Wednesday, July 29, 2009

School Siting

Georgia Safe Routes to School State Network
From David Crites,

Executive Director (volunteer),

Event Director,
Georgia Rides To The Capitol

State Network Organizer,
SRTS State Network Project

Since the mid-1970s, fewer and fewer children nationwide have walked to school. This shift has many contributing factors, including trends toward abandonment of historic neighborhood schools and constructing larger educational facilities sited along major roadways in remote locations.

The Local Boards of Education across Georgia own many millions of dollars in school property that is no longer used for K12 education. Many of these facilities, while small, are in neighborhoods and towns with many school age children. Georgia’s current facility policy does not facilitate the rehabilitation of these properties, but instead emphasizes new school construction. A policy shift to allow construction dollars to be spent on rehabilitating intown, small, or historic school buildings for use as elementary, middle, and high schools can provide opportunities for many more children to walk or ride bicycles to school on a regular basis.

Goal 1) Work with the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and others to get reconsideration of policies on school siting, and minimum acreage requirements for new school facilities.

Goal 2) Develop a school siting specific network and public information materials. (Sam Moss staff should read page 8 - Deferred Maintenance: The #1 problem facing historic schools.)

Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School

Helping Johnny Walk to School Project

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Motivating "Back to School" Speech by Michelle Obama

Speaking at a London girls' school, Michelle Obama makes a passionate, personal case for each student to take education seriously. It is this new, brilliant generation, she says, that will close the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be.

April, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

SpringBoard - Or is it Spring"Bored"?

by Anonymous

I think that that Dekalb middle school parents, teachers, and administrators need to have an open discussion about the efficacy of the Springboard curriculum, and the damage it could be doing to our children. Springboard is an expensive and extensive new curriculum in language arts and math offered by the College Board to increase the number of children from disadvantaged subgroups that take high school advanced placement courses. Dekalb middle school teachers spend upwards of 25% of their classroom time on the Springboard cirriculum. Dr. Lewis requires that ALL middle school students in ALL schools participate in the Springboard program, and the DCSS employs many Springboard coaches.

The College Board's Springboard website does not list a single independent study of the effectiveness of Springboard. The web site touts DCSS as a major success for the Springboard curriculum, and provides statistics like "every DeKalb middle school using SpringBoard improved its percentage of students meeting or exceeding the state’s standard on the 2008 Grade 8 Writing Assessment compared with 2007."

Teachers from Shamrock, Henderson, and Kittredge loath the Springboard curriculum. A sample of criticisms can be found on April Griffin's Blog. Teachers just read prepackaged Springboard lessons to their students. Students loath it even more, and call it tedious, boring, and mind-numbing. They call it Springbored. Language arts teachers tell me that without Springboard, their students would spend much more time reading books and writing in class.

One insider speculated that the real reason that Dr. Lewis supports this program so strongly is that "it increases the classroom effectiveness of the worst teachers, and he has many of them in his middle schools, especially in language arts and math."

Shamrock, Henderson, and Kitridge feed into high schools that US News rates in the top 5% in the nation, based on AP courses. Why must these middle school students, especially the brighter ones, be subjected to this mind-numbing curriculum, and as a result, do much less reading and writing in middle school?

Any suggestions on what parents and teachers can do to free our our children from "Springbored"?

Addendum: My notes describe a discussion by the Board that they were eliminating Springboard and implementing the replacement program called, America's Choice - in Title 1 schools. (Funding from a Perkins Grant.) Are they continuing the Springboard program in non-Title 1 schools? Do you feel it's inferior? Is there an even bigger question here regarding Title 1 schools receiving superior instruction?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Governor Perdue Calls for Teacher Furloughs

by Ella Smith

Governor Perdue just announced a request for school systems to furlough teachers three days this year as he cuts three percent more from Georgia’s educational funds. The three days of teacher furloughs will only cut one percent from the budget – school boards will have to cut two more percent from their budgets at a time when many school systems are struggling to stay afloat as it is. Governor Perdue’s plan to balance the budget on the backs of Georgia's 128,000 teacher families and on our more than 1.6 million students is not the way to go. More effort should have been made to find other sources – either budget cuts or enhanced revenues.

The economic crisis we are in is very real and educators are not unmindful of the difficult choices our state leaders must make. We understand that having a balanced budget is important to the state, however, how could anyone not believe teacher furloughs will inexorably damage teaching and learning? The announcement, just as the school year is about to begin, could not come at a worse time. Not only will it be a terrific blow to teacher and student morale, it will undercut the normal “back to school” enthusiasm of parents, teachers and students that gets most school years off to a positive start.

Due to all the meetings and registration procedures that school administrators require, teachers already struggle to be ready for school in the five days planning that they are currently provided. Now that teachers will have only two days for preplanning – days that are totally filled with teachers’ meetings and registration – I know there is no way teachers will have time to prepare for their classes.

