science next year.

As I said earlier I am in support of experiments on a constant basis in the classroom. However these can be done by most classroom teachers. The problem is the supplies. We have qualified teachers in Chemistry and Physics in this school system. These teachers give grades and take attendance each period and do paperwork daily and do not have the free time that the Fernbank teachers have. Please do not dog our regular Science Teachers in this county.

I am sure the Fernbank Teachers are highly qualified teachers. I am sure that they do a good job of presenting lessons and giving supportive information to students who visit the Fernbank Center or when the Fernbank Teachers visit the classroom. The Fernbank Teachers Positions are important. However, they are not more important than the Chemistry, Physics, Biology, 7th Grade Science, Physical Science Teacher, and Earth Science Teacher in the schoolhouse. If someone needs to be laid off it needs to start with the place where the least impact will be felt and that would be the Fernbank Science Teacher. I have nothing against the Fernbank Science Teacher and want them to be at Fernbank forever. I agree that this is a plus for the Dekalb County School System.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella

"As I said earlier I am in support of experiments on a constant basis in the classroom. "

Ella,
Do you feel it is a safe environment for students to conduct science experiments with 33 or 34 or 35 students in a class?

Anonymous said...

@ Ella
"The Fernbank Teachers Positions are important. However, they are not more important than the Chemistry, Physics, Biology, 7th Grade Science, Physical Science Teacher, and Earth Science Teacher in the schoolhouse. If someone needs to be laid off it needs to start with the place where the least impact will be felt and that would be the Fernbank Science Teacher."

Well said!!

Anonymous said...

@ Cere 4:44
Dekalb has written curriculum and pacing guides aligned to GPS. It is not on the Dekalb webpage though. Teachers have access to it in First Class.

Anonymous said...

Laying off any QUALIFIED science teachers, from the schoolhouse or from Fernbank Science Center, would have to be one of the most myopic decisions DCSS could make. Science teachers who really know their material and can teach it to kids are a seriously rare commodity. There are plenty of other cuts to make before one even entertains laying off science teachers.
Do you really think that letting science center teachers go will enhance science learning in the schoolhouse? If I had my choice, I would vote to replace 75% of the science teachers at our high school with teachers from the science center. But I'm sure personnel rules won't allow for this.

Teacher said...

No teachers should be laid off, unless they have demonstrated unacceptable performance for several years in a row, even after corrective measures have been taken. That they would be replaced by more qualified people, given the present state of DCSS's chaos, is not to be counted on. Good science teachers are not looking to work in DCSS--several earby counties offer better salaries and teaching conditions, with a lot less scandal.

But why on earth would anyone propose laying off qualified science teachers like those at FSC? That would really dilute the pool! Then you'd have an even-greater proportion of poor science teachers than you do now. It makes no sense to sacrifice quality teachers--much better to bring the others up to that level.

The GPS were rolled out at different times for different subjects--Eng and math came first, then science, I think in 2007. You can check on that on the DOE website. If you really want to have a heart attack, look at the "draft" GPS for Health, now available on the DOE website. Like a real trip back to the dark ages. But without community opposition, they, like all the GPS, will go into effect next year.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that GPS is the biggest issue but the simple fact that the bar to become a teacher in our state is set way too low, especially at the elementary level. The GACE (or whatever it is called now) is shockingly easy. Make it harder to become a teacher. There is not a shortage of elementary school teachers and we could afford to be more choosy.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher - private schools are offering better salaries, too, and have "stolen" a few of our better high school teachers already for next year. Private schools value teachers with masters and PhD in field (not in teaching) and are willing to pay. And they offer more supportive teaching environments and treat the teachers with respect. At this rate, DCSS will lose all teachers with expertise in subject area to private schools.

Anonymous said...

The curriculum that elementary teachers have access to from DCSS SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!! It's not of premier quality.

Anonymous said...

Have to admit, I bust out laughing every time I hear reference to "premier" DeKalb, though it really isn't funny :-((

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:54 PM

You're right. Did they pay some PR person to come up with that moniker? I've had to keep myself from laughing whenever someone answers the phone with "Premier DeKalb, How may I help you?" Just because you call yourself "Premier," wear high heels or a tie, and have that DCSS ID tag clipped to your jacket, does NOT make you intelligent, competent and effective.

Anonymous said...

