Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Educators Are Learning From Money Managers

One of our regular bloggers sent us the link below to a recent article in Forbes magazine. The article highlights the achievements of the charter schools in New York and elsewhere. The system that seems to work best is the one that that is very business-like. It tracks the minutia of individual student's progress, reports those details to the teachers immediately so that the teachers can make individual adjustments. Competition and accountability rule this kind of high tech teaching system. Below are a few points I have bulleted from the article:

  • Innovative schools collect data, look for small changes, intervene quickly and move resources to the formulas that work.
  • In the past four decades spending per pupil (adjusted for inflation) has gone up 2.6 times, but sat scores have not budged.
  • Despite the $661 billion a year this country puts into public K--12 education, we are churning out a nation of mediocre graduates ill equipped to meet global competitors.
  • Roughly 10% to 15% of its teachers quit each year; another 5% or so are fired for poor performance, compared with 9% attrition and 4.4% dismissal rates for public schools.
DeKalb's list of charter schools is growing each year.  This year, three new charters will open their doors: The Museum School, New Hope Academy and The Leadership Academy. 

In a recent post, titled "North vs Central vs South - what's the deal?", we highlighted DeKalb's variety of "choice" schools, including our charters, and tried to show where students are attending when they leave their neighborhood schools.  Those neighborhood schools in some areas have lost literally hundreds of students to the "choice" schools—charters, magnets and themes. At some point, we will need to decide how to consolidate these schools with dwindling populations or perhaps close them entirely and move toward a system of free-choice for every student.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that you can run a school like a for-profit business. But I have heard teachers complain that they spend a large portion of instructional time testing students but don't receive the results in a timely fashion so that they can use them. Is our new ESIS software set up so a teacher can log in and instantly check an individual student's progress from year to year? Our current testing strategy is flawed because it measures groups of students from year to year rather than following the progress (or lack thereof) of individual students no matter where they might move.

Anonymous said...

Cere- Yes, I think the time for DCSS to close or consolidate many of our schools is way overdue. The failure to do so is contributing to the huge "school choice" transfer problem in our middle and high schools. And now schools that traditionally made AYP are stumbling.

DCSS has a number of middle and high schools that have not made AYP for 4 to 6 years. Once a school hits "Needs Improvement" status for the 4th year, I thought federal law required the system to close and reopen the school, restructure or pursue some other drastic turnaround option. Why is DCSS not doing this?

The state DOE has a very good 2010powerpoint presentation on NCLB/ESEA. Go to the DOE "Accountabiity" page, go to "Presentations" on the left and click on ABCs of AYP. About half way through you will see the testing standards that must be met. High school AYP is based on the GHSGT and % of students graduating. Most of our high schools have subgroups failing Math although some fail both math and ELA. Please note that the high school mastery level has remained the same for 2008-2010 but there will be a big step up next year in 2011.

Anonymous said...

The $11,000,000 spent (actually we're still paying for them) eSis and SchoolNet are supposed to provide this real time data tracking and instantaneous feedback for teachers on an individual student basis. Three years ago when she
was proposing eSis and Schoolnet, Ms. Tyson promised the BOE that the purchase of these 2 systems would deliver these benefits. MIS has not produced the bottomline results and given the necessary current access (or non access) of students to computers for online testing (not to speak of the obvious software problems). If you want to try accountability try having Ms. Tyson, Mr. Hunter and MIS taking some responsibility for the data feedback eveyone says teachers need but this department has absolutely failed to provide. DCSS is anyhing but a data driven school system because our teachers do not have the data in any usable form.

Anonymous said...

I'm a DCSS teacher, and I have my data. Of course, I have to score my benchmarks myself, disaggregate the students' scores myself, and then I base my teaching upon the results. I stay very late grading/disaggregating twice (pre and post) every six weeks so that I can use the disaggregated results the next day. Now if I were waiting on the county to do this....

Anonymous said...

$11,000,000 down the drain and no one is resposible or accountable. Certainly not the people who recommended the system (Ms. Tyson and Mr. Hunter) or the people who approved the expenditure (DCSS BOE). Does anyone think there would be no accountability in a business if critical data was not provided in an efficient and timely manner?

Anonymous said...

