Saturday, April 10, 2010

If You Give A Teacher a Voice...

She or he will improve our school system. For too long, I've listened to the hushed voices of teachers in my kids' schools. The despair is heartbreaking. They have been figuratively muzzled by a hierarchy as archaic as the feudal system. As I've read the anonymous posts of teachers on this blog, I've been impressed by the energy, promise and joy our teachers have for their profession and for our students.

I am so disappointed that DCSS has not included teachers in the most basic of decisions -- like curriculum choices, class scheduling (block/7 period), discipline, increased class size, etc. It's time to give our teachers a voice -- even if it has to be anonymous (for now).

I hope all our fine teachers will use this thread to post their best thoughts about what DCSS needs to do to return to its glory. Let this thread be your "virtual" task force or advisory council. This thread can consolidate all the wonderful things you have said (and will say) into one place. So, on the chance that a DCSS official reads it, internalizes it, agrees with it and has the guts to push some of your ideas forward, you may help better our system.

I'm not saying if you're a teacher, you shouldn't post comments on all the threads, but use this one for those thoughts that could solve a problem. Much like the letter posted from LHS, if we stick to well-thought-out suggestions (supported by data, etc.) and avoid finger-pointing or personnel suggestions (stick to titles or job functions, not names) this thread could make a difference. And then, one day hopefully in the near future, you can proudly use your real name and get credit for solving a problem or saving a lot of money for the system. Until then, let's tell them what you think, what you know works and doesn't work, and serve up solutions on a silver platter.

We're behind you teachers. We know the best solutions come from the trenches. Let 'em rip!


Anonymous said...

I appreciate so much the sentiments expressed in this post. Teachers and others who work in the school building feel that we are the lowest on the totem pole at all times, and that point is driven home by the top administrators wanting to "block" all emails from us. The top brass has no concern for what we do or think as long as we play by the rules, and they use the current economic woes to threaten us by telling us that there are "plenty" of teachers looking for work. Once the economy begins to improve, expect quality teachers to leave Dekalb in unprecedented numbers. No-one likes to be threatened, especially those on the front lines.
As far as solutions? Where do we begin? First, we need a leader who thinks of the students first. We need someone with a plan to get us to the top and to help us stay there. Then, the fat needs to be trimmed from the top. That's a no-brainer. We have been top-heavy for far too long. The money spent on salaries for jobs created for friends could go a long way in the classrooms. Third, our input is valuable. We know these students. We know what they need. We know what they know, what they do not know, and what they need to know. Listen to our concerns and share in our triumphs. Finally, (to the administration) make our jobs easier, not more difficult. We do not need an "Instructional Coach" who has never seen our students, our classroom, or even our school building sending us more forms to fill out. Take the $80,000-$90,000 each Instructional Coach makes and get us the supplies we need. All teachers pay for materials out-of-pocket, to the tune of between $1000 or more. We are all teachers because we WANT to be. Nobody got into teaching for the money.
We eat our lunch in 15-20 minutes (often while standing), take our work home each night, and go to our schools during the summers to prepare our classrooms for the upcoming year. Still, we love what we do, and we love watching those faces when an "aha" moment occurs and we know we've got them interested and excited.
How can you help? Do exactly what you're doing. Keep the feet to the fire. Keep protesting the protection of jobs that do not affect instruction. Help us demand that teachers and paras should not shoulder the financial burden with a 6.5% paycut. After all, we are somebody's spouse and/or parent, too. A huge paycut not only affects an already-low morale, but affects our work, since many will be seeking outside jobs to make ends meet.
Thanks so much for your support!

Anonymous said...

I think that it is time for teachers to stand up and call out the wrong being done. I have attended the protests at board meetings and listened to teachers speak at these meetings about the corruption they see in this school system. After looking at the list of speakers for Monday's meeting, I am positive that you will hear the same if you attend. But more teachers must be willing to speak. As a group, we continue to get mistreated because we allow people to mistreat us. We are the classroom experts, we know better than anyone what is in the best interest of our students. Demand to be included, not only on the county level, but in this state as well. Stand for something, or you will fall for anything.

Nikole Allen

Cerebration said...

Ok people, once again, we have to focus on the task at hand - making this board understand that cuts to the schoolhouse will damage our schools. Teachers know what works in the classroom - and what can be cut. We would like to hear their suggestions. Teachers, please feel free to post.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9:56
As a first grade teacher, I love that your parents read to you. I think every parent should. However, I teach students to read every year. Some were never read to before they entered school in pre-k or kindergarten. Teaching kids with little previous experience with books, to read is a complex process. So give thanks to your parents, but don't discredit the hard work that many teachers do.

Nikole Allen

Cerebration said...

Sorry guys, I had to delete a few comments. Let's stick to the topic, please.

Also, FWIW - as a parent volunteer, I have actually read out loud to 7th graders - who had rarely, if ever been read to. They would often hug me in the hallways due to their appreciation and the fact that I gave them my time.

Anonymous said...

I hope I have the right attitude and am articulate enough to convey my ideas as to how to improve DCSS. If not, maybe someone who has better "mastery" of the English language can repost my comment to his or her liking.

1. I would like DCSS to do away with many of the textbooks used in our classrooms. I think they can be better, a whole lot better. Particularly in MATH & SCIECNE.

2. I would like DCSS to duplicate other successful educational systems (e.g., Singapore). We should look into building relationships with other schools using the Internet, telecommunications, and other hi-tech products and services. We have to motivate our students to compete in this hi-tech global economy. Our students will begin to learn the discipline needed to compete, while at the same time understanding the U.S. is falling behind in science & technology. I have been doing a lot of study and research on engineering disciplines in general. COMPUTING is at its core. We better tighten up!

3. We have to build partnerships with both the private and public sectors to supplement our childrens' education. The enabler of bringing this to fruition is "current technology." Invest!

