Friday, May 15, 2009

Time to Hand Out Grades

Rate the Progress of the School System in Reaching Its Stated Goals

As we head into the last week of school, I thought it would be a productive exercise to discuss how things went. You know, let's debrief and pass along "best practices" as well as things we might want to suggest dropping.

These are the four stated goals for the nearly 100,000 students served by DeKalb County School System:

GOALS 2007-2010
1.To narrow the achievement gap and improve the graduation rate by creating a high performance learning culture in all schools and sites.
2.To increase rigor and academic achievement in Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies in pre-kindergarten-12.
3.To ensure quality personnel in all positions.
4.To ensure fiscal responsibility in order to maintain safe and healthy learning environments that support academic programs, resources and services.

As you can tell from the heading for the goals - these goals are for 2007-2010. Now, I ask you, faithful bloggers, has DeKalb reached any of these goals? If so, which ones? If not, why not? Which goals do you think are most important? Are these goals impacting your childrens' schools in a measurable way? Which initiatives toward the goals seemed to work - and which ones didn't?

Can you define these terms?

A high performance learning culture.
The achievement gap.
Quality personnel.
Fiscal responsibility.


Cerebration said...

Well, I'll begin. We have had many successes. Many of our schools have achieved sports titles, but we also have received many academic and artistic accolades.

Some highlights from county press releases--


The Gov and Cathy Cox announced that DCSS had 14 schools of the 275 recognized for improvement and achievement. --

"DeKalb’s Kittredge Magnet, Vanderlyn, Austin, Livsey, Fernbank, and Oak Grove
Elementary Schools; and DeKalb School of the Arts, Lakeside and Chamblee Charter High
Schools have been recognized for Highest Performance.

Additionally, Nancy Creek, Sagamore
Hills Elementary, Henderson and Peachtree Middle Schools, and Redan High School have
been recognized for Greatest Gain."


Druid Hills High and Browns Mill and Kittredge ES were recognized as GA Schools of Excellence and honored for making the greatest gains in academics


Oakcliff Elementary School was selected as the Elementary Science Schools of Distinction
by Intel. The school, honored for science excellence and its extraordinary commitment to innovation, will receive an additional $12,500 cash grant from the Intel Foundation and an award package including curriculum materials, professional development resources, hardware and software valued at more than $100,000.


Seven Lithonia High School students were recently accepted into the Atlanta Center for Creative
Inquiry (ACCI) at Georgia Tech School of Architecture. Having impressed a well-known associate with an architecture firm in Atlanta, Gabriel Anderson, Gary Tavel, Sangria Lewis, Kieran
Stellingburg, Kurt Thompson, Teddy Brown and Tashina Nicolas were recommended to participate in the ACCI program designed to expose metro Atlanta students to creativity, design, arts, architecture, real estate development, construction and entrepreneurship.


Six DeKalb County School System teachers have been chosen to participate in national seminars
and an intensive session as part of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public

Stephanie Brown-Bryant (Tucker MS), Mary Caruso (Open Campus HS), Jeanette Gibson
(DECA), Stephen Griffith (Redan MS), Sharon Mott (Cedar Grove MS), and Octavia Utley
(Fairington ES) will join 66 other public school teachers from Houston, Chicago, Charlotte, San
Francisco, and other cities from around the nation in attending seminars that will increase their
leadership abilities and help them to deliver engaging classroom lessons to their students.


The debate team at Southwest DeKalb High School recently competed in the Southern Peach District’s National Forensic League debate tournament and their victories at the tournament are carrying them to a national tournament to occur in June. Of the six competing team members, three students qualified for the National Forensic League Tournament to be held June 14-19 in Birmingham, Ala. Students successfully defended their stance on the topic of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and its improvement of academic achievement.
The Southwest DeKalb students who qualified for the competition are Ernest Brown, 12th grade; Ivory Goudy, 12th grade; and Tian Covington, 11th grade. The students debated the topic, Ernest and Ivory will compete in the two-person Public Forum Debate and Tian will compete in Dramatic Interpretation.


Lakeside High School’s Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government class recently won the state “We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution” championship.

Cerebration said...

Today's AJC tells us that 6 of 31 metro Atlanta high school students identified by the Posse Foundation, which partners with colleges to give scholarships to promising students from disadvantaged urban backgrounds are from the DeKalb School of the Arts.

Somebody at DSA is doing a bang up job of helping their students collect some fab scholarships - way to go to DSA leadership and congrats to students Stephanie Derrick, Robert Fleming, Barbara Reynolds, Alexis Roe, Sierra Swann and Jasmine Verreen.

In addition - Vanja Pantic and Marcel Baugh, students at Druid Hills and Jessica Pringle of Chamblee will also receive scholarships.

Congratulations everyone - this award shows that you have each overcome many obstacles and difficulties to achieve your dreams. That kind of determination will take you far!

Cerebration said...

Some suggestions upon reflection --

We need to focus on two things in DCSS -- "streamline" and "serve".

There's too much waste at the top, and more $ needs directed to the classrooms. Start with authorizing more power to Area Supers and Principals. There's also currently basically only one educational path to a diploma, yet students are people - individuals - and need many different pathways to reach that goal. Put all schools back on a 6 period day - and only use the state guidelines for graduation (one less credit required in Social Studies -- see below). Focus heavily on providing quality access to those basic diploma requirements. Why on earth are we spending so much money hosting 32 credit opportunities over 4 years on the block schedule? Focus on quality basic, some career/tech/vocational interests and then send them on!

