Saturday, April 4, 2009

Check out these high school numbers

These are the new enrollment numbers for DeKalb County high schools for the 2009-2010 school year. Our high school total enrollment has dropped another 1,610 students. We now have at least 4,500 available (empty) seats. That's incomprehensible! Oddly, we have serious over-crowding at some schools (Lakeside has 21 trailers) and cavernous, half-empty buildings elsewhere. Even more oddly, the Board of Education is still planning massive classroom additions to Martin Luther King, Jr. HS and Miller Grove HS. MLK appears to be in need of expansion - as they are OVER capacity by 446, however, the brand new Arabia HS, with an initial capacity of 1,650, and an eventual capacity of over 2,000, will take in most of the overage from MLK - along with many more from Lithonia, which is only over capacity by 45. (Plans for an addition there have been wisely dropped.) Remarkably, Miller Grove is also slated to receive a multi-million dollar addition, even though they are currently under-enrolled by 330.

The classroom additions to MLK and Miller Grove are unnecessary. They are not fiscally responsible. The money should be spent where there is currently serious over-crowding with no escape (Arabia is not a feasible choice for Dunwoody or Lakeside students due to the 25-30 mile commute each way) - or the building is so old and decrepit as to be deemed unhealthy and/or unsafe -- again Lakeside, Chamblee - and to a worse degree, Cross Keys. Southwest DeKalb is also seriously over-crowded, and since it is already a magnet school, it's improbable that terribly many of SW's students will transfer to Arabia's magnet program.

I urge you all to demand an audit of the planned SPLOST spending to prove that the current plans are in the absolute best interest of the students who must spend their days in our buildings and the wisest use of taxpayer dollars. I find the decisions by this board to be too often political, especially regarding the situation with Cross Keys - a majority Hispanic school which has been virtually ignored by our BOE. The Board needs to revisit the SPLOST 3 budget plans as demographics have changed considerably. Currently, the additions to MLK and Miller Grove are a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.
*I used the lowest capacity number for Arabia (which holds from 1650-2100) - I guessed the capacity of Open Campus at 1,000 and DSA at 500 (both very conservative) - I couldn't find data for those schools published anywhere.


Kim Gokce said...

Yes, the SPLOST priorities must be re-considered and not just on current enrollment. WARNING: Another Cross Keys rant coming ...

Great information! Thanks for digging it up. Side note: does the source for this also provide Elementary levels? I would love to see how the "overcrowding relief efforts" in Montclair ES panned out. At the time, the redistricting done under this banner smelled of the same old smoke screens that have isolated Cross Keys feeders into their current, sausage-like pattern along Buford Hwy. The fact that the lines drawn gingerly navigate around the latino families who dominate the apartments in the area is another coincidence, I am sure.

Of course Chamblee HS is over-crowded! DCSS has steadily moved kids out of Cross Keys feeder into Chamblee feeder during the past 10 years and the problem is going to get worse, not better, as these kids from Brookhaven Fields, Drew Valley and Ashford Park are moving through the system.

There is no doubt in my mind that the duty of managing the capital planning for DCSS is unenviable. Leadership has to deal with notoriously shifting demographic trends, the vagaries of the economy, and even the recent, new variable of NCLB transfers. With that note of sympathy out of the way I have to add that much of the problem in my area is self-inflected.

Cross Keys is significantly under enrolled because DCSS has systematically isolated the school. Whether it is infrastructure neglect, re-redistricting shenanigans, or failure to maintain community relations, DCSS has spent the last 10-15 years ensuring that the majority of the "home owner" families in my area are no longer considering Cross Keys or the public system a viable choice.

Attend the Brookhaven Arts Festival behind the MARTA station or any other community gathering in our area where families aggregate and ask them ... they are either reluctantly in private schools, planning to move, or home schooling.

If DCSS could rehabilitate Cross Keys' reputation in the community and show some guts by making a very public show if their commitment to Brookhaven community, Cross Keys would be fully enrolled or over capacity within 5 years.

I fear that DCSS is not looking for more students and is happy for these families to look elsewhere for their education. In fact, I have been told directly by a senior leader that DCSS is "not responsible for the gentrification" of our area. Having another community of families challenging DCSS to perform is clearly way down the list of priorities - and a sign of an insecure leadership.