4. Our children DO NOT know anything about "research." What it entails, and HOW TO do it. Doing google searches, and a little reading is NOT RESEARCH. This is skill that is seriously lacking, which is tied to critical thinking.

5. Parental involvement is a major problem. We need local businesses, churches, mosques, and, synagogues to play a key role in "balancing" our childrens' lives. Our children need to see and know that they are VALUED in our communities.

6. It is DEAD WRONG to do away with art & music programs. I've paid very close attention to how well our children watch and listen to ASSEMBLY PROGRAMS that are enacted by our students as well as by others invited. Our students are glued to the "ACTION!" I envision students putting on PLAYS that enact the lessons they learn from their history/social studies classes. Students can learn better (and more) if we incorporate more audiovisuals (i.e., DVDs) into our curriculums across the board. Is this being done? Yes, but NOT ENOUGH.

7. DCSS, we have a problem...Pray.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be negative Nelly here, but I wish it were easier for DCSS and the local principals to get rid of bad teachers - they really do exist and despite the pleas of principals and parents alike, we've been told that it virtually impossible to rid our schools of these teachers. Why is it?

I have had notes come home from teachers that were illegible, full of grammatical errors, etc., So, teachers, can you give this parent some guidance as to how to rid ourselves of these few "bad eggs"?

Anonymous said...

I am a high school English teacher in DeKalb. Here are my suggestions:

1. Dump America's Choice. It is a waste of time and money. I hate it. I find the AC personnel condescending and insulting. I haven't heard a single teacher say anything positive about it.

2. 9th and 10th graders take the PSAT in DeKalb. I believe the state pays for one year and DeKalb pays for the other. 9th graders really don't need to take the PSAT. By the way, did you know that 9th graders in Title I schools are being tested to death? In the fall they took a two day ACT (partnered with America's Choice) college readiness test. They took the PSAT. in March they took America's Choice End of Course tests in three subjects: Math, English, and Biology. That's three more day of testing for an End of Course test that occurred just over halfway through 4X4 block scheduled semester. And they will be taking the 9th grade EOCTs next month.

3. My school is on block so I am lucky that I don't have to teach 6 out of 7 classes, but I still can't believe that some teachers will have to. That will have the greatest negative impact on education. I can barely keep up paper load as it is.

4. Get rid of the dreaded benchmarks required by the county. It's just one more meaningless thing that wastes more of our time. The English benchmarks are poorly written and full of errors. They are not accurate assessments of students' abilities. Getting rid of them would save paper and toner and would free up more time for teachers to plan and grade papers.

5. A student in a class of 25 is going to get much better instruction than a student in a class of 31. Do not raise class sizes.

Anonymous said...

To add to Anon 1:09

1. Use the Kittredge model in all schools from kindergarten on up. Make school challenging for the children and many more will accept that challenge and run with it. It is my belief that all kids want to learn and will accept the challenges given to them if the teacher cares.

2. Right size the Central office, so that the majority of the money is used on the children-where it should be.

3. Keep Library assistants/paras, so that research and critical thinking that goes along with real research is possible in our schools.

4. Raise the bar and do not pass students who do not have the skills for the next grade.

5. Allow students to earn zeros. Make homework due on time. Allow teachers to grade only the homework that is turned in on time.

6. Have discipline in our schools. Do not tolerate bullying or other negative behaviors. Not make principals afraid of their job if they get rid of too many children. Principals, teachers, and others who work in the school are there to educate the children. This cannot be done when discipline is lacking within the walls of the school. It also won't happen if parents are not pulled out of work to deal with their children.

Teachers can be fired. It takes a great deal of paper work on the part of the principal and they are rarely wanting to go through it. They don't want to hurt the person's feelings, make waves within the school, or are just too lazy to fill out the paper work and do what is required. As a teacher, I see that good teachers and teaching aren't really valued in DCSS. Keep your documentation and take it up as far as you need to. Principals and administrators have to remember it's about the kids and it's not personal. We must remind them that we don't want trash in our schools, as our kids deserve the best.

Anonymous said...

Use the Kittredge model in all schools from kindergarten on up.

Blah...there is no such thing as a "Kittredge" Model.

Anonymous said...

9th graders really don't need to take the PSAT

8th graders take the PSAT as well, but the parents pay for it. Also, I disagree that 9th graders don't need it. As a parent, I believe taking the PSAT is a useful tool for understanding what lies ahead when the PSAT and SAT actually "count".

Anonymous said...

If you want your 9th grader to take the PSAT, then you should pay for it, not the system. They don't pay for it when 11th graders take it, the year it does "count."

Anonymous said...

I think that we should also get rid of either the ITBS or COGAT from first grade. The board had this as a possibility and then decided against it. As a first grade teacher, most of October is wasted on these tests. I go easy with the teaching during testing time. My students are six, and are adjusting to first grade at this time. It is not necessary to have two separate standardized tests for these particular students.

Nikole Allen

Anonymous said...

If you want your 9th grader to take the PSAT, then you should pay for it, not the system. They don't pay for it when 11th graders take it, the year it does "count."

So, you don't see an academic benefit from taking the PSAT in the 9th grade? So, what you are saying is that the school system should not pay for giving the students a prior look and preparation for this test? Can't have it both ways. You can't bash DCSS for not paying attention to academics (whether you like it or not preparation for the PSAT is very importatn - you know that pesky National Merit program?), and then turn around and say they should not pay for it. Make up your mind.

Anonymous said...

So, you don't see an academic benefit from taking the PSAT in the 9th grade? So, what you are saying is that the school system should not pay for giving the students a prior look and preparation for this test?

The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT. It is meant to be a "sneak peak" at the SAT. The idea that students need a sneak peak at the sneak peak is rather silly. If parents want their students to take it in 9th grade, they can pay for it themselves.

Anonymous said...

