Dr. Atkinson says that if we “put Students First, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”
A good start for putting students first would be to increase our number of teachers in order to decrease the class sizes that are proving so detrimental to student progress.
DeKalb dismal standardized test results show that the loss of 600 teaching positions in the past two years has had an extremely negative impact on student achievement. When you eliminate a teaching position, the impact on students in the form of increased class sizes is EXACTLY the same as letting a teacher go. The impact to students is what DeKalb Schools should be concerned about.
Read on to see how so many teaching positions were eliminated.
Looking closely at the budgets in 2009-10 and 2010-11, it appears that Dr. Lewis and Ms. Tyson eliminated around 600 teacher positions.
Look at the proposed and subsequently approved 2010-11 DeKalb Schools budget:
Reviewing the calculations, Ms. Tyson pegged the cost of a teacher at $65,000 in salary and benefits.
Ms. Tyson recommended reducing Magnet Points (a Point means a teacher) by 20 points for a savings of $1,300,000. $1,300,000 divided by 20 = $65,000.
Example # 2:
Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating 8 DECA (DeKalb Early College Academy) Points (Teachers) for a savings of $520,000. $520,000 divided by 8 = $65,000.
Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating 8 Single Gender Points (Teachers) nets a savings of $520,000. $520,000 divided by 8 = $65,000.
Example #4: Ms. Tyson recommended eliminating Target Assistance Points (extra Teachers for schools that need additional help for students for various reasons) for a savings of $3,965,000. Divide $3,965,000 by $65,000 (cost of a teacher) = 61 teachers.
You can see how Ms. Tyson assigned a value of $65,000 as the cost of a teacher throughout the budgetary process.
Adding the number of teacher positions eliminated in Example #1 (20), Example #2 (8), Example #3 (8), and Example #4 (61) = 97 teaching positions eliminated.
Now look at the increase in class sizes (highlighted in blue). Ms. Tyson recommended increasing class sizes by 2. She assigned a value of $14,000,000 in savings. If you divide $14,000,000 by $65,000 (value of a teacher), the additional number of teaching positions eliminated = 215.
Now add the 215 additional teaching positions eliminated to the 97 already eliminated in Examples #1, 2, 3, and 4, and this equals 312 positions eliminated for the school year 2010-11.
This comes on top of Dr. Lewis eliminating 275 teacher positions in 2009-10. Eliminating teaching positions was the largest portion of saving for fiscal year 2009-10. See quote from the DeKalb Schools 2009 - 2010 approved budget (executive summary on page 8):
“Further approved reductions include an increase to class sizes…..This action will save $18.1 million and will reduce the staffing needs by 275 teachers through attrition.”
Of equal concern should be that 600 teachers left the system in the last 2 years through attrition. Obviously Ms. Tyson and Dr. Lewis felt confident that the attrition rate is in the hundreds every year. This points to an unacceptable teacher turnover rate. Educational studies show that a high teacher turnover rate has the effect of decreasing student achievement for Economically Disadvantaged students, a group that has a difficult time showing the same progress rate as their more affluent peers. DCSS Economically Disadvantaged students mainly reside in our Title 1 schools.
Coaches, Coordinators, Managers, and Directors don’t teach students – teachers do. Let’s ask Dr. Atkinson to bring back our teachers. When we are spending $73,000,000 for Central Office staff and packing our classes with 35+ students while our student achievement declines, it is clear DeKalb County Schools has lost its focus. Dr. Atkinson needs to bring that focus back on the students. We’re counting on that.