Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is DCSS leveling the playing field between schools?



Our talented researcher known as DeKalb Parent has looked into PTA spending and will have you wondering if we couldn't level the playing field better by bringing Title 1 funds directly into the schools.  Read on:

Maureen Downey who writes the AJC Get Schooled blog brought up an interesting question in a recent article titled “Should parent affluence influence how schools are funded?

I took a look at a few affluent areas of DeKalb to see what their PTAs fund for students. In particular I pulled data for some of the schools that have the greatest percentages of responses to the online survey regarding redistricting.

The parents at these schools work hard for their money, and they work just as diligently to raise money for their schools. Reviewing their PTA’s income and expenditures gives an idea of the “extras” these school provide. Although this is only one reason parents might want their children to stay at these schools, the impact made by the PTA is substantial and obviously beneficial for the students.

Regarding the PTAs expenditures, the local PTA scrutinizes and controls the funds. The money is spent in a variety of ways. I didn’t see any single expenditure taking up the lion’s share of the budget. There are many different programs to appeal to the varied interests of students. They fund programs for struggling learners, average students, and gifted students. Teachers have a say in what their classrooms need. Money is earmarked to honor teachers. Many of the programs foster critical thinking skills and a respect for the environment.

This brought to mind the question - Are Title 1 funds being used as wisely in Title 1 schools as these PTAs use their funds? If you look at the allocation of Title 1 dollars that are supposed to level the playing field between more affluent schools and schools that are not as affluent, you will see that most Title 1 funds per DCSS Title 1 school are substantially greater than the funds raised and spent by these affluent PTAs. Should Title 1 schools have more local control over how their funds are spent? Would that allow them the accountability and flexibility to offer the variety of educational experiences that these more affluent schools have provided for their students? Couldn’t Title 1 students benefit from some of the programs that these students have access to? In other words, is there a better way to level the playing field than DCSS currently has in place? Regarding transparency, is there a full accounting of these funds on the DCSS website?

Fernbank Elementary:
Below is a sample of what Fernbank publishes as its PTA income and expenditures. They are to be commended for their transparency and extremely low administrative cost. Here is the link if you want a full view of their online balance sheet. They keep meticulous accounts:

Projected: $ 131,100.00
Actual: $ 132,596.23

Community Enrichment (funded by Membership Dues/self supported))
TOTAL Community Enrichment $21,255.80

Fund Raising Expenses
TOTAL Fund Raising $39,666.54

PTA Administration (funded by $$$ for Education/Tshirts/Box Tops)
TOTAL PTA Administration $6,501.20

Staff Enrichment (funded by Wrapping Paper)
Counselor
Reflections Art Exhibitions
Retirement Recognition
Staff Appreciation $1,755
Staff Gifts
Teacher of the Year
Teacher Stipends $5,150.65
Teacher T-Shirts
TOTAL Staff Enrichment $8,024.54

Student Enrichment - (funded by School Pictures & School Store/Bookfairs/or self supported)
Library Gift Book Program
Scholarships
Agendas
Chess Club $13,812.83
Lego Club $1,840.00
Field Day
Fifth Grade Fun Run $2,678.50
Writing class
Yoga $7,400
TOTAL Student Enrichment $31,917.42

Vanderlyn Elementary:
The Vanderlyn PTA webpage says that its primary vehicle for revenue generation is an Annual Fund that parents can donate to. Its goal is $100,000, and currently it stands at $73,000+.

Take a look at the FAQ page to see that this money is very well spent giving students many enrichment opportunities:

Austin Elementary:
Austin’s PTA doesn’t publish its revenue figures, but look at their PTA webpage to see some of the enrichment they provide:

Oak Grove Elementary:
Oak Grove doesn’t publish its revenue either, but it does quite a bit of fundraising, foremost being the Fall Festival. I’ve been to some of their Fall Festivals, and they’re big events. It also has a foundation similar to Vanderlyn. Take a look at its stated goals for expenditure of dollars raised through this foundation by clicking here.

125 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please remember that there are many schools in DCSS that aren't Title 1 but that can't raise the kind of monies that an Oak Grove, Vanderlyn, or Fernbank can.

Before DCSS changed the focus of Title 1 spending, these schools were really in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Fernbank parents are among the brightest, most dedicated and hard working parents in the county.

It is disappointing they ignore Central Office scandals (C Lew & Pope), and tens of millions of misspending. They want their school out of the mess and that's that.

If Dan Drake even hints at even the most minor change to the Fernbank attendance zone, you will see a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction freakout of epic proportions. And I'm not kidding, as many of my best friends are the nicest of the nice Fernabnk parents.

Dunwoody Mom said...

If Dan Drake even hints at even the most minor change to the Fernbank attendance zone, you will see a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction freakout of epic proportions.

Wow, just wow...I think this disturbing statement tops any I have ever heard from a Vanderlyn parent.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:08

"It is disappointing they ignore Central Office scandals "

Proof, please. That's a huge judgement call to make by someone who's obviously outside of that school zone.

I don't believe for a second that anyone outside the Central office and school board itself "ignored" scandals. The parents are going to be the most concerned because they and their children have the most to lose.

Unless you'd like some anonymous blogger making sweeping stereotypical judgements about your area, you best not do it yourself.

Cerebration said...

This post was not meant to beat up on wealthy PTAs. The point is, we have many, many schools that receive as much or more in federal Title 1 funds in order to "level the playing field". We have to wonder if that is happening. These PTAs are very careful and thoughtful about how their funds are spent. What would happen if Title 1 school principals and leaders were allowed to be AS careful and thoughtful with their funds?

Anonymous said...

Cere:
The PTAs and their fundraising groups that they've assembled (eg, Chesnut also has a 501(c)3 to raise money for technology that the County will not provide, for example) are made up of involved parents. Principals play a part, but these orgs are driven by parents.

Do Title 1 schools and others "less wealthy" (I hate that as a benchmark but what else is there?) have parents that are equally involved?

That may be the difference: highly involved parent groups vs those who don't have as many involved parents for whatever reason. All the money in the world won't make up for that. All the redistricting in the world won't fix it either.

Anonymous said...

Cere

We know what happened. When the spending was less centralized, DCSS returned at least a million unspent Title 1 dollars to the Feds, Title 1 schools had more supplies than they ever would use and student achievement was still low.

I am not defending the current way Title 1 monies are spent, I think though that it is important to know that things weren't so rosy before America's Choice and academic coaches galore.

Many years ago, I was waiting for a friend who is Atlanta at an education conference. I was looking at the different vendors tables in the showroom, and I was impressed with something. The sales rep asked if I was associated with a Title 1 school. That was his first question!

Dunwoody Mom said...

I know that some people have thrown water on this, but DCSS has setup a Foundation that can be used as a Fundraising tool, i.e. Cross Keys Foundation and I believe Evansdale is participating in this as well.

Perhaps there is a way to get more schools involved in this venture.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:50

"When the spending was less centralized, DCSS returned at least a million unspent Title 1 dollars to the Feds, Title 1 schools had more supplies than they ever would use and student achievement was still low."

I worked at Title 1 schools and I never had "more supplies than" I "could every use".

Anonymous said...

Sometime in the last 15 years, DCSS went from labeling only elementary schools as Title 1 to including middle and high schools.

This dramatically reduced the amount of Title 1 funds that went to each school. It wasn't the wrong decision, but it did change the way principals could spend at those elementary schools.

Anonymous said...

When Dr. Berry was Title 1 Director (before her promotion to Office of School Improvement Director under Dr. Lewis), this office often had money left over and scrambled to spend it before it went away. Central Office coordinators made recommendations. Some of them were disastrous because they did not do their homework, and there was very little teacher input. Witness Read 180, a Language Arts program the Central Office Language Arts Coordinators came up with in a last minute effort to spend Title 1 funds. They spent millions of Title 1 money putting software and computers in the Language Arts Middle School rooms that served struggling readers, but they didn't realize they needed an additional server (couldn't run it off the DCSS school server) in each school to run this software. No money was budgeted for the server, and the schools had no money so the system sat around for a year. I'm not sure if it ever got up and running. I guess it's gone now - another fad.

Centralized planning and inadequate research caused that snafu. The taxpayers would be better off if the money had been returned than to spend it so foolishly. That's not accountability.

pscexb said...

Great research again by DeKalb Parent along with an interesting discussion. I also see this as the age old question of what influence should any school district have regarding discretionary funds provided for a school.

Some of you may be aware of 'concerns' regarding gifts to a particular school can in reality be seen as a gift to the school district. IOW, this district could 'claim' the gift for another school if needed. This is probably highly unlikely but they do advise of that up front. I know of some band boosters that retain ownership of band equipment rather than donate it to the school for fear it may be sent somewhere else.