How could any business operate in such a non data driven manner? MIS needs to ask teachers what they need for their students and then deliver those services. DCSS spends around $19,000,000 a year for 290 employees. Why can't teachers get meaningful data in a timely manner? Why are students taking class to "bubble in" pencil pape tests every 6 weeks and teachers having to scam the information by hand and then number crunch with a calculator? This is like the 1970s and 80s. When will DCSS be entering the 21st century? What happened to the tens of millions of SPLOST III dollars spent on technology and the tens of millions spent every year on our Information Systems department?

Anonymous said...

The district can't get the data to the teachers in a timely fashion for them to use to teach the children in their classrooms. We have too many people running our schools and the district with little experience.

How many principals are running a school and haven't taught in that grade level range? How many principals have less than 5 or 6 years of actual classroom time? How many administrators are in their positions because of who they know and not what they know? Do we purchase the same heating and cooling units for similar sized buildings, so that we can purchase filters in bulk at a better rate? Do we think ahead when we buy smart boards for the classrooms and think about the cost of the bulbs that are needed to run the machine when the original blows out? Do we see if the green cleaning products that are being used are cleaning the classrooms well enough? Do we care that schools are overcrowded for the people that live in that district and stop transfers? Do we use money in the most effective way? Do we buy unnecessary things that have no impact on the education of our children-I am thinking permanent lights for board meetings? Do we have anyone paying attention to completing paperwork on time, ensuring that our children and tax payers get the millions of dollars coming to them?

I could go on. One wouldn't run a business this way and expect it to be viable. Millions upon millions of dollars have been lost or thrown away in law suits. People know that they can get money out of DeKalb. I have only been around for 3 years and I know this. Any business run in this manner would be belly up with the sheer waste of money that we've had and I've seen.

We need a business man running our school. We need a man who does not care if he is liked, but cares about doing the right thing for our children. I hope that we get this, but fear that those who do the hiring do not have our children's best interests in their hearts.

Anonymous said...

I fear that putting a "business person" in the superintendent's position would be like putting an "inexperienced teacher" in the position of principal....

Anonymous said...

Given that so much of our budgetary woes rest on inefficiency and mismanagement of educational dollars I think a person with business acumen is exactly who DCSS needs. Educational and business experience are not mutually exclusive. I worked in the corporate and small business world for a decade and taught for many years as well. There are people who have experience in both areas. I have seen the incredible waste that occurs when good business practices are not followed. That is exactly why we are not filling teacher positions and are packing our students into classrooms like sardines. Not from lack of revenue, but from mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. Heating a classroom to 80 degrees in the winter so the teacher has to open the windows in January. Spending $11,000,000 on a totally ineffective student management system. Overlying thousands of non teaching personnel over market wages annually. Spending tens of millions on learning programs that have not proves efficacious. These
are just a few examples of poor business practices and poor business leadership. So yes - I would take my chances with a business person.

Anonymous said...

Attention Clarkston High School and McNair High School parents and community members,

At today's state board meetings, your schools will receive approximately 2.5 million dollars to spend on school improvement over the next three years.

This is part of the The Title I, Part A, Section 1003(g) School Improvement Grants and Title I, Part A, Section 1003(g) ARRA School Improvement Grants provide financial resources to schools identified as persistently lowest achieving. Only about 10 schools in GA are receiving these grants.

You need to find out what the plans are at your schools to use this money.

You can read all about the grant


Clarkston HS $876,027.00(2011) $881,675.00 $836,637.00 $2,594,339.00
DeKalb County McNair HS $868,746.00 $800,986.00 $663,288.00 $2,333,020.00

Cerebration said...

FWIW - here is the link to the video about the New Orleans system's conversion to charters. It's a very complex topic. One that has great passion on both sides --


Cerebration said...

TEACHER magazine is promoting this month's book club book - looks interesting!