This attitude is borderline criminal and is a disservice to the children in and out of DCSS. Sorry for the rant on your blog, Cerebration, but every time I see more evidence of DCSS' abuse of Cross Keys and our community I have blood shooting out of my eyes ...

Kim Gokce said...

A quick follow-on ... between the move of Ashford Park ES (APE) to Chamblee (1997) and the redistricting of Brookhaven Fields and Drew Valley from Cross Keys feeder Montclair to APE (2006), DCSS has easily added 600+ K-5 kids to Chamblee's feeder pattern that otherwise would be in Cross Keys' feeders.

themommy said...

But Chamblee's enrollment can be controlled as fewer than half the students live in the Chamblee district. The rest are out of district -- magnet students, charter students, AYP students and of course, administrative transfer students.

As recently as 2006-2007 school year, the residential population at Chamblee High School was about the same as it was 10 years prior. (This includes students who are in the magnet program and those who aren't.)

One of the things about apartments is that most send far more students to elementary school than to high school. This might be because families' economies improve as their children age and it might be because disadvantaged children drop out at a far greater rate than advantaged children. On my daily commute, I drive by the same apartment complex in Sandy Springs, it takes two empty school buses to pick up for elementary while only about 1/2 of one for the high school.

themommy said...

All that said, Kim I think you are right on the money. I believe that the leadership of DCSS is tired of parents who demand more . It is pathetic.

Have you seen this, Kim? It is a lot of work, but if you could convince your neighbors to put in the sweat equity and a little money, I am certain Brookhaven could have itself a great charter school.

Avondale Estates is ahead of you as they have had an Avondale Education Association for many years, that wanted to be able to use the local public schools. That has not gone well for them and they are moving on. However, you and your bright motivated neighbors could catch up quickly.

Anonymous said...

Crawford Lewis and this current board, especially Copelin-Wood, Walker and Z Roberts will continue to spend as much SPLOST money as possible in South DeKalb.

It's that simple and it will not change as long as Craword Lewis is superintendent.

Cerebration said...

Kim - I had a feeling this post might fire up your blood pressure! All of this information was gleaned from the planning dept's website - this is one dept in DCSS that is thorough and complete. (I do wish, though, that they would include the capacity number on the same chart as the enrollment number - you have to cross check to find this.)

I am working on looking at the elementary/middle schools in order to predict the trends in growth (or shrinkage) for our high schools. I had assumed that the Board did this kind of work, however, they don't even seem to have this data in their hands and are genuinely surprised - and even somewhat skeptical when presented with it. So - I will take on the task. PSC - you're good with data - care to create one of your famous data charts? We'd like to see - by feeder pattern - the current elementary populations - in order to predict the future high school enrollments.

BTW - don't even think of following Avondale's lead - Cross Keys is doing much better academically. I'm also working on an article about AYP - here's what I have for Avondale:

Avondale HS – this Title 1 school is in serious need of some help. It has not passed AYP for the last 3 years and is in Corrective Action status. Their graduation rate is dismal. With only 706 students in a building that holds 1155, we need to find a better way to serve these students. It could involve disbursing them among other area high schools. (If DSA moves into a Lakeside School for the Performing Arts, then perhaps Avondale could serve as the military academy. Big bonus: it’s accessible by Marta.)

themommy said...


Did you look at the link? This is a group of parents looking to break away from DCSS by forming what looks to be a fabulous charter school.

No one is suggesting that Cross Keys should follow Avondale High's lead. Kim's child, I believe, is under 4 years old. When it comes to his own child and the children of his neighbors, elementary school should be their first concern.

The AEA spent years trying to "fix" Avondale elementary. While I don't want to tell their story, perhaps I can get one of their members to come and tell their story here. Suffice it to say, after much financial investment and time investment, their desire to see Avondale Elementary improve got them nowhere. The roadblocks that they faced were tremendous.

Charter schools are public schools and this is a community that wants to support public education. Perhaps the folks in Brookhaven feel the same.

Anonymous said...