Without question, when many in South DeKalb mention 'the schools in the North get more', they are referring to monies raised by PTAs. In actuality, schools in South DeKalb get more 'tax' money when you factor in Title 1 and the FRL program. A cafeteria director mentioned to me several years ago that caferterias for Title 1 schools actually subsidize non Title 1 schools. Look at it as a predictable and regular revenue stream versus one that is not.

Take a look at this article that appeared in USA Today in 2004 about our very county and the differences in PTA revenues. The comparisons are done between Vanderlyn and Toney. It was part of a larger article on integrated schools so take if for what it is worth.

Integrated Schools Still a Dream 50 Years Later - USA Today 4.28.2004

Anonymous said...

Point of clarification on Vanderlyn's Annual Fund. Its not run by a separate foundation. The PTA Annual Fund is collected as part of the PTA's activities in lieu of asking parents to sell wrapping paper, cookie dough, etc. The idea is that we ask for "one check, one time" so all the money benefits Vanderlyn instead of only getting 40-50% back from the wrapping paper sales. It's been incredibly successful and as a parent, I REALLY like not being nickeled and dimed for every little thing. I know there was a thread on here a while back about questionable foundation practices. Just wanted to clarify.

PolitiMom said...

Dunwoody Mom 8:27--
Well said. Lets hope we can all be more civilized than that.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Here is a question for the Dunwoody folks..

IF Dunwoody ES is converted to a K-5 school, do you think that Dunwoody ES having been made up of students from Austin, Vanderlyn and Chesnut will make redistricting less dramatic and angst filled?

Anonymous said...

Fernbank actually has a foundation now that does the bulk of the fundraising (the PTA information is from last year I believe). That information is published online as well.

To the anonymous poster who complained about Fernbank parents not being concerned about the central office issues - what can any parent do about that other than blog here and vote the incumbents out of office? What are you doing?

I can tell you that not only have Fernbank parents started their own foundation but they are also quietly mentoring other PTAs to help them do the same. For PTAs at schools with a higher FRL population there are all kinds of grants out there waiting to be applied for; grants that schools like Fernbank do not qualify to receive. These parents are giving many hours of their time to help other schools with less involved/wealthy PTAs. So for those of you who want to think of Fernbank parents in a negative light, perhaps you could be following this example.

Anonymous said...

DM at 11:35

I think dunwoody es will be converted to k5 and I think it will be less dramatic but not for the reason you ask about. I think there is a sense of inevitability due to the fact that the 4-5 school did not really solve the problem of overcrowding for two of the three schools. Also I think some of the primary muscle behind the effort against redistricting is gone because their kids have aged out of elementary.

Dunwoody Mom said...

That makes sense to me. Also, I have really not heard any negatives about Dunwoody ES - and I think that helps as well?

Anonymous said...

DM 11:35, watch Dunwoody Elem become a 3rd, 4th, 5th school instead of K-5. Adding 3rd will get needed relief without trashing home values.

pscexb said...

Anon 11:50, that would be an interesting remedy. I do recall hearing parents concerned about the impact on lunch schedules though. How early would lunch start if an additional 150-200 students were moved to the school?

PolitiMom said...

One of the problems with Dun Elem is that Kingsley isn't included. So when these children move on to Peachtree Middle, the other 600 kids have all adjusted and gotten to know each other and these 100+ from Kingsley are just lost both socially and academically. If they redistrict all 4 schools in the cluster AND include the newly redistricted Kingsley into Dun Elem, I think it would go over MUCH better. That being said, the Vanderlyn mafia will still be angsty. I say this with love since I'm technically part of said mafia.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dunwoody Mom said...

There are approximately 511 2nd grade students at the current 3 schools that feed into DES.

DES is at a current enrollment of 737 with a capacity of 937. Adding 511 students would cause DES to be over-enrolled.

I agree with your thoughts on Kingsley, PolitiMom

Anonymous said...

Adding a third grade won't work unless you only take Austin and vanderlyn third graders. There's not enough seats for more than that. Also taking chesnut third grades would leave chesnut under enrolled. I also don't think it's possible to include Kingsley since they are barely at capacity. The only thing that makes sense is to make DES k5.

Anonymous said...

"IF Dunwoody ES is converted to a K-5 school, do you think that Dunwoody ES having been made up of students from Austin, Vanderlyn and Chesnut will make redistricting less dramatic and angst filled?"

Potentially, yes. If you have the same involved parents and the same procedures/vehicles for fundraising and supporting the school with time and talent as you do at Chesnut, Austin, and Vanderlyn, then the inevitiable furor would die down more quickly.

That's my opinion, anyway.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the plan all along has been to make DES k-5. If you are familiar with the building you know that the facilities were made for this transition. Per usual , DCSS did not have the guts to make big decisions and upset the Vanderlyn crowd. Same thing as the screaming magnet parents but less wiggle room when DES was decided and moved on so quickly.
Now, let's see who has guts to tackle the redistricting woes and/or the magnet machine.....
DES will go k-5 , just a matter of when

Anonymous said...

worked at Title 1 schools and I never had "more supplies than" I "could every use".

All the same Title I funds available to schools were unspent and underutilized. Some schools did better than others but it took centralizatin to insure that each school got and used its allotment.

Anonymous said...

"Sometime in the last 15 years, DCSS went from labeling only elementary schools as Title 1 to including middle and high schools."

DCSS does not meake the decison as to what a Title I school is the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. That is, students who are economically disadvantaged. Somewhere around 63% to 66% of DCSS students are. The percentages are the lowest in High School because high school students under report (don't return the forms). Generally any school with more than 40% of its students qualifying for free and reduced lunch is a Title I school.

Anonymous said...

Soon the DCSS motto will be:

"From each, according to their ability; to each, according to their needs."

Jim Bohica and Ben Dover

Anonymous said...

Just like children now have to bring in their supplies and put them in the "community chest" for all to use regardless of contribution.

"Wealthy" PTAs will no longer be able to sponsor a specific school. All collected monies will be deposited into a DCSS PTA Community Chest and distributed
"EQUALLY" because that's the only fair and equitable solution.

Level the Playing Field...really??

Cerebration said...

Title 1 has the stated purpose of "leveling the playing field". We're just wondering if that's really happening to the best of the system's ability.

PSC - what an interesting article. I've never read it before. I hope everyone will read it and truthfully evaluate if there are things we can be doing to bring up so many of our struggling schools. It's true that Fernbank parents have started to look into helping poorer schools apply for grants. It's also true that Oak Grove and Sagamore as well as other school's parents volunteer their time to tutor transfer students who arrive behind in skills. These are all great things - please share any others that you know of. Perhaps a parenting mentoring program? I don't know. I just know that ignoring this issue won't help.

Ella Smith said...

I know there is equal money spend per student as far as state and allocated money according to allocations of classifications. However, I would like to see the Title I money follow the student. If Title I students go to non-Title I schools a percentage of the other schools money should follow them as their home school is a Title I school and these students come in and should have access to extra support in tutorial or some other means available to just these students who come in as Title I Students. I teach now at a Title I School and the students who qualify for free and reduce lunch, etc. get all kind of extra perks which is excellent.

I also feel that if parents work hard and raise money for their PTAs or other organizations for their school it is wonderful. More parents throughout the county should do the same thing, if possible. I understand it may be a little more difficult for some parents but all parents can do some form of fundraising.

Anonymous said...

Um, Jim and Ben, just sayin':

Matthew 25:15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability. And he went abroad at once.
Acts 2:45 And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need.
Acts 4:32-35 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

What a Commie!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in DCSS's Parent Resources Centers. The staff members are overpaid in comparison to teachers, and the politics of who scores those positions is brutal. It's no surprise it's a favorite place for BOE members to land their children, relatives and friends.

Still, if the Central Office is going to spend millions on this program, the best of the best non-teaching staf needs to be at Parent Resource Centers at the most troubled schools. And there need to be metrics that show how the PRC staff is performing.

One thing that hasn't ever change with education, whether 1960 or 2010, is that successful school have high parent involvement.

Instead of being a place where Zepora can have her daughter earn $65k per, if we're going to have PRC's, they need to be extremely well run and have a way to measure performance.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 12:42

This post maintains that PTAs in affluent areas do a very good job of providing remediation, learning extension and enrichment to students in their schools. They are very good stewards of the money they raise. It questions the efficacy of centralizing Title 1 funds when in reality they are supposed to "level the playing field" between schools in low income areas and students in higher income areas.

Perhaps you are not aware that the Title 1 funds the Title 1 schools get are much larger than most of the PTA budgets of these affluent schools. The decisions for the Title 1 expenditures have mainly funded scripted learning programs and non-teaching personnel in the Central Office and the schools.

Consider that just one Instructional Coach paid for by a Title 1 funds equals the same in salary and benefits as the entire PTA fund raising goal at Vanderlyn of $100,000 which they are trying to meet.

