Thursday, November 11, 2010

Before redistricting—we need a new way to teach so that learning can happen in every school

I had lunch with friends the other day and we had a conversation about the evolution of boys.  We talked about how for 4,000 years, boys have functioned in the world kinesthetically - or physically.  They hunted, fished, built wagons, homes and farms, fought intruders and wars and survived by their prowess and wits.

In the early parts of the 20th century, boys attended school, but usually farmed or worked in some industry as well. In fact, many schools focused heavily on sports and hands-on trade skills for boys.  However, in the 70s and beyond, girls were found to be trailing boys in school scores as well as opportunities in sports.  So the law began to focus on girls, which has proven very successful.  Today, our colleges are on an average 57% girls. Sadly, the high school graduation rate among boys is only 65% nationally. Worse, it's only 48% for African-American boys and 49% for Hispanics boys.

In recent times, we have asked boys to learn more like girls.  It is unnatural to expect them to sit still all day long and listen and learn by reading and imagining. So, what do we do to compensate? Often, in elementary school we drug them. If they're older, we incarcerate them. Granted, there are students who really do need ritalin and similar drugs in order to focus, but the use of these controlled narcotics for learning issues is astronomical.  I have to wonder what would happen if we simply returned to inserting a couple of recesses during the day - and lightening the academic load by replacing a few classes in high school with hands-on learning.  This would include good old-fashioned shop, auto mechanics, printshop, and even cooking! Life skills have been sidelined in favor of AP Calculus and I would go so far as to say that we are losing many boys due to this inverted learning plan that goes against the grain of how boys learn.

A new article in USA Today states,

Our public schools are turning millions of normal children into dropouts and failures. This isn't because of a few bad teachers or principals, but because the natural learning behaviors of children are routinely penalized instead of praised. Initiatives such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" won't change this, because they don't adequately take into account research about how children learn.

Our classrooms are outdated, functioning like mid-20th century factories. Each child is offered an identical curriculum, like a car on an assembly line. But children aren't units of production, and this approach is failing. Since 1970, the rate of high school graduation has declined, and the U.S. has fallen from first to 12th among developed nations in education.

This is inexcusable given the well-documented research about what makes students effective learners. Contemporary neuroscience has confirmed that children's learning is largely dependent on inherent interest, emotional engagement, social interaction, physical activity and the pleasure of mastery. . . .

Freedom to make mistakes and benefit from them is the basis of intellectual growth. If researchers or entrepreneurs were forbidden to make errors, innovation would cease. But when teachers are required to prioritize standardized test preparation, children are necessarily taught that being wrong is unacceptable.

Further, the NY Times informs us that Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected. The article shares some sobering facts proving that our schools—and our society—are not doing the job of educating all our people.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches. . . .

Worse, the Council of the Great City Schools released a new study with the alarming headline, New Report on Black Male Achievement in America Reveals 'National Catastrophe'

But the study points out that there has been no concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African-American males, who are not receiving appropriate attention from federal, state and local governments or community organizations.

"This is a national catastrophe, and it deserves coordinated national attention," stresses the report.

What's going on?

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

Last, an article from the AP entitled, "Blacks struggling with 72% unwed mother rate", tells us

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics.

Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults and have their own children out of wedlock.

The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of American Indians were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent. . . .

There are simple arguments for why so many black women have children without marriage.

The legacy of segregation, the logic goes, means blacks are more likely to attend inferior schools. This creates a high proportion of blacks unprepared to compete for jobs in today's economy, where middle-class industrial work for unskilled laborers has largely disappeared.

The drug epidemic sent disproportionate numbers of black men to prison and crushed the job opportunities for those who served their time. Women don't want to marry men who can't provide for their families, and welfare laws created a financial incentive for poor mothers to stay single.

"It's all connected. The question should be, how has the black family survived at all?" says Maria Kefalas, co-author of "Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage."

The Council of the Great City Schools report makes the following strong statement on society,

"The issues that emerge from the data are both moral and economic, calling into question the nation's ability to harness all of its talent to maintain a leadership footing in the world," says Council Executive Director Michael Casserly. "How can you narrow or close the country’s black-white achievement gap when African-American males are not getting the attention and support they need to succeed?"

George Will writes in the Washington Post of some of the findings of a sociology professor named Nathan Glazer. In an article in American Interest Glazer puts forth some alarming statistics on what he calls "the black condition." Glazer is concerned that with the election of Obama any discussion of the black condition in America has all but disappeared.

Here are some of the statistics:

70% of black children born in the United States are born to unmarried women.