Avondale High is also in a very central location right off Memorial Dr., and easily accessed no matter where you live in the county. They have a field complex across the street which would be perfect for drills and PE.

Anonymous said...

The projected enrollment for Chamblee for next year fails to take into account that Chamblee HS is the ONLY high school on the north side slated to accept NCLB transfer students next year. Everyone doubts that the DCSS will stand by its stated committment to limit the number of transfer students to 50.

Cerebration said...

If history is to repeat itself, you are correct. Lakeside got 78 NCLB transfers -- PLUS - 245 labeled "New to Lakeside" in the freshmen class alone. ("New" - as in did not come from Henderson MS). Now certainly, 'some' of those came from private schools or maybe Chamblee MS - but certainly not 245 - maybe 50. There are also 155 more students with the label "New to Lakeside" in the building - for a total of 400. We're not allowed to investigate their addresses, however. We just have to put 21 trailers out on the tennis courts to accommodate them.

This - while, as you can see from my chart, the county has over 4,500 EMPTY seats in our high schools.

Cerebration said...

I would love to hear the "Avondale Story". I would probably tear my hair out though.

You are right - charters seem to be the way to go. First of all - charters are not subject to the inter-district transfers that have apparently been approved into law recently. We'll follow up on that law more. It seems to me that in the future, if you don't protect your school from the influx of transfers by labeling it a charter or something, you will be overwhelmed and unable to handle the chaos.

Interestingly - I'm hearing that now that Tucker is getting a brand new building - they are thinking of becoming a charter school. You'll also notice that the brand new Arabia opened not as a regular district school with attendance lines, but as a "magnet" program with a lottery - along with "some" seats for crowding relief. So - to relieve the over-crowding that Arabia was supposed to relieve, but in the end won't, the school system plans additions to two of the other high schools within 5 miles of Arabia.

The logic of this administration is completely baffling.

Cerebration said...

BTW - while we're on the subject - does anyone know how many applications have been submitted to the Arabia magnet programs? I know they've extended the deadline at least once due to low interest.

(I guess they didn't realize that students who don't come from Title 1 schools and won't be reimbursed .585 per mile - don't think it's worth the commute.)

Anonymous said...

I guarantee Copelin-Wood, Zepora and Gene Walker have never taken extensive tours of Cross Keys, Lakeside and Sequoyah. All three are absolute dumps that need to be torn down or completely gutted.

Cerebration said...

Kim - themommy is exactly right -- this Avondale group is doing amazing work -- check it out

Your energy would be best utilized by starting such a movement right now for your elementary school. Ask for their help. I would focus first on this and then try to find the best magnet/charter programs for your children to transfer to for middle and high school.

Cerebration said...

The Planning Dept page says this, "Attendance Areas:
Planning analyzes and recommends attendance areas for new schools. It also will recommend attendance line changes in order to help relieve overcrowding at a school if neighboring schools have sufficient space. Our attendance area maps have recently been updated!"

But when you click on attendance lines for new schools you get this for Arabia

A new Arabia Mountain-area high school is currently scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year. The attendance lines have not been drawn as yet. The new school is expected to provide relief to Martin Luther King Jr. HS and Lithonia HS.

So what of it? What happened? Who made the decision to make Arabia a "magnet/charter" school instead of using it to relieve over-crowding as originally planned? Is it too "special" now to be used for ordinary kids? I would be furious if I lived in that area and my child was denied access to a gorgeous new facility because he/she was too "average".

Cerebration said...

Kim, I don't know if I'm understanding your question - but here is the data on Montclair

Built in 1967, it has 71,711 sf, 40 rooms and 12.2 acres. Student capacity is 680.

Enrollment for 2008-09 is 733 - projected enrollment for 2009-10 is 790.

Still seems a bit tight...that will be 110 over capacity next school year.

Kim Gokce said...

@themommy: Thx for the Avondale Estates example - I'll add this to my very loooong list of to-dos but will get to it!

@cerebration: yes, that was the question - Montclair's enrollment.

I figured that the over crowding would still be significant in spite of the "over crowding relief" of moving Drew Valley and Brookhaven Fields into Ashford Park ES district. Two wrongs still don't make a right ...