The Title 1 school gets a non-teaching Instructional Coach while Vanderlyn students get a math enrichment program, an environmental education program, technology in the classroom, a dance troupe, a chess club... and the list goes on. Are Title 1 funds as used by DCSS really leveling the playing field?

Students and teachers in Title 1 schools do not get the "extras" that PTAs in affluent schools provide - not because the money is not there, but because funding decisions coming from the Central Office do not fund the "extras".

The Title 1 schools are not trying to "take" from the affluent schools. They need more control over Title 1 funds so that less money goes to feed the administrative end of DCSS and more goes to those "extras" for students.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella
"I teach now at a Title I School and the students who qualify for free and reduce lunch, etc. get all kind of extra perks which is excellent."

Thank you Ella.

This is my point. Ella works in Fulton County. Not every county funds its Central Office personnel and friends and family with Title 1 funds. There are systems where the students get the benefits of these funds.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 2:57 pm

While some Parent Resource Center do a good job (Cross Keys for example), Social Workers and Counselors both perform these functions. I've heard counselors say they can't understand why another group was created since counselors are trained to perform the same functions.

There are 73 employees staffing the Parent Resource Centers and they soak up $4,500,000 from Title 1 funds in salary and benefits.

Yet another example of more and more non-teaching personnel using up Title 1 funds.

Anonymous said...

Parent Resource Centers came out of Kentucky or somewhere where there was a fair amount of data at the time that showed they were making a difference. They then spread across the country.

Who knows what the variables are though that really made them effective in Kentycky.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to read that some Title I schools spend their money on the kids according to needs. I work in a Title I high school in southern DeKalb and getting our principal to spend any of the Title I money is like pulling teeth. Once I bemoned the need for materials and he told me to submit a list. A month after I gave him the list, he asked me to submit it again. I did. A week later, he asked "Where s that list?" Seriously?" Meantime, no materials unless I buy them out of pocket. I think Title I money should be spent on the kids with teacher input. After all, we are the ones who are teaching the kids and working with them daily. I believe we have some idea of what the kids need to function productively in our classrooms. Where is the over sight committee? DeKalb has one for almost everything else.

pscexb said...

Anon 3:13 said,

There are 73 employees staffing the Parent Resource Centers and they soak up $4,500,000 from Title 1 funds in salary and benefits

Could you please cite where you found this information? On the district website, it indicated there were 11 centers that were managed by 2 facilitators each. That comes to 22 people. Where are the other 51 staffers you mention?

I got my information from:

Office of School Improvement

The Parent Centers that I have visited seem to get fairly good traffic from the communities they serve. Should more citizens take advantage of them? I would say yes however those that use them get great value from them.

One facilitator I know is also cross trained to provide GED training for citizens. Listening to her tell of the pride she had with students that received their GED from her classes was rewarding. Some people mature later in life with respect to understanding the value of an education. Centers such as these provide access to those that have that light bulb turn ultimately turn on and are motivated to get their GED.

Anonymous said...

@ pscexb
"Could you please cite where you found this information? On the district website, it indicated there were 11 centers that were managed by 2 facilitators each. That comes to 22 people. Where are the other 51 staffers you mention?"

Of course I can cite my source.
1. Go to the state Salary and Travel audit website:
http://www.open.georgia.gov/
2. Find the DeKalb County schools 2009 Salary and Travel audit
3. Export to a csv file (export option given at the bottom of the webpage)
4. Sort on Column B (this gives the names of the position each person is classified as)
5. Use Edit>Find and type in Family Services
6. Cut and paste the Family Services positions (they are all together since the Sort function grouped them)into a new Excel spreadsheet
7. Use Autosum on the Salary column
to find out the total salaries
8. Look at the number of rows in the Family Services Excel spreadsheet - there are 73 - that is the total number of employees placed in this position.
9. Use the Autosum total of salaries and add 25% for benefits

You really can't trust the website. The audit is much better since all employees in a job category are included (well - not all - DCSS has about $5,000,000 in salaried positions in the miscellaneous category so I may be missing a Family Services person or two). The job category of Family Services Coordinator refers to personnel in the Family Resource Center. The District does not have to list everyone in a program on the DCSS website, however they are by law required to place them in the proper category on the state Salary and Travel website.

As to their value, I said there was value in some schools. However, they do take money that could be used for teacher positions (title 1 math and reading for struggling students - not classroom teachers), Title 1 money, and they are redundant. Counselors and Social workers provide much of the same services (or should or could if we eliminated this group).

I'm questioning the worth of this group - $4,500,000? That's a lot of highly qualified teachers directly instructing small groups of kids that we are foregoing to pay for this group. DCSS could hire 80 teachers with Masters degrees and 3 years of experience for $4,500,000 - topnotch math and reading personnel. (BTW - very few of these individuals are certified teachers - I looked up them up on the state DOE certification website).

Nothing, but nothing beats direct instruction by a good teacher. It is the end all and be all for students - especially struggling learners. Every penny we spend outside of direct instruction needs to be proven as improving student performance.

Sagamore 7 said...

Anon 4:31

Hurray for your due diligence! Keep up the good work! This is important information to win the fight regarding excess outside the classroom.

I'm going to watch "Race to Nowhere" at Emory! I'll report back later.

Sagamore 7

Anonymous said...

It is being said that the problem is not with DCSS trying to find a new Superintendent. Instead the problem is that no one, or not many, are interested in the job. If so can you blame them. Taking the position with a school system on the verge of possibly losing its accrediation.

Anonymous said...

The "Family Service" Category encompasses more than just Parent Resource center personnel.

Ella Smith said...

I am from Kentucky and I can assure you their centers are in the schools just like the ESOL centers are in the schools in DeKalb.

We have a Parent Liason who probable gets paid a little more than a para. He was a para last year. He sents out letters to parents regarding all the services available to the students. They have meetings at nights just like the ESOL Liason at our school.

I teach at a Title I School in Fulton County and I see all the money being spent on the students on tutoring services out of school. There is a tutoring service that teachers can sign up to work at across the street that students can go to after school that tries to hire North Springs teachers. They pay very good.

I think too much money is spent on these centers. I believe these centers could be scaled down in the school to the Graduation Coach who also should be qualified to get students into GED programs (along with counselors) a ESOL Liason and a Parent Liason. These Liasons really are not paid large salaries. You could staff a super program at a high school for $100,000.00 a year. You could probable staff a middle school for 60,000.00-70,000.00 and you could staff a grade school with the ESOL Liason and Parent Liason for $70.000.00. DeKalb County is definitely spending too much money in this area. You can give the parents support without spending all this money.

It also would be more benificial to add a social worker to each school than to pay all of these individuals who are trying to give social worker help in some situation without the degrees. I am a firm believer that every school needs a social worker. There are so many students who could benifit from a social worker. In fact I think the social worker in today's society is probable more important than the counselors. It is as important as any positions in the schools because if students are hungry, sleepy, homeless or abused it is very hard for them to make academic progress in the classroom.

Ella Smith said...

I might the ESOL centers are in the schools in Fulton County.

Private School Guy said...

No one has addressed the issue of quality staff migrating towards schools with strong parent support. Unless staff are paid more in poor schools there is no way to remedy this. Also I was hoping someone from the Avondale Education Foundation would provide some information on the negative dealing they had when they made donations to Avondale Elementary. To my knowledge this was a small group of parents who gave sizable contributions to the school but had many questions regarding what happened to the money. This was one of the issues that led these parents to abandon AES and form a charter school.

Anonymous said...

DCSS does need to spend more Title I money IN the classroom (not on administration).
However, to compare Title I money to PTA funds isn't really a fair comparison. The feds really limit how Title I money can be spent. You cannot spend Title I money on things that are also paid for with local/state money- this is called surplanting. For example- You can't buy ActivBoards for 3 teachers with local/state money and 2 more with Title I money. It's supposed to be "above and beyond" what local money can cover.
I think the biggest difference is that (at least in Elementary school) Title I money is limited to reading and math. So while a school PTA can pay for an art teacher's salary, Title I can't.

Anonymous said...

Title I money can be spent to outfit an entire school with Smart boards - things like this are done in APS all the time. APS schools have much more local control over Title I funds.

Anonymous said...

At AEF, I don't think the issue where was the money went as much as the poor quality of the school leadership, ,and Dr. Lewis' lack of interest in doing anything about it.

I think the principal was interested in their donations and maybe some participation, but not particularly in improving the academic environment of the school.

I think Avondale was a missed opportunity for the school system. A stronger superintendent would have handled the whole thing better.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 4:51 pm

"The "Family Service" Category encompasses more than just Parent Resource center personnel. "

They are all non-teaching Title 1 employees listed under Family Services. I looked up all of them on the Georgia Certification website, and most do not hold teaching certificates.

