Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Child Left Behind -- Is It Out Of Control?

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is an update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the central federal law in pre-collegiate education. This act has the very admirable goal of improving the education of disadvantaged students. The act aims to hold states and schools more accountable for student progress. Some of the changes that cause discomfort to many educators, and joy to many parents of disadvantaged students include: Annual testing, which mandates schools to test annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and at least once in science in elementary, middle and high school. A sample of 4th and 8th graders in each state must also take the National Assessment in reading and math every other year to provide a point of comparison for states. States must bring all students to the “proficient” level by the 2013-2014 school year. To that end, schools must meet state “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) targets. This is based on a formula spelled out in the law and must be met not only by the population at large, but by certain demographic subgroups. If a school receiving federal Title 1 funding (for low income areas) fails to meet the target two years in a row, it must be provided technical assistance and its students must be offered a choice of other public schools to attend. If the school fails three years in a row, they must be offered supplemental educational services such as private tutoring. Beyond that, a school could find themselves under outside correction by the state.

In addition to the testing requirements, the Act requires that teachers must be “highly qualified”, or certified and proficient, in each subject he or she teaches. All new teachers hired with Title 1 money must have at least an associate’s degree or higher and have passed an exam in their subject. The act also create a new grant program called Reading First to help state set up “scientific, research-based” reading programs in K-3. Priority is always given to high-poverty areas and includes a reading program for disadvantaged preschoolers.

These are fantastic initiatives in my opinion. If we are to continue to advance as a nation, we must capture all available talent. Many opportunities for societal contributions lie dormant in disadvantaged children in our cities and rural areas. Be it a medical genius or a really good, intelligent and reliable worker, we must uncover talent wherever it resides. Everyone will need to function as a contributing member of the United States economy if we want to maintain our economic status in the world. We are kidding ourselves if we do not recognize the critical importance of our inter-dependence.

However, there have been controversies around NCLB, as well as problems implementing the act in our county (Dekalb). I see these as growing pains that need major tweaking. Don’t throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water.” The spirit of the law is respectable – especially so if you are the parent of a low-income minority, non-English speaker or special education student. The NCLB testing has peeled back the onion layer of overall passing school performance to reveal the fact that we are not equally educating sub-groups. As much as many of us have wearied of testing, the statistics are undeniable. Over and over, the white, bi-racial and Asian populations pass the threshold. Blacks, Hispanics and special education students do not. The 2008 testing data shows in black and red that in Dekalb, white and Asian students fair much better than blacks, Hispanics and special education students. And once again, DeKalb county as a system, failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress.

Why then, is the solution to offer transfers to the entire population of a school that failed to make AYP in a sub-category? What is now happening is that the highest achievers at “failing” schools with proactive parents are leaving their schools in droves. Many of these students were not members of the sub-category that did not meet AYP. This “brain-drain” virtually ensures that these schools will never make AYP. Add to that, the incredible emergency this creates on a receiving school – one middle school had to make room for over 250 new students after school started - the transfer solution is not the best first answer. What does seem like a good idea to me is to offer intense tutoring, class size reduction and mentoring to students in those failing groups. If that doesn’t cause improvement after a year, then offering a transfer might seem less reactionary. The law desperately needs some flexibility in application.

There are those who think that NCLB has an agenda to frustrate schools into a general dismantling of public education. I can’t see that as being reality, although, there are places such as Detroit where student populations are decreasing enormously with no reasons given. Still, there are many of us who believe in sticking in there and fighting the good fight to improve public education for everyone. Sadly, though, DeKalb does not seem to be making progress in our high schools. We continue to see a vast majority of our high schools unable to make AYP and the response by our administration has been to simply offer transfers to the few schools that do make AYP. But no one tracks these students after their transfer, so we really have no way of knowing if this solution is working. I would wage a guess that it's not, simply judging by the reduction in NCLB students in the freshman class at receiving schools vs the number of NCLB students who make it through to graduation at their school of choice. If it's not working, then we need to find a better method.

As a country, we need to be very thankful for Bill & Melinda Gates. They have hit the nail on the head in that we have an absolute crisis in many of our high schools. We have to drastically change the conventional pathway and pace to a high school diploma by recognizing that one size does not fit all. Vocational and technical schools have declined in favor of a cookie-cutter college prep diploma. At the same time drop out rates have soared. The Gates Foundation discovered that many drop-outs simply feel disconnected and bored at school. However, vocational schools seem to be able to capture many of these students' attention. I chatted with an auto mechanics teacher in Gwinnett County who told me that he had his students enthusiastically doing trigonometry, although they didn’t regard it as such – in their minds, they were problem-solving how to fix an engine.

Everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness in this country. Offering an equal educational environment in which more people can land a job with a living wage and health care benefits for their family is part and parcel to the principles our country was founded on. It increases the quality of life for everyone. So let’s get on board and tweak the NCLB act until it can fully serve the purpose for which it was created – ensuring that even the most vulnerable in our country have an opportunity to succeed.

PLAN TO ATTEND the No Child Left Behind Public School Choice Meeting and voice your opinions and concerns.

The meeting for Regions 1 & 2 schools - Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Druid Hills, Avondale and Tucker will be held on Monday - MARCH 23 at 6:30 PM at Peachtree Middle School, 4664 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody, GA 30338.

Additional meetings include: TUESDAY MARCH 24, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at RONALD McNAIR, SR. HIGH SCHOOL and
TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at REDAN HIGH SCHOOL.

I would suggest attending the Peachtree meeting AND one of the others in order to see how the same information is presented to very different groups as well as report back here as to the Q&A. FYI, within these regions (1, 2, 4 and 6) Chamblee, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Druid Hills, Stephenson Southwest DeKalb and Tucker DID make AYP in 2008. Dunwoody, Avondale, McNair, Cedar Grove, Redan and Stone Mountain DID NOT make AYP in 08.


themommy said...

Reading First has been surrounded by corruption and controversy just for the record.

There was a great editorial in Monday's AJC about high school. Please read it...

The author focuses on math, but I would argue that it is applicable to almost all core subjects.

Both the Obama and is Sec. of Ed, Duncan, are suggesting that a longer school year/day is part of the solution. I believe that to be true for some children, but not mine. My kids come from a home with only two (gasp) TVs and more books than some small library. My children are often admonished to put down that book to move on to the next task. But this is how I was raised as well.

To have the longer school year for some is the answer. One size doesn't fit all, not even close and that is the first step in realizing that this is how we will move forward. At Monday's meeting, it would be nice to ask the system what outside of the box ideas are they considering. On Dr. Lewis' silly design teams, I was a big advocate of offering true (220 day) year round school in at least one school in each cluster.

Several years ago the founders of KIPP wrote a book about their experiences. The biggest surprise as they opened the first school was how expensive high school remediation was.

Ella Smith said...

From a different prospective, you can bring a horse to water but you can not make it drink. This is true of many students also. Many students do not have the desire of motivation to do well in school. Today we have so many standards in high school to cover in one year and this does not leave much time to remediate.

Many students have good teachers and overall are in good schools but they did not desire a good education. Many parents do not support the educational process by making sure their children put in the additional time needed at home studying information provided by teachers. This is a very complicated problem and the problem is only partially in the school houses. The problem also stems from home and within the students themselves. What can we do to motivate students who do not care to learn? What do we do to get parent's involved with their children's education? I wish I had the answer.

Sight Edman said...

I'd like to suggest that folks take a little time and watch Two Million Minutes. It may change your thinking about 'fixing' our schools and whether they even need fixing.

When folks start talking of tweaking and babies and bath water, I sometimes wonder how they would answer this question: "If we didn't have public schools, would we create them and would they look anything like what we have?" Now, the "obvious" answer is "of course we would, but not like this!" Really? Well, we didn't, we did and these are they. And they were created by some of the brightest, best educated, self-sacrificing, hardworking members of our society, right? I'd like to offer this thought: public schools pretty accurately reflect what the greater public wants, but maybe not what you want for your child.

Cerebration said...

That's an interesting website Thaddeus. I know that the Indian and Chinese cultures value education and do an excellent job of teaching all across the core subjects - we should try to emulate their dedication. Of course, Ella's right - education must be valued at home in order to support what's happening at schools.