Uh, yeah, I think I'm aware of the National Merit program, and as an SAT tutor and someone who has worked with College Board, I can tell you that they do not suggest giving it to 9th graders. When 9th graders get their scores back, they aren't even given their percentile rankings to compare how they did with other 9th graders. 10th graders do get to see how their scores compare with those of other 10th graders. Obviously, the same holds true with 11th graders. If you want an idea of how your kids are going to do on the PSAT/SAT, there are other, less expensive ways to gauge that. Have the school offer SAT/ACT prep as an elective. Utilize the College Board online SAT tutorial that the governor has purchased for every GA high school student. Merely taking a test designed for 11th graders in the 9th grade is not the same as preparing for it. This posting asked for suggestions for cuts, and think eliminating the PSAT for 9th graders makes a heck of lot more sense than cramming more students in the classroom or having teachers teach 6/7 classes.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:36 PM

Removing bad teachers via expulsion is a delicate issue, but you're right. To tell it like it is, it's a CRIME shame DCSS (or any school system for that matter) to allow incompetence in our classrooms. It's a harsh thing to say, but bad teachers MUST be purged from the school system.
I have seen teachers ridicule others to cover-up their own shortcomings or abilities. They don't need to be in this profession. Period. You have bad teachers out there that have PAID for their advanced degrees. In other words, they did not EARN it. Merit pay is a step in the right direction, but it is not full-proof if you will. Bear in mind, teaching is a gift. Yes, it can be acquired, but it requires almost something innate and passionate to want to bring out what's already inside each of us. I understand what the anonymous post meant by not giving full credit to thanking a teacher for their being able to read. The root word for EDUCation is "educe," which means TO DRAW or BRING OUT. This is the epitome of what a GOOD TEACHER does, that is, bringing out the knowledge that already lies (dormant) within each of us. Give thanks to the Creator -- and let your "ego" go.
It is also important to recognize that there are some teachers that have the knowledge of a particular content area, but lack the actual teaching skills to help our children learn and apply what they are learning in the classroom. I rather work with these teachers than with bad teachers who have NO ambition or desire whatsoever to improve their own personal and professional skills -- other than receiving a paycheck in a profession they believe government will always keep them gainfully employed. Yes, you are right, administrators should be held accountable for identifying and removing these "bad apples."

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in DCSS, let me say thanks for the opportunity to give some ideas without fear of retribution. We so appreciate the support of the community and the parents! There are many ways that DCSS can change things for the better. First, GUT the central office and only add those positions that actually SUPPORT the local school. There are way too many people down there making TONS of money inventing work for us just to justify their positions. Second, reduce the amount of things we have to do such as benchmarks and paperwork so that we can actually do what we were initially hired to do – TEACH!! Third, get rid of the Instructional Coaches. They are a total waste of money and have done absolutely nothing to help impact instruction in the classroom. Our coach often sits in meetings all day saying and doing absolutely NOTHING! It angers me that she makes more than I do and does far less! Fourth, stop spending staff development money on sending non-classroom personnel to conferences and workshops. The staff development model of train-the-trainer is an absolute waste of time and money!
In response to the earlier post about teachers using incorrect grammar, we also have assistant principals that can’t spell (or use spell check), speak correctly, or model correct language for our students. Start by getting rid of them and then the teachers! Thanks again and keep up the great work on here!

Anonymous said...

The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT. It is meant to be a "sneak peak" at the SAT. The idea that students need a sneak peak at the sneak peak is rather silly. If parents want their students to take it in 9th grade, they can pay for it themselves

It's not "silly" to me at all, so please no insults. I would rather see programs that benefit a few, i.e. SST, Magnet programs cut before the PSAT payments.

Cerebration said...

I have to agree with Anon 6:40 PM. I work in corporate training and we long ago gave up the "train the trainer" model. Direct training, coaching and evaluating works best. This is why I was so upset to see that only 40 of the 200 people sent to the America's Choice conference were teachers. We would have been much better off to have worked out a deal with AC to do a separate training (or two) right here in Atlanta for the bulk of our teachers.

On another note - for those interested, we have a link to the SAT question of the day on the right hand column of the home page of this blog. Students (and teachers) would benefit from the daily prep these actual SAT questions provide. You can subscribe to the questions and the College Board will track your responses - letting you know how you are doing in various subjects. In addition, they provide Free practice tests online.

It's totally free! Try it!

Anonymous said...

Many state school systems suggest and promote the use of PSAT in the 9th grade.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe too there will be a mass EXODUS from DCSS in 2011. I see DCSS having numerous parallels with Clayton County. DeKalb may be next. Isn't that ironic. DCSS and DeKalb County in general at one time were at the forefront of education in the State of Georgia, and the county once was compared to Prince Hall County in Maryland in terms of earning/purchasing power among African Americans in the nation. We know the problems, but I'm more concerned with the solutions. Before we delve into the solutions, we better make sure we understand what's going on. This is my take on it. We are losing the "intellectuals" to the "accumulation of power & wealth" type. There needs to be more PARITY with respect to pay in the education field. It's just like housing prices...I've alway felt the housing market, particularly in the U.S., was/is overpriced. Similarly, there are positions at the central office that are off the charts. This is rediculous! Maybe this is why we experience "cycles" in our economy and society. We definitely need to shake some trees. Celebration and others have indentified many areas for us to cut.
Before I comment anymore, let me think about something. How will teachers feel when intelligent machines (i.e., computers and networks) compete with us for our jobs? Will we then be deemed top-heavy? Future educators have to be technologically savvy to compete for future jobs. Believe it or not, he bottom line is to invest in technology to lower costs.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:37 is on the track. I think that DeKalb County is on a downward spiral. Some of this is due to the general economy and also to the county government and DCSS.