The second one of them I looked up is based at Panola Way Elementary and makes $90,000 a year including benefits. He is not listed as having a teaching certificate on the Georgia Certification website, yet googling his name on the Internet I saw he was listed as being a member of the SCHOOL WIDE DISCIPLINE PLAN COMMITTEE for Panola Way. He also was on the Panola Way Elementary 2009-10 CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLAN committee as the School Culture Chair.

Forgive me if I'm a little incredulous that this employee that takes $90,000 a year from Title 1 funds is NOT certified as a teacher and yet he is one of 11 people writing the school discipline plan and contributing to the School Improvement Plan.

This is the problem with Title 1 funds. High paying jobs (so much more than a teacher could ever hope to make) have been created for personnel who do not have teaching certificates and therefore NO EXPERIENCE in the classroom. And then they are given leeway to create educational policy that affects teachers and students.

Title 1 funds are a mess under Dr. Berry.

Is there no one to advocate for Title 1 students?

Anonymous said...

For the Parent Resource Centers to really work DCSS should fire up some of its busses in the evening and give parents a ride. Many don't use the resource cuz they can't physically get to the school.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 5:49

"However, to compare Title I money to PTA funds isn't really a fair comparison."

Yes it is. Your analogy is flawed. Other systems use Title 1 funds to install Smartboards (just an example - not that I'm advocating spending all Title 1 money on SmartBoards). I've visited school systems in Georgia where Tile 1 money is spent on interactive boards so you are not correct in that assumption.

Title 1 management in DCSS is one of the worst ever. The Central Office and Office of School Improvement must think the Title 1 schools don't have the ability to make decisions that are good for their students. This is just wrong. There are many terrific teachers in Title 1 schools. The majority of Title 1 expenditure decisions should be placed in their hands.

Hundreds of millions Title 1 dollars have come to DCSS (around $225,000,000 in the last 5 years - average of $34,000,000 a year for 5 years plus $57,000,000 from the stimulus plan) in the last 5 years. Dr. Berry and Dr. Lewis have had control over the expenditure of these funds. BOE members just rubberstamped these expenditures (please give me one example of a BOE member not rubberstamping a Title 1 expenditure). Meanwhile, more and more Title 1 schools don't make AYP.

The problem here is not affluent communities' PTAs working to raise $100,000 a year for their kids. The problem is over $200,000,000 in 5 years presiding over declining student performance in Title 1 schools.

source for DCSS Title 1 funding:
DeKalb County Title 1 Program Annual Report
http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=104&CountyId=644&T=1&FY=2007

Anonymous said...

I think that for very poor children the research is showing that it is much more than direct instruction, but it is things like early intervention, extended school days and extended school year. DCSS should be investing in all of these.

No Duh said...

pscexb said, "One facilitator I know is also cross trained to provide GED training for citizens. Listening to her tell of the pride she had with students that received their GED from her classes was rewarding. Some people mature later in life with respect to understanding the value of an education. Centers such as these provide access to those that have that light bulb turn ultimately turn on and are motivated to get their GED."

There are some excellent organizations in and around DeKalb County -- non-profits -- that are dedicated to helping adult learners. Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta is one (highly recommend this fine organization to anyone who would like to volunteer to tutor an adult student in reading or math). These non-profits struggle every year to solicit funding from companies to support their herculean efforts. If we are going to use taxpayer funds to educate adults, then those funds would be much better spent supporting Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta et.al. than dumping the money back into the cesspool that failed these adults back when they were school age.

Of course, I know Title One dollars couldn't leave the school system to help out Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta, but if Title I dollars would be used as they are intended -- to educate students, providing funds for IN SCHOOL tutors, then perhaps one day organizations like Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta would become obsolete. Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

No Duh said...

TEACHERS!! In no way was I indicating that your efforts are part of the "cesspool" I mentioned above!! I just meant the cesspool of poorly managed assets....

Reread it, could see how it could be interpreted that way...

Anonymous said...

The Avondale Education Association (AEA) raised money through auctions and donations. The money was distributed through teacher grants. The teachers applied for grants to the AEA, the AEA board voted on the distribution of the money and it was granted to the teachers. There was no problem with the allocation of the funds.

The primary reasons for the community not continuing to involve themselves with AES were:
-a completely ineffective principal that bullied teachers and parents.
-teachers and parents complained to county office with pages of documentation and NOTHING was done.
-principal ended up calling some of us "racist" when she felt threatened
-any other school system I feel would have fired the principal with just one page of our documentation, but wouldn't even consider our complaints.
-I was on the "panel" to hire this principal when she wasn't even one of the top three candidates that the majority of the panel wanted. The county office told us that they were "shocked" that we did not have her as our top choice. We were called back in the next day to have Lewis tell us that she was the top choice of his county reps on the panel, so therefore, she would be the new principal. Yep, Callaway and Wyatt were on this panel and highly supported this candidate.
-As most of you know, rumors/truths spread quickly in this county and the parents from the community learned that because of the principal's ties to Lewis we would see no change.
-The school, however, has seen lots of changes. In the first two years of her "rule", the teacher turnover was 75%. We complained and were told that this was normal in a Title I school. It wasn't the norm with the previous principal. Five years into her tenure at AES, I think 3 original teachers/staff remain.

The Museum School is the best thing to happen to this community. I hope it is so successful that DeKalb County feels a great loss for what could have happened at AES, but I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

Title I money is governed by Federal law and the rules are very specific. The rules change from time to time, so what may be done now, might not have been allowed several years. It would be possible to look this up. Schools can also be audited. They are expected to keep good records.

I think Title I money does follow students to non-Title I schools and it must be spent on instruction for those Title I students. You don't have to have a Title I designation to get the funds. You have to have students who qualify. If you have a Title I school then the money can be used to support instruction in any classroom in the school.

If a school purchases a computer with Title I money, it must be used in a classroom for face-to-face instruction. It can't be placed in an administrative office. There are lots of rules.

Title I money might be why DeKalb insists on placing low income students in one school. Great for the bottom line, bad for kids. Just for the record, there are lots of wonderful teachers working in Title I schools.

Anonymous said...

"I think Title I money does follow students to non-Title I schools and it must be spent on instruction for those Title I students. You don't have to have a Title I designation to get the funds."

Not in DeKalb it doesn't. Not at all. And I don't think it does many other places either.

You absolutely have to be a Title 1 school in DeKalb to get the money.

Many parents at schools that have 40 percentish free and reduced lunch have asked and pushed, cajoled and begged for the money to follow the child. It doesn't.

In the past, there have been other Title funds on occasion that do go to schools with high poverty but not title 1 levels. Right now, as far as I know those Title funds have dried up.

Anonymous said...

@9:42 and others, if you "know" post, if you "I think..." and post as if you know, you may be unintentionally representing non-facts as if they were true.

I find this blog very valuable due to its content. Let's all try to keep it as pure and factual as we are able.

That blogged, blog on!

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 7:41 pm

" I think that for very poor children the research is showing that it is much more than direct instruction, but it is things like early intervention, extended school days and extended school year. DCSS should be investing in all of these.
"

Actually, early intervention, extended school days and extended school year IS direct instruction. Struggling students don't learn "on their own" by definition or they wouldn't be struggling. Let's properly fund the classroom whether it be regular ed or small group instruction. What's left over, let that go for administration and support.

Title 1 funds could go a long way towards that end.

Kim Gokce said...

Great information to consider - thanks for compiling it! A couple of quick observations ...

It's more than cash. I think we underestimate the "intangibles" that effective PTAs bring to the table. Here in Brookhaven, an enormous amount of goodwill and civic support has come to Ashford Park ES as a result of an effective PTA. Contrast that with Woodward ES less than 2 miles away which few in the Brookhaven area even know it exists.

What kind of "parental involvement" are we really talking about? This term is referenced on this blog more often than any other phrase (other than perhaps, "bloated administration"). I wonder if we are all really thinking of the same thing when we use that phrase. It's one thing to have parents communicating with the child's teacher and ensuring homework is done, etc.. It is quite another to have uber organizers and fundraisers running a full operation in parallel to the school's own.

It is about the extras. From my limited experience with Title I decisions at Cross Keys HS, I can testify that the leadership does receive certain amount of Title I dollars at the school house and that the decisions about where to spend it are very painstakingly made under strict guidelines. My impression is that they are very frugal with those dollars and it is spent on parental "outreach" efforts in some cases but otherwise 100% on direct instruction.

Just some late night musings ...

Kim Gokce said...

... oh! Forgot one ...

"Leveling the playing field". I really don't think Title I funds do this at all in practice vis-a-vis PTA funds. While some cases can be cited where Title I funds purchased something that a PTA also purchased at another school, my impression is that the vast majority of Title I spending at the school house is about making up more fundamental problems associated with socio-economic status. Things like early childhood reading gaps in the homes, uneducated or awol parents, etc.