But - we are not India or China. We are a melting pot and have many layers of social issues to deal with that others don't. We have to get a handle on our racial issues before we can truly have equitable access to quality schools. However - I strongly disagree with the NCLB premise that simply transferring a student to a high performing high school with transform them into a high-achieving student. If anyone would study what is actually occurring (at least at Lakeside) they would agree - the transfers are a waste. They only allow the administration to wipe their hands of responsibility - having dumped it off on the Lakeside (or Dunwoody or Druid Hills or Chamblee) community. Intense tutoring, small learning environments and perhaps a 5 year high school program would better serve struggling schools.

Also -- the US subliminally teaches something culturally that these other cultures don't. Creativity. We are the society that raises students who are able to connect the dots and bring new ideas, products, art, film and music to the world. Recent years have (IMO) broken down the quality of what we are creating, however, we have within our people - the creative ability and the ingenuity to generate thought-provoking literature and films, design products that serve and help mankind and invent new methods of communication and transportation that use a new form of energy.

There's a break down in the family that is seriously hurting our society -- and there's a current climate of jealousy and division between political parties that could forever hamper our ability to feel "free" enough to create. We have to have a change in mindset - a change that embraces our American ingenuity and problem-solving ability.

Delivering education across many learning platforms will serve to capture ALL of our collective talent. An engineering-focused education is one pathway. Arts and Sciences is another. However, we as Americans need to admit that one size does not fit all and we need to work very hard to protect the skills and talents of those who may not be suited to an engineering curriculum as we see in India (conversely-we all know what India's slums are like - they are definitely leaving many children "behind.")

Students who don't fit within the college-prep focused HS curriculum we continue to endorse are quitting school in droves. They deserve a chance to a life of productive work, We need high quality vocational and technical schools - and we need them - yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

BTW, the DCSS posted the meetings today. There are three NCLB School Choice meetings. The first one on Monday is for Region 1 and 2 schools. These are schools in the following high school clusters: Dunwoody, Chamblee, Cross Keys, Lakeside, Druid Hills, Avondale and Tucker.

The law has zeroed in on the problem, but has done very little in the remedy area. IMO, moving middle and high school students many, many miles around this big county has done more damage than good to the system as a whole.

I am curious about how other counties are handling the NCLB requirement to offer school choice. You hear very little about any counties except DeKalb.

And haven't some of the DCSS schools failed for enough years that they are targeted for complete restructuring? i.e. complete change of administration and faculty.

Ella Smith said...

One of the major problems with NCLB is that it is normally the great students who leave the school when they are allowed to transfer and this even make the situation harder for the school these students leave to make AYP in the future.

I have not seen NCLB students at North Springs HS. Maybe Fulton does not have the problem that Dekalb County School System does.

Ella Smith said...

I have a question. My son who goes to Lakeside High School ask me how many classes I teach evey day and I told him that I teach 6 out of 7 classes and he was extremely shocked. He said that the teachers at Lakeside High School only teach 5 out of 7 classes and that all of them have 2 planning periods. Needless to saw I would like to know if this is true. If this is true and the teachers at Lakeside HS and other high schools could have only have 1 planning period like we have in the Fulton County County Schools think how much money could be saved.

After thinking about it I realized that the teachers on block schedule get one planning period out of 4 classes taught at one time. If Dekalb County School System went off the block schedule and went to all the teachers teaching 6 out of 7 classes like Fulton County can you just imagine how much money could be saved by the Dekalb County School System. This would make so much sense since it appears the block schedule is not working for students in the county. It is the students who are not on block schedule for the most part which have the highest test scores in the county and which are meeting AYP standards.

Anonymous said...

I learned today that when DCSS Title I students transfer under NCLB, their Title I money does not move with them. However, the NCLB law has an option that allows school systems to transfer the Title I money to the receiving school.

We should urge DCSS to use this option. The transfer students place heavy burdens on the receiving schools in terms of supplies,overtaxed faculty, counselors, media staff, administrators, and even a strain on clerical and security staff.

Anonymous said...

Ella, Lakeside did not meet AYP in 2006 - did the "traditional" schedule contribute to that?

Ella Smith said...

Yes, Lakeside did not meet AYP in the area of ESOL students I believe.

I teach at a Magnet/Charter High School and we went away from block schedule a couple of years ago because Fulton County could no longer afford it and because our test scores were down and we did not meet AYP standards in math. Since going off block schedule we have met AYP standards.

I have taught with block schedule and the problem is that many teachers water down the curriculum because it is very hard to teach from bell to bell and if the teachers are doing what they are suppose to be doing they are covering a great deal of material in a fast period of time which is difficult for many of the students to master the material so fast.

I understand that teachers and students like the block schedule. I understand why. They teach fewer subjects and fewer classes and have an 1 1/2 hour planning period daily. Students like it because homework becomes class work.

But, in this economy can Dekalb County afford to give teacher's this much time for planning? In this economy can we afford to give teachers on the regular 6/7 period day 2 planning periods to make up the time that is given to teachers on the block schedule. I feel the cost currently is way too high and the block schedule overall is not providing the academic results to warrant this. The school system should be treated as a business and when results are not there chanes need to be made. When money is not there changes need to be made.

Anonymous said...

Last year 13 high schools in DeKalb did not make AYP. Low scores on the Math GHSGT were the culprit in 12 instances. (In some schools it was both Math and Language Arts).

The Block schedule is not only inefficient it is terrible for math. Students can take math in the fall semester and not have math again until the spring semester the following year, thus going two semesters with NO math. I have heard from many math teachers that the new integrated Math I, II, etc. should not be taught on the block. I have also heard that many students are struggling with Math I this year.

Ella is correct. DCSS needs to ditch the block schedule and needs to do it this year.

Cerebration said...

The one good thing about NCLB is that it forces schools to admit that they are not serving certain groups of students. In the past, Lakeside for example, could be very highly recognized, because 80% of its students tested well. But when you are forced to look deeper into those numbers, you will see that the 20% who don't do well are minorities, special ed and the poor. In the past, this fact could always get swept under the rug - but NCLB has forced this data into the light.

Sadly, the solution has been to deem the whole school a failure - and allowing a transfer to anyone who wants one. That's just dumb. Intense support should be given to the specific students who are failing. But - our Federal Government has decided to go off the cliff with this one and DeKalb happily obliges.

But you're correct Ella, the block is expensive. However, now with the higher requirements for graduation set at 24 credits, it's a struggle for many to get the credits they need in four years on a 7 period day. What we need to do is go back to the State requirements - currently set at 23 credits (one less in Social Studies than DeKalb.) But one less credit PER STUDENT adds up to an awful lot of extra money we're spending.

All high schools could then return to a 7 period day (you'll notice Arabia will be set up on the 7 period day) - giving students a better chance at completing HS in 4 years - 23 credit needed out of a possible 28 taken over 4 years. (Blocks have to offer students 32 credits over 4 years -- lots of electives in there and very expensive to have to offer so much.) Also, we already have an abundance of teachers in place at schools on the block - keeping them in place would allow for smaller classes and hopefully more individualized instruction.

These are the new State Requirements - as of 2007. I'm not sure why DeKalb insists on adding the additional credit.

Four (4) credits in Mathematics
Four (4) credits in English/Language Arts
Four (4) credits in Science
Three (3) credits in Social Studies
One (1) credit in Health/Physical Education
Three (3) credits in Foreign Language** and/or Fine Arts and/or Career/Technical/Agricultural Education***.
Four (4) electives

Cerebration said...

FYI - this is also what the State considers a "credit"

Unit – one unit of credit awarded for a minimum of 150 clock hours of instruction or 135 hours of instruction in an approved block schedule.

(h) Unit, Summer School – one unit of credit awarded for a minimum of 120 clock hours of instruction.

Ella Smith said...

I get the impression from time to time that a few think I am just a supportor of Lakeside. Again, I taught at Lakeside and I chose to live Dekalb County all together because I was not happy with what I saw regarding students who were not in Gifted, Honors, and AP classes. My son is currently in Gifted classes at Lakeside so I am happy with the education he is getting.

I did see all the failures and all the students that dropped out and went to a Open Campus or to Private Schools. I was not very please at all when I taught at Lakeside as to the attitude many teachers had regarding special needs and 504 students who needed accommodation in the mainstreamed classes. I sincerely hope it has changed.