Teachers already spend many hours grading work at home, attending PTA meetings, and sponsoring clubs and groups without compensation. Frequently, you will find many teachers at school at six or seven o’clock at night and in the morning before class, working to keep up with all the demands of their jobs. Many teachers currently already work many hours a week without getting compensated.

Education appears to be like a leaky ship and educational funds continue to be leaked out due to cuts made by the state over the last few years. The nearly $2 billion in "austerity cuts" to education and the failure to address an antiquated QBE funding formula for K-12 education has put pressure on local school boards in our state. These cuts had already put the education of our Georgia students in a dire position even before the current economic crisis developed. Please contact your legislative leaders and do not let the ship sink. Public education is too important to every child in Georgia and to the future of this great state of Georgia.

Our future professionals, technical staff, legislature leaders, workforce and governors are in our classrooms today. After years of consistently shortchanging the schools boards of this great state financially, our leaders today add to the downgrading of our schools by demanding teacher furloughs. A year from now many of these same political leaders will be asking for contributions and votes. Hopefully, all stakeholders in education and their families will keep the past several years in mind and vote for change to make sure our Georgia schools keep improving our education system instead of trying to sink our ship.


Below is a letter written to all Fulton County Employees from Superintendent Cindy Loe:

Dear Fulton County Faculty and Staff,

As you might have already heard in the news, Governor Perdue recommended yesterday that teachers and other employees be furloughed three days this school year. This announcement comes at an unfortunate time, especially as we prepare to begin a new school year in less than three weeks.

The school system’s 2009-10 budget already has reduced many employees’ workday calendars by 5-20 days as a cost-saving measure. With the governor’s announcement, we are now faced with implementing a similar furlough to our teachers and others who were not affected by the previous workday reductions. Employees who already have experienced workday reductions are not impacted by this new furlough.

I have communicated with school board members and other system leaders to determine how our expenditures can be reduced without negatively impacting our focus on students. Based on their input, I will be recommending to our school board that teachers take these three furlough days during preplanning week, August 3-7. The specific furlough days will be decided by each school’s principal to allow flexibility for the activities already scheduled. School administrators will contact teachers directly to share the week’s new schedule and start dates. Non-teaching staff who are impacted will have their furlough days decided by their principal. The school board is expected to take formal action on the new workday calendars next week.

The good news is that our 2009-10 budgeting process allowed us to keep most full-time staff employed and that we were able to avoid lay-offs and other personnel reductions faced by other metro Atlanta school systems. While not ideal, participating in this furlough will help keep our employment continuity.

Governor Perdue also plans to cut funding to school systems by an additional 3 percent this year. This represents a $7.6 million reduction in our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding. While we understand the economy’s continuing effects on state funding, this requires that we again examine our spending and allocation of resources. I will be working with our school board and system leaders as to how this reduction will be addressed in our current budget.

Thank you for your support and understanding. We are doing everything possible to meet our school district’s budgetary needs with the least amount of impact on students and staff.


Cindy Loe, Ph.D.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All About Math

by Shayna Steinfeld

Please read this keeping in mind that the United States ranks between 15 and 20 of the top 20 industrialized countries in education around the world. Then remember that Georgia is perpetually ranked in the bottom five in the U.S. Layer onto that the fact that DeKalb seems to be headed away from the top in Georgia ...

A few years ago, the State changed the math curriculum to make it more “competitive” and shifted it from QCC to GPS for “more rigor.” The theory is that if we give the kids more rigor, they will ultimately rise to the occasion and perform better in the long run. My biggest problem with the math curriculum is that Georgia seems to have manufactured it by piecing together curricula from at least three other places “to compete internationally” (this is before we make it to the top 10 domestically). I believe it is primarily from South Carolina, Texas and Japan. Although my in-laws, who taught in the New York City schools for 25 or 30 years (not as math teachers) swear it looks an awful lot like the botched math curriculum that the NY schools tried for a few years and gave up on when none of their kids - from the ghetto or the wealthy suburbs - performed well on the Regents exams. I think it lasted in NY for at most three years.

My problem is that states like Massachusetts seem to always score in the top three states in math on the NAEP test (National Assessment for Educational Progress – a nationally normed test), which the Henderson Middle School 8th graders took this year but no results were released (along with those "missing in action" EOCT for Math I). There is, therefore, a math curriculum in Massachusetts, that has trained teachers, teaching materials, curriculum, etc. for K-12 (or K-8 if you leave high school alone for Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry and Calculus, Statistics). There are teachers, I am sure, who would prefer our climate who could be swayed to moved south. Instead, our taxpayers, paid for our board of education to research a new curriculum in South Carolina, Texas and Japan and paid for new textbooks to be created (which since no other state teaches our math, they must have been created from scratch for all grades in all districts). Supplemental materials needed to be written, training materials needed to be created, and testing materials needed to be created. At each step of this process, entities and individuals made money – from tax dollars. All of this was already available for purchase in a place like Massachusetts. And the flip side? Our children get to be guinea pigs for the new Georgia curriculum to see if it works. We need the legislature to pass a law: If there is a state in the top five or top ten doing well, our state department of education isn’t allowed to make up our own version and test it on our kids (e.g. math, English, social studies (except Georgia Studies), Economics, etc.).