Our children are so far ahead of a typical FRL child starting in K and they maintain these advantages throughout their careers in school. If our children struggle with a subject, we work with them 1-on-1 which an "average" FRL parent will do. Better yet, we pay for private tutoring - not going to happen in Title I cases.

For me, a well-funded and active PTA and all the nice things that go with it are just one more thing NOT available to the typical Title I student.

I say, "Long Live" the active PTAs but let's not pretend these will ever be a reality in isolated, Title I communities or that Title I funding, no matter who is spending it, will ever be a replacement for an active PTA at any funding level.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:20pm

I am the anon 741. Forgive me. When I see terms like direct instruction, my mind wanders to prepackaged programs like America's Choice.

You are right. Extended time and more days equal more opportunities for instruction, direct and other.

Anonymous said...

"What kind of "parental involvement" are we really talking about? "

The research really supports that the kind of parental involvement that makes a difference is the kind that is at home. Without stereotyping to much, many of the the most successful students in the US, are either Asian immigrants or Asian Americans. Generally, their parents are uninvolved in the actual school, but the culture in the homes leads to tremendous academic success.

I have been involved at the schools my children attend because I want them to have the enrichment opportunities and little extras that are important to me. I want there to be a rich cultural arts program, fun traditional extras like field day and literacy week and little things like that. For several years, we paid for an art teacher and that was an important reason to help fundraise.

While these are nice, what makes the difference is what I do at home.

There are real cultural challenges that we face as a country. How do you get all parents to make sure that what needs to be done at home is getting done?

Anonymous said...

Off Topic but I just saw a story on Channel 2 about an outside organization from DC threatening to sue Cherokee County Schools for having graduation ceremonies in a local church. It seems the local church is the largest indoor venue in the county and provides the opportunity for multiple members of graduate families to attend. The citizens of Cherokee County in unison asked that the board not bow down to this outside organization and continue they tradition they have known for years. The alternative would be a smaller venue in the county with graduates getting limited tickets.

Seems like there were some on this blog questioning why graduations (in the South of all places) were held in churches. See any similarities?

Anonymous said...

I saw this as well and was going to post it.

The report I saw was very clear that there had never been a case about this issue at the appellate or supreme court levels.

The AJC article is worth reading:

http://www.ajc.com/news/cherokee/cherokee-delays-decision-on-764528.html

.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Dunwoody HS has their graduation at 1st Baptist of Atlanta. There is simply not enough large venues in DeKalb for graduation ceremonies. Would you like students to graduate in the Gym and be able to only invite 1 or 2 guests?

Anonymous said...

I checked the facts this morning because you are right that this blog needs to be as accurate as possible.
At Avondale Elementary School, 2 regular classroom teachers remain, 1 special ed teacher and 4 specialists remain the same in 5 years. So I was right in the number for classroom teachers, but did not take into account the outside classroom specialists. It is still a pitiful rate of turnover.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim
"My impression is that they are very frugal with those dollars and it is spent on parental "outreach" efforts in some cases but otherwise 100% on direct instruction."

Absolutely correct. The few Title 1 dollars that trickle down to schoolhouse for them to decide on get handled with care. Much thought is given to using those scarce funds.

But the problem is, so little percent of Title 1 dollars decisions are made by the schoolhouse. Tens of millions of dollars are already consumed by the administration for ineffective scripted learning programs (please direct me to the DCSS data that shows a causal relationship between America's Choice and increased student achievement) and a vast army of non-teaching personnel.

One size does not fit all so local funding decisions are critical with these funds. Cross Keys has different needs than Lithonia which has different needs than Clarkston.

I taught for years at Woodward. Not only does Woodward have different needs than Fairington, but Woodward's needs changed over time. I can remember when immigrants only made up a small portion of our students population (you're too young to remember that).

In one of my last jobs with DCSS, I sew first hand how spending decisions are made in DCSS offices. Tens of millions spent with little regard for careful study or cost effectiveness. There's so much money, it's like monopoly, and if what is bought doesn't work out right, the Central Office doesn't bear the brunt of the mistake (e.g. eSis, SchoolNet, Read 180, whole language curriculum, construction errors, etc.) so it truly is no big deal to them. Schools on the other hand know they will live with any mistakes they make so they do struggle with their decisions. They operate much like PTAs when they make decisions.

There are many smart and involved faculty members in Title 1 schools. They are more capable and have more on the line when they are making Title 1 expenditure decisions.


IMHO, it's better to have expenditure decision making as close to the cost center as possible.

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Glocke
"If our children struggle with a subject, we work with them 1-on-1 which an "average" FRL parent will do. Better yet, we pay for private tutoring - not going to happen in Title I cases."

But it could. That is an option in NCLB and the funds for this definitely fall into the Title 1 realm.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8:22
"I checked the facts this morning because you are right that this blog needs to be as accurate as possible. "

Where did you get your information on teacher turnover for Avondale? Is there a webpage that gives turnover for each school? If so, could you provide the link?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember when Dr. Speaks (one of our Board members) was over Title 1 money? How long ago was that and what did the program look like then?

Anonymous said...

Ella,

You are forgetting the Title I Federal ans state mandates that a fixed percentage of Title I money be spent on parent involvement along with the mandate that each parent meeting be monitoried, recorded with a sigh in sheet, that letters in several languages be sent to all Title I school parents, that each parent center provide courses and other services-I could go on. Often the offering mandated are poorly attended-if the parents were active in the first place-we wouldn't be mandated to do this. It's sort of like the Greek guy who had to push the rock up the hill every day only to find it had rolled down the night before. Many systems including DCSS have found that principals are either to taxed or forget to provide the paperwork for these items which are audited on a yearly basis-for that matter as you will see some Principals forget to spend their Title I dollars. The result is more central admininstrators who have to work with each school and parent center to make sure that all the required paperwork was there. If they didn't you would have already have read about it in the AJC. Perhaps you oversimplify how easy it is to just spend all the Title I money on the students? Oh yes, a percentage of Title I money is also mandated for teacher training although Title II also goes for teacher training. So you train teachers a Title I school and if it is one that doesn't make AYP chances are those teachers are gone in a year or two and you start all over again. Why would a teacher want to go to a school where the parents were involved and the students performed well?

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Anonymous said...

Dr. Speaks was on the payroll in 2004. I believe when Dr. Speaks retired Dr. Lewis promoted Dr. Berry to be over Title 1 and then promoted her to be over the Office of School Improvement. Dr. Berry went from being an Instructional Supervisor in 2004 making 100,000+ in salary and benefits to Executive Director of School Improvement by 2009 with around $145,000 including salary and benefits.

There were nowhere near the number of non-teaching Title 1 employees under Dr. Speaks. Most of the non-teaching jobs came about to support America's Choice and the rise of the Coaches - first Literacy, then Graduation and then Instructional. As money became tight, Dr. Lewis started moving these employees (Literacy and Instructional Coaches - don't know about the Graduation Coaches - at the time this was state funding, but I think that's gone) under Title 1 so that DCSS could keep funding these positions. He also moved America's Choice and Springboard under Title 1 in order to keep funding them. I don't know what Title 1 programs were eliminated in order to fund these programs ($9,400,000 for both programs) and administrative $9,000,000 alone for the 90 Litercy and Instructional Coaches). I believe some other central Office administrators were also moved under the Office of School Improvement at this time so Title 1 absorbed their salaries as well. Currently, the 24 Central Office managers and Coordinators consume close to $3,000,000 in salaries and benefits (you can see their names on the DCSS website and I looked up their salaries and added it all up).

My question is - When Dr. Lewis moved close to $20,000,000 in funding costs (programs and administrative personnel) were moved from the General Operations budget to the Title 1 budget in 2008, what Title 1 programs or teachers were eliminated? Title 1 funds were around $35,000,000 at that time so moving $20,000,000 in admin and programs cost to Title 1 must have made quite an impact. Did schools get less in local funding? Something had to be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella
"Oh yes, a percentage of Title I money is also mandated for teacher training although Title II also goes for teacher training. "

When I taught at a Title 1 school years ago, we got Title 1 money earmarked for training and we decided as a faculty on the training we wanted. We could get training "outside" of DCSS. This is actually a good thing. The training teachers receive from DCSS's high salary and benefit personnel has not improved student achievement one bit because it is generally "one size fits all" and in a system as diverse as DCSS, this is not efficient.

Anonymous said...

@ Ella 9:43

"Many systems including DCSS have found that principals are either to taxed or forget to provide the paperwork for these items which are audited on a yearly basis-for that matter...The result is more central admininstrators who have to work with each school and parent center to make sure that all the required paperwork was there."

So we can afford to cut teacher positions and increase their class sizes, give them more paperwork and shift more responsibilities to them, but we don't want to give any added responsibilities to principals Assistant Principals (DCSS is overstaffed on this highly paid group), and Counselors. We did not eliminate any of these positions so my guess is they have pretty much the same workload while we've eliminated around 400 teacher positions in the last 2 years.