If Dekalb County School System goes off block schedule then many teachers will be either transferred or lose their jobs. This is a reality and may be necessary. I hate for anyone to lose their job but DeKalb County Schools needs to do whatever is possible to put the school system in a different financial situation.

If every high school in the county goes to a traditional schedule and all teachers teach 6 out of 7 classes verses 5 out of 7 classes I would predict that schools on the current traditional schedule would lose 7 to 8 teachers and the schools on the block schedule would probable lose about 15 or 16 teachers. The average teacher in the state makes about $50,000 a year. This would save millions of dollars a year in salaries and benifits.

Ella Smith said...

I did leave and not live Dekalb County Schools. I do live also in Dekalb County.

I also would agree that NCLB has been positive to bring issues to minority and special needs students who are not meeting standards. They can no longer be sweep under the rug.

Anonymous said...

Yes--but Crawford's a member of the Commerce Club. That's got to be worth SOMETHING.

Metro Atlanta Chamber lauds Beverly HallAtlanta Business Chronicle - by Maria Saporta Staff Writer


Cerebration said...

“Graduating 80 percent of our students after four years of high school, prepared for success either in college or in a career.” -Beverly Hall

Good goal. Well stated. The tracking method for graduation rates is a big variable. There's a new provision in NCLB requiring schools to use the same method to track graduation rates - across 4 years - not just the senior year.

Anonymous said...

I see what you all are saying and not saying. I would love honest dialog about what is going in DCSS. I will be specific and hope that many of you would be more specific in your comments. Maybe we can actually understand and accomplish some things. I am a parent who has had to use the NCLB school transfer and will contiue to use it unfortuately, and I can tell you that I resent it with a passion. We are at the top of south area. Avondale is our area. I feel very guilty about not wanting my kids in their community school, but it is such a struggle with only a few who are willing to fight. It's a battle where we are now. We are a black family that is very involved in our kids education and there are many more like us. We are probably one of the most frustated groups out here. We would love for our kids to stay in their home schools. I for one, would love for my kids to take the bus. My husband takes one child and I take the other and I pick them both up. I see all kinds of things on everyone's part.One of my biggest issue is the Honor Roll. I think so many parents get lulled into a false sense of security because their kid(s) makes honor roll. That's a dirty joke. Yes, both of my kids are on honor roll, but I have always said it is statistically impossibly to have so many kids making "HR" and then have test scores as such, including SATs. It shows up in the wash, when the get into college and find they can't write a paper or they have to take remedial math. I see principals with little or no vision, I see principals who are not mature enough to hold their position. I see teachers who lack motivation, as well as students. I see students who have gaps in their education and nothing being done about it. Alot of time when kids don't understand something they loose interst and become distracted or become a distraction. How many teachers are willing to admit they are boring? I know I had boring teachers when I was in school, didn't you? There is alot of information going out without much backup. From what I remember about math, it is something that has to be practiced, practiced, practiced. Where is the homework? Has anyone actually looked at the some of the school books and asked how useful are they? Is the system in bed with the vendors/publishers? How is a writing assessment test given and the students don't write papers or even paragraphs? The teachers just teach enough for the kids to pass the test. The message that sends to me ,the parent, is "you are scamming the system and the kids". The system, as it is, is set up for great failure. It keeps proving it all the time. Everyone keeps reading the same book thinking and hoping there's going to be a different ending, how stupid. Block scheduling, yes- bad. I don't understand the math and the teachers can't teach it, how can the student master it? I think 1+1=2 and 3*4=12 what's new? If parents can't help and many, many just can't and some won't, what do you expect? Yes, I know there is Algegra I, II and so on. I spend a ton of money at the Schoolbox trying to help my children. Last but certainly not least, you have a superintendent(state) who pulled the Tuskegee Experiment on the students of the state. She knew part of the CRCT was bad - didn't tell, put it out there and waited to see what would happen. She won't get my vote.

Cerebration said...

Thank you so much for posting here, Anonymous. I have been hoping for some real dialogue on this blog and you may be the key to getting the ball rolling. I appreciate you sharing your perspective.

I agree with so much of what you said. My point has always been - NCLB has shed light on the fact that we are not properly educating minorities, the poor and students with learning disabilities. Hurrah for that - admitting the problem exists - which we now have to do because of the undeniable data produced by the NCLB mandate to disaggregate the data by groups - is the first big hurdle. However, the current "solutions" are lame.

Simply allowing students to transfer to a high achieving school is just a band-aid. First - most of the students who transfer do not do well in the new school. At least they are rarely involved in the higher achieving AP classes, etc. Further, if you track the numbers (I do at Lakeside - but the school system doesn't) - these students are giving up after one or two years at the new school Why? Because they were failed much earlier than high school.

The ONLY solution is to roll up our sleeves and make every school a quality school. Or at least a school where achievement is possible. We need dedicated, quality teachers in every building and more than anything - quality principals who are great leaders.

Simply allowing "some" students to transfer to another school won't even make a dent in the work that has to be done to deliver a quality education.

Other states are successful in education students overall. Why not hire leaders from successful places? Why not hire teachers and principals from other places who have a proven track record of success? We have the money - DeKalb pays very well. I have no faith in a system where - TWICE - I've heard Dr. Lewis claim he was going to do a "national" search for a principal (Lakeside and Arabia) and BOTH TIMES he hired someone local. One - from another DK high school for Arabia and one from Gwinnett for Lakeside (who happens to attend the same church as Dr. Lewis.)

Cassandra Littlejohn warned us. Unless an until the nepotism gets under control and we start hiring the most qualified people we can hunt down - things will not change. Sadly, since the Board just extended Dr. Lewis' contract through Oct 2011, I don't see much hope for change. Dr. Lewis is a very nice man - but he doesn't have the leadership skills or the "business" sense to run an air-tight school system. I see lots of holes where we could tighten up spending and he chooses to cut bus service in the middle of the year instead.

Cerebration said...

Also - our high school counselors are not helping. They focus on schedules and college applications as far as I can tell. One example - I know a child who was failing most of his classes as a sophomore. His mother called the counselor to ask for help. She was told to meet with the teachers. She did that - but still no plan of action - just told to work harder. She asked for a Student Support Team intervention and the counselor set up an appointment for a review -- in 30 days!! Feeling very unimportant and hopeless, she pulled her child out of the school. He is attending school elsewhere and doing much better so far. Does that counselor care? Heck no. Did she ever? Again, no.

Ella Smith said...

Please let me deal with a SST situation in Dekalb County. I would love to do this. I will advocate for the child. I actually have taken the situation on several times in several counties and never lost. I have been a SST Chairperson and I know all the ways to get things done. It is sometimes in the wording that makes a big difference.

I respectfully appreciate your input Avondale Anonymous. If I was you as a parent I would do the same thing if I was in your situation. I understand and I would like to see you feel like your child could get the appropriate education at Avondale. I have taught for a long time and I see the problem mainly being a situation with administration. The bar has to be sit high and make the students reach to reach the bar and not lower the bar to enable students to be successful regardless of the knowledge they actually learn.

The schools in the district which for the most part are sitting the bar high are the schools that are currently meeting AYP. The schools for the most part which are not on block schedule are also performing better on standardized tests.

I also believe that their in a difference in teacher's qualifications in certain areas of the county. This is a reflection on the personnel office of Dekalb County and ultimately the responsibity of the school board. The school board must demand that the personnel office go out and recruit the best teachers they can find and if the teachers students are not performing on tests repeatily then the teacher needs to be released. If the school is not performing then the principal needs to be replaced and not moved to the county office.

Again, thanks for you input. Please continue to give us your viewpoints as this is very important for this site.

Cerebration said...

I've always thought that a 7 period day is more successful (and cost-effective) than a Block schedule --- Jen Sansbury (formerly of the AJC) did a study of Druid Hills HS when the BOE was considering going to the block and proved (over a period of years) that the block did not improve SAT scores. After all, the two most successful high schools in the county have always had either a 6 or 7 period day. The only reason for a Block schedule in my opinion is that it reduces the number of times kids change class and therefore are in the halls (discipline/security issues) and it offers more opportunities for kids who fail to make up the classes within a 4 year period.