The Asian kids always did really well at the Sagamore Hills Math Tournament when my kids were in elementary school. They were the vast majority of the top five in each grade. It turns out that many of them attend “Saturday School” – a program called Kumon. It even turns out that some legislators I know use this program for their kids too. It’s all about drilling math facts. Over, and over, and over again. If the Kumon program works so well, why don’t we incorporate it and it’s teachers into our standard elementary school curriculum? I’m frustrated that we are recreating the wheel and testing it on our kids rather than using the “tried and true.”

Part of the new math curriculum uses a “train the teacher” approach – at the elementary level, at least in the DeKalb, one teacher per school – and not necessarily one trained in training other teachers or one who knows the most about math – but a teacher who was willing to spend the time for some extra cash, went for training on the curriculum. They were then supposed to train the others in their building on how to teach this really new math (some without text books).

Another aspect of the curriculum that could be a real problem was pointed out by a psychologist friend. She’s has a Ph.D. in psychology and listened to a mom describe 2nd grade math to her and commented that if a child were ADD or ADHD they would lose it. This is because, apparently, these kids need concepts drilled, the curriculum has a lot of jumping around and not too much drilling. This would be particularly bad if you had a child doing poorly in math and it was due to an undiagnosed problem along these lines, particularly leading up to those all important 3rd grade CRCTs. I’m not a psychologist or an expert on this curriculum so here I’m just passing on a conversation.

Another component of the curriculum is that the children are supposed to teach each other in learning groups (at least at the middle school level). This doesn’t work if there isn’t anyone in a group that knows what they are doing. It really doesn’t work if the teacher can’t help them figure it out. One of my son’s 8th grade friends is starting with Algebra I in 9th grade at a private school next year after last year at Henderson due to the ineffectiveness of this group work. My son, who was in Accelerated Math I this past year with an excellent teacher, should be ready for Algebra 2 according to the color-coded state chart on the curriculum. The chart indicates that he was supposed to have covered nearly all of geometry by now. The private schools we’ve spoken with believe he has only received half of a regular (old) geometry curriculum. The other half of the curriculum is not in the Math II curriculum either, it seems to be missing altogether. This does not facilitate the ability of families with teenaged children to move in and out of the state for business purposes (Coke – UPS – Chamber of Commerce.... WHERE ARE YOU?).

One of the top math teachers in the state, who helped develop the curriculum (a DCCS teacher), has told one of my twelfth grader’s friends that he has no idea what he will teach to his Math II kids this fall. When I was campaigning last year, a middle school math teacher I met said he was at a training session and he was told that Math II was going to be trained by DVD. Math I was trained so well that they have decided not to release the EOCT results. When I asked members of the school board how they were going to gauge whether the curriculum was working, the answer was the EOCT. For me, that isn’t the answer because that tests the state curriculum, it does not test whether they are receiving what they need to know for the PSAT, SAT, ACT and College. How about giving all 9th graders an old (already existing) Algebra EOCT at the start of the year to see just how much algebra they’ve absorbed under the new curriculum. Same for 10th graders for geometry?

My sister-in-law is not a math person. She has been enrolled in a Master of Arts, Teaching program at Brandies in Boston this past year. One of her first classes was on teaching Elementary math. One of the components of the Georgia math curriculum (possibly where they should have stopped on the elementary curriculum) is called “Everyday Math” and it is used by many of the private schools. It is not how we as adults were taught to do math – for example: they add across the page and they don’t borrow or re-group. My non-mathematical sister-in-law spent at least an hour a day in this class, five days a week for a month, with a top teacher, who has written a textbook series now being used in NY. They discussed the Georgia curriculum, which is being cited in this academic world as an example of what shouldn’t be done. By the end of the month in this class, the lightbulb went off for her and she told me that she could now teach math to any type of learner. Her brain, which is only 28 years old, had finally been reprogrammed successfully – she understood Everyday Math herself and appreciated its merits and tools and she felt as though she could adequately and appropriately convey these concepts to any child in elementary school. In Georgia, we are using “train the trainer” to reprogram the math teacher, over a much shorter duration of time, and many of these teachers are not new teachers but they have been teaching for many years. And we expect this to be successful?

Another good friend is involved in the AP Computer Science world here in Georgia. She trains those teachers and grades those exams. She has commented to me that she has seen a tremendous influx of math teachers who are all of a sudden interested in teaching computer science. That’s very good for computer science. What does it say about math?

The counties were given some latitude in how they implemented the state-wide standards. My understanding of how this was done is that DeKalb went “whole hog” and scratched the old curriculum and implemented the new curriculum. Cobb and Gwinnett, on the other hand, kept their old curriculum, and layered the integrated math on top of the old curriculum. It seems to me that the Cobb and Gwinnett approach may be working better (see, e.g. the CRCT middle school scores in each of these counties). There is also a program that enables the counties to opt around the curriculum that Gwinnett is pursuing.