Over the past eight years, the demographic change really has changed the county. Particularly, South DeKalb has not lived up to its promise. It has a very high foreclosure rate. Real estate values have markedly declined, but the demand for services increases and becomes harder to educate the population. As Vernon Jones once pointed out, Atlanta closed down its housing projects and many of the tenets ended up in DeKalb causing the crime rate to increase. There are other factors like this.

both the County government and DCSS have not helped the situation. The agenda of both seems to be to function as a job bank by collecting as much money in taxes as possible and creating as many jobs at the highest possible salaries and fringe benefits, leaving over just enough to perform a minimum amount of the essential county government services and educating children. Maybe DCSS will change. The budget will tell us on Monday night.

I really see little hope for DeKalb County in general at least over the next five years since real estate values will not be increasing. Both the county government and DCSS have to face the fact that it is a new paradigm and they will have to function with considerably less resources.

Anonymous said...

National Merit Scholarship is a really big deal, and that's ties to the PSAT. However, I don't know what DeKalb does with the 9th grade data, if anything. It certainly isn't much use to the 9th graders. There's a simple reason to not pay for it junior is collected, a metric is generated, and you only want the best tested. Some groups of students and their parents are not well-informed about the test, but the school/district makes sure that the best and brightest have their #2 pencils sharpened come test day.

Anonymous said...

My spouse commented on my post. She said, "How the heck you expect DCSS to invest in technology, when you constantly complain you can't get ink and paper for your printer -- and you resort to buying it yourself out-of-pocket?" I replied, "That's exactly my point, something is wrong with their thinking (and management) at the central office and higher. We can't blame it just on budget deficits." I then got a look from my wife without her saying a word. I then said, "I understand your point, but what I'm saying is there needs to be a change in the mindset of the leadership. We need a RENAISSANCE in how we learn. Period. Teachers should be building course content employing publishing tools that contain text, audio, and video. Computers should be employed to deliver that content. The media and technology is in place to design & implement it now. Teachers should be collaborating and building courseware in their respective content areas as a learning resource. Go look at the wealth of tools, information and knowledge on the Internet. We have to change our thinking. I would like to see funds set aside for teachers to do summer jobs with reputable firms/gov't agencies doing work in their content areas. In fact, it should be a REQUIREMENT for ALL TEACHERS every 3 years. School districts can obtain feedback on their performance in the REAL WORLD. Now we use this data to begin talking about weeding out bad teachers."

Dekalbparent said...

Are teachers still required to pass InTech? That was a course that was entirely oriented to using technology in the classroom. I took that one as well as WebTech, and we had to create and present several lessons for each of these courses. We also had to present an online portfolio to the rest of the class. It seemed as though DCSS was embracing technology in the classroom by requiring teachers to learn the InTech material.

It seemed as though what we did kind of disappeared beneath the waves after we finished the class, though - we went back to same-old same-old, because there was little or no encouragement / support from administration (The courses were optional for them, and it seemed they never really understood what we were doing. It seemed frivolous to them, I guess). I was lucky enough to be able to jump in and create a bunch of learning games for the kids, as well as have them create their own online presentations for the rest of the class. I even taught them -4th graders - to create their own games for each other.

Anonymous said...

@4. "Get rid of the dreaded benchmarks required by the county. It's just one more meaningless thing that wastes more of our time. The English benchmarks are poorly written and full of errors. They are not accurate assessments of students' abilities. Getting rid of them would save paper and toner and would free up more time for teachers to plan and grade papers."

These just a couple of reasons why this thread was created in the first place! Why aren't teachers helping to write the benchmark assessments (in all content areas)to ensure that they are a TRUE assessment of students' abilities?

Who creates them and jow would eliminating them "save toner"...I'm confused?????

Anonymous said...

@8:47 keep a watchful forward eye on the Milton County legislation the next few years. If Dunwoody is able to join Milton under a grandfathered "we used to be Milton" argument then DeKalb will be in a tougher financial situation than you project.

Anonymous said...

Many have mentioned technology as the key to the future. If the current proposed budget is approved next week, you can pretty much shut down technology in most of the elementary schools. Proposed budget cuts will remove media clerks, CTSS positions,and paras. This will result in limited technology functioning. The librarians and the above personnel work as a team to keep the computer labs and computer programs rolling every day by assisting teachers and students. How will the school continue to keep everything working---Compass Learning, the Georgia OAS CRCT prep site, Discovery Education, Accelerated Reader and Math, school web sites, and many other technology activities?

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I'm talking about. There's NO clear vision as to where DCSS is or wants to go. It shows in their lack of commitment and vision. The handwriting is on the wall, the children act as if their cell phones, MP3 players, bluetooth, etc. are an integral part of their, let's say, DIGITAL existence. Don't we refer to them as the THUMB GENERATION? Repackage their learning experience in digital media form and they will suck it all up.
The sad fact is, many of our teachers are not proficient with technology. Yes, it's difficult to transition from traditional methods of instruction, but it is necessary to adapt to what I view as a NEW RENAISSANCE in teaching and learning.
We need people at the central office and on the BOE that really understand technology and how it's going to drive education in the future. In fact, they should demonstrate they are abreast with current technology in its application to education--not just a cursory understanding. If they don't, then they are not qualified to lead. You MUST be willing to move with or ahead of the curve. It's a new "digital" world and there's a REVOLUTION going on not only with information, but in the field of education. This is the direction DCSS must move in. I would like to see local business leaders in hi-tech information and telecom companies sit on our BOE. It's true, the only constant is change. It's time for a change! Get 'em outta there...

Anonymous said...

At our school, teachers are told that if the press comes to the school to ask questions, we are not to answer them. We are to tell them to go the office.

Anonymous said...

At our school, teachers are told that if the press comes to the school to ask questions, we are not to answer them. We are to tell them to go the office

Any school visitors are to go into the office and sign in at every school. No one can just walk around school buildings without permission.

Anonymous said...

PSAT in 9th and 10th grades are paid for by the state not DCSS.

However, the state only pays for one AP test per year per student-- DCSS is paying for the rest. I think this needs to change, except for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

First, paying for the test themselves would give parents and students skin in the game, perhaps giving parents a bit more motivation to make sure their kids are studying.