But it's $$$$$ - the schools on a Block have to offer an incredible plethora of electives in order to fulfill offering 32 credits to each student over 4 years.

Cerebration said...

" If the school fails three years in a row, they must be offered supplemental educational services such as private tutoring. Beyond that, a school could find themselves under outside correction by the state."

Just curious -- why hasn't the State taken over several of our schools? MANY have been in failure mode for AYP for over four years now.

Anonymous said...

Why did DCSS ever go to block schedules? Lazy teachers and lazy students?

I conducted an informal poll at my office and none of my co-workers' children who attend different public and private schools are on the block.

Cerebration said...

Forsyth County just went back to all 7 period days in all high schools - from the block. Maybe someone on the board should research why - and if they have seen benefits.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, let me assure you that students on the Block Schedule ARE NOT lazy.

Anonymous said...

Forsyth County has a request in front of the GADOE to initiate the IE2 program as Gwinnett County has done. The high schools are going to a "Compsite" Schedule, which seems to be something in betwee a block schedule and the traditional schedule.

Cerebration said...

Sounds intriguing. I am certain that there is much money to be saved by cutting back on the number of classes (and teachers) now offered to high school students in DeKalb. It simply must be less expensive to offer 28-30 credits vs 32 over four years in 21 high schools.

Cerebration said...

Here are Gwinnett's graduation requirements --

Beginning Fall 2008, there will be only one diploma. Two (2) credits of the same modern/classical language are required for university admissions in the state of Georgia. In addition to achieving the course requirements, students must pass all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation Test and all section of the GATEWAY Exam.

Graduation Requirements for students entering Fall 2008 and beyond: Subject Requirements

Language Arts 4 units including 1 unit of 9th grade Language Arts, and 1 unit of American lit. (11th grade)

Math 4 units including Integrated Algebra I, Integrated Geometry, and Integrated Algebra II

Science 4 units including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and science elective

Social Studies 3 units including 1 unit World History, 1 unit U.S. History, .5 units Political systems and .5 units Economics

Health & Physical Education 1 unit including .5 units Lifetime Fitness and .5 units of Health or 3 units JROTC

Modern/Classical Language, Language, Fine Arts, Technical Education * 3 units (any combination) any combination

*Required for university admissions in the state of
Georgia, 2 units of the same modern/classical
language Electives 4 units Any Graduation 23 units (as denoted above) including all portions of the
GATEWAY and Georgia High School Graduation

Cerebration said...

Here are Forsyth County's graduation requirements

Areas of Study Requirement
English/Lang. 4 Units
9th World Lit/Comp, 10th American Lit, 11th British Lit/Comp, 12th Advanced Lit/Comp or any AP/IB or Post Secondary Option (PSO) of these courses.

Mathematics 4 Units
Math 1 or its equivalent, Math 2 or its equivalent, and Math 3 or its equivalent. Additional units needed to complete the four credits in mathematics must be chosen from the list of GPS/AP/IB designated courses.

Science 4 Units
Bio, Phys. Sci. or Physics, (the 4th science credit may be used to meet both the science and CTAE elective requirements)

Social Studies 3 Units
World History, US History, Government/Economics

Health/Physical Ed. 1 Unit
Personal Fitness (1/2) Health (1/2)
3 units of JROTC may be used to meet the requirement

CTAE and/or Foreign Language and/or Fine Arts 3 Units
Students planning to enter or transfer into a University System of Georgia institution or other post-secondary institution must take two units of the same foreign language)

Electives** 4 units

TOTAL REQUIRED for Class of 2012 23 credits or 24 for a seal of distinction (two additional core credits) (Core GPA must be 3.0 or higher)

Cerebration said...

Again - here's another - Fulton County. Most of the schools are on a 7 period day and the system only requires the State mandated 23 credits for graduation.

Graduation Requirements
The Georgia Board of Education establishes graduation requirements for all students in public schools. The Fulton County School System bases its requirements on the state requirements. Local school systems must meet all state requirements; however, they may go beyond those requirements.

Credit for High School Courses Taken in Middle School
Students who take high school math courses and/or two years of the same world language in middle school may receive unit credit toward their high school requirements. It takes two years of the same world language in middle school to equate to one unit of high school world language.

A student shall become eligible for graduation upon meeting the following criteria:
23 units of credit have been completed
State assessment requirements have been met
Attendance requirements have been met

I was particularly impressed with the 154 page high school curriculum handbook I found within 2 clicks of the main webpage. One document - to answer all your curriculum questions. Love it!


Cerebration said...

So I ask -- why are we over-reaching in DeKalb? Why are we requiring 24 credits instead of the newly mandated 23 by the State? Why are we offering the world to students by creating a plethora of choices for electives to take over the 32 credits earned in 4 years on the block schedule?

Could it be that DeKalb has become a behemoth jobs program? If we ran more efficiently, couldn't we offer just 28 credits, with students only actually needing 23 credits to graduate? Couldn't we do this more cost-effectively than the expensive, block scheduled programs that "over-serve" the high school curriculum necessary to move on to college, tech school or the work force?

Anonymous said...

The only difference I see between the Dekalb requirements and Forsth requirements have to do with Health and PE. In Dekalb, students are required to have .5 unit of Health and a 1.5 of PE.

One unit of the PE may be exempt though school sponsored athletics, marching band, dance and/or JRTOC.

I have no problems with the Diploma Programs offered by Dekalb. I believe it takes take into considered that not all students will follow the same "diploma" path. It's too bad the NCLB wants to "test" all students as if they are following the same path.

Anonymous said...

While, there may be classes that don't need the time length that block scheduling allows - I believe that some do. I know that my child needed every single minute in her biology class and in her math class, while, probably not with regards to language arts and civics. Perhaps there is a "happy medium" somewhere.

Cerebration said...

Look again. All of these counties are following state guidelines - requiring 23 credits for a basic diploma. Dekalb is requiring 24 - one additional credit in Social Studies. Also - most of these counties are on th 7 period day - with a few schools within the system on the block. I'm just saying -- it's expensive for DeKalb to offer so much to so many students. Cutting back on the offerings would certainly cut back costs.

If you only NEED 23 credits to get a GA diploma - why do we have schools that make students take 32 credits over 4 years? 28 would surely cover it.

Cerebration said...

Let's do some math. Let's say that we are offering 28 credits to high school students. Let's say that we have 7,000 freshmen (which is fairly accurate). That means that over 4 years, we will have to offer a total of 196,000 classes for those 7,000 students to take in their high school career.

However, on the block, we offer 32 credits for each student across 4 years - for a total of 224,000 classes.

Which one costs more to offer - 196,000 classes or 224,000 classes?

themommy said...

Dunwoody Mom

You and I have talked about this before. The hardest year at Dunwoody is the freshmen year. After that the block makes it much less challenging than a traditional 7 period schedule.

Biology is a perfect example of course that shouldn't be on the block. You are cramming a course that was designed to be a year long course into a semester. There is no time for th teacher to pace him/herself because of the sheer volume of what much be covered. US History in 11th grade this year at Dunwoody with a good strong teacher didn't make it through the entire course content and only 59 percent of students passed the EOCT.

A full third of Dunwoody's teachers reported last year that they don't believe that they effectively use 90 minutes to teach more content. Forty percent report that they either don't agree or don't know whether students receive more individual help in those 90 minutes.

Forty four percent say that they don't believe that students learn more with the 90 minute class periods than they would if class periods were shorter. A full 25 percent of teachers said they couldn't answer (didn't know) the question.

On top of that DCSS teachers are constantly saying they don't have enough training to teach effectively on the block, yet nothing seems to change.

If the block is good enough for all the high schools in DCSS (except Lakeside and Chamblee which opted out) why isn't it good enough for Arabia?

Anonymous said...

themommy, you know I think the world of you and I know you are "in the know" with regards to what is going on in DCSS, but I don't know that 9th grade is going to be the toughest. Next year with AP World history/World Lit (which is taught in a A/B schedule for the entire year), Math II, Chemistry, Spanish IV and V. From what I'm hearing of AP World history from other parents and her counselor, it is one tough road.