I’m wondering how long it will take for all of this to play out. I’ve decided to post this column so I could share what I’ve pieced together and to provide a place for you to comment. Anyone want to take on getting a law passed?

Monday, July 20, 2009

DCSS BOE Meeting July 20, 2009

Even with Zepora Roberts, Paul Womack and Gene Walker missing from tonight's Board of Education meeting, it still ran about 3 hours long - 1/3 of which was Pat Pope's laundry list of construction requests and grease trap contracts. But I'll try to summarize what I found interesting as best I can - excuse me if I do it in a stream of consciousness fashion.

Dr. Lewis told us that we have just enrolled 250 new refugee students. Ella Smith asked if we could schedule a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the demolition of Cross Keys scheduled to begin August 1. The Jackson three made their usual monthly speeches, however, this time they seemed a bit incoherent to me. Maybe I just no longer listen.

A very proud Mr. Ditmann, principal of the International Community (Charter) School announced that ICS student Genevieve Wilson won a national poster contest for World Refugee Day (today!) and was flown to DC, stayed at the Ritz and was presented an award by Angelina Jolie! Her poster will be exhibited at the National Geographic Museum.

Mr. Roberson from Avondale stated that students are being squeezed out of band and workout rooms to make way for DSA construction. Ernest Brown commented that his tax bill declined by 20% which perked up my ears because ours didn't go down a dime - in fact, ours went UP!! (by $350!!!)

A couple of people complained about trailers being placed in front of Ashford Park ES near a busy road which doesn't seem safe. Lots of people referenced the bullying, the cheating and Dr. Lewis' strange email defending the administrators who did the cheating. Someone mentioned HB 2262, the Safe Schools Improvement Act supported by US Congressman Hank Johnson.

Committee reports were non-existent. All of them were covered in about one minute. Jay Cunningham stated that if anyone would like to read committee minutes, they are available to review at the main office. (There are some minutes available online if you're willing to check through the agendas.) Dr. Lewis had Josie Alexander explain that the "bonuses" which he now prefers to call "incentives" are legal use of funds from the recovery act. The Board supports the incentive pay for principals. Oddly, Don McChesney spoke for Dr. Walker and stated that Dr. Walker supports the principals incentive pay.

HB 251 transfers were covered. There is detailed info on this at the school system's website.

There was much discussion regarding an $885,000 contract using Title 1 funds to Communities in Schools Atlanta. They are being paid to improve attendance, increase parent engagement, improve school behavior and academic achievement and forge community partnerships. Jay Cunningham was concerned that there may be crossover with what the school system is already doing and that there is no method to evaluate the results.

The Board approved a partial bill of $850,000 to eSIS for the student information software that is to come. They also approved a bunch of money for printers/scanners for all schools.

Then Pat Pope took to the mic - and I hope for her sake that she was wearing her Buster Browns. There were several roofing and HVAC/ceiling tile replacement contracts approved. The interesting contracts went to Tucker HS and Lakeside HS for architectural drawings. (Tucker for amended drawings due to adjustments necessary for unexpected bad soil and Lakeside for new plans for a 28 classroom addition.) Additionally, we learned that the final price for the new Tucker high school is guaranteed at $52,928,252 - well under budget.

One most interesting point during Pope's time was the revelation that a whole lotta money gets allocated through a CIP vehicle called, "Local School Priority Requests" (Projects to be Determined on an "As Needed" Basis). These are formal requests made by principals for improvements to their school. Jim Redovian stated that if your school isn't getting money for necessary projects, then your principal is not doing their job. As I understand that, he means that the school system is not sending out people to check on needs, they instead rely on principals to report their needs. A committee does go to the schools to review the requests however.

Charter schools approved - Leadership Prep Academy and Destiny Academy. Denied - all the rest.

After all that, several board members used their alloted two minutes to make points such as the fact that most all employees who lost their jobs have been placed in other jobs, we cut $40 million from the budget without letting teachers go or increasing the millage rate, speakers during the public forum can be grossly incorrect, but the board cannot respond, and decisions made by the board are for the benefit of our children. Sarah C-Wood implored parents and community members to participate and stay involved in your local schools - they belong to you - even if you don't have a child in one. And finally, Dr. Lewis defended himself against media attacks, listing many of the systems accomplishments and saying, "Instead of calling the media, why do people not pick up the phone and follow protocol?"

AJC Reports Cross Keys Demo About to Begin

According to an article posted in today's AJC, DeKalb County School System is planning to begin demolition at Cross Keys in two weeks!

In little more than two weeks, demolition at Cross Keys High School will begin. It will erase decades of decline at the DeKalb County campus, transforming brick and mortar literally coming apart at the seams into a newly modern school building.

...As it stands, the system has set aside $20 million and hired a construction manager and general contractor. The school will be open, with students shifting out of areas as they are targeted for work. Patricia Pope, the system’s chief operating officer, said this week in an e-mail that demolition and building prep work will start Aug. 1. Scheduled completion is slated for December 2010.