Miller Grove high School

Okay folks (lol) Forgive me for laughing because it is really not funny.

After watching the video I went on Amazon.com and purchased "From Remedial to Remarkable". (lol)

Forgive me for laughing, please! Its not funny...really.
The book was signed inside the cover.

What is he doing...selling them on Amazon and Ebay from his garage?

The book is self published. This means the check came to him.

Where are the FEDS? This is Title I money. How did this benefit the kids?

Anonymous said...

I heard that at Briarlake they are not doing science every day. I'm not sure they are doing science even once every week. It's not tested in the early grades so it's not taught. This is bound to be happening at other elementary schools as well. This will catch up with the county and the high schools down the road.

Ella Smith said...

What private school pays teachers more than public school systems do? I am sure there may be some in the US and there could be even one or maybe two in the state but their are few of them. Please let me know what schools pay more. I am close to retirement and want to know where I need to apply.


I hear all these comments about the watered down EOCT and GHSGT and I always find it interesting. As most individuals never get the chance to see the EOCT and GHSGT I think it is interesting how individuals feel they are so watered down.

I feel that the GHSGT tests are based on the basic curriculum that all students take and all student should master and this is the basis for what every student must master to get a HS diploma. I feel it is reasonable to expect of all students.

Anonymous said...

No one suggests laying off FSC science teachers. I would propose that FSC gets private funding, is scaled back, or is closed. Whatever returns $7,000,000 to classroom science. If the FSC is scaled back or closed, FSC teachers could go back into our middle school and high school classrooms and infuse our schools with excellent science instruction. We certainly could use 29 more certified teachers in our classroom. Actually, for $7,000,000 we could place those 29 FSC teachers back in our classrooms and add almost 100 more. How can anyone think this is not a good thing for all our students?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:14 and Ella 10:18 Here's Briarlake's science scores. While standardized test scores are by no means the sum total of all students learn, I agree with Ella that the science questions on the CRCT are very basic. I used to teach at Briarlake and it is a small school. Small schools will have wider swings in scores than small ones.

3rd grade
CRCT met or exceeded in science
04-05 93%
05-04 92%
06-07 82%
07-08 83%
08-09 88%

4th grade
CRCT met or exceeded in science
04-05 95%
05-06 89%
06-07 88%
07-08 98%
08-09 89%

5th grade
CRCT met or exceeded in science
04-05 91%
05-06 98%
06-07 82%
07-08 96%
08-09 80%

Anonymous said...

Several years ago,when I was in the ES, the word (official, not just implied) was that in order to show well on the tests, focus on math and reading, and if you didn't get to social studies or science, that was OK. You can imagine the effect this had on teachers who didn't feel as comfortable in Soc Studies and/or science.

Anonymous said...

When that's what's measured, that's what you teach. That's one of the worst aspects of America's Choice. All of the focus is on reading and math. Somehow they forgot that reading scientific material also develops very important and a discretely different set of reading skills. The cross curricular connection is broken as reading becomes an entity unto itself. In real life reading is a means to an end.

Anonymous said...

Ella and others, I don't want to see a single FSC teacher laid off. To the contrary I want to see them all teaching every day, full time, in our high schools and middle schools.

And if they are paid more (which seems to be the case), I am fine with them keeping their extra pay. I would ask that they use their expertise to assist the other teachers to master the curriculum and present it in an engaging manner.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, again: Fernbank Science Center teachers are paid on the exact same pay scale as all other DCSS teachers. Pay depends on degree and time in service, just like for all teachers. A few teachers at FSCC are 12 month employees, so that early a little more. Most also have advanced degrees.

Anonymous said...

oops, excuse the pre-coffee typos:

meant to say that "A few teachers at FSCC are 12 month employees, so that they earn a little more."

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:51

"Ella and others, I don't want to see a single FSC teacher laid off. To the contrary I want to see them all teaching every day, full time, in our high schools and middle schools."

I didn't read that in Ellas's post that she advocates laying off FSC teachers. They could and should be teaching students in the regular education classroom. We desperately need every qualified science teacher we can get teaching the same children science every day. That's where we'd get a real bang for our bucks.

Cerebration said...

Just a funny viral email on the topic of math instruction - being raised Catholic - I chuckled at this -

Little Zachary was doing very badly in math.
His parents had tried everything...tutors, mentors,
Flash cards, special learning centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math.

Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him In the local Catholic school. After the first day, little Zachary came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn't even kiss his mother hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying.

Books and papers were spread out all over the room and little Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner.

To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before.

This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference.

Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room and hit the books. With great trepidation, His Mom looked at it and to her great surprise, Little Zachary got an 'A' in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity.. She went to his room and said, 'Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?' Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no.. 'Well, then,' she replied, Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? WHAT WAS IT?'

Little Zachary looked at her and said, 'Well, on the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren't fooling around.'

Dunwoody Mom said...

As most individuals never get the chance to see the EOCT and GHSGT I think it is interesting how individuals feel they are so watered down.

Ella, I think some of older EOCT tests can be found on the GA DOE website:

http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/ci_testing.aspx?PageReq=CI_TESTING_EOCT

Go down to the right-side of the page under EOCT Released Tests.

Teacher said...

Think of any organization where most departments or units are failing, but a few are doing well (like DCSS science education vs FSC). Imagine that those who run the place decide to dismantle the high-performing unit and sprinkle ]those employees (who choose to stay) throughout the rest of the organization to "improve things."

What would you predict? That the small cohort would somehow transform the corporation and improve the bottom line? That they would be able to overcome whatever corporate inertia and missteps had gotten the company there in the first place? Most likely, nothing much would change and those excellent employees would soon seek work elsewhere.

That's what I'd predict if FSC teachers were farmed out to regular schools. A useless and painful non-solution to a much bigger, deeper problem.

Anonymous said...

@ Teacher 1:17 pm

$7,000,000 is a big chunk of DCSS's science budget, and let's remember that most FSC employees are admin and support - not teachers, so the money spent on them could go into the classroom supplying science teachers for our children.

DCSS is not a jobs program. The mission is to provide a decent education to all of the children of DeKalb County. Our children need teachers. Go into the classrooms next year and see high school students crammed 35 to a classroom. The students are who we should feel sorry for. They're just trying to get an education.

Place the FSC teachers out in the schools teaching the same students science day after day, and then take that extra money from FSC non teaching expenditures to add many, many more science teachers.

If DCSS wants to work it out where FSC personnel can still teach STT, then let some of them teach those classes of 15 students, but let their parents transport them, and pick a school that is truly in a central location is DeKalb County.

Do you think adding $4,500,000 will help the schools that as you say "are failing," our students in science? Because that's roughly what DCSS spends on Fernbank Science Center after you subtract the salary and benefits of the Fernbank teaching personnel.

Around $4,500,000 would be left over to spend. This $4,500,000 would come from:
1. Salaries and benefits spent for the non-teaching personnel
2. Transporting students to and from FSC (thousands of buses a year per the number of children FSC says have single visits)
3. The general overhead to the buildings and grounds

29 FSC certified teachers:
Total personnel cost: $2,596,018
(Salary $2,076,815, Benefits $519,203)

FSC non-teaching personnel:
Total personnel cost: $2,330,732
(Salary $1,864,586 Benefits $466,146)

Please don't ask about the geologist who is great teacher, but not certified to teach. DCSS could put him through alternative certification while he teaches and he could have his certification in a year while teaching.

This whole FSC discussion is about providing a "quality science education" for the few, not the many. However, the vast majority of the children of the taxpayers who are footing the $7,000,000 bill belong to the many category, not the few.

Right now FSC is scrambling to add programs to show it is vital to DCSS, but we all know where we really need help is in daily science instruction in our schools. There is no substitute for dedicated science teachers in the classrooms of our schools. That's the way the majority of our children will master science content, and everyone knows it.

Anonymous said...

Does DCSS have a single "science budget" under which FSC, in its entirety, falls? Somehow, I don't think it is quite that simple. Remove FSC and all the money will automatically be protected for and diverted to other science-related activities? I doubt it. And to correct misinformation, once again, many teachers at the science center are not certified, not that it matters one bit in terms of their knowledge, skills, or teaching abilities.

The sad reality here is that if FSC is closed, the money will not go to science. The teachers will not be placed in DCSS schools. They will be cut lose to apply for job vacancies, and as we all know, since DCSS is increasing class sizes, there will be few vacancies. These teachers will go elsewhere. The day-to-day situation in the schoolhouse will be the same as it is now and there will be many thinks missing.