"as you will see some Principals forget to spend their Title I dollars. "

Please give some concrete examples of this. I worked with principals all over DCSS, and most of them told me in detail how they were planning on spending their Title 1 funds. They had gotten together with the faculty and decided on how to spend their ever smaller and smaller share of the funds. Some spent their Title 1 funds on additional computers and interactive boards, some on software, some on supplemental reading materials, some on math and reading tutors, etc. The principals I worked with were very grateful to have the funds and looked the specific needs of their students in their schools.

Anonymous said...

The only way the playing field is getting leveled is by getting parents involved who are not already involved. Someone said above the culture of the home is what sets the standard for success or failure.

The way I see it, some families in South DeKalb only see the results of the labor, and not the labor itself to build a school and its community. So they call for more money for "equality". What would these people have North DeKalb do? Just give up on their schools and not work with their children at home? Let their own children slide behind all for the sake of "equality"? That's just sick.

Georgia Gal said...

OK, Let's be really, really honest, and I expect somebody will censor my comment and that's OK. There are statistics here on this blog about black children born our of wedlock (meaning single mother income and time) Section 8 housing clustered in certain areas, apartments for transiets. It is housing that is driving the inequality and shouted loud and clear by the Fernbankers and their ilk.

Let's go back and see why busing and M to M didn't work. Because it created a county more segregated than ever. Lift the CDC and Emory out of the county and see that sheltered little area change fast. Soon there would be an all black county with a new hispanics, the Asians and Indians gone too.

Redistrict those yelling right now and Padia awaits on Ponce de Leon with a few other private schools in the area.

Frankly I am the parent and grandparent of Fernbankers...if truth be told I probably want my white children to go to school with white children.

Redistrict and trust me these people who threaten to pull their students out will leave. Maybe you believe they should.

What has happened at DH ? White kids elect the AP and accelerated classes and for them the day is basically all white. It is like being in a different school within the same building. And if they take a non acc,AP class....what can they find out. My grandson took a "home ec" class and had one girl have a baby before the class was out and a 16 year old classmate say he already had 3 babies and expecting another....wow.

How do we change the schools ? Not by investing in the schools themselves but investing in the parents...giving "Single Mother (or father) GI Bills, creating a shadow school system, pairing parents and children....and sending them to school together. Will cost a fortune...but didn't the GI Bill.

Think big.

I have always loved the story anout how John Wesley learned to read. His mother had a lot of children, but at a certain age each received special time with mother , on her lap, learning to read.


Well, as politicians seem to like to say "It won't happen"...

Whatcha gonna do when the Chinese come...whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do....

Anonymous said...

GA Gal...while I might not necessarily agree with all you put out there, it is important it gets put out there!

For example, money won't fix anything if it's not spent in ways that create real change. Our "welfare state" has provided ample evidence of that. All we've done is create a safe haven for those with a little creativity to exploit and plunder the wealth of others.

Throwing money in hopes of shifting cultural paradigms is just that...throwing money! It's like uncooked pasta, it won't stick to the wall. Just hit and bounce away...forever away.

If we as a society, as fragmented as it is, can not convince all societal members of the importance of a basic level of literacy (including fundamental math like counting change back) there is little hope.

Present day role models and those entrusted with the responsibility of running our education system have let us down. The often times comedic display of the seven deadly sins is all too often the message we are educating the masses with, not how to read or how to add and substract.

Apologize for hopping up on your apple crate.

We enjoy your take and look forward to reading more.

Jim Bohica and Ben Dover

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there is no published data on turnover, wouldn't that be interesting to see? I went to the AES website and read through the faculty and staff list. AES is not a large school, so I knew everyone from the principal to the janitors while my child attended.

Cerebration said...

I wouldn't censor that comment at all Georgia. I heard it said today, there's a government program called "No Child Left With a Mind"...

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 5:03 pm

This is from the Alliance for Excellence in Education:
"14 percent of new teachers leave by the end of their first year; 33 percent leave within three years; and almost 50 percent leave in five years. "

I wonder how DCSS compares to the National Average. Some states require school districts to publish their teacher turnover rate. I can't see that Georgia does this. I wonder why not - teacher turnover is extremely expensive to taxpayers and detrimental to students. I would also like to see the teacher turnover rate broken down by school in DCSS. Seems like a simple program to write since personnel has all the data (they publish the data on the DCSS BOE website, but they don't put it together in a really meaningful form). The public could see how their school stacks up in teacher turnover.

http://www.all4ed.org/about_the_crisis

Anonymous said...

This came from a Georgia DOE presentation:
"The expenses associated with recruiting, hiring, and training cost a school system $8,000 or more for each teacher who leaves during the first few years of teaching"

Anonymous said...

Somewhere Maureen Downey had a column. Teacher turnover is actually lower in GA than the national average. Of course, the economy is impacting this. People genuinely can't leave.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the Dunwoody redistricting comments. Several of those opposed to the previous redistricting plan do still have elementary-aged children and I believe will fight again...if we are presented with the same lines which sent every apartment complex to Dunwoody ES and left Vanderlyn and Austin with none. If the lines equally distribute the apartments among all the schools in Dunwoody, then I think it will be a harmonious redistricting.

Anonymous said...

"If the lines equally distribute the apartments among all the schools in Dunwoody, then I think it will be a harmonious redistricting."

I would not want to be Dan Drake. How is he supposed to know that apartment children need to be spread between these schools? He will be going by geographical and demographic information. I think Dunwoody parents are expecting him to be more political than his job requires.

Anonymous said...

Re: Title 1 spending thread-- one of the biggest problems with programs like America's Choice is that the contract is paid for with Title 1 funds, as is the army of DCSS central office personnel who manage the relationship witH AC, as is the Coach assigned to the school whose job seems mainly to be going to meetings with or about AC. That means that every dollar spent on AC is about a third as effective as if it had been spent on more classroom teachers.
Okay, math's not my strong suit--the fraction may not be one-third, but you get the picture. As a taxpayer, it makes me cringe.

Re: interactive white board thread... There's an item on the Board agenda for Monday to approve purchasing 4 Promethean boards for every Title 1 school.

Auntie Gerrymander said...

After reading some of the Fernbank parents' comments on the Vision 2020 comment area of the DCSS website, I can just say that I wouldn't want my kids to go to that school if the toilets were gold-plated. They sound like a bunch of smug, self-satisfied so-and-so's. I go to church with some of them and I can say that they are very nice in person, but wow! The comments make it seem like they think that children at neighboring schools are secretly covered in scales.
We parents need to remember that our concerns over redistricting mustn't result in prejudiced attitudes that might rub off on our kids. It's on of the reasons that I am concerned about the social impact on my children of their possibly attending Kittredge..

Roslyn Holcomb said...

I also don't think it's possible to include Kingsley since they are barely at capacity.

I'm not sure if that's information is still accurate. We moved here in 2008 with a child who started at Kingsley in 2009. Apparently they got a bumper crop of kids that year because they had to add a kindergarten class. From what I understand as a charter school Kingsley has to take kids that apply, including all the kids that are leaving Hightower in droves. I suspect that we got quite a few of the "dreaded apartment kids," because kids are constantly transferring in and out.

Now he's in first grade in a class with 25 kids. I'm frustrated because I deliberately chose Kingsley because it was a small school with 300 kids. Now it has 400 and is very much so at capacity and then some. First grade is so very crucial and I don't think this problem will be alleviated anytime soon. So yes, if Dunwoody ES is expanded K-5 I'll be screaming from the rooftops that Kingsley be included.

Anonymous said...

I would not want to be Dan Drake. How is he supposed to know that apartment children need to be spread between these schools?

Why would he NOT spread the apartments between all the schools? Homeowners are less transient than renters and transience is one of the major issues in low-performing schools.

Anonymous said...

"Re: interactive white board thread... There's an item on the Board agenda for Monday to approve purchasing 4 Promethean boards for every Title 1 school."

This agenda item is very confusing. It doesn't say the funds are Title 1, so why would the purchase be limited to Title 1 schools.

there are plenty of non-Title 1 schools that need these as well.

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/viewmeetingOrder.aspx?S=4054&MID=14126

Anonymous said...

I think the Fernbank and Brookhaven Fields parents have the potential to make the Dunwoody parents look reasonable.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:22 -- You just made my day!

Anonymous said...

I drive past many DCSS schools throughout my work day and the amazing thing is the parking spots assigned to guidance counselors, principals and asst principals have very nice cars sitting in them like Mercedes, BMW's, Lexus', in my child's case a Jaguar!