Second, each test is about $80, a huge value as compared to the college credits that are received in exchange for a good performance on the test.

Anonymous said...

Previous post said:
"Repackage their learning experience in digital media form and they will suck it all up.
The sad fact is, many of our teachers are not proficient with technology. Yes, it's difficult to transition from traditional methods of instruction, but it is necessary to adapt to what I view as a NEW RENAISSANCE in teaching and learning."

We agree completely. But the proposed budget cuts will eliminate most personnel that can help the teachers transition to the NEW RENAISSANCE that we desire. Libraries now have the hardware and devices to promote this new education. All were excited about the prospect of involving students and teachers in new multimedia/digital approaches to learning. With staff cut to the bare bones and no volunteers at many schools coupled with larger class size, technology advancement will come to a halt in the elementary school. And this is where it should all start!
We ask the county to please look into alternative cuts before passing this budget. We need our paras, media clerks, and CTSS positions at the local school level. AS teachers find less and less planning time due to other cuts, the above team members are a vital link to our success in advancing technology.

AS a side note, it is an unwritten rule for those in the local school to keep our opinions to ourselves or suffer consequences.

Teacher said...

I just read over the posts since you asked teachers for our views--and it's so great to see opinions and viewpoints from teachers AND parents about what to do! Somehow I feel that if we sat down together, there would be great discussions and, yes, disagreements. PSAT or not, and when...well, people can actually discuss and change their minds. Discussion, remember,used to be a way of evolving knowledge and attitudes. Parents and teachers need a forum to communicate in that's task-oriented and devoted to helping DCSS avoid the coming train wreck.

Such discussions don't need to focus on shortcomings of either group--teachers or parents--but need to come up with concrete suggestions.

Some issues I see as key:

-technology: you're right, we need to enter the 21st century. Many teachers are techno-phobic, and many CTSS are unskilled, too. Key question: what do DCSS kids need, and how can the system go about providing it to them? Teachers need to drive the content of instruction, and tech staff should help them with training, real support (present in a few schools now: look to them as models), and innovative ideas. CTSS personnel should be able to help with both hardware AND software--how to use a Smartboard, how to make a video, and how to use inDesign, MS Word and PPT (and MSOffice should, incidentally, be updated to the 2007 suite). We should adopt a program like Blackboard (which they have at other state institutions) to allow for online communication, assignments, and test-taking.

-textbooks: some need updating more often than others. Science texts probably change more each year than other texts, but that doesn't mean you need new books all the time. Since funds are tight, you could use existing County resources (science teachers, Fernbank Sci Cnt, AND skilled parents) to provide an ongoing flow of new, exciting information to teachers and students, using current texts for basics.

-discipline, discipline, discipline, and yes, give zeroes for no homework. Discipline only works well on the most difficult students, though, if parents are involved--in-school consequences are not a substitute for home training. Parental involvement in some schools is a huge obstacle--parents, you're right, not as much can be achieved without it. Does DCSS have a solution for this nationwide problem? But this does relate to:

-leadership. We need principals selected for their leadership skills, not not because they're somebody's brother-in-law or friend. It doesn't make sense to remove principals from higher-performing schools to put them in poorer-performing schools, unless they volunteer to go--then, both schools suffer. Better to cultivate leaders from within the communities they serve. How do you know who's a good leader? Ask the students, parents, and, most of all, the teachers--not the School Board or Central Office. We already have one instrument for this in place, the PAL...

-...the PAL (Profile of Leadership Assessment) is a survey given annually for the last many years that staff fill out for their administrators. It assesses their leadership ability--how effective is he/she in each of many categories. Staff are told that this info will not be used as a tool to replace supervisors' ratings--but why shouldn't it be considered if the goal is to develop effective leadership? Every administrator in DCSS now has on file several years' worth of staff evaluations of his/her effectiveness. This could be used as a first step in determining who should remain as a supervisor, and who either needs retraining, or should resume teaching duties.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:09--you are so right about the AP tests. DCSS is paying for all these kids to take these tests, and as a result they are required to show up and take them. However, if you ever get the chance to proctor one, you can see that anywhere from half to 2/3 don't even bother to look at the booklet--they put their heads on the table and nap! They just took the class to get the extra quality point for their GPA. Make them pay, and you will get kids taking it who really want to (although you are right about the means test).

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:09--you are so right about the AP tests. DCSS is paying for all these kids to take these tests, and as a result they are required to show up and take them. However, if you ever get the chance to proctor one, you can see that anywhere from half to 2/3 don't even bother to look at the booklet--they put their heads on the table and nap! They just took the class to get the extra quality point for their GPA. Make them pay, and you will get kids taking it who really want to (although you are right about the means test).

What an idiotic post!!! And it's an insult to the AP teachers and students taking AP. Those teachers are taking their own time for reviews before/after school, Saturday mornings, etc., These teachers and their students work their tails off in these AP classes and for you to dismiss their efforts is wrong on so many levels. Shame on you!!!

btw, most students take AP courses so that they may earn college credit. Most students who take AP classes already have good GPA's.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:03 pm

Based on your very astute post, in order for teachers and students to use technology effectively, DCSS needs to meet the following 3 criteria:
1. Access to abundant technology equipment
2. Consistent availability of technology hardware and software that is installed correctly and repaired promptly
3. The trainer needs to be the CTSS, DCSS's on-site technology employee

When Ms. Tyson was head of the technical group, her job before she was made director of MIS, she instituted two very strict rules:
1. CTSS and Network personnel are not responsible for software, only hardware. During a software installation if the icon appears on the desktop and the program opens, it is considered a successful install.
2. No CTSS or technical person can be involved in any training of teachers or students

ms. Tyosn's argument is that the MIS technical personnel have such heavy workloads with the network and hardware that software expertise and training would be too much of a burden. However, these two rules that Ms. Tyson instituted have placed DCSS teachers and students at the bottom of the technology curve.