Chamblee HS (recieving Ashford Park ES) is overcrowded, Montclair is still over crowded, Cross Keys feeder looses more home owner families/neighborhoods and is at barely half capacity ... The only long-term, strategic purpose that would make sense given these decisions would be DCSS' planned to close Cross Keys ... but no! We've queued up approaching $20 million to invest there.

Someone from DCSS had better soon step forward to articulate a coherent strategy for the future of Cross Keys cluster ... surely the plan can't be to continue to isolate the latino community along buford highway in over crowded and decaying schools. Is it just me or is this putting DCSS and all Dekalb tax payers at risk of civil action?

Spending money on infrastructure is simply the 'ante' in my book - what is the DCSS plan for this uniquely long and narrow cluster running from Fulton to Gwinnett? Why isn't DCSS proactively reaching out to this community? The immigrant families are not accustom to speaking out on their own behalf and DCSS needs to try harder (at all?).

Cerebration said...

I would strongly urge you to send an email to Dr Lewis' secretary and put your name on the speaker's list for the April 13th (next Monday) meeting. You state your case very well, Kim and Cross Keys needs community support - the teachers have been pretty much advocating alone.


Dekalbparent said...

Catching up after a few days away -

Cere - I see that some pics of Druid Hills have joined the album ("beauty shots" version). Sadly, as far as I am aware, not one of those "beauty" areas is going to be addressed in the SPLOST reno - so, no changes there.

This past Tuesday (3/31) at DHHS, the orchestra and band teachers were notified to pack up their stuff and get moved out by Friday (4/3). Additionally, the photography teacher and one of the business tech teachers were told to do the same. No prior notice. Classes were intermittant for the rest of the week, because students were moving things and packing boxes for off-site storage.

Here's the new DHHS for the rest of the year: Orchestra and AP Music Theory are in the Media Center (necessitating the packing up of a storage room to send off-site to make room for instruments, as well as cancellation of class research sessions in the Media Center that teachers requested for the rest of the year.) Photography shares a classroom with Visual Arts I (both classes in there at the same time) and the darkroom is moving to the only bathroom on that level of the school. The one art teacher who is keeping her classroom will have 4 classes (and two teachers)in there simultaneously. Band will be in the auditorium. Any indoor PE classes will be in the Cafeteria. Chorus is also in the Cafeteria.

The closed art rooms are going to HVAC (never had it before), new paint, and the HAZMAT team will be going in to remediate. Remediate what is not available info. Whether the hazmat team is required in the music areas is also not available info.

The fire exits that were added because existing ones were blocked off by construction are MADE OF WOOD(only added because the Fire Marshal closed down construction until they exits were added)

Where's the planning, folks?

themommy said...


Share the information with your neighbors about Avondale and also look at the link from the Tucker group. Going with a private management company makes it harder to get approval from DCSS but the state passed legislation giving start ups a way to function with State Charter Commission approval.
Using a private management company does make the process easier, but certainly less grass roots.

Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Cerebration said...

Two things -- isn't school out in about 7 weeks? Why couldn't the DHHS reno wait a little longer?

And - charters are much, much more difficult than you can imagine to start. First - and the main reason Lakeside continues to fail in this effort - you have to have the teachers and staff on board. I have a feeling you may have better luck with that at Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

Son of Awcomeonnow here.
Some little known facts (from a few years back) about why Avondale High School's so low scoring.
Circa 2002 Avondale had 5 feeder Elementary schools. Two of the schools no longer feed to Avondale. Hooper Alexander was converted to the School for the Arts, and Forrest Hills was closed
(after it had received an addition!).
Circa 2002 the Avondale High School feeder schools were overwhelmingly Title One schools. All of them were over 82% title one students. If memory serves me correct, even McNair didn't have as many feeder schools that had as high percentages of Title One.
Avondale's parents should also be doing some screaming at the city comission and Mayor. Around the same time that Avondale High school was awash in a sea of poverty, Avondale Estates voted to have some of the delapidated, smaller complexes within it's southern border rehabbed into tax
credit, "affordable housing".
Dekalb ( and Decatur's) leadership HATES Avondale Estates.
It's a grudge match that's went on for 40 years. Not allowing Avondale's residents adaquate schools in just another continuation of the grudge.