“We are back on track [and] have apologized to the community several times for the delays,” Pope said. “I am confident that the community will be pleased with the renovations once complete.”

Hurrah! We'll have to get over to Cross Keys August 1st and update you with more photos!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

some pics from the CKHS gym

Here are the pics of the rumored floor collapse at CKHS gym mezzanine (sorry it's so blurry - I was NOT supposed to photograph). The collapse is just a large hole, but it proves lack of structural integrity, which is why the mezzanine is now closed to students. Too bad - it WAS their weight room. You can see some quality equipment that's abandoned for now.
Other photo you might have seen - the back walls of the gym where the ridiculous (and costly) temporary a/c system pipes into the gym along the back wall - right next to the corners of the gym where that wall does NOT meet the side wall - that is the sky and sun from outside showing through the corner gap (which exists on each side) .

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cross Keys High School is decrepit & disgusting.

2009 AYP Data posted on State DOE Website!

It is the time of the year when school officials and community members see the ‘report card’ from this past academic school year. Take a look at the following website for that information:

I would suggest looking at the School Detail Report. In the first iteration, the filters were placed on the incorrect row (row 1 instead of row 2) which results in you not seeing column headings when filtering data. I would suggest saving it to your machine and changing it, which should take about 10-15 seconds. Ask if you have questions on how this is done.

If you look at the AYP status column, you will notice several schools listed that you might not expect to see in the ‘not met’ category for DCSS. Nonetheless, this should make for some interesting discussions with respect to the AYP performance for all of our schools.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why is Cross Keys STILL in Limbo?

How Low Will They Go?

To access the full size photos in this album, click here and push the play button.

Below are a few notes from the Friday, May 1, 2009 Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Minutes
Jay Cunningham, Chair

Committee members Paul Womack, Eugene Walker and Don McChesney were present. Staff member Marcus Turk was present and PTA Council President Nathaniel Paxton and Organization for DeKalb Educators (ODE) President David Schutten were also present.


Ms. Pope said there is asbestos present in the Open Campus building and it would take $30 million to renovate the building. Ms. Pope would like to close the Open Campus building because of its appraised value of $18 million. Ms. Pope noted that there were only 60 students at the Clarkston Center and that it would be relocated. She said DISPAC will remain in Building “A” until it can be moved to the William Bradley Bryant Center for Technology. Ms. Pope mentioned the administrative offices needed a great deal of work.

Dr. Walker stated the Cross Keys High School community is troubled by the development in the area. He inquired should the money be spent as recommended on Cross Keys or should we go in another direction? Ms. Pope thinks we should move forward with the renovations for Cross Keys with the idea of a different designation later, possibly a technology school, military school or school of the arts. Ms. Pope noted the DeKalb County Planning Commission does advise us of developments. She stated they build anyway without real input from the school system. Mr. McChesney made a report of the Cross Keys demographics and DeKalb County Board of Commissioners plans for the area. Ms. Pope stated the Board needs to approve the surplus plan for the future. Mr. Brown asked should we tear down some buildings and convert to green space?


Well, now I decided to have a look for myself at the condition of Cross Keys HS and the surrounding area including Woodward Elementary so I signed up for one of Kim's group tours of the place. All I can say is – Yowsa! The only thing I can compare this horrific, terrible, unkept, crumbling school property to was some of the very impoverished areas of Brazil I witnessed when I traveled the countryside back in 1986 when they were in the middle of an economic crisis. I was shocked to witness homeless people living under cardboard shacks in the underbrush of the Brazilian jungle. That’s what has been going on at Cross Keys, folks!!! Homeless people have been living in the underbrush and trespassing (and urinating and defecating) on the grounds of Cross Keys High School!

There are huge plywood panels lining the fencing which are covered in graffiti. The fencing is mangled on all sides, the sidewalks and buildings are certainly ripe for condemnation and in FAR worse shape than Open Campus. There are many broken windows, some of which have been replaced with some kind of plastic. Now, granted, as Kim reported here a few weeks ago, due to a clean-up effort initiated by ICP Officer Josh Fritz, crews did finally show up with backhoes and cleared the underbrush, kudzu and debris from a large swath behind the ball field that encompasses a ravine leading to the sewage drains and a creek. Miguel Martínez of Mundo Hispanico posted a photo essay of the operation, deemed "Operation Urban Camper". The Brookhaven Reporter also published the story.

At any rate, after my tour of the area, I have to agree with Dr. Walker on this. We would be out of our minds to even attempt to renovate these buildings. The school owns 37.4 acres for Cross Keys and 13.6 acres for Woodward (the front doors between these two are steps away). Oddly, Sequoyah is posted clear out in Doraville, very near I-285, nearly 7 miles from Cross Keys and Woodward. That’s crazy. Make Sequoyah the Military Academy. Can we not bulldoze all of the 51 acres currently owned by DCSS at the Brookhaven site, and rebuild a campus composed of all three schools? Could we not make Cross Keys 2 or 3 stories instead of the rambling, dirt eating monstrosity it is now? Can we not recreate the Chamblee or Tucker Middle School model next to it or at least somewhere within reason? Can we not renovate Woodward into a nice, airy, cheerful elementary school for the children in this area?