I would love to get in on the DCSS gravy train. The playing field is not leveled, since the pay of the teachers compared to the Central Office is a very wide margin. I'd like to see more equality in pay between the teachers, IN THE CLASSROOM, and the bloated Palace (Central Office) staff.

I wonder how many DCSS teachers would like to be sitting in those $2000 Palace leather chairs instead of the 20 year old splintered, paint peeled chairs they sit in everyday in the classrooms.

I'm just sayin.....

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:47
"The playing field is not leveled, since the pay of the teachers compared to the Central Office is a very wide margin. I'd like to see more equality in pay between the teachers, IN THE CLASSROOM, and the bloated Palace (Central Office) staff."

It's the Golden Rule - he who has the gold, makes the rules.

Anonymous said...

Proud to say the principal at Druid Hills drives a VW Bug, and the Principal parking space is the farthest from the entrance.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:34pm:

It doesn't matter if they fight. Redistricting in Dunwoody is inevitable. The 4-5 school isn't working to relieve overcrowding and it is also terribly inefficient from a transportation standpoint. I don't think DCSS really cares (nor should they) about the opinions of people who think their kids should not sit in class with kids who live in apartments. Those who feel that way should either get over it or go to private school.

Incidentally, my child goes to one of the k-3 dunwoody elementary schools along with many kids who live in apartments. I know many of these kids and they are precious children, who want to learn and be accepted just like my single-family-home child. There is no difference. My child learns from them, plays with them-- and vice versa.

I think the Vanderlyn parents who are so anti-apartment dwellers might change their attitudes if they took the time to observe how children can get along with one another-- despite differences in race, homelife, and socioeconomic status. We adults could learn a lot from these kids.

Anonymous said...

Not so long ago, assistant principals (at least in elementary school) made less than $2,000 a year more than teachers. What happened in the last decade?

Now we have 264 Assistant Principals that cost $26,500,000 a year in salary and benefits.

Average yearly salary and benefits for DCSS Assistant Principals:
$100,400

Average yearly salary and benefits for DCSS teachers:
$65,000

source: state Salary and Travel audit and Ms. Tyson's 2010-11 proposed budget

Anonymous said...

@ auntie gerrymander
"It's on of the reasons that I am concerned about the social impact on my children of their possibly attending Kittredge.."

what in the world are you talking about? have you been to kittridge? there is plenty of diversity there as the "pet sociology project of DCSS". Why else would dekalb county taxpayers be forced to pay millions of dollars to bus children from one end of the county to the other??

The parents might be overly protective of their lottery gained lot in life but I have not found them to be snobby in the socioeconomic way..... If I have feedback for them it is simply that they ( somewhat understandably ) have little to no concern to help those of us who did not get a golden ticket....

It is not an equitable distribution of very limited county resources and unfortunately, we have no feedback whatsoever on the topic

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 10:55
"what in the world are you talking about? have you been to kittridge? there is plenty of diversity there as the "pet sociology project of DCSS". Why else would dekalb county taxpayers be forced to pay millions of dollars to bus children from one end of the county to the other??


You need to check your facts and cite them. When Kittredge (and the magnet program) first started, it was a solely a way to desegregate DeKalb Schools voluntarily. The Magnet program was designed with a 50%-50% racial balance as a result of a 1989 court order to racially balance schools. Because DCSS was at that time around 50% African American students, the ratio at Kittredge was 50% African American and 50% White and Other. It remained that way for many years.

Also In 1989, the DeKalb Board of Education decided that the school system had done all it could do, in the face of rapidly changing demographics, to integrate the school system. The Board petitioned the Court to declare the school system unitary. The Circuit Court did so, but the Appellate court disagreed, stating that DeKalb had a long way to go to be unitary. The Appellate Court decision stated that DeKalb must be unitary in six areas (student assignment, faculty and staff placement, transportation, extracurricular activities and facilities) at the same time and for at least two to three years. The Board of Education appealed this decision to the Supreme Court and in June of 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that the DeKalb School System was Unitary. This ended the 27 years of court supervision.

Years down the road, due to other reverse discrimination cases and the movement of Kittredge to the northern end of the county, the racial balance changed.

Currently, African-American students comprise 27% of the student body of Kittredge with White and Other accounting for 73%.

The magnet programs including Kittredge have taken on a life of their own. They are more about providing a choice in public education (even though it is the luck of the draw) than their original goal of racial integration.

source:
http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_ethnicsex.entry_form

Anonymous said...

@anon 11:29 interesting origin of magnets - but it is my understanding that there is no longer a legal basis for such a forced situation?
if the eligibility criteria is 75% on standardized testing - wouldn't it be important to look at how many in each race met this absurdly low percentage and how many applied?
just saying??? if you really want to present a conclusion, looks like you too need to check some numbers?

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 12/4 9:58 "We adults could learn a lot from these kids."

Bless you for saying that ... I will actually go farther ...

My wife and I as a result of our work in the seven schools of Cross Keys are coming to the consensus that we'd rather our son associate with "those kids" than their "betters" at other schools. At every level, elementary, middle, and high, we have found the young people to be "completely normal" and, if anything, to be more sincere, open minded, hard-working and accepting than most.

The YMCA Youth Soccer Program at Cross Keys is creating opportunities for area families from both the apartments and from Brookhaven's single family house neighborhoods to mingle - it has been a beautiful thing to watch and it's just getting started!

Kim Gokce said...

"Dan Drake" and data ...

Dan Drake is going to do all the things we've collectively complained about DCSS not doing in the past - using the fancy mapping and data analysis software, using multiple data sources, and such. My gut tells me that we are not going to like what the recommendations are that come out of this analysis combined with the MGT recommendations.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:52 pm
"...75% on standardized testing - wouldn't it be important to look at how many in each race met this absurdly low percentage and how many applied?...if you really want to present a conclusion, looks like you too need to check some numbers?'

No conclusion in my post. Just want to make sure the data is accurate.

My family lived through this period. I started teaching in DCSS in 1972, Dekalb taxpayer for 27 years, and my daughter went to Kittredge when it reflected the racial make-up of DCSS.

I hope you understand 75% in standardized achievement is not low. I taught gifted education for 11 years so I can assure you that being in the 75 percentile would still place students 3 to 4 years above grade level in reading and/or math.

I understand and am passionate about the needs of the highly gifted having taught gifted at some of the highest scoring schools in DCSS and having raised a gifted child. However, Kittredge is not and has never been a school for "gifted" children. It is a school for "high achievers". A number gifted students have had problems at Kittredge simply because they are so extremely gifted and they are in classes with high achievers (high achievement having a correlating relationship rather than a causal relationship with mental ability). My daughter went to school with a child that scored in the mid-1400s on his SAT (math and verbal) in 7th grade yet he always had C's at Kittredge and the teachers complained he didn't do his homework.

I don't know of any top notch private school that serves only the truly gifted. Pace, Westminster, Paideia, Woodward and the Atlanta International School have many students in the 75 percentile in achievement, and they do just fine.

As a caveat, I can say that I have also taught students in the 99 percentile in mental ability in lower income schools in DCSS, and they can run circles around many Kittredge students. Mental ability is more fluid and widely dispersed than the general populace believes. IMHO discarding the racial imbalance of Kittredge was unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

"My daughter went to school with a child that scored in the mid-1400s on his SAT (math and verbal) in 7th grade yet he always had C's at Kittredge and the teachers complained he didn't do his homework."

This happens more often than we would like. I raised a gifted child. I grew up in a family full of gifted people. Many gifted kids are not motivated by grades. If it looks like busy work, it gets ignored, in favor of something that is more interesting. A rich learning environment is nice, but many of these kids will learn what they want to know on their own. They will pursue what they are interested in with great focus and intensity. Being gifted doesn't guarantee a prestigious job, a big paycheck, or even that the student will complete college.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 11:11 pm

So true. I always told my gifted students that getting along with people is the skill they need to develop the most. They could be MDs, but they would never be a department head if they couldn't relate to people. They could be a top notch physicist, but they could never run an institute without interpersonal relationship skills.

The other fact I always preached is that no matter how smart you are (and I had some incredibly brilliant students) there is ALWAYS someone smarter than you. You may not have met that person yet, but you will.

I run into my students around DeKalb and many are Facebook friends. It's so interesting to see what they are doing with their lives. Many are not pursuing the careers I would have predicted based on their abilities. After they grew up and went to school, they have tended to pursue careers that are personally satisfying to them - arts, music, social work, etc. Money is not the most important goal for them.

Kim Gokce said...

Reading these observations about gifted vs high achieving students hits close to home - I was one of those kids who didn't let school "interfere with my education." I was a terrible student and struggled to finish with a high school diploma.

In one U.S. History class at Wheeler High School, I had an above 100% test average but received a 'D' in the class because I refused to transcribe text chapters. It was a daily homework exercise for a significant portion of our grade simply to record an outline of each chapter read. The teacher instructed the class to use the chapter title as our Roman numeral 'I,' the subsection titles as our outline's 'A, B, etc.,' and the leading or trailing sentence of the first or last paragraph as our 'i, ii, iii, etc."