As far as NCLB - I believe it's only a matter of time before NCLB as we know it now will be greatly overhauled - and please let's get a new name.

Ella Smith said...

themommy, I totally agree that Biology is very hard for freshmans and it is even harder when it is on the block schedule. I teach Biology and it is extremely hard to get Biology standards taught on the traditional 6/7 period day and super hard on the block schedule. World History also has a great deal of information but I still think Biology is harder because it is the freshman year and students are not adjusted to so much material being thrown at them. The state requires how much information should be taught and there is a great deal of information in both of these classes. I also team teach Chemistry and I do not see that it has the volume of material. If you are a good math students you will do well. If you are not a good math student you will struggle tremendously.

Sight Edman said...

Cerebration asked...

"Could it be that DeKalb has become a behemoth jobs program?"

That was a rhetorical question,right?

Anonymous said...

"Could it be that DeKalb has become a behemoth jobs program?"


Cerebration said...

See how well rhetoric works Thaddeus? Ask a simple question...

I hope some of you insiders will report anonymously to this blog regarding the waste and bloat you see. Your posts are truly anonymous, but I sure wouldn't use a computer at work -- you shouldn't even be reading this blog at work - but send us a message from home.

Cerebration said...

BTW - I'm digging you blog... In hindsight, as I've told several people, I truly wish I had home-schooled my children. My sister does it and her children are faring very well. They participate in local sports - wrestling and gymnastics - and have many friends. Plus - their lives are within their own control. (I have always felt that the school system takes control of your family life one piece at a time - slowly over time.)

These are some of Thaddeus' bullet points regarding public school bloat - right on target.

Hyphenated half-and-half made up degrees: english-education, math-education, etc.
Teaching in or out of your (made-up) field of study.
Self-aggrandising certifications and awards.
Expensive books and the marketing behind them.
Constant curriculum churn.
Capricious assessments and the companies making a fortune selling them.
Expensive buildings.
Expensive bureaucracy.
Feel-good, make-it-fun paradigms.

Great blog - great writing - check it out people -

Cerebration said...

Was anyone able to attend a meeting? I couldn't make it. If you went, please post a report here.

That said - the new NCLB enrollment flyer is available at the school system's website.

Key points -

To apply for a transfer for the upcoming school year, you must successfully complete and submit to the Office of School Improvement the “NCLB Public School Choice Application” during the enrollment period, March 30 – April 20, 2009.

Schools That Must Offer NCLB School Choice

Oak View Elementary School
Bethune Middle School
Freedom Middle School
McNair Middle School
Stone Mountain Middle School
Avondale High School
Cedar Grove High School
Clarkston High School
Lithonia High School
M. L. King, Jr. High School
McNair High School
Miller Grove High School
*Elizabeth Andrews High School – (Open Campus)
Towers High School
DeKalb/Rockdale Psycho-Education Center – (Eagle Woods Center)
DeKalb/Rockdale Psycho-Education Center – (Shadow Rock Center)
Destiny Academy of Excellence

* Denotes Non-Title I School – Ineligible for Title I transportation reimbursement

Schools available to receive students per NCLB Public School Choice Option

Elementary Schools NCLB Choice Options:
• Clifton Elementary
• Evansdale Elementary
• Hambrick Elementary
• Medlock Elementary

Middle Schools NCLB Choice Options:
•Columbia Middle 6th, 7th and 8th Grades
• Peachtree Charter Middle (50 seats) 8th Grade Only
• Redan Middle 6th, 7th and 8th Grades
• Sequoyah Middle 6th, 7th and 8th Grades

High Schools NCLB Choice Options:
• Chamblee High School (50 seats) 9th and 10th Grades Only
• Redan Annex @ Elizabeth Andrews High School – (Open Campus) 9th and 10th Grades Only
• Southwest DeKalb Annex @ McNair High School 9th and 10th Grades Only
• DeKalb High School of Technology South 11th and 12th Grades Only
• Redan High School (50 seats) 11th and 12th Grades Only
• Stephenson High School 11th and 12th Grades Only

NCLB Public School Choice Annex Options:
An annex site is an extension of an assigned school offering students the same academic
opportunities received by the school’s student population. The annex named will have made Adequate Yearly Progress. The annex administrators and instructors are staff members from the assigned school sites. Students’ records and test data will be transferred to the assigned school site.

An aside -- I was VERY pleased to see that this document is translated in Spanish within the very same file.

Cerebration said...

On a similar note, here is an opportunity for your voice to be heard. DCSS is conducting an online survey for the Consolidated School Improvement Plan (CSIP). There is a drop down menu at the beginning of the survey for you to choose a school to address.


Anonymous said...

Interesting with regards to the school choice options. Perhaps I just have not noticed before, but they've broken down which grades can accept students. For example, Peachtree can accept students for only 8th grade. Is this new?

And hallelujah, Lakeside has a reprieve for next year.

Cerebration said...

Yes, isn't that great? They've implemented much more strict requirements. Maybe the message has gotten out that sending a couple of hundred students at the last minute wreaks havoc on receiving schools.

Also - Lakeside may not be receiving transfers because hopefully they will be under major construction next year???!!!

Cerebration said...

More good news - aggressive marketing for the tutoring component.


March 2009
Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s):
The Department of Education and your local school are working hard to provide
programs to help all students succeed. These efforts include implementing the No Child
Left Behind Act. This law supports parent(s)/legal guardian(s) and schools working
together to raise student achievement.
As part of our efforts to improve student achievement and implement No Child Left
Behind, your child may be able to receive Supplemental Educational Services (SES),
which is free tutoring provided by State approved providers. As the NCLB federal law
stipulates, only parent(s)/legal guardian(s) of students who qualify to receive free or
reduced price meals may request SES. If the school system does not have sufficient
funds to provide services to all eligible children, priority will be given to those eligible
children with the lowest test scores.
If you are interested in SES for your child, please complete the attached “Request for
Service” form. Also, attached are the answers to some frequently asked questions about
SES and a list of State approved providers with a short description of each to assist you
with choosing a provider to serve your child. The school system will pay the provider for
their services to your child, up to the maximum amount allowed by law. A list of State
approved providers for the DeKalb County School System is available in this booklet and
at your child’s school. A complete listing of all State approved providers can be
accessed at the Georgia Department of Education web site, www.doe.k12.ga.us.
Please complete the enclosed form to request SES for your child and return it to
your child’s school by March 27, 2009.
For questions or additional information, contact your school’s principal or the Office of
School Improvement at 678-676-0188. There are several providers to choose from, please
feel free to ask questions to ensure that you make an informed decision.
Please remember that the school must receive the SES form by March 27, 2009.
This gives you a maximum of 20 school days to request services.

No Duh said...

Am I the one who needs tutoring?...

If a school's performance on the CRCT is the indicator of whether or not the school makes AYP, and the CRCT is not administered until after spring break, and not tallied for some time after that, then how does DCSS already know which schools are offering transfers and which schools are receiving schools?

Help me understand, please.

Anonymous said...

no duh, my guess is that the schools that are required to offer school choice, would have to do so even if they make AYP this year.

themommy said...

It takes two years to get out of the penalty box, so to speak. So, for example, a school doesn't make AYP for three years, then they make it. The system still has to offer tutoring/transfers until the school makes it for two years.

At the meeting on Monday night, they also had a list of schools (about 8 or so, I think) that might have to offer school choice. However, that won't be known until this summer.

themommy said...

Ok, I went to the meeting Monday night. I was late so I missed the beginning of Tony Idle's (county data guy) presentation, but I think he was going over the threshholds for AYP, etc.

Then Audria Berry got up and went over all the details (like which schools have to offer transfers, which might have to, etc) and was very clear on what the federal rules were. (In fact, she had slides spelling out the relevant rules.

It wasn't a very well attended meeting. Questions and answers were fairly brief.

A couple of questions about Arabia Mountain and why it isn't a receiving school were answered by explaining that when they opened Champion Middle and took AYP transfers all in the same year, it didn't work very well.

A couple of parents who had used NCLB to get a child into Dunwoody and were wanting to know if there was anyway to get the sibling in for 2009-2010 (the answer seemed to be a pretty firm no). (As an aside, I was especially unimpressed with the father who said they had moved to the Cross Keys district from Fulton County two years ago. Could someone explain to me why people don't research schools before they move?)