Developers have already purchased at least 3 of the apartment complexes surrounding Click to EnglargeCross Keys. Cortland Partners has great ambitions for the land and are currently in
the County Planning Process proposing to create a new, Town Center type of development called Symphony Park (you can find Symphony Park under the apartments tab). This area is a 15 minute walk from the Brookhaven Marta station and a couple of miles from the glitz of Buckhead. In fact, the Lenox Park development (former Standard Club) is directly across the street and donates landscaping services to keep up the curb appeal of Cross Keys, since it faces their development. This development is what is apparently causing new apprehension about renovating Cross Keys. It seems that some of our leaders are afraid that we will lose students or that perhaps it could be better to sell the property since it is so valuable. But there are almost 900 students in Cross Keys High School who, according to teachers I have spoken with, are excellent students and delightful young people. They deserve a quality community school to spend their days in, not this decrepit, depressing, disgusting, unhealthy old dinosaur of a school house. Our school board needs to get in gear and make some decisions. My personal recommendation is to “do a Tucker”, meaning build a brand new facility on another portion of the property (it’s an enormous plot of land) and then tear down the old buildings and use that land for an auditorium or stadium of some kind. I am not a professional developer or architect, but I believe that if consulted, a creative developer could come up with a wonderful plan.

Please keep in mind, even though our current administration has built some real showcases in the past 5 years, they still turn a blind eye to the condition of Cross Keys and make what has proven to be so far, empty promises. I have to ask, is it because the population at Cross Keys is largely Hispanic immigrants? I would have hoped that a black leadership who has spent the last 30 years combating racial inequities would at least be sensitive to the plight of these Hispanics. The school conditions these students are enduring certainly must rival or surpass anything our current black leadership had to endure in the past.

I am appalled and ashamed to live in a school district that allows children to attend third world campuses such as Cross Keys. This school has been #2 on the list of priorities for SPLOST 3 since November, 2006, yet nothing has been done. A forensic review from Rubina and McGeehin dated December, 2005 cites Peachtree MS as usurping $16M from the “above the line” projects, and the project size inflation for Miller Grove, New Tucker and New Oakvale also used more than their predicted share of funds. Under the direction of Stan Pritchett (an educator, not a construction manager) these projects became showcases, devouring SPLOST dollars, leaving little for everyone else. For example, Miller Grove’s projected cost was $22 million, yet in the end, it cost over $28 million. Schools like Cross Keys kept getting sidelined. Our school system's SPLOST 2 ineptitude continues to cause pain and angst for many students and teachers in our older buildings as we wait our turn and watch the money disappear.

In April at a public meeting at Ashford Park ES, Patricia Pope promised the community that the new RFP would be opened to bid, reviewed, and signed in a matter of weeks. She also promised that there would be an additional briefing for the community on the proposed plan and schedule for the SPLOST III project once a contractor was named. It is July and no additional update has been forthcoming, no public briefing and to my knowledge no contract signed. Is Cross Keys about to slip down the priority list yet again?

I encourage you all to drive there and walk the property and ask yourself, would you send your child to this school every day? Would Crawford Lewis? Would Pat Pope? Would Mr. Mosely? Would Don McChesney? Our board reps need to put all other projects on hold until they do something about Cross Keys. This has become a complete embarrassment.


To access the full size photos in this album, click here and push the play button. NEW LINK TO PHOTOS >>

Update on MLK Grade Changing - Horace Dunson

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The More We Dig, the More We Find...

Click for VIDEO link. Or watch the videos above.

Aaaak. Apparently, Atherton's cheating scandal was the tip of the iceberg. Richard Belcher at WSB reports that a new grade inflation scandal has been uncovered at MLK High School. Apparently, MLK science teacher Aquarius Cain has blown the whistle that teachers are under pressure not to fail students and that the grades of her mostly failing students were altered by a long-term sub while she was out on maternity leave. Principal Ken Baker had no comment.

If you would like to catch up on some of the other bad news in DeKalb schools, click to view these WSB reports --

Atherton Elementary principal may face criminal charges.

Eugene Walker recused himself on the Development Authority vote for the Sembler tax abatement.

And now we find that the DeKalb County Board of Ethics may actually be an oxymoron.

CRCT Scores Released

The state has released the CRCT scores and for DeKalb County Schools, it doesn't look pretty - ESPECIALLY for our 8th graders.

The official statement for statewide results at the DOE reads, Test scores for Georgia’s elementary and middle school students improved in all areas this year, but most dramatically in the crucial subjects of mathematics and science.

Students posted gains on all 14 of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in mathematics and science, all of which are aligned to Georgia’s more rigorous curriculum.