Cerebration said...

Let me add - these high school numbers are going to continue to plummet - why? The new math curriculum. Parents don't trust it. The courses don't translate well into other systems or out of state colleges and it's impossible to tell exactly how much algebra/geometry, etc a child has had.

The admissions director at one popular private school reported middle and high school applications were up double-digits for next fall - even considering the economy!

Paula Caldarella said...

I'm not sure if this will lead to increased enrollment, but, according to someone from Dunwoody High that I spoke with several weeks ago, there was an unprecedent number of tours given at Dunwoody this past spring.

Also, this same individual indicated there will be a BIG push to discontinue the Block Schedule at DHS after next school year.

Anonymous said...

Cere- you are correct about the problems with the crazy math courses. But not only will the high school courses have a negative effect on Georgia students applying to out of state colleges, it is having a horrible effect on folks moving to Georgia and their children trying to transfer to a public school in grades 8-12. DCSS defaults to placing these students in the lowest level integrated Math course. For example, an out of state student who has taken Algebra I and done well is required to take Math 8 thus repeating most of Algebra because the student has not completed the tidbit of Geometry and Statistics that also are covered in Math 8.
Thus families moving here with businesses like NCR or IBM will put their children in private schools. I was always surprised that GA DOE did this and it was not opposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Paula Caldarella said...

I had a somewhat lengthy conversation with a HS Math teacher back in May. The "new" Math curriculum is getting somewhat of a bad rap she feels. Yes, it has taken some teachers time to adapt and she, herself, has added her own take on some items in the curriculum she feels need to be a little clearer, but this teacher certainly did not bash the curriculum as a whole and did feel it has some strong methods.

Cerebration said...

Gloria Talley explains the system of assessing the math curriculum below -

One way that the GADOE and DCSS plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the new GPS curriculum is via EOCT analysis. The state expects to have this in place for the 2009-2010 classes. Precision reviews of the curriculum are also on going. DCSS administered a system-wide final exam to all Math I students. The exam was created by DCSS.

The vast majority of mathematics content covered on the SAT is now taught in the MS GPS Math curriculum. Math I content on the SAT includes some coordinate geometry and a little of the remaining algebra content that is not covered in MS GPS Math. There are several ways these gaps can be identified. We can use EOCT results for Math I and Math II to identify areas of need in specific mathematics content. We can also require teachers/students to utilize the SAT Online resources provide by the GADOE. This resource provides diagnostics as well as lessons and quizzes to better prepare students for this standardized test.

>> Gloria Talley, Deputy Superintendent
>> Curriculum and Instruction
>> DeKalb County School System
>> 3770 North Decatur Road
>> Decatur, Georgia 30032
>> 678-676-0151
>> 678-676-0759

Paula Caldarella said...

As with anything new, it takes time to measure the results and evaluate its effectiveness and then make corrections. IMO, to criticize the new curriculum before data as to its effectiveness (or not) is available is just not fair. Let's be patient and see where it takes us. There was an obvious need to upgrade the Math curriculum in Georgia, so only time will tell if this was the correct choice.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom, you are missing the point. We did not NEED a very expensive radically different high school mathematics curriculum that is required of every high school student, especially one that is not aligned with other states, the SAT or private schools.

No other state in the nation has completely eliminated the traditional math courses and the standardized test scores of the students in these states and the private schools far surpass the scores of Georgia students. If no one in the US could do math, then I would have agreed that it was time to try something radically different. But that was not the case. GA and DCSS should have focused on improving the consistency and strength of the curriculum (i.e. computation in elementary and middle grades) and the quality and innovation of the teachers who teach math-especially to those students who were falling behind.

A few states have experimented with a high school integrated math curriculum but only offer this curriculum as an alternative to the traditional curriculum. In fact, I spoke with several administrators in these states and they steer their struggling students to the integrated curriculum with the expectation that it will allow these students to progress at a slower rate but ultimately complete a higher level of mathematics by the end of high school.