The rules governing the installation of software and hardware as well as the availability of CTSSs to cross train in functions to meet teacher and student needs must change. It's now up to Tony Hunter, the new Director of MIS, to implement the three criteria for successful technology use listed above.

No Duh said...

I may be misreading, but I THINK Anon 12:07 meant to speak about the PSAT -- NOT the AP tests. As anon 12:38 is correct that usually students taking the AP tests are very serious about them. Granted, anon 12:38 you could have been a bit more diplomatic. Let's not cannabilize each other here. I think we are all more in agreement about most of these ideas, than non-agreement.

And, as a point of information, Tony Hunter is the EXECUTIVE Director of MIS. Our astute BOE gave him a promotion in the mist of the worst software installation in the history of DCSS. In a corporation, Hunter would have been fired. In Japan, he would have been expected to commit suicide.

Now, back to your solutions.

Here's a thought... If you didn't have to teach the America's Choice curriculum, what other things could/would you do in your classroom that would lead to the same result?

Anonymous said...

So you want the CTSS to become a trainer in addition to their other daily functions such as hall monitor, lunch duty, bus duty and setting up cones for after school pick-up duty. Would you also suggest that the CTSS be compensated more for this additional duty? They are now paid well as it is.

As a former DCSS CTSS, I know the majority of those guys and ladies work very hard daily at making sure their schools hardware and software are functioning properly. In addition to this tedious task, the principal assigns them other duties in the building. I know of some that have 3 or 4 additional duties still at a very low salary. I now work in the private sector as a tech support specialist and we are now required to do any training. For the record, our salary is much higher than a CTSS with DCSS. In addition, all training is handled by another unit in our business whose sole responsibility is to train associates.

For those of you who don't know, DCSS has a unit whose sole responsibility is to train teachers and staff on the use of hardware and software. Any teacher who is not aware of this I would say shame on them. The Instructional Support Specialist do an excellent job of training on the hardware and software.

Before anyone suggests adding more responsibility to the CTSS, are you willing to fight for them to get a raise in salary. CTSSs are a vital component in the schoolhouse and are needed every day in every school.

Anonymous said...

Previous post should have read "they are not paid well" and also "we are not required to train". This is pertaining to the CTSS post. I apologize for the typos. :-)

Teacher said...

I agree with the former-CTSS Anonymous that the same position should not involve both hardware-server maintenance-etc tasks, and personnel-training tasks. The people who choose each of these careers often have different skills, interests, and talents, and most corporations recognize this by having the different functions assigned to different departments.

It would be helpful to know how many people in DCSS are Instructional Support Specialists. We have used these people before and found them very helpful, but also quite specialized (i.e., knowing website design but not SmartBoards or PPT). Are there enough generalists in this dept to be able to provide, say, one for every two or three schools, as the CTSS staff are now allocated?

To determine need, we'd have to ask teachers what tasks they most often need help with. The number who don't understand basic computer navigation, eSIS, and how to streamline and mazimize their use of Word, PPT, and the SmartBoards, is high. This lack of knowledge takes time away from productivity.

How could this be addressed?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 12:07
While some later posters have taken issue with your comments, there is much truth in what you say. High schools push lots of kids into AP classes who are not serious, motivated, or prepared to be there. Johnny Brown was a huge fan of everyone taking AP. There are national rankings of high schools that give points for numbers of kids in AP classes, not how well they do on the tests, so there is pressure to get kids into those classes and to take the tests. I know at my child's high school, there was one AP course with well over 70 kids enrolled, where only a few received scores of 4 or 5 (which is what most colleges require for credit). The majority received 1's and 2's, the equivalent of failing scores. There were several kids who took this test and left essays blank, left the test early, etc. Many of these kids earned A's in the class but obviously didn't master the material or care about the AP test.

Has anyone ever seen a distribution of AP scores for all the schools? We have asked and no one is willing to offer this up. I know there are a couple of schools where many students perform highly on several AP tests (one of these schools is a magnet) but for the majority of high schools in the county, this is not the case.

Cerebration said...

Teachers, you may wish to print out this poem.

This poem has reached the office of a Senator and may be read at the next voting of the bill (if it gets back to the senate). It is in the hands of the Orlando Sentinal and could be published there.

A Teacher in Florida

by Jamee Cagle Miller
2009 Seminole County Teacher of the Year

Anonymous said...

Why don't the children pay for AP and PSAT tests if they wish to take them? I have never heard of a school district or even a private school that pays for these classes-at least not where I grew up. This shocks me that the district is footing the bill for these tests, which should fall on parents and not tax payers.

Anonymous said...

My dream:

A manual for teachers and administrators on how to use Esis and other programs that the district has purchased. We get info in bits and pieces but not at one time or in one place.

Anonymous said...

I understand the concern about budget cuts, but that does NOT preclude us from sharing our ideas. I'm watching the economy just like everyone else. I'm a proponent of technology driving education. I don't care if the economy goes down the tubes tomorrow. Do we STOP planning for tomorrow? I hope not. I personally don't like what's ahead for the U.S. in the next 12-18 months -- based on all of the legislation that's taken place in the past 15 months. Things are just moving too fast -- so much is happening in such a short time. Despite this, I still recognize the fact we exist and operate our lives in a digital world. We transact billions of dollars each day in our economy. This is E-COMMERCE. If our children are going to compete and thrive in this global electronic economy, then it's a no-brainer to say that we EDUCATION HAS TO MOVE IN THIS DIRECTION TOO. Tell me something, do you really believe we have to STOP living our lives if Wall Street crashes tomorrow? I think not. Are the "resources" we need going to somehow disapper? I think not. You may say, money drives everything. Then you tell me who's in control? Money, pieces of paper, or people like you and I? We have to change the way we think. Let's use what we have and build on that...

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever seen a distribution of AP scores for all the schools?

Who have you asked? The scores on the test are sent directly from College Board - not the schools. Though, there is this chart:

themommy said...