“The 2009 CRCT results are very encouraging and show that our students are learning more advanced concepts and are able to apply that knowledge properly,” said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. “Our elementary and middle school teachers should feel very proud today – they are getting the job done!”

DeKalb's scores look like this -

1st grade READING: 33.9% Exceeded, 51.9% met and 14.3% did not meet expectations
1st grade ELA: 21.6% Exceeded, 55.6% met and 22.9% did not meet expectations
1st grade MATH: 21.0% Exceeded, 52.3% met and 21.7% did not meet expectations

2nd grade READING: 43.0% Exceeded, 45.1% met and 11.9% did not meet expectations
2nd grade ELA: 20.0% Exceeded, 61.4% met and 18.6% did not meet expectations
2nd grade MATH: 21.7% Exceeded, 57.7% met and 20.5% did not meet expectations

3rd grade READING: 27.0% Exceeded, 55.9% met and 17.1% did not meet expectations
3rd grade ELA: 26.8% Exceeded, 54.0% met and 19.2% did not meet expectations
3rd grade MATH: 28.1% Exceeded, 39.5% met and 32.4% did not meet expectations
3rd grade SCIENCE: 23.4% Exceeded, 46.1% met and 30.5% did not meet expectations
3rd grade SOC STUDIES: 13.1% Exceeded, 55.2% met and 31.7% did not meet expectations

4th grade READING: 27.6% Exceeded, 55.6% met and 16.8% did not meet expectations
4th grade ELA: 22.6% Exceeded, 59.7% met and 17.7% did not meet expectations
4th grade MATH: 21.9% Exceeded, 42.9% met and 35.2% did not meet expectations
4th grade SCIENCE: 25.5% Exceeded, 41.8% met and 32.7% did not meet expectations
4th grade SOC STUDIES: 12.7% Exceeded, 48.9% met and 38.4% did not meet expectations

5th grade READING: 16.1% Exceeded, 67.4% met and 16.4% did not meet expectations
5th grade ELA: 24.7% Exceeded, 62.4% met and 12.9% did not meet expectations
5th grade MATH: 28.9% Exceeded, 43.2% met and 28.0% did not meet expectations
5th grade SCIENCE: 19.1% Exceeded, 42.6% met and 37.6% did not meet expectations
5th grade SOC STUDIES: 11.4% Exceeded, 49.5% met and 39.0% did not meet expectation

6th grade READING: 28.4% Exceeded, 57.5% met and 14.1% did not meet expectations
6th grade ELA: 24.1% Exceeded, 62.7% met and 13.2% did not meet expectations
6th grade MATH: 11.3% Exceeded, 53.1% met and 35.6% did not meet expectations
6th grade SCIENCE: 9.0% Exceeded, 45.9% met and 45.0% did not meet expectations

7th grade READING: 13.0% Exceeded, 68.7% met and 18.3% did not meet expectations
7th grade ELA: 21.9% Exceeded, 62.1% met and 16.0% did not meet expectations
7th grade MATH: 19.6% Exceeded, 54.0% met and 26.4% did not meet expectations
7th grade SCIENCE: 18.9% Exceeded, 40.9% met and 40.3% did not meet expectations

8th grade READING: 24.1% Exceeded, 65.6% met and 10.3% did not meet expectations
8th grade ELA: 23.2% Exceeded, 65.7% met and 11.1% did not meet expectations
8th grade MATH: 16.1% Exceeded, 45.8% met and 38.0% did not meet expectations
8th grade SCIENCE: 7.5% Exceeded, 39.7% met and 52.8% did not meet expectations
8th grade SOC STUDIES: 9.6% Exceeded, 37.9% met and 52.5% did not meet expectation


To be sure, the above scores represent the entire systems average scores. We can see huge discrepancies between schools when we differentiate the scores. For example, at the Academy of Lithonia in the 5th grade, 37.8% failed social studies, 46.7% failed science, 37.8% failed math, 13.3% failed language arts and 22.2% failed reading. Conversely, at Briarlake ES, in the 5th grade, 16.0% failed social studies, 20% failed science, 12% failed math, 14% failed language arts and 10% failed reading. Our countywide bell curve won't show you this disparity or others.

To download all scores including scores for individual schools, click on this state DOE link or go to the link at the AJC article.


For those of you who are confused about the difference between the CRCT and the ITBS, below is an explanation from the Georgia Department of Education.

How does the CRCT differ from a norm-referenced test (NRT)?

Criterion-referenced tests, such as the CRCT, are designed to measure how well students acquire, learn, and accomplish the knowledge and skills set forth in a specific curriculum or unit of instruction. The CRCT, therefore, is specifically intended to test Georgia's performance/content standards outlined in the GPS. Norm-referenced tests (NRT), such as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), measure instructional standards commonly taught throughout the entire United States of America. Additionally, NRTs highlight differences between and among students across an achievement continuum.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

DeKalb County School Officials Make It Clear, That Employees Only Have the Legal Right To Take Their Children To The School In Which They Work

The current school board and school administration are chiseling away at another problem that has surfaced which probably originally started when several local administrators in the past just turned a blind eye or maybe they just did someone a little political favor, to help one of their DeKalb County School System extended family members. Why did the school system just not abide by the law to start with? What is the problem that started out small but that now has to be addressed by the county school administration to make it fair for all the DeKalb County taxpayers?