In my idealism and hubris, I refused to "waste my time" doing this exercise because I absorbed the material out of interest and close reading. The teacher politely but firmly warned me I would not do well and I earned my 'D' on principle.

I talk to the young people at Cross Keys (when ever they'll listen - teenagers!) about my own experience in school to highlight the key lessons I learned:

1) Intelligence <> performance
2) A love of learning is necessary for success in more than school
3) School does not prepare you for life but if you "do it right," it can help prepare you for living.
4)Like in life, you will only get out of high school what you put in to it.

It is so important that we keep as many of our young people engaged in learning throughout their youth so they will "get it" and become life-long learners. This is why it is so important to me that we in DeKalb figure out a way to improve the educational opportunities for every child everywhere.

There was an early advocate,Ms. Barbara Brown, for "gifted" learning at Wheeler High School back in the dark ages when I had a tour there (I went to lot of area high schools!). I have no idea how she found me but she did. She recruited me into her gifted program based purely on test scores because it was the only way I could qualify at the time due to poor performance at school work.

This simple effort on her part changed my life forever. If she believed in my abilities (I did not), then something must be going on of which I was unaware. It made me question all my internal myths about who I was, where I came from, and what I was capable of doing in life.

When I consider how many of our 32,000 students fall into the "gifted" category and how little we are doing to engage and inspire them, I get discouraged about our prospects as a community. Statistically speaking, there is room in DeKalb for a large format school of 3,200 where half the kids would test at a MENSA level of intelligence. I wonder what these 3,200 kids are doing right now at their home schools?

Kim Gokce said...

" ... there is ALWAYS someone smarter than you."

NOW THAT is wisdom! Amen brother/sister! The other concept I try to communicate to folks on the question of smart vs smarter, etc., is that we cannot forget the principles of diminishing returns. Is a person who tests at 97% practically more clever than one that tests at 94%?

At some point above functional intelligence, we are splitting hairs and making arbitrary designations.

Cerebration said...

I was lucky I guess. I don't recall homework ever counting for a grade in all of my years in school. We were to do it in order to better understand the material. If we felt we understood, then we had done enough. If we felt we didn't understand, we were to let the teacher know. The teacher always spent the first part of the class going over some of the homework that students had questions about. Then we moved on... The only "homework" that ever counted consisted of essays, poems, research reports, etc. And when we worked on those, we got consistent feedback from the teacher along the way.

This kind of high school experience prepared me well for college. I was not the least bit bothered by the fact that in some college classes your final grade may be determined by a few test scores or papers. Today's high school students are quite shocked when they learn this - or find out that they can't get extra credit for bringing in paper towels...

Kim Gokce said...

"paper towels" ... priceless.

I should have grown up in small town Ohio, then. Who knows what I could've accomplished! :)

My high school experience in East Cobb (I went to many HSes in summer school) was very much highlighted by large classes (up to 40), highly bureaucratic processes, and a lot of busy work. Not exactly inspiring ...

Cerebration said...

Life in the big city! I guess my teachers were just a bit laid back...

At any rate - I'd like to share this excellent blog (I've added it to the links column). It's called STUDY HACKS and is written by an MIT postdoc. It's chock full of very good guidance for students and adults alike.

Check it out -

Study Hacks: Demystifying Sustainable Success

Study Hacks is run by Cal Newport, an MIT postdoc and author of the popular advice guides "How to Become a Straight-A Student" and "How to Win at College". His new book, "How to Be a High School Superstar", is now available.

Anonymous said...

If you ever saw the picture "Sleepless in Seattle" the song was sung by Jimmy Durante a well known singer and comic on the 1930s and 40s.

One of his favorite expressions was "don't raise the drawbridge, lower the river". That sounds like an easy way to reach equality in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:11

No poster has said to cut out the money from active PTAs. The article was asking if Title 1 funds (which equal more per Title 1 school than the PTA budgets at the most affluent schools) are used as wisely as the PTA funds to level the playing field for Title 1 students. I think some posters have gotten confused and thought the idea of taking from the affluent PTAs and giving to low income schools was advanced. The low income school already get more in Title 1 funds than the affluent PTAs can ever hope to raise. Until we get someone over the Office of School Improvement (currently Dr.
Berry) which makes the Title 1 funding decisions, Title 1 schools will not use these funds effectively.

Funding decisions for Title 1 schools should be occurring more at the school level rather than almost of these funds going for non-teaching personnel and scripted learning programs that have not proven effective for Title 1 students.

Nothing was said about "taking" from affluent schools. The issue is letting the Title 1 schools (including classroom teachers - not just the principal) make their own decisions about the use of Title 1 funds.

Kim Gokce said...

Yes, and to echo the point a bit ... the PTA by definition is a school house focused organization and obviously makes decisions about how it spends funds with direct input and control from parents and teachers - no one closer than that!

While the Title I funds come from afar off in Federal "money tree land" and, like aid money sent into third world countries, too often has a torturous path to traverse and much of its potential impact is diluted en route.

Cerebration said...

Apparently band is one area where inequity is obvious. For a very insightful look, read this article in the Dunwoody Reporter by Jodi Steinberg

It’s a tale of two bands for Cross Keys and Dunwoody high schools

Anonymous said...

I had already read that article. A far larger percentage of Cross Keys students need to help support their families either with child care for younger siblings or by earning money.

Last year, Cross Keys had 80 percent plus free and reduced lunch, Dunwoody's percentage was much smaller.

When your family needs you, extracurricular activities are truly a luxury.

Anonymous said...

I also want to add that the teacher sounds fabulous and dedicated.

Anonymous said...

Interesting change in demographics at Kittredge. My child went there and 5 years ago the balance was the reverse. It was 60% black, 30% white and 10% asian/other. Did they change the lottery procedures?

I moved my child from a predominately white elementary school to Kittredge for both the academic challenge and for diversity. He has continued in the program and his best friends are from all races, nationalities and economic levels. And I am friends with the parents of his friends. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us.

Kim Gokce said...

Mr. Short is a true blessing to Cross Keys HS. He literally is reviving the band program via his ample will, skill and ability to inspire the students. Living barely two blocks from the school, it has been very pleasing to hear the sounds of band practice returning since his tenure began.

At one point during this football season, I noticed the percussion section sharing two snare drums from the 1970s among three students. Two played while one sat by. When I inquired as to the set up, Mr. Short explained that they simply could not raise the funds to provide instruments for all the kids who wanted to participate. He also pointed out that the bass drummer was wearing a floor bass rigged with a strap. Band is an expensive program to support and really doesn't fair well in smaller, Title I schools.

When I first started watching our band, our athletic teams, and cheerleaders perform, I was filled with sympathy and frustration. Later, I simply felt pride because I came to know how dedicated the students are to their endeavors and their school. Their high achievements in academics, athletics, and in the community are that much more impressive because they manage with relatively little extras.

I was privileged enough to be invited to join the Cross Country team at the Atlanta Track Club All-Metro Awards ceremony and dinner at Westminster Schools Tuesday evening. Due to the boys team 3rd place in the State and Leonel Ayala's repeat as individual State Champion, this was my second trip to this event in as many years.

Because our coach wanted as many members of the team there to witness Leonel's recognition as possible, we were all crowded around two tables without enough seats. Leonel stood until his mom and team mates had a chance to eat before he would serve himself and have a seat.

This kind of character and leadership among these young people has been humbling for me to watch. I don't expect special consideration for these kids and they don't either. They do deserve no more or less of a fair shake than every other kid in DeKalb. They are doing just fine without broad community support because of their own efforts and an extremely dedicated faculty.

Cerebration said...

All very true Kim. And in the end, it's all about building good character and in that department, Cross Keys students shine.

Hopefully, the band will grow and the county will see fit to supply them with the necessary equipment - at least proportionate to what they supply to our other schools.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone gets instruments from the school system except for when they first open. That is why boosters work so hard.

andi said...

I've seen the Cross Keys band play at Oakcliff's Million Word Parade and they are really great. The little kids love to hear them play. I don't know how they do it in full uniform and high heat.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 7:53
"It was 60% black, 30% white and 10% asian/other. Did they change the lottery procedures? '

Yes. Look at the most recent demographics:
http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_ethnicsex.entry_form

Posters complain about Wadsworth, a very small school for high achievers in S. DeKalb, but the move of Kittredge to the northern part of the county would eliminate a viable alternative for high achieving students in the southern part of the county.

Surely Dr. Lewis realized that moving Kittredge to the North End of the county (have you ever tried to drive to that area - I'm in mid-DeKalb and I it's a lengthy drive for me) would effectively reduce the number of students from South DeKalb.