Anonymous said...

I think we should be very wary about advocating for cutting any programs related to science, including FSC, without assurance that the money will be spent on science education and that the funds will be distributed equally and fairly throughout the schools. Any dollars currently spent on science must be protected for science. While many here disagree, the fact is that FSC does work very hard to served all parts of the county as equally as possible. They keep super detailed records to prove this. Close FSC and who will manage these funds. How will we ever know they will be spent on science? How will we know that they were allocated disproportionately to programs at a few schools?

Cerebration said...

Speaking of money for science teachers - Oddly we still have no explanation as to why this science teacher at Arabia HS makes so much more money than any other teacher anywhere.

SATTARI,DARYUSH
$49,451 (in 2004) raised to $147,539.80 (in 2009)

Ella Smith said...

Dunwoodymom 9:20

Some parts of the GHSGT are released. The last one I downloaded parts of it was in 2007.

This was under the old GPS standards. We had to give two tests until last year or year before in Science.

I know we cover so much material in Biology and it is so difficult to know what information will be on the test. The Biology curriculum is pretty extensive. There is so much material.

I see a great deal of rigor in my son's classes currently and I see a great deal of rigor in the classes I team teach and I actually am not an easy self-contained science teacher. I am very demanding. I push my students to excel as much as I think they can excel and learn. I know it is not like this everywhere and this needs to change. However, I still feel the EOCT and GHSGT do indicate achievement of our students and are going to be used more extensively in the future to determine if I am a good teacher or not. However we do benchmark testing during the year to observe progress during the year also in Fulton County in the subjects that students take the EOCT. I study this information with each class and each student and each standard online in our SAMS program. This helps me guide remediation of my students.

Anonymous said...

Cere, Dr. Sattari's salary was only $80,105.91 in the 2008 salary report!

Anonymous said...

I had many thoughts and expectations prior to Ms. Tyson’s address to the teachers last Thursday. When it was all over, I tried to focus on the just a few main points. As it turns out, it was easy because there were no main points that mattered to me. After she finished her statistical BS about how many central office people are paid by whom, (btw Ms. Tyson, they’re all paid with my tax money local school, state or federal) she said nothing of value besides platitudes of working together. What she really meant was sit down, shut up, and maybe you can keep your job.

What I hoped she was going to say;

No more instructional programs foistered on the classroom teachers until those same teachers are consulted for real input after they have had the program explained and demonstrated, including what additional burdens of busywork forms they will have to add to their work load.

No adoption or renewal of any programs that have been used in the past (a la America’s Choice, Springboard, Direct Instruction…etc.) without serious input from all teachers who used that program in the past. Most everyone I worked with didn’t like it, didn’t think it was effective with our student population, and tried like heck to make it work anyway, against their best judgment. Adding more irony to re-buying America’s Choice is that this was a Bush administration darling so we don’t even get a political benefit from its adoption. Ah…. DCSS – a day late and a dollar short.

The teachers in the schools are not idiots, stop treating us like that. CRCT cheating??? Every classroom teacher in my school knew who it was and how it was done. Guess what? No one ever asked us.

Since unions are against the law, our teaching associations need to get more creative in being seen and heard as advocates for education in the schools. Maybe we need a few chalk-flu days of teacher absences’ to get some attention and show some unity.

Ella Smith said...

Maybe he is getting consultation fees at Fernbank or for another reason for the school system.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Dr. Sattari may have filed or had been planning to file a handicap accessibility or discrimination claim against the school system. The raise may be part of a settlement or added compensation given to keep him from filing. Granted, this is pure speculation, but can you think of a valid reason for giving a teacher, granted with a T-7, such an exorbitant raise?

Anonymous said...

More information on Sattari:

"Dr. Daryush Sattari is a blind teacher living in Georgia. For two years he has taught earth sciences in Jonesboro. All six of his performance evaluations give him the highest rating, and his supervisors have consistently indicated that he is a good teacher. However, a new principal has been assigned to the school where he teaches. Shortly before this convention, Dr. Sattari was informed that he will not be retained as a teacher because there are problems with his classroom management. Although all other teachers in the school received a letters from the district superintendent requesting that they continue to teach, Dr. Sattari was told to pack up and leave. We are working with the teachers union to file a complaint of discrimination. The union is with us; it recognizes unfairness; and it is prepared to fight. Good performance demands recognition, and we intend to get this for Dr. Sattari along with a renewal of his contract or damages for discriminatory behavior."