More than 60% of black high school dropouts born since the mid-1960s go to prison.

Mass incarceration blights the prospects of black women seeking husbands.

For every bachelor's degree conferred on a black man, 2 are conferred on a black woman.

Only 35% of black children live with two parents.

And here's an interesting number ...

By age 4 the average child in a professional family hears 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family.

There is a very strong link between the number of words a child hears in the early years and that child's success in school.

Now, from the Educational Testing Service, comes a report about "The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped," written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley. It examines the "startling" fact that most of the progress in closing the gap in reading and mathematics occurred in the 1970s and '80s. This means "progress generally halted for those born around the mid-1960s, a time when landmark legislative victories heralded an end to racial discrimination."

There are those in Georgia examining the state's history in education. In fact, just today, the Georgia Family Council released ...

What do you really know about education in Georgia?

Their Citizen's Guide to Education in Georgia covers virtually all aspects of primary and secondary education in Georgia. The guide includes:

  • The history of education in the state
  • Current forms of education (public, private, virtual and homeschooling)
  • How education is funded
  • How Georgia compares nationally relative to student achievement
  • Trends in education spending, public school reform and parental choice in education

Overall, DeKalb suffers from virtually all of the above societal issues. Our system is a majority African-American (72%), about 12% Hispanic and less than 10% white and 3-4% Asian and other. Our schools are 64% free and reduced lunch, bringing over $30 million annually to the system in Title 1 funds.  Funds that are not finding their way to the classroom and are instead funding an army of "supervisors" in the school administration.

We have a lot of work to do to bring the education of all of our students to a respectable level. Currently, some of our students do quite well, while others are not testing well at all. Our schools are not equal.  Some, like Fernbank, Oak Grove, Vanderlyn, Austin and Evansdale do quite well.  Others—merely a few miles away—are doing a very poor job. The achievement chasm is wide. And this is the reason that redistricting is being fought so hard.

The board, therefore, is in a quandary. They cannot simply redraw attendance lines and expect everything to be grand and glorious. If they try, they will enter a battle of wills like we've not seen in a very long time in DeKalb. They also cannot continue the culture of responding to the "squeaky wheels". They must fix what ails all of the schools first. They must offer a quality education at every school coupled with a healthy, well-rounded arts and physical education.  On top of that, they must insist on new teaching methods and tools and offer teachers a high level of support in their efforts in the classroom. Additionally, they must find a way to make high school interesting for boys (and girls) who struggle with the traditional learning environment—find a way to light a path for them to a future filled with hope.

As one of our regular bloggers so eloquently put it the other day,

Ultimately we need to spend less on buildings and more on instruction. In order to do that we need to reduce the number of schools in the district. We'll soon find out if our Board is willing to make the tough decisions or continue to accommodate citizens.

To me, that pretty much sums it up.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting that this is the research and more that grounded Dr. Beasleys work in having teachers profile the way students learn and provide differentiated approaches to learning and he was dern near persecuted by the communities in these same schools),and this blog -there are serious gaps around the district in schools that need to force teachers to look at instruction in a different way.

What do you propose to do about the way students learn and teachers teach!

Anonymous said...

Now that I have left the classroom, but go back to volunteer and teach children how to read, I see that changes in the way teachers teach need to change. I see kids who were simply poorly taught struggling and teachers saying that they have a learning disability or ADD. I find this disturbing, as very few teachers utilize all means of learning. Adding simple movements into a classroom setting can make learning blossom for everyone.

As a teacher, I always believed that it was my job to find the way that each of my students learned best, as that is what I would want for my own children. This is not what many teachers believe. I have heard too often, I taught it why doesn't he/she know it.

I do not believe that spending more money on education is the answer. I believe that teachers in colleges need to be better taught to understand how to reach all kinds of children. Teachers who are really good at reaching all kinds of children in their classroom need to become model classrooms. Teachers who are unwilling to change and work towards reaching all of the children in their class, need to be let go.

I believe that the demise of education in America is because of teacher unions and the sheer difficulty and work it takes to get rid of a teacher who is damaging children on a daily basis and because many of our teachers leave college poorly prepared. They do not understand the fundamentals of learning how to read, and ways to deliver lessons that reach every child in the classroom.

Having teachers on apprenticeships for 2 or 3 years would be one way to help new teachers. As I watch teach, I believe that Tony is able to learn more about how he is failing his children and ways to change what he is doing wrong because of the other teacher in his room, observing, providing feedback, questioning, and offering suggestions when necessary.