I wish we could get a summary of the meeting that was at McNair. I am curious what the reaction is going to be as people hear where the spaces are (or more importantly where they are not.)

Anonymous said...

There will be two different NCLB school choice enrollments. One that starts in March for the schools that DCSS knows must offer transfers and a second enrollment period beginning July 13 for schools that "may" have to offer transfers.

The data presented generally showed that DCSS made some headway in the middle schools but little progress at the high school level. High school AYP is based on the GHSGT which is being taken this week by juniors and seniors who did not previously pass the required sections. Almost all high schools who fail to make AVP stumble on the math portion.

I heard that in some counties who do not have $ for summer school that they are making the students who failed the CRCT take it again in May. Those poor children (and teachers). All they have done for the ENTIRE school year is prep for the durn CRCT and take the test over and over.

Sight Edman said...

themommy asked...
"As an aside, I was especially unimpressed with the father who said they had moved to the Cross Keys district from Fulton County two years ago. Could someone explain to me why people don't research schools before they move?"

Because then they would move to Iowa, or maybe North Dakota? Or staying closer to home they would compare DeKalb County to Cobb County and move to Cobb.

The reality is that in spite of what most parents claim, their children's education is not the most important factor in selecting where to live. The average citizen spends more time researching a new flat screen TV than they will invest in checking out schools before a move. Asking a real estate agent or the local school principal for an honest evaluation doesn't count as "research". It does count as naiveté.

Cerebration said...

NCLB rules for Sanctioned Schools - from GreatSchools.net

Those that haven't met "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) for two consecutive school years are identified as "in need of improvement." Every student in the school will be given the option to transfer to a better-performing school in the district, with free transportation included. However, NLCB requires that priority in providing school choice be given to low-achieving children from low-income families.
School districts may not use lack of space as a reason to deny a transfer, but they have some flexibility in meeting this requirement. School districts may restrict which schools are available for transfer and when transfers may occur. They may sign contracts with neighboring districts to accept students from failing schools, contract with online schools, create schools within schools, offer supplemental services a year early, hire more teachers, add portables or build new classrooms at more successful schools. If a school continues to fail to meet AYP, these sanctions take effect:
After three consecutive years, the school must also provide "supplemental education services," or SES, to children who remain at the school. Those services can include tutoring, remedial classes, after-school services and summer school programs.
The federal government has allowed some districts to switch the order of sanctions. Students would be eligible for free tutoring if these schools fail to meet their goals for two years in a row and would then get the option to transfer if the school misses its goals a third time.
After four consecutive years of failing to meet annual goals, the district must take action to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff or implementing a new curriculum.
After five years, the school is identified for restructuring and arrangements must be made to run it differently. These can include a state takeover, the hiring of a private management contractor, conversion to a charter school or significant staff restructuring.


Anonymous said...

A few notes to an old post:

DCSS posted their power point display used at the NCLB school choice meetings. Click on the AYP heading on the left side of the page. It is quite informative and I think DCSS did a good job with this.

For more updates on AYP and how GA ranks up against other states, go to The Education Trust, Education Watch. Click on Georgia to get the state report. Not a rosy picture especially when you see data like 81% of Georgia 8th graders are proficient on the CRCT but only 25% are proficient on the NAEP in math. Similar results for 4th grade reading.

themommy said...

Arne Duncan yesterday proposed some kind of national standards yesterday.


Cerebration said...

That's so interesting, themommy. Throwing "Stimulus" money at the schools, IMO, would be a waste. I think using Federal dollars to save teachers jobs during the recession is a mistake. School systems should use this "Crisis Opportunity" to clean house and finally weed themselves of the bad teachers in their employ. Budget cutting is the only way to get rid of them without the wrath of the teachers unions coming down in their unwavering defense.

However, I do agree with this quote of Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington organization that takes positions on education issues.

Duncan’s best prospects for change may come through the national standards he wants to create in reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, Finn said. Otherwise, “you can encourage national standards and you can bribe states to follow them but you can’t compel them,” he said.And this quote of Arne Duncan -

“I’m really hoping that transparency and truth is going to spur a sense of outrage amongst parents,” he said.Of course, this is exactly why we don't have transparency in DCSS.

Cerebration said...

Dr. Lewis did say some interesting things about his future plans for our schools in general at the Heritage meeting. I'm not sure why he went into this, but he ranted about how he was going to "shake things up". He plans to move effective teachers and principals into the schools with the highest needs. He plans to get kids to pull their pants up (this apparently really bugs him) and he plans to get a handle on the behavior issues at all of our schools, not just the military school.

Cerebration said...

Anon, please post the link for the powerpoint - I haven't been able to dig it up at the DCSS website.

Anonymous said...

Is this is? I'm not good at posting a link....


Cerebration said...

You posted the link just fine - thanks. How did you find it? I can't seem to ever find the data or minutes from the BOE meetings online. If anyone has a link to the meeting minutes (not the agendas) I'd like to know.

So far - these are the high schools that must offer transfers

Avondale HS
Cedar Grove HS
Clarkston HS
Lithonia HS
McNair HS
Miller Grove HS
Open Campus
Towers HS
M. L. King, Jr. HS
DeKalb/Rockdale Psycho Education Center
Destiny Academy

And these "might" have to offer transfers --

Cross Keys HS (made AYP 2007-08)
Columbia HS (NI-1 SES)
Margaret Harris HS (NI-1 SES)

And these are the "receiving schools" to which they can transfer --

Chamblee HS (9th& 10thgrades-50 seats)
Redan HS Annex @ Elizabeth Andrews HS (9th& 10thgrades)
Southwest DeKalb HS Annex @ McNair HS (9th& 10thgrades)
Redan HS (11th&12thgrades)
Stephenson HS (11th& 12thgrades)
DeKalb High School Technology South (11th& 12thgrades)

Cerebration said...

Interesting to note -- if an LEA does not have sufficient capacity in its schools that are not identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring (or as persistently dangerous) to accommodate the demand for transfers by all eligible students, the LEA must create additional capacity. (I assume that is how we got 21 trailers at Lakeside.)

Yep -

When capacity is an issue, LEA officials will need to employ creativity and ingenuity in creating capacity in schools to receive additional students. The range of possible options might include:

◦Reconfiguring, as new classrooms, space in receiving schools that is currently not being used for instruction

◦Expanding space in receiving schools, such as by reallocating portable classrooms within the LEA

◦Redrawing the LEA’sattendance zones, if sufficient capacity is unavailable within the existing zones within which students would ordinarily select schools

◦Creating satellite divisions of receiving schools; that is, classrooms that are under the supervision of the receiving school principal and whoseteachers are part of the school faculty but that are in neighboring buildings

◦Creating new, distinct schools with separate faculty within the physical sites of schools identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring

◦Encouraging the creation of new charter schools within the LEA

◦Developing distance-learning programs or entering into cooperative agreements with virtual schools

◦Reshaping long-range capital construction and renovation plans in order to ensure that schools that are likely to receive new students have additional space

◦Modifying either the school calendar or the school day, such as through “shift”or “track”scheduling, in order to expand capacity.

◦Easing capacity by initiating inter-district choice programs with neighboring LEAsor by establishing programs through which local private schools can absorb some of the LEA’sstudents.

Cerebration said...

Nevermind -- I think I figured it out -- you go to the meeting listings for the BOE and click on the Meeting and Work Session listing and click on Approval of Minutes and you get the latest approved, posted minutes -


Anonymous said...

I'm very tired today, so my posts may be somewhat frustrating and disjointed today. After reviewing this presentation, which, btw, is a good one, what is most frustrating is that there were other options open to DCSS to meet the NCLB requirment rather than overcrowding our schools. Did they just not care to explore these options? Was it just too easy to bus these children rather than put an effort into other ways to meet NCLB requirements?

Adding 21 trailers at Lakeside to accommodate NCLB transfers is disgraceful and unacceptable.

Cerebration said...

Please take a moment to read this essay by the National Council of Churches on No Child Left Behind.