I don't know the outcome of the discrimination complaint.

This is from the Presidential Report 2000, National Federation of the Blind. http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/convent/prsrpt00.htm

Arabia Mountain, which I thought was under-enrolled, has 12 science teachers and 1 parapro. The Science Department chair, Dr. Fred Okoh, receives a salary of $83,177.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Sattari has half the class load and 1/4 the student load of all other AMHS teachers. He has his own paraprofessional, speaks very little English, and does not have to participate in the major academic program from which AM is funded. The county has provided him with a special computer for the blind, he has his lesson plans written by other science teachers, and classroom management is not even in the picture. When his contract was not renewed for the upcoming year due to poor performance, he sued, citing "lack of accomodations". When his attorneys investigated, they decided that he had received an excessive amount of accomodations, and the case didn't need to go forward. However, the last word is that the county is going to offer him a contract anyway just to shut him up. Over $147,000 for someone who can't do the job.

Anonymous said...

Shame, Shame, Shame on all of you for throwing muck on a science teacher... does it make you feel better? You pull salary numbers out of thin air, someone else gives you a number that is different and you totally ignore it, and you use 2nd hand account of how he is in the classroom to say he "cannot do the job". Have you ever met the guy? Have you ever seen him teach? And Ella, you had to get in on the mud flinging too? Thought you had your sights set on running for the school board... is this the way you think a school board member should be treating teachers?
Shame, shame, shame...

Cerebration said...

We don't pull numbers out of thin air. We get all of our salary reports from the state's open records website. Check it out -

http://www.open.georgia.gov/

I do agree that we have to take the opinions people express here (or on any blog) with a grain of salt, but the salaries are real. Don't you think it's a problem for one teacher to use up enough salary for at least 2-3 teachers? Our legal issues are costing us big time. Dr. Lewis apparently answered threats of lawsuits with mysterious raises. Harold Lewis' threat of sexual harassment against Pat Pope is another example. He was also mysteriously promoted and given a raise. Lewis also handed out raises and "promotions" to his inside supporters and friends. Example - the principal he promoted as "Executive Director" of health and wellness over the phD "Director" of H&W we had in place already. This promotion and made-up job was totally unnecessary. We really need effective principals - not another administrator of silliness.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:48 am

"Shame, Shame, Shame on all of you for throwing muck on a science teacher... does it make you feel better? You pull salary numbers out of thin air, someone else gives you a number that is different and you totally ignore it..."

Why would you say that someone is pulling numbers out of thin air regarding regarding Dr. Sattari's salary? You are not stating the truth.

Posters, please go to the state Salary and Travel audit on the Georgia Department of Education website to compare Dr. Sattar's salary from 2008 and 2009 (http://www.open.georgia.gov/).

You will see that Dr. Sattari's salary was $80,105 in 2008 and then went to $147,539 in 2009. The maximum salary for a teacher with a PhD and maximum years of experience in DCSS is $82,104.

What happened between 2007-08 school year and 2008-09 school year that DCSS felt it necessary to pay Dr. Sattari $67,434 (84% increase) more from one year to the next?

Furthermore, Dr. Sattari's salary was $49,451 in the 2004 - 2005 school year so something is not the norm here.

Something happened to increase his salary:
2004 - $49,451
2008 - $80,105
2009 - $147,539

Does this seem normal to any of your teachers out there? I'm sure other teachers with PhDs and 24 years of experience are curious as well.

Is this part of a lawsuit settlement? Taxpayers want and deserve to know since they pay his salary. Did the DCSS administration mess up and lay us open to yet another monetary obligation?

Go to the DCSS website to look up what teachers with the maximum years of experience a PhD make on the DCSS salary schedule (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/humanresources/salaryschedules.html).

You will see that the DCSS salary schedule shows that teachers with a PhD and the maximum years of experience make $82,104.

Let posters see for themselves who is correct. Perhaps you need to view these credible sources.

Did you really think this blog is just one where you can state anything you want and no one would check your facts and call you on it when you misstate the truth?