The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test

(Beacon Press) by Linda F. Nathan
Principal Linda F. Nathan and her teaching colleagues have created a thriving learning culture at the Boston Arts Academy by attending closely to student's needs, setting high expectations, and fostering creativity. In her book, Nathan gives readers a ringside seat as faculty, parents, and students grapple with tough questions about teaching, race, and achievement and work to implement solutions and evaluate outcomes.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure that having a purely business manager individual head of a school system without the sensibility of a a person who is sensitive to the needs of a community or knowledge of education is the best thing. If they can have both qualities, that wouild be the best of both worlds that we need. I definitely agree with consolidating these low enrollment schools and then create more criteria-based magnet schools that feed into other criteria-based magnet schools rather than feeder schools that can't make AYP or, or generally less desireable for parents who are trully invested in the social, moral, and educational environment of their children. For instance, Wadsworth, while is obviously a good institution, the feeder schools are undesireable and that is one of the reasons it is poorly attended. Parents are left scrambling when they are done at the school. Give us a guaranteed enrollment( not lottery )for these students in the high school and middle level that is strictly criteria based like Wadsworth and Kithredge and watch overcrowding in North Dekalb Schools decrease. I know people have problems with not grouping kids in a heterogeneous environments and therefore have issues with Magnet programs with academic criteria but in some parts of the county, we're not just talking about education but frankly not exposing our kids to juvenile delinquets who do not allow the teachers to do their jobs and are negative influences on kids who have potential and then instill the necessary programs and mentoring needed to help the kids that are on the the path to dropout and "thugism" in those school so that those kids can then improve.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:05

Do you believe that motivated minority students can only be successful if educated in separate schools or programs like Wadsworth or SW DeKalb? I believe that parts of the charter movement are certainly arguing that minority students are most likely to succeed if they are grouped with other motivated students?

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:05 p.m. I guess I am a little confused by your reference to feeder schools. I thought Wadsworth magnet students went on to the high achiever magnet program at Chapel Hill Middle school (if they meet the magnet program continuation guidelines.) And then they matriculate to the high achiever program at SW DeKalb High School. Any empty spots are filled by lottery. So there are already two complete high achiever magnet programs in the school system.

Are you saying that DeKalb should expand the high achiever magnet program?

However, state guidelines prohibit a charter school from requiring minimum test scores for admission to a charter. But I think there are ways that charters can distinguish themselves and set standards that attract parents who want their children to attend schools with children from like-minded families and where the learning environment is emphasized.

No Duh said...

I've noticed that NCLB is now billing itself as "ESEA -- formerly known as NCLB." Pig/Swine what's the difference?

ESEA originated in 1965!! I was four years old. What has changed in NCLB that allows it to rename itself ESEA? Arne promised sweeping changes in NCLB (Obama did, too). Is the sweeping change just alphabet soup?

Does anyone know what the key changes are to NCLB that would make the initiative (can I still call it that?) different than it has always been -- punitive to special ed children, punitive to teachers and punitive to schools that are situated in communities that don't care about AYP, etc.

Anonymous said...

No duh, I don't think there were any major changes to ESEA/NCLB that have gone into effect yet. I heard that the School Choice rules have not changed and will wreak havoc with the start of the school year in many of our middle and high schools. So after reassigning teachers because of the larger class sizes and loss of magnet points, certain schools like Chamblee, Lakeside and Druid Hills will begin the school year (again) in utter and complete chaos. And the first 4 weeks of the school year will be lost trying to "re-balance" classes that end up with 50 students in them and to find certified teachers and text books.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 6:06 -

You said it. SOOO very well.

Anonymous said...

OMG, priceless unintentionally hilarious comments from BOE members in this article from The Champion:


Sarah Copelin-Wood is officially living on Mars.

Cerebration said...

Public Community Meetings for the 2010-2011 School Year

Chamblee High School - Tuesday, July 13, at 6 p.m.

Henderson Middle School - Thursday - July 15 at 6 p.m.

These meetings will explain the school choice program for NCLB (AYP) for the 2010-11 school year.

Paula Caldarella said...

I heard from a Chamblee MS parent that the school is expected to receive upwards of 100 NCLB transfers.

Anonymous said...

Chamblee Middle School only has 800 students. I am surprised that the number is only 100, I betcha anything it goes up.

Anonymous said...

Henderson's incoming 8th grade class received almost a team's worth of NCLB transfers for 6th grade a few years ago, causing the class to go to 5 teams for 6th grade. It was 5 teams for 7th grade (team E both years was in trailers). 8th grade is now supposed to get another 80 some odd transfers. Then are all of them going on to Lakeside? They absolutely promised that the NCLB transfers were to return to home schools for high school when we started in 6th grade but why else would you transfer in for 8th grade.... this is already a large class. There is a whole trailer park in the back of Henderson so I don't understand how there is "open capacity." I also firmly believe that the district can not re-district and analyze the home schools with so many transfers all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the transfers and redistricting.