Also - adhere to HB 149 "Move on When Ready" law (link below) that was passed in the recent legislature, effective in July and allow 11th and 12th grade students to move on to college to receive both HS and college credit. Stop holding students hostage to our current education delivery mode - allow students who are ready and who excel to move ahead. Then - find alternative ways to provide quality basics, vocational training and opportunities to move beyond the basics for students who struggle. Use extra resources to tutor, counsel and help students who experience failure to recover knowledge and credit.

New State Grad Requirements

All students will be required to complete a total of 23 units
for graduation. All students will take:
􀁹 4 units of English
􀁹 4 units of Science
􀁹 4 units of Mathematics
􀁹 3 units of Social Studies
􀁹 At least 3 units required from: Foreign Language*
and/or CTAE and/or Fine Arts for all students
􀁹 At least 4 additional electives
􀁹 1 health/physical education course
* Students planning to enter or transfer into a University System of Georgia institution must take two units of the same foreign language.

HB 149

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Part 4 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to financing under the "Quality Basic Education Act," so as to enact the "Move on When Ready Act"; to provide for definitions; to provide a program for eleventh and twelfth grade students to attend postsecondary colleges and schools for high school credit; to provide for notice to parents and students of the program; to provide requirements for course credit; to provide for state funding; to provide for testing; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what this Item on tonight's agenda is about?

It seems like funds were set aside for two new high schools, one in the North and one in the South part of the county. According to Cere, the one in the South was built (Arabia)? But are funds for a proposed "high school B" being redirected to add an addition to MLK????

The county really needs a new HS on the northern/central side of the county.

The amendment to the application to the Department of Education for funding of New High School "B" will allow State Capital Outlay Funds in the amount of $6,858,842 for Project "New High School B" to instead be utilized for the addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr. High School with any remaining funds to be restored to the Board's Entitlement Sheet at the Department of Education.

The application to the Georgia Department of Education for Capital Outlay Funding for Fiscal Year 2008 included $6,858,842 in funds for "New High School B". These funds were not utilized for New High School B. An amendment to the application is necessary to use these funds for an addition to Martin Luther King Jr. High School and to restore the remaining funds to the Board's Entitlement Sheet at the Department of Education.

Financial Impact
The amendment to the application to the Department of Education for funding will allow DCSS to utilize State Capital Outlay Funds ($6,858,842) for Martin Luther King Jr. High School with any remaining funds to be restored to the Board's Entitlement Sheet at the Department of Education.

Cerebration said...

MLK has always been a line item in the SPLOST CIP - I think that "anticipated funds" from the State have come through - and are allocated for a 9th grade academy - along the lines of Stephensons - I"m guessing (separate building, with it's own cafeteria, etc...)

Feb 09 CIP report says this:
421-127 MLK HS – Addition Design/Build RFP May ‘09

then later in the same report --

D.O.E. Reimbursement
The following chart outlines the status of the reimbursements to DeKalb County Schools by the
Georgia Department of Education for regular, growth, and 1187 funds.

New High School B –
MLK HS - 9th Grade
Academy $ 6,858,842

Anonymous said...

If you open the attachment to the Agenda item there is a 2005 memo from Pat Pope to CL. Attached to this memo is another document which seems to indicate that a "New North High School" was planned with construction to begin July 2007 with state funding of $13,586,400. And there was "New High School B" with construction to begin in January 2008 with state funding of $6,858,842.

What are/were these two projects?

Cerebration said...

I have a feeling that they've changed the High School B plan to adding a gob of classes to Lakeside instead. They plan to add 28 classrooms, which at 30 students per class will hold an additional 840 students! This doesn't even include the 8 classrooms included in the auditorium/career tech addition - which even if there are only 20 per class would hold 160 more. That adds 1,000 student capacity to Lakeside. And since everyone wants to transfer to Lakeside - it seems like the most pleasing solution! (Of course, this leaves no space for parking...)

Anonymous said...

Newsweek dumped Lakeside

You folks probably picked this up somehwere else on the blog. If not, note the obvious effects of AYP and unfettered transfers on the school.

Lakeside has set a record for going from the #2 school in GA on the Newsweek "list" (2008) to dropping off entirely in 2009.

The other four DCSS schools in Newsweek 1,500 from 2008 are still on the list.
--Arts School

No matter what you think about Newsweeks method, this is certainly an indication that AYP and transfers have had an effect.

Paula Caldarella said...

The Newsweek list has nothing whatsoever to do with AYP and transfers. That list is quite simply:

"We take the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school in May, and divide by the number of seniors graduating in May or June."

My guess is that the data for Lakeside was just overlooked. This list is usually updated as schools notify the author of their data.

Anonymous said...

The Newsweek list is in hard copy. Done--over--for all of the ecomoc development and real estate people to carry around and go "Lakeside who??

If Lakeside din't get the data in, guess whose fault that was. Never has been a problem before because the school had a reason to send shining data in. Not this year.

The reason AYP and other tranfers were mentioned is because the popualtion of the school taking AP courses is a HUGE determinant--guess what--Lakeside is screwed.

Anonymous said...

Other Newsweek crap about DeKalb--

Good news--four schools made the 1,500
Bad news--Fulton had their 8 schools highlighted today in AJC "Fulton" section
DeKalb-no highlight

Oh yes--
they are waiting for a Newsweek "update" based on Lakeside data.

Must be Torres fault (meaning DCSS).

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson, the math/science magnet in Fairfax County, VA, was not anywhere on the list...a year or two ago, it was at the top of the list. Same with North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, NC.

I would guess these schools didn't care for the way the list was created, or they didn't care about being on the list...either way, there are some VERY strong schools throughout the country not on the list who should be, for whatever reason. Honestly, the criteria is pretty could have your entire senior class score 1's on their AP's but score high on this list for simply offering the classes.