2004-2008 AP Scores by school (but not by subject)

Tony Eitel is generally pretty helpful. If someone asks, he will probably update the chart to include the 2009 scores

Anonymous said...

Here's one to build on . . .

About 5.5% or 62 million dollars of the 2009-2010 DeKalb School Budget comes from the federal government.

To get the money, we have to participate in NCLB and give the CRCT.

I'm more familiar with middle schools than with elementary or High Schools, but in Middle School we spend at least 5 days on the test (after testing each day, not much is going to get done). How many days are spent preparing for the CRCT? You wouldn't believe how much time is spent "teaching the test." Yes, we spend a lot of time on basic knowledge level questions and forgo the higher level thinking skills.

What if we opted not to continue participating in NCLB, not to take the CRCT, shorten the school year by 10 days and tell the feds to keep their 5.5%?

Other states have done this.


Cerebration said...

Anon - I can't tell you how many times I've suggested that! NCLB costs states MORE to implement than they are reimbursed with federal funds! It's nuts!

Cerebration said...

For more on the subject of NCLB, visit education advocate, Susan Ohanian's website -

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The grassroots rebellion against the controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act already has spread in some form to 47 of the 50 states and is likely to flare up in particular in such states as Minnesota, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia during the 2005-2006 school year, according to a new report from, a project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI).

The report entitled "NCLB Left Behind: Understanding the Growing Grassroots Rebellion Against a Controversial Law"

( provides a detailed national overview of the growing state and local dissent against NCLB. The NCLB-related backlash is documented in terms of anti-NCLB legislation (21 states); opting out/waivers/ exemptions (40 states); litigation (four cases, with more in the offing); NCLB unfunded-mandate cost studies (21 states); and NCLB school failure rate studies (including one by MA showing NCLB will flunk 75-90 percent of schools over time).

Cerebration said...

Of course, if you're really interested in a NCLB debate, read this moral perspective -- Ten Moral Concerns in the Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act
A Statement of the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy

Christian faith speaks to public morality and the ways our nation should bring justice and compassion into its civic life. This call to justice is central to needed reform in public education, America’s largest civic institution, where enormous achievement gaps alert us that some children have access to excellent education while other children are left behind. The No Child Left Behind Act * is a federal law passed in 2001 that purports to address educational inequity. Now several years into No Child Left Behind’s implementation, as its hundreds of sequential regulations have begun to be triggered, it is becoming clear that the law is leaving behind more children than it is saving. The children being abandoned are our nation’s most vulnerable children—children of color and poor children in America’s big cities and remote rural areas—the very children the law claims it will rescue. We examine ten moral concerns in the law’s implementation.

Anonymous said...

There are many areas where DCSS wastefully spends, especially in new building projects. For example, I saw the invoice for my newly purchased teacher's chair and from what I could tell, they were $500 each. We were not allowed to keep any of our old furniture despite the fact most of it was perfectly usable. I recognize that some of our old furniture needed to be tossed, but not all of it! I would rather have computers for my students and paper for the copier!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:01 pm

"For those of you who don't know, DCSS has a unit whose sole responsibility is to train teachers and staff on the use of hardware and software. Any teacher who is not aware of this I would say shame on them. The Instructional Support Specialist do an excellent job of training on the hardware and software. "

F.Y.I. They are not Instructional Support Specialists. They are Instructional Technology Specialists and have had that title for 10 years.

There are 7 Instructional Support Specialists to train on teachers on all of the software and SmartBoards in DCSS i.e. almost 7,000 teachers. That is a ratio of 1000 teachers to 1 trainer.

There are 110 CTSSs in DCSS. That is a ratio of 63 teachers to 1 technical support person. In addition, there are 173 other technical support personnel who are not trainers or software personnel in DCSS. What do these people do? If teachers do not know how to use the software, why even have the hardware or spend approximately $19,000,000 in salary and benefits for personnel to maintain it?

It might interest DCSS parents/taxpayers to know that Forsyth and Gwinnett schools have put their money into having Instructional Technology Specialists (certified teachers) in every school. They have a lesser number of CTSS personnel who are centrally located. The Instructional Technology Specialists do the training and day to day hardware and software troubleshooting. If the Instructional Technology teacher encounters a problem they can't fix, they call in one of the CTSSs.

Atlanta Public Schools has more Instructional Specialists than Certified Technical Support specialists (CTSS). They function in a similar manner to Gwinnett and Forsyth.

Fulton County Schools have a CTSS in every school. They maintain the equipment as well as train teachers on software and new programs.

Perhaps it is time DCSS looked at changing how they deliver technology services to teachers and students. The DeKalb way is not working for our teachers and students. Do teachers remember the eSis training they received? The "train the trainer" method puts more work on teachers and drains attention from their students and the classroom.

Anonymous said...

For all the technology lovers,

Yes, technology is a great thing. But we need teachers who know their subject matter first and foremost.

I've seen teachers who don't truly have a grasp of their subject matter have the students take DAYS of class time to produce a power point slide show on a singular topic, then take DAYS to present the slide show as each person takes their turn. Then we wonder why the students do so poorly on standardized testing. I guess that (a) the standardized testing is not in power point format and (b) the standardized testing requires knowledge of the actual subject matter.

Really - do the countries that outperform us in math or science use these programs on a daily or even weekly basis? I doubt it.
I've seen the videos of the children in India crammed into a room, without enough books, with NO technology . . . and yet look at their math scores.

Yeah I know, before some of you have a cow, there are other factors. But really my point is simple, we've forgotten or lost sight of the fundamentals.

Worry about the pace that math teachers are required to teach, not the brand of calculator. Worry about the number of kids in a science lab, not the size of the computer screen.

Bells and whistles.

But, no one knows how to make a bell or a whistle anymore. Well, the Chinese do. :-)

Anonymous said...