Did anyone see what DCSS had to spend on new Math I and Math II textbooks for the entire county? It was millions. And multiply that by all the high school students in the state of GA. And every math teacher will tell you that the textbooks are poor and the materials for the Accelerated tracks are so awful they have had to resort to developing their own curriculum by piecing together chapters from all the traditional texts for Geometry, Algebra II, Trig and Calculus.

So who benefited from this? Tons of consultants, textbook manufacturers and tutoring companies (plus those trips to Asia for the DOE). I agree that it takes a year or two to adjust to the new curriculum, but there was no need to impose this curriculum on our higher achieving high school scholars. It would have been much cheaper to send a group of mathematics teachers (not consultants or administrators) to observe classes and materials used in the three states with the highest math scores for the NCLB sub groups that are having the most problem with math and see what those states are doing that Georgia is not.

Sorry for the rant, but the math stuff is a sore point. I hope DCSS can make it work.

Paula Caldarella said...

From what I understand, this Math curriculum is aligned with the SAT - or moreso than the previous curriculum. Again, give it time. We'll know the results when last year's 9th graders take the SAT's.

And, to be honest, I don't really care what private schools are doing. They have their own set of issues.

Paula Caldarella said...

The Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for mathematics were developed by teachers and educators from both K-12 and higher education, with input from leaders in government, business, and industry. Committee members examined math standards from other states and nations where the content focused on fewer, integrated topics at each grade level. Following extensive public input and revisions, the Standards were approved by the State Board of Education in 2005. The math curriculum is closely aligned to the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the American Statistical Association, Achieve, and the College Board, including the New SAT. It is very much in tune with what is occurring across our country and around the world

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom: Do you have children who will graduate with Math I, II, III and IV on their high school transcript? Just wondered.

The National Mathematics Panel (NMP), issued its report last year after an extensive multi-year study of American mathematics education. This panel found that “more students should be prepared for and offered an authentic algebra course at Grade 8.” The panel did not endorse fully integrated math courses for high school students, particularly college bound students. More important, one of the panel subgroups analyzed the North Carolina high school integrated math curriculum which was a model for the Georgia GPS. The authors wrote that students who take integrated math courses in high school "may find it more difficult to take advanced mathematics course work (e.g., calculus and pre-calculus) in their senior year of high school than high school students who are able to enroll in an Algebra II course in their sophomore or junior year." In fact, this group concluded that four years of high school integrated math covered LESS than three years of traditional high school math.

North Carolina has abandoned its plans to replace all traditional high school math courses with one integrated math program. I believe they may offer the integrated math as an option. Florida offers it only as an option. NY and Calif abandoned their efforts to do this.

I don't have time to dig out the report now but the group that worked on the integrated math program cautioned that the program would only work if GA could hire more highly qualified math teachers and the teachers were given extensive training in the new curriculum. Well, the state ran out of money to do in-person training so it is mostly on-line. The counties like DCSS have cobbled together a train-the-trainer program. I have met with many high school math teachers and they all say the same thing. If you have a deep background in higher mathematics you can probably pull off teaching the program. But if you have been teaching Geometry for 15 years and do not truly understand the relationship between the various strands of higher level mathematics, you are lost if you get assigned to teach Math II.

Bottom line, Dunwoody probably has sufficient math teachers to handle the new curriculum but do you really believe that county-wide DCSS has this level of talent?

Again, I think the money would have been better used focusing on increasing the math skills of the students (and teachers) at risk.

Paula Caldarella said...

But if you have been teaching Geometry for 15 years and do not truly understand the relationship between the various strands of higher level mathematics, you are lost if you get assigned to teach Math II.

Just curious, are you are teacher? Maybe I'm in the minority here. A teacher is not "certified" to teach Algebra. A teacher is certified to teach Math. If you are a "certified" Math teacher, then, in my opinion, you should be able to teach any Math directives. Should not a good and dedicated teacher keep up with all of the trends in their curriculum? If that means you need further education, then you need to do so. I have had more than one long-time DCSS educator complain that "we are not doing things the way we've always done them". So be it. Teachers, educators, school systems, parents, students all have to evolve and change as the educational "world" does.

Just my rant, now.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom: "And, to be honest, I don't really care what private schools are doing. They have their own set of issues."

Yeah, like all-time highs in new applications.