I did hear yesterday that Arabia Mountain is going to receive transfers. I guess we will know for sure either once someone goes to one of the meetings or once the plan is published online.

I wonder if anyone will take those spots in 8th grade at HMS. In the past, spaces other than at the entry levels, like 6th, 9th and maybe 10th have been left unfilled.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I had an opportunity to have a conversation with Brad Bryant. He told me that since his involvement with Clayton County Schools (when they were losing/lost their accreditation), he has done research on what state school boards across the country are able to do to prevent these situations. He said he had presented several models to Kathy Cox. It will take rules changes at the state level and possibly even legislative changes, but if these changes are made, the GA Board of Education would have more power to intervene.

He said if he has the job for more than a few months, this will be a priority for him.

If you are interested in signing his petition, today is the last day!

You can stop by the campaign office which is located next to Northlake Mall at 2296 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30345.

Paula Caldarella said...

I thought all this transfer "madness" was behind us...Guess not.

Anonymous said...

I think the AYP results at the high school level are dismal, though it is just my gut telling me that, nothing from anyone official or anything.

Remember, that once a school has not made AYP for more than two years and has been identified as a Needs Improvement School, it takes making AYP for two consecutive years before the penalties are removed. So, for example, last year McNair Middle made AYP for the first time ever, if they make it again this year, no McNair Middle students will be able to exercise school choice. However, this past year, they could.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 7/11 10:10.

There is a whole trailer park in the back of Henderson so I don't understand how there is "open capacity." I also firmly believe that the district can not re-district and analyze the home schools with so many transfers all over the place.

You are absolutely right on both points. I have seen the Henderson "village" - it practically needs its own zip code!

The the BOE must demand that DCSS give then the TRUE numbers of in-zone students (and potential students in the case of elementary school) and out-of district transfers before any re-districting is done. The number of out-of-zone students at our elementary school is approximately equal to the number of elementary students in our neighborhood. The school is over capacity with no room for expansion. I can see DCSS deciding to just re-district our entire neighborhood - separating kids from their friends in surrounding neighborhoods - rather than bother to deal with the large number of transfers.

Paula Caldarella said...

According to the enrollment figures provided last fall (and I realize we are not sure if they are accurate), Henderson MS was overcrowded by 190 students. How can they take on more? That is insane. Whereas, Chamblee Middle School had 419 open seats for this upcoming school year.

This whole transfer debacle is rearing its head again. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Every teacher who lives in Georgia should be furious at DCSS. And isn't Jamie Wilson another failed principal now in a high paying DCSS admin job?


Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:19 a.m.

The NCLB-ESEA school choice transfer rules are federal, not state. Believe me I have read the entire statute and the regulations.

If Brad Bryant told you that the state could change these he is feeding you BS. Of course, he is desperately looking for signatures for his petition so he can be Mr. Perdue's replacement for Kathy Cox.

Of course it is the state tests and math program that our students are stumbling on. While DCSS defintely needs to do much, much better in math it would have helped if the state DOE would have slowed the implementation of the new math program and provided individual teacher training. Brad Bryant is a huge supporter of more standardized testing and the Math 1-2-3 program. Did you ask him why he didn't provide more funding for teacher training? Did you ask him where he has been for the last 5 years while the legislature decimated funding for public education?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:19 am said nothing about NCLB but rather discussed the fact that Brad Bryant acknowledged that the state Board of Ed. has such limited powers in terms of wayward local school boards and how this probably needs to be addressed through policy and legislation.

Anonymous said...

The NCLB-ESEA school choice transfer rules are federal, not state. Believe me I have read the entire statute and the regulations.

There are ways to be "creative" with respect to transfers. See: Alvin Wilbanks and GCSS.

Anonymous said...

I know this is something you are not talking about, But can someone tell me if they payed a incentive for employees to retire this year?

Anonymous said...

No incentive paid. I did hear that DeKalb had the most teachers retire.

Anonymous said...

anon 7/12 11:42 says "it would have helped if the state DOE would have slowed the implementation of the new math program and provided individual teacher training."