"Yeah I know, before some of you have a cow, there are other factors. But really my point is simple, we've forgotten or lost sight of the fundamentals."

The problem is the "cow" in this case is costing DCSS close to $19,000,000 in salary and benefits and what is the return on investment for students? That's pretty fundamental.

Anonymous said...

I have been an elementary school teacher in DeKalb county for ten years. Prior to becoming a teacher I worked for many years in the private sector. I love my job because the kids are super. I believe DeKalb can be great again and that it should not take long to get there. I appreciate the opportunity to give feedback regarding the state of our school system and how to change it for the better. Here are my suggestions:

1 - Hire a superintendent and elect a board who make decisions based on what is best for the

2 - Take a careful look at the central office staff.
Justify every position and salary. Make adjustments accordingly.

3 - Hire good teachers.

4 - Fire bad teachers.

5 - Treat the teachers you keep as professionals.

6 - Stop creating unnecessary paperwork for teachers and mindless testing for students. Paperwork takes time away from a good teacher's ability to plan, deliver, and assess instruction. Constant testing limits a student's time to actually LEARN the curriculum and diminishes the importance of tests in general.

7 - Write a job description for teachers. Decide what a teacher's daily duties should be and how the work will be accomplished. Be specific and realistic. Compare the job description to what teachers are currently being asked to do.

8- Since I started teaching 10 years ago, each of the following have been added to a teacher's workload. No additional help has been offered.

*Benchmark tests

*Level I plans


*GPS boards

*Instructional boards

*Focus walks

*Tiers for referral to SST

I hope that the citizens of DeKalb get behind the effort to rebuild this broken school system. The kids are counting on all of us.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:00pm

It wouldn't take long for things to turn around, if the people were competent. However, we don't have competent people making decisions, so it will take a long time for turn around.

Things like portfolios, tiers for SST, benchmarks, posting of standards and such paper work, happens everywhere in education. The problem is that in DCSS, we don't have competent people in Central Office to make these things happen, so it involves more work for the teacher. Many of these things are also mandated from No Child Left Behind, which would require the district to not take federal dollars for them to be stopped-not likely to happen.

Having solid benchmark assessments that gave us useful information would help us to be better teachers. Instead the tests are poorly written and often have the incorrect answers, so it requires more teacher time.

Getting to SST, should not be the long process that it is. Teachers should have received training on how to help students in areas, what is acceptable as data, how long to try activities before you move on to something new. Instead, we have received no help or guidance. A few people sorta kinda have been told what is going on, but reality is that they do not know what is going on either.

As an educator for 15 years and having seen change come about, it will take about 8-10 years for things to get better, this would require us to hire a good superintendent with a track record of turning districts around and the DeKalb public to vote competent people who value a solid education for our county. Unless these two things happen, change will not occur and the same old, same old will continue to happen in DCSS.

Anonymous said...


Re: InTech

Here's what I know...

InTech was designed as a 50 hour course which not only taught teachers how to integrate technology into lesson plans, it required teachers to implement four technology-based lesson plans in their subject area. Were there flaws? Sure - it was a lot of material to cover, it was a lot of time - 50 hours in the course, plus time to create the lessons.

Was it effective? I think so, for many teachers.

What happened? There was a must have this requirement done by June of 200? (Sorry, can't remember). DeKalb, for one, was going to miss the deadline by thousands of teachers. Thousands. Rumors floated - lose your certificate, drop your salary to provisional, etc.

So in came the Test. It was an online debacle. 1. It did not teach any of the skills (integrating technology into curriculum) that were the focus of the course 2. The standard was set ridiculously low. The pass rate was over 90% first time out, even from teachers who were barely literate.
So teachers took the test in droves, and fulfilled the requirement that way.
DeKalb could have used more trainers but their ITS staff was excellent throughout the ordeal.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 12:39 -

I forgot about the deadline. InTech was taught all over the place, though, not just inside the schools. It was offered at Kennesaw and GPC, but you had to do it on your own time.

I agree the ITS staff did a great job when they taught it - but to save time in my school, they did a "train the trainer" approach. The original course was taught well and thoroughly, but the teacher who taught everybody else did not really have a clue (even stole another teacher's 4 InTech lesson plans and claimed they were original).

I took the courses on my own time and there were several Fulton and Atlanta schools employees in my class. All were sharp as a tack, and this is how I learned that Fulton and APS allowed non-certified employees to take the courses and return to be Tech "consultants" to the teachers in the schools. Their job was to help the teachers use technology in the classroom - not high paying, but very rewarding.

Anonymous said...

I took InTech in order to get my GA certificate through an on-line class. The premise of the class is stupid. The class was okay, as I was able to learn about the programs DeKalb buys for teachers to use. I will say that it was the best training that I have received while teaching in DCSS.

Anonymous said...

The Instructional Technology staff only numbers 7 people (out of 290 MIS personnel) so there is only so much they can do. I found them to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful in InTech as well.

It would be better if MIS had more instructional folks in their department. Maybe they wouldn't have spent $11,000,000 of taxpayers money for programs like eSis and SchoolNet - oops! Still spending millions - got to pay those programs off.

Anonymous said...

I am just sick and tired of having to listen to people because they're in charge when they haven't proven that they SHOULD be in charge! If you want to know what's necessary for student achievement, ask the teachers and allow them to give you honest answers. People are so afraid of being politically incorrect that nothing gets done because the truth never gets spoken. There are serious problems with student complacency/lack of a positive work ethic and discipline/disrespect for authority that will never be solved until we are allowed to truthfully acknowledge them without parents running to the county. These kids have no concept of cause and effect because so many of them never serve a serious consequence for their inappropriate behavior. Zeroes should be given for work not completed and turned in by the due date. If they're not, what is the point of a due date? Mandatory summer school should be reinstated at parent expense to give more weight to performance during the school year. If you can't get the job done in 180 days, then you'll have to get it done during the summer. We fail the kids when we don't hold them accountable.