#7 is my favorite of the 10 points

The relentless focus on testing basic skills in the No Child Left Behind Act obscures the role of the humanities, the arts, and child and adolescent development. While education should cover basic skills in reading and math, the educational process should aspire to far more. We believe education should help all children develop their gifts and realize their promise—intellectually physically, socially, and ethically. The No Child Left Behind Act treats children as products to be tested, measured and made more uniform.

Cerebration said...

And if you have time to read a whole book, read "Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?"


Where exactly did high-stakes testing come from anyway? Neither parents, teachers, administrators, nor school boards demanded it, and now many communities feel powerless to reverse its appalling effect on our schools.

Hot on the heels of the testing masterminds and peeling back layer upon layer of documentation, Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian found a familiar scent at the end of the paper trail. Corporate money. CEOs and American big business have blanketed United States public education officials with their influence and, as Emery and Ohanian prove, their fifteen year drive to undemocratize public education has yielded a many-tentacled private-public monster.

With stunning clarity and meticulous research, Emery and Ohanian take you on a tour of board rooms, rightist think tanks, nonprofit "concerned citizens groups," and governmental agencies to expose the real story of how current education reform arose, how its deceptive rhetoric belies its goals, and the true nature of its polarizing and disenfranchising mission.

Why is corporate America bashing our schools? Because it's in their interests - not yours. What can you do to promote your best educational interests? Read this expose and get ready to dismantle the education-reform machine.

Cerebration said...

But, if you really don't have much time, at least read this "Chicken Little Story".


Cerebration said...

So, by now, you may have noticed that I don't have much faith and confidence in the way NCLB is being implemented. The premise that it's For the Children - "sounds" good - but in reality - the whole thing has become one big economic engine driving an entire set of new, gargantuan industries - sponsored by the Federal Government.


Read more about it all - here - and sit and ponder for a while. Next, we'll talk about the corporate push for "charter" schools - along the road to total vouchers and segregation that we may never recover from.


Cerebration said...

On the flip side of the tutoring issue - there has apparently been much abuse by the tutoring companies as there is very little oversight and very little checking to make sure rules are followed and services are rendered.


Cerebration said...

Thought I'd share a new post from the blog "Schools Matter", whose mission statement reads, "This space explores issues in public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of "metastasizing testing" aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build."

The article is titled, "FairTest: New NAEP Scores Show NCLB Continuing Failure"

It goes on to say, in part, "BOSTON - April 28 - Despite billions of dollars spent on a test-and-punish approach to school "reform," today's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report provides more evidence that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) is a failure. With few exceptions, across three age groups and two subjects, the rate of improvement slowed compared with the previous period while gaps between blacks and white as well as Hispanics and whites ranged from widening to unchanging to slightly closing."

Read the entire article here;


Anonymous said...

Cere, I will read this article. I read alot on public school policy and NCLB.

Many of the studies in the last year or so conclude that high quality teachers have the most influence in improving academic learning. This is also the conclusion of the Gates Foundation. But how do we identify, retain and find more of those top teachers? Do we need to quit spending billions on testing K-12 students and spend that money on college education programs? Should the "rigor" (I hate that word) be focused on raising the bar at the teacher training level?

Cerebration said...

Thanks, Anon. I have found that blog "Schools Matters" challenges my thinking. There are many posters on the blog with vast experiences around the country and they tend to be highly supportive of public schools, no matter how broken they are. I find that reading the Schools Matter blog opens my thinking a bit. Some very different paradigms exist there.

Cerebration said...

If you have 40 minutes, you might want to spend it viewing this video of a workshop produced by Georgia Appleseed, called "Strengthening Effective Parent Involvement" and led by Cathy Hinton, Educational Attorney and Law Professor at Georgia State.

She takes an in-depth look at NCLB's requirements for Parent Training and Involvement. She also explains all the testing very well. The workshop can be ordered and implemented in your school.

You can also send for a free copy of the video, along with a promotional video about the program to show your PTA or principal, by clicking here
http://www.gaappleseed.org/parents/And to download a copy of the full report, click here
http://www.gaappleseed.org/docs/it_takes_a_parent.pdfTo quote, "NCLB says plainly that parents should be two things:
1. Informed of the academic progress of their children and the performance of their schools; and
2. Involved in meaningful ways as a partner with school officials.

...Parental involvement is not a silver bullet, but is an important part of the solution. Instead of looking solely at moving principals, teachers, and students out of schools, reformers should focus on bringing parents into them. The highest achieving schools do that."

Anonymous said...

I have done work for Georgia Appleseed and I have watched the video Hinton made. It is a very good summary of the differnt types of testing and where we were- I think it may be a year old.

I just think it tells us what all the data has been telling us for 5 years.

I would prefer an anlysis of school systems that are of similar size and demograhics that are "success" stories. What did they do to improve the academic success of the sub groups that have traditionally done so poorly?

Cerebration said...

Gee, do those exist? Any suggestions anyone?

Cerebration said...

Well - seems we're at least doing better than Florida!!

FRIDAY, MAY 08, 2009
Over 20,000 Florida Seniors Denied Diplomas by State Exit Exam Policy
We know of the dropouts, and some have heard of the pushouts--those that are forced out of school so they won't bring down school test scores and, thus, threaten AYP. But there is another group of losers in the testing derby who we may call the testouts. Florida has over 20,000 testouts this year, and to save a million bucks, the State of Florida will offer no summer retakes this year for the high school exit exam that the testouts failed.

If 20,000 seniors walked out of schools across Florida on the same day, that would be a big story, yes? In Florida, the shocking and shameful facts for the Sunshine State testing factories earn a sidebar in the Miami Herald, which was more intent on talking about the 5,590 seniors from South Florida that will not get their diplomas because of the state exit exam.

From the sidebar:
Florida high-schoolers must pass the reading and math sections of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to graduate with a standard diploma. The last chance for students who wanted to graduate with the rest of the class of 2009 was in March -- and for the first time, students won't have a chance to retake the exam until October. Here is how they did:


Of 4,874 seniors who took the reading test, 877, or 18 percent, passed.

Of 1,927 seniors who took the math test, 424, or 22 percent, passed.


Of 1,896 seniors who took the reading test, 303, or 16 percent, passed.

Of 700 seniors who took the math test, 154, or 22 percent, passed.


Of 22,925 seniors who took the reading test, 4,585, or 20 percent, passed.

Of 8,540 seniors who took the math test, 2,220, or 26 percent, passed.

SOURCE: Florida Department of Education

Lefty said...

Cere - Schools Matter is a great blog! Thanks for sharing. I've been looking for a forum like this for ages.

Cerebration said...

I love that blog too, Lefty. They really make me see another side - and they make very cogent arguments. One of their main issues is the connection between the surge in school "reform", "testing" and "charter curriculums" and BIG business. Billions of dollars in "public" education are lining the pockets of some very serious businesspeople.

For a really great perspective on the issue of public education as big business - read a book called, "Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" by John Taylor Gatto.

In reality - there is nothing wrong with over half of our public schools - but the half that are bad, are so bad that they are used to create a panic that our entire system is in crisis and requires "intervention" - in the form of scripted teaching, high-stakes testing, etc... all nothing more than big money makers and all designed to keep bad schools "failing" in order to keep a certain portion of the population ignorant. Others are saying this about NCLB - we are going to end up with two different pathways to education - the good one - private, and funded with public money. The bad one - public - with no hope for improvement.

Check out the newest post at Schools Matter -


Cerebration said...

Another interesting perspective from Schools Matter - as they quote a middle school teacher,

Young people want greater independence and more relevance. A curriculum that is strong on real-life connections and problem-solving, a school climate that promotes trust and responsibility, and the active involvement of teachers and staff with their students are the marks of student-centered small schools. Creating the kind of curriculum and climate that will overcome the alienation of students who now experience school as failure, boredom, and frustration is not easy. It will never be done as an add-on to a heavy diet of test prep.

In the Hornbeck era, Philadelphia schools were encouraged to create small learning communities (SLCs) that were supposed to embody these small-school values. As is so often the case with top-down change, it happened mostly in form and only infrequently in substance. But at my school we got grant funds to create viable, thematically based small learning communities. I was part of a four-person team that kept the same students from sixth through eighth grade and organized instruction thematically. We saw improved attendance, behavior, and engagement in learning from our students.