Anonymous said...

what you should be ashamed of is the remarks made about his ability to teach... those are the remarks that don't belong on this blog. Those are the remarks that you have no direct support of.
As for his salary, by your argument we should go into a school like Lakeside, with an experienced staff that makes more money than new teachers make, fire everybody, and hire all first year teachers with the money we save. I bet the science chair at Lakeside makes at least $80K... she's using up enough salary for two teachers! We should be outraged! In fact, lets fire all teachers with more than 4 years experience... think of the money the county will save! What a great idea you have Cerebration...

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:37 am

"I bet the science chair at Lakeside makes at least $80K... she's using up enough salary for two teachers! "

So you are saying the Lakeside Department chair makes $80,000 while Dr. Sattari makes $147,549 and he's not even the department chair? According to your calculations, Dr. Sattari is using the salary of 3.8 teachers.

It's obvious something is going on here that is not quite right. Who goes from $49,451 to $147,549 in 5 years performing the exact same job function in a public school system?

Don't try to lay this off on his teaching. We have excellent teachers in all DCSS schools. I don't see them going from $49,451 to $147,549 in 5 years.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:53 am

I agree that something is not quite right about Dr. Sattari's salary. No other teacher in DCSS comes close to making $147,000+ a year. Is this another Dr. Lewis "deal" that no one wants to talk about? What kind of a deal was cut with Dr. Sattari? Why are taxpayers on the hook for it? What are students getting for this $147,000+ salary?

Was this a legally binding agreement that DCSS pays Dr. Sattari almost 3 times the salary of the average teacher in DCSS? Or was this a non-legally binding "promotion" to make a lawsuit "go away"? Dr. Sattari is listed as a teacher, but why is his compensation so astronomical compared to other teachers?

Does anyone know more particulars in this case?

Sounds like a back office DCSS administrative "deal" to me. Has anyone written the BOE to see if they will look into this, or did they approve this "deal". What is the expenditure amount they must approve?

Anonymous said...

Email your BOE members encouraging them to authorize a salary and compensation audit.

"Dr. Sattari's salary was $49,451 in the 2004 - 2005 school year so something is not the norm here.

Something happened to increase his salary:
2004 - $49,451
2008 - $80,105
2009 - $147,539
"

This is exactly why the DCSS BOE needs to authorize and have a salary add compensation audit conducted as soon as possible.

Email your BOE members by clicking on "Email the entire DCSS board of Education" above the Comments section in the DeKalb Watch blog.

Insist that our BOE members authorize a salary and compensation audit.

A reputable auditor (one outside of DCSS - totally unconnected to DCSS personnel) could have their recommendations back within 6 months so that these BOE members have a chance to vote on any recommendations before this November's elections.

I just emailed all BOE members:
1. A comparison of the 2004 to 2008 salaries of these top earners (see below).
2. I referenced them to the minutes of the BOE meeting of 12/05/2005 which states that Dr. Lewis conceded that DCSS was overpaying thousands of DCSS non-teaching employees by millions of dollars a year, but refused to recommend any salary adjustments.

Feel free to copy and paste this in your BOE email:


Central office staffing's bloated salaries:
Here is a sample comparison between 2004 salaries and 2009 salaries:

NAME - 2004 salary - 2009 salary

LEWIS,CRAWFORD - $112,074 - $287,991.63
REID,PATRICIA A - $100,010- $197,592.50
CALLAWAY,FRANKIE B - $106,698- $165,035.69
MOSELEY,ROBERT G - $106,698- $165,035.69
TALLEY,GLORIA S - no data available - $165,035.69
TURK,MARCUS T - $75,558 - $165,035.69
TYSON,RAMONA H - $99,960- $165,035.69
WILSON,JAMIE L - $85,502 - $165,035.69
SATTARI,DARYUSH - $49,451- $147,539.80
MITCHELL,FELICIA M - $96,354- $125,284.87
FREEMAN,TIMOTHY W - $106,598 - $124,049.27
GILLIARD,WANDA S - $102,594 - $124,049.27
THOMPSON,ALICE A - $99,960- $124,049.27
NORRIS-BOUIE,WENDOLYN - $100,060 - $122,345.84
DUNSON,HORACE C - $90,606- $122,195.84
SEGOVIS,TERRY M - $93,888 - $122,195.84
SIMPSON,RALPH L - $95,826- $122,195.84
WHITE,DEBRA A - $90,426 - $122,195.84
RHODES,CHERYL L - $88,804 - $121,202.40
FREEMAN,SUSAN L - $85,578 - $120,844.00

Anonymous said...