For years, teachers, administrators, parapros, school police officers, school counselors, and school secretaries have been sending their children to all the feeder schools in DeKalb County if they work at one of the schools in the feeder pattern which are high quality feeder patterns in DeKalb County School System. But, the law states that teachers can take their children to the school at which they teach. This is definitely a perk and in some cases it does prevent employees from having the expense of daycare and in many situations if the employee works at one of the top schools in Dekalb County it allows them to send their children through a top notch school feeder program. As a former teacher at Lakeside High School who taught and lived in the Lakeside High School district I always wondered what the impact was on my tax bill for many of the teachers who lived in Gwinnett and who paid Gwinnett County property taxes and probably bought most of their groceries in Gwinnett, to bring their children with them and then these children were allowed to attend Oak Grove Grade School, Henderson Middle School, and Lakeside High School just like my children. I always thought it was not the intent of the law. This was one of the things that bothered me as I thought it was not transparent and not right. In fact it probably was an abuse of the law. Is this fair to all the other taxpayers in Dekalb who are not allowed to send their children to the Lakeside feeder schools and they actually pay Dekalb County taxes, particularly with the new choice law being passed? This will change due to the new policy listed below that was provided by Anonymous July 2, 2009, at 12:47. I think it is big enough to make the front page. The school system is cracking down on administrative transfers and starting with it teachers and administrators. I am sure legally that they had no other choice. How can they tell taxpayers that their children cannot go to one of the prime schools in the county when they have employees' children going who do not work there and who do not pay Dekalb County property taxes? The memo to all of the employees is below:

The Board and Superintendent have identified ten priorities for the DeKalb County School System (DCSS). In Priority Three: Develop and Implement School Climate Project, the school system has been directed to address administrative transfers.Over the course of the years, the Board of Education has generously allowed employees to transfer their children to schools closer to their job assignment. Although, Board policy does not guarantee that privilege, significant numbers of employees have enrolled their children in DCSS schools that are outside the home attendance area. However, regarding that practice, Board Policy AD Descriptor Code states the following:

"Any student may be allowed to attend and be enrolled in the school in which a parent or guardian of such student is a full-time teacher, paraprofessional, or other employee. A student who resides outside of the DeKalb County School District and who attends a school in the DeKalb County School District under this provision shall not be required to pay non-resident tuition as defined in Board Policy Code JBCBA."

In order to be in compliance with the Board policy, please be aware that beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, employees will not be able to automatically continue matriculation in a feeder pattern school. Once children of employees attending a school outside their home attendance area complete the highest grade level of the school where currently enrolled, the students will be expected to enroll in the home attendance area school. All employees who desire to continue having their children in a particular feeder pattern may apply for an administrative transfer. Approvals will be based on space available.

Please convey this information to all employees in your school or department so that they will have time to explore and apply for school choice options that may be available to them in 2010-2011 and beyond.

Please contact Ms. Deborah Wilson at 678-676-0755 if you have questions. Thank you for your assistance.

Robert G. Moseley
Deputy Chief Superintendent for School Operations
DeKalb School System
3770 North Decatur Road
Building A
Decatur, Georgia 30032
July 2, 2009 1:39 PM

Happy Independence Day!

- from Wikipedia

"During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams' prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

One of the most enduring myths about Independence Day is that Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The myth had become so firmly established that, decades after the event and nearing the end of their lives, even the elderly Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had come to believe that they and the other delegates had signed the Declaration on the fourth. Most delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2, 1776. In a remarkable series of coincidences, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two founding fathers of the United States and the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence to become president, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the United States' 50th anniversary."

Happy 4th! As we celebrate our independence, let's take a little time to remember the sacrifices our forefathers made to create this country and to declare ourselves independent and free. As you do so, make a commitment to work to continue that tradition of freedom and independence for all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

HB 251 Receiving Schools listed on DCSS website

In keeping with the rules set forth by HB 251, DCSS has provided information regarding the schools that will be available to accept transfers. In short, HB 251 allows parents to transfer their child to any DCSS school that has space as long as the parent provides transportation.

Perhaps to the dismay of some in the community, many of the schools deemed ‘desirable’ are not on the list as a receiving school. I would speculate this is due to how the Instructional Capacity is determined for each school. Through compliance with NCLB, administrative transfers, existing construction, and having a choice program, many schools that some would hope would appear on the list are over capacity at this time. While there are many good schools on the list, it remains to be seen how many in families in DeKalb will leverage this option.

To read more about how DCSS is complying with this law, visit the HB 251 Information link on the DCSS website.