The teachers remember this period as our “best years.” As for the students, there is no data I can cite. But I ran into a student a couple of years ago who had successfully graduated from high school and was supporting a family. After we exchanged pleasantries, tears welled up in his eyes, and he told me that his years in middle school as part of our team had been the best years of his life. When I probed further, he said he felt valued, supported, and successful.

Too many students, once they make the passage from the primary grades, do not feel valued, supported, and successful – and act accordingly. But this lesson is, at best, an afterthought for clipboard-wielding, data-driven NCLB proponents.

Cerebration said...

Talented tradespeople are needed these days. We aren't training enough people in construction trades. Home Depot is encouraging trade training by offering hundreds of scholarships! ---

"The Home Depot Trade Scholarship Program
ATEA is pleased to announce The Home Depot® established its first-ever Trade Scholarship Program. Through the program, the Company will award more than 600 students enrolled in building and construction trade programs $500 to help offset the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies. In total, more than $300,000 in scholarships will be awarded to support the future leaders of the building and construction industries.

The Home Depot Trade Scholarship Program is open to students nationwide currently enrolled in a building and construction trade school program at a college, university or accredited educational institution who will be entering into the final year or term of their degree or career program."

Students can log onto www.homedepot.com/tradescholarship learn more and apply. The application deadline is June 20, 2009.

For more information on the scholarship program contact:

Mandy Hunsicker
MS&L for The Home Depot
404-870-6815 (office)
404-558-08636 (mobile)

Paula Drake
The Home Depot
941-488-1289 (office)
941-284-4999 (mobile)

Cerebration said...

This is one of the best essays on NCLB I have ever read. It's written by a teacher who maintains a blog at www.susanohanian.org

I'll reprint parts of it here -- the link to the full article is at the end.

NCLB In Your Face

Defend Democracy: A $71.40 plan to Stop NCLB

...I came here wearing a T-shirt: Defend Democracy: Stop NCLB Insanity. But then a teacher handed me a shirt from the Northwest Inland Writing Project. This shirt declares Be a Malcontent. I approve this message. I wear the shirt with pride.

They didn't ride the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. We must not DIBEL, follow the script, or give the tests.

We must stand up and say "No!" Which amounts to saying "Yes!" for children.

And I have a little plan for achieving this goal, a $71.40 plan to help teachers come together in a grassroots movement of refusal. I never recommend that a lone teacher here or there refuse to give the test. I'm calling for a grassroots movement of refusal. We must join together in our resistance, presenting a solid mass of speaking up for children. We must be a solid mass of refusal.

...I made my first online commentary about NCLB in June 2002. By now, I feel rather like Mme. Defarge, knitting a register of outrage. Dickens notes that Madame Defarge's own cruelty and bloodthirstiness does not reflect any inherent flaw, but rather results from the oppression and personal tragedy that she has witnessed at the hands of the aristocracy. Realizing that I spend about 8 hours a day documenting the oppression and personal tragedy suffered by children at the hands of the corporate-politicos education plan, the Business Roundtable and their political handmaidens, I worry about how much longer I can contain my anger. I'm sure that the pounding I've suffered this year by pneumonia and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a.k.a. "mushroom picker's disease," results from bearing witness to the personal tragedies brought on families by NCLB.

...Take a look at the job projections over the next 15 years: The huge mass of jobs will be in the service industry, where lots of bodies are needed to work for minimum wage. Corporate America needs lots of school failures, people who have been trained to believe they don't deserve better The crime isn't that people take jobs in the service industry; the crime is that they do not receive a living wage for their labor.

As Kathy Emery and I documented in Why Is Corporate America Bashing our Public Schools, this plan to demean children and create a passive workforce started with the California Business Roundtable and quickly morphed into the national Business Roundtable plan, America 2000, Goals, 2000, and now NCLB, embraced by both political parties. Reward and punish schools based on high-stakes standardized test scores.


Cerebration said...

To which she adds this poem in progress --

This is from a book titled A Three-Cornered Year.

This is from the first section, Fall.

Labor Day: The first Monday in September,
Dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,
Marks the end-of-summer return to the enslavement of children.

Schoolyards once alive
With running, jumping laughter
Are now silent
As recess is outlawed.
Children trained to follow corporate orders.

So sure of knowledge
So ignorant of childhood.

Emerson reminded us,
What standardistos hever knew:
We boil at different degrees,
Children do
And teachers too.

Start each day
With an invocation:
May happiness pursue you,
And catch you often.
And teachers too.

Map me no maps.
Search for years to find
A Way.
And then the path changes.
Standardistos insist on blueprints
Of humiliation and defeat,
Marking out their shares of the kingdom.
A fishy map for facile fishery.

Show me the coordinate grid system
For happiness.

Put down your business plans and tell me:
Which is harder--
Putting a man on the moon
Or teaching long division?
Or the apostrophe.

Take your Congressional representative's behavior
With a grain of salt.
And a pound of emetic.
Ask him to explain his NCLB vote.

Ah, Standardistos: Those with the haunting fear
that some child,
May be having a good time.

Peagogical Principle:
When Standardistos speak, dead frogs fall out of their mouths.
Lack of kid-savvy
Is no impediment to Standardisto rules.

Pedagogical quackery turns princes
Into frogs.
And teachers discover that the arid Standards desert
Of deficiency and recrimination
Won't save them.

Mediocrity cherishes rules
And when corporate politicos
Ballyhoo for Standards,
Sure as night follows day,
Children lose recess.

Terrible things done in the name of Standards
Aren't Standards at all,
Just terrible things.

Note: Of all the members of the United Nations, the United States of America and Somalia (which has no legally constituted government) are the only two nations that have failed to ratify the U. N. convention on the Rights of the Child. .


Cerebration said...

Good news! (IMO)

As the Obama administration considers new legislation to fix schools, House Republicans have chosen an education policy leader who is eager to turn the page on the No Child Left Behind era and roll back federal mandates for testing students.
The ascent of Rep. John P. Kline (Minn.) last month to ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee marked a watershed. For the first time since enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002 under President George W. Bush, the top GOP member on a congressional education committee is not someone who voted for the landmark law. Kline wasn't even in Congress at the time.

Unlike his predecessors, who gave Bush crucial support for the law, Kline said he is not committed to the core requirement of testing all students in reading and math in grades three through eight, and once more in high school. He said he wants to give states "maximum latitude."

"I'm not looking to tweak No Child Left Behind," Kline said. "As far as I'm concerned, we ought to go in and look at the whole thing."

Read on --

Cerebration said...

Goals of the Education Equality Project

Ensure an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective principal in every school, by paying educators as the professionals they are, by giving them the tools and training they need to succeed, and by making tough decisions about those who do not;

Empower parents by giving them a meaningful voice in where their children are educated including public charter schools;

Create accountability for educational success at every level—at the system and school level, for teachers and principals, and for central office administrators;

Commit to making every decision about whom we employ, how money is spent, and where resources are deployed with a single-minded focus: what will best serve our students, regardless of how it affects other interests;

Call on parents and students to demand more from their schools, but also to demand more from themselves;

Have the strength in our convictions to stand up to those political forces and interests who seek to preserve a failed system.


Cerebration said...

Have the strength in our convictions to stand up to those political forces and interests who seek to preserve a failed system

That's what we're trying to do here at the blog.

Cerebration said...

A shocking update!

Of those familiar with the No Child Left Behind Act, almost half (45%) say it has made no difference in the quality of education received by public school students in the U.S. The rest are more negative than positive; 29% say NCLB has made education worse and 21% say it has made education better.

Bottom Line

While NCLB is currently in limbo, awaiting congressional reauthorization, Gallup finds no consensus among either the entire American adult population or parents of school-aged children that the landmark education act has improved the quality of education received by public school children in the U.S. In fact, of those who are familiar with NCLB, a large majority say either it has had no effect on students' education or has made it worse. A bit of better news for supporters of NCLB is the finding that parents of school-aged children are a little more positive about the impact of the Act than are those who do not have children in school.

Of potential importance is the fact that those who claim to be very familiar with NCLB are most strongly convinced that it has had a negative impact. While this could indicate that more intimate exposure to NCLB and its implementation causes one to become more negative, it could also be that critics of the law are much more engaged on the issue, and pay closer attention to it, than do those who support it.

Read more at GALLUP.com.