Thought it might be good to get this discussion back on the track that it started on...

The article stated "Some claims for inquiry methods regarding understanding the nature of science are not sufficiently supported by evidence. " I read the whole opinion piece, and what stood out for me as a science teacher is that there was no mention of what "evidence" they were using. My guess is that it might have been standardized test scores. One of the problems with standardize tests is they have a hard time testing if kids get the big picture concepts, the kind of learning that inquiry teaching focuses on. Direct instruction tends to be better at teaching facts, but if you dig deeper you find that the kids really don't "get" what you are teaching, even though they may do really well on the standardized test they take over the material.

To get a concept, they really need to do it. Think about how this might work in your everyday life. If you watched the food network all day you might do very well on a standardized test about cooking, but if someone actually put you in a kitchen you could be clue-less about actually cooking a meal.

If we want to really evaluate learning, we have to use an evaluation tool that fits that style of learning, and as long as we use the multiple choice standardized test we will not be able to properly evaluate inquiry based student learning.

essay service said...

HI,
The article is a bit confusing for me to understand the core of it. DCSS and other educational institutions should focus upon Public relation and should promote experiments and research based studies.
Ella has rightly quoted that experiments takes a great deal of time and one can learn from any source.
Essay Service

Anonymous said...

I believe the evidence is outlined in the professor's research paper which is cited in the Newsweek article. You have to read the source document, not the Newsweek magazine.

Also, the Newsweek article refers readers to the very excellent government site What Works. I have not read the underlying analyses of inquiry learning for science but I have read many reports on inquiry learning for math. I have read every single analysis listed on What Works for math textbooks and supplemental materials. It is true that many are flawed. Many of the so-called scientific analyses were prepared by the book publishers or companies hired by them.

Inquiry learning is fabulous in the perfect world and in the perfect educational think tank. But to be effective inquiry learning needs the following ingredients to succeed: Teachers who have a deep mastery of the subject matter; Teachers highly trained in inquiry based learning; Classrooms with small numbers of highly engaged students (i.e. without distractions and discipline issues); Classrooms equipped with the tools needed to present the curricula; Students who have sufficient fundamentals in reading skills, math and science to engage in inquiry learning.

Our current public schools do not have the tools needed to succeed in an inquiry based learning environment. With lay offs, increasing class size and the poor quality of teachers being turned out by our education colleges, I see this as yet another educational fix du jour that will be shelved after a few years (and many millions of dollars invested in new books).

Cerebration said...

Good news!

Science, Art, Experience and Collaboration
DeKalb County School System 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083
Contact: Elizabeth M. Eppes, NBCT 678.676.0192
In the spring of 2010, former DeKalb County Science Coordinator, Faatimah Muhammad and Visual and Performing Art Coordinator, Elizabeth Eppes were approached by Georgia Tech.Departments of Engineering and Education seeking collaboration with teachers of an Advanced Placement science course and an Advanced Placement studio art course. Tucker High School was identified and ultimately selected as the site in which to implement the project with teachers, Ms. Kelly Voss, Science Educator and Ms. Renee Gaither, Visual Art Educator. Ms. Voss and Ms. Gaither met with Dr. Jamila Cola in October to begin the dialog for the Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT). Dr. Baratunde Cola, PhD. invited Ms. Voss and Ms. Gaither to the Nano Lab at GA Tech on November 16th to further discuss the research grant and their role in the study and the writing of the paper.
As a result of this work a four hundred thousand dollar ($400,000.00) grant has been awarded to Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering department to support the collaboration between Georgia Tech School of Mechanical Engineering and Tucker High School’s Science and Visual Art departments. The research will involve Creating Transformative, Aesthetic Science Education.
The study is about heat/energy transference and how that energy can be harnessed and used. Ms. Voss and Ms. Gaither will assist in developing lesson plans and curriculum for the collaboration of science and art on an Advanced Placement level. The research will commence during the summer for four weeks and continue over a four year period.


http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/newsroom/press/pdf/2011-02-02.2011-02-09.400_Thousand_Dollar_Grant_Partnership_with_Tucker_HS_and_Georgia_Tech.pdf