It was my understanding that the math implementation timetable and training were up to each individual school system. I believe Cobb and Gwinnett rolled it over a longer period than DCSS. Their implementation began with training the faculty in how to facilitate (formerly known as -teaching) the curriculum. Their textbooks were ordered and in the classroom prior to the first day of school. In DCSS this was not done. I know that in the high school 10 graders went the majority of 1st semester without a text book. DCSS uses weekend training that teachers resent being asked to attend or they will send one or two teachers to be trained for the good ole teachers teach the teachers training method.

Anonymous said...

Well, I went to the NCLB meeting at Chamblee this evening and it was painful; very painful.

There are very few receiving schools and these are all already overcrowded. Questions were asked but Moseley refused to give any reason at all for not using Arabia Mountain as a receiving school. Instead they plan to have Arabia sponsor an annex at Lithonia HS.

Kim Gokce said...

@Anon 12:00am ...

what does this mean?

"Instead they plan to have Arabia sponsor an annex at Lithonia HS."

It may be the late hour but that went right over my head ...

Anonymous said...

They will take a wing of Lithonia High School and place teachers and students there. Those teachers and students will be Arabia Mountain students and teachers and not Lithonia students and teachers. They will participate in athletics at Arabia Mountain, band at AM, etc and the teachers will attend faculty meetings at AM.

This is a permitted model under NCLB.

If I were a parent who wanted to access school choice through NCLB and I lived in the area, I would be investigating what the exact enrollment situation is at AM. If there are spaces physically in the building, they need to be filled.

Paula Caldarella said...

This is called the "annex" model. Anonymous is correct in that, while these students will be housed at Lithonia, they will be Arabia Mountain students.

The county is also using the same model with Tucker Middle School - those NCLB transfers will be housed at Avondale Middle School.

As far as available seats at Arabia Mountain, according to the data on the DCSS website, they are projected to have 253 available seats this upcoming school year. Which begs the question, why an annex for Arabia Mountain? While Lakeside and Chamblee will be, again, trying to squeeze in students into already over-crowded facilities.

Why the special treatment for Arabia Mountain?

Anonymous said...

Per an article from the August 22, 2009 CrossRoads News, DCSS closed the annexes that were housed at Elizabeth Andrews (33 Students housed here for Redan) and Southwest DeKalb's annex at McNair High School (41 students). The students were absorbed at Redan and SWD.

So they are trying again? Really?

If there are hundreds of spaces at Arabia Mountain, it needs to be a receiving school.

Paula Caldarella said...

These "annex" locations are just off-campus locations for Arabia Mountain, Tucker Middle, supposedly to address overcrowding. However, Arabia Mountain is not overcrowded, so I don't know what the deal here is.

Teaching at a DCSS High School said...

To anon @ 11:09 pm

"Their textbooks were ordered and in the classroom prior to the first day of school. In DCSS this was not done. I know that in the high school 10 graders went the majority of 1st semester without a text book. DCSS uses weekend training that teachers resent being asked to attend or they will send one or two teachers to be trained for the good ole teachers teach the teachers training method."

I'd hate to bust your rant, but the situation as you state it is not the same at every school in DCSS. At our school, the student books for Math II (10th grade) were in the building before the end of the 2008-2009 school year.(Although the teacher kits with supplemental materials did not arrive until October) In fact, the books and Teacher Kits for the new Math III curriculum are now in our building. I would suggest that your dept. chair and API get together and make sure that this kind of thing doesn't continue to happen. As for the training, I agree that the "teach the teacher/ redelivery" model can be ineffective, but there are an abundance of resources available to assist the teachers THROUGHOUT the school year and not just on weekends. In my experienced opinion, this year we(math teachers) have had to work harder and beyond what we are use to doing. Most of our issues were beyond our control (including implementation, underprepared students, new initiatives, benchmarks, et al.)

This year can only be better if we individually and collectively make it that way. There will be plenty to complain about, more issues than before, distractions, inequities, and things that just plain don't make sense. But when that first bell rings on Aug. 9, we have 180 days to prove that:

We, the TEACHERS of DCSS are the BEST and BRIGHTEST that GEORGIA has to offer.

Anonymous said...

The state should have started the "new math" with first graders and moved it up each year starting w/ that grade. Of course the rising 10th & 11th grade students were not prepared for this curriculum change. They were the guinea pigs and will be the ones to pay the price when it comes SAT time.