I also believe that teachers who don't feel like they can reach everyone or want to work hard to reach everyone need to be let go. The many conversations that I have had with teachers make me cringe. I realize that they were being honest, but I would ask them would you want that to come out of your son or daughters teacher and they'd look at me.

One other factor that I believe is hurting and failing our children is the lowering of standards and accountability of children. I do not mean teaching standards, but standards of turning one's work in on time and doing things properly the first time. Giving children multiple chances to make up work, do it over, or simply get it in, do not make sense to me. We are setting the children up for failure. Not being able to give children a zero when that is simply the grade that they have earned because they did not turn work in or get any work done is a policy that I do not understand.

DCSS will never improve its teaching when the people in charge don't (Beasley and Tyson) don't have 10 years of teaching experience between them. Teaching will never change in DCSS when you have people promoted to principal and assistant principal with barely 3 to 8 years of teaching experience themselves. Teaching will never change when people are promoted to positions that should be making a difference, because of who they know or are related to, not because of what they know. I also believe that education will not change, as long as teachers and administrators are continued to be able to buy advanced degrees at paper mills. I am convinced that many of the advanced degrees in education are not making anyone a better teacher or administrator or making the field of education a better place for our children.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, I am able to use creative, varied, and interesting lessons with my higher-level kids, who come to me well-equiooed from their exposure to educated parents. I know that they will do well on those high-stakes tests, so I can take their learning styles into account.

But the kids who would benefit most from differentiated instruction get little of it because I have to teach to the test.

Anonymous said...

What you fail to realize is that if you used these same techniques with the skills that all of your students need to master, that they'd all learn like your "higher level" children. The "lower level" children would benefit even more from varied techniques and hands on learning.

Cerebration said...

This post is not meant to criticize teachers - it's meant to encourage them and insist on supporting them. We need to find out what works (as in what works other places) and then help our teachers get there. I truly believe we have the money to do this. We certainly have enough in Title 1 funds - it just needs to go to classroom support. How about a reading support teacher in every pre-k-3rd grade class who uses differentiated learning and small groups to really get those reading skills up to par so that the classroom teacher can move forward? Same with math? How about reducing class sizes in persistently failing schools to say - 12? How about a PE teacher who is trained in occupational therapy and can do physical work with young students that will actually improve their learning? (This works - I've seen it first hand.)

Whatever -- what we are doing now obviously isn't doing the trick. And re-shuffling students won't improve much either. It will, of course, save money - money the board will hopefully ensure gets directed to the classroom!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Beasley has been roundly criticized on this blog-yet what you have written about at length is embodied in his approach. Take into account different learning styles and use proven practices to reach different students. The challenge we face is great. The recent article on the NAEP shows that young black males have extremely low profficiency rates in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. So low that less than 20% of them are profficient.

The magnititude of the problem is such that we can't really wait to do anything. If we wait to redistrict until we have the teaching for these students, it will be too late to save our schools. We have to multitask here, redistrict, improve teaching, increase student achievement starting now-not then. As a democracy we will make some mistakes as we go-we just need to make sure that we are evaluating the results and making course corrections. It's not the Titanic yet, but we can't wait to start making the turn. If the solutions were simple, we would have done them long ago. What are the barriers? We all need to work together. Parents need to be more accountable as well as schools. I am sure parents send the best children they have to school, but for the ones who don't attend regularly (and the there are a great number who do not) and for those who come without having done their work, or who come unwilling to work, the parent must share the responsiblity and face some consequences.

Anonymous said...

"Dr. Beasley has been roundly criticized on this blog-yet what you have written about at length is embodied in his approach."

Yes, and deservedly so. His first iniatitive was to load teachers up with incredibly mindlesss work, such as scanning scantrons. Teachers lost countless hours with the numerous issues surrounding eSIS. It's very hard to teach in classrooms with ceiling leaks and non-functioning air conditioning.
Audria Berry's army is still more focused on bulletin boards in classrooms than assisting teachers. Sosme schools have helpful CTSS's from the MIS Dept. Some schools hae CTSS's that are not helpful, like the famous Where in the World is Jamal Edwards.

It's easy to say teachers need to improve here or there, but DCSS is still focused on supporting a bloated administration, not on giving teachers the support and resources they need to succeed.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think the theme schools are so popular to and important in S. DeKalb?

themommy said...

"Having teachers on apprenticeships for 2 or 3 years would be one way to help new teachers."

Love this idea, wish the political will existed to make it happen as it would be costly.

I think even a year apprenticeship would work wonders.

Anonymous said...

In some Colleges of Education across the country, before a student can even enroll in the first class, they must have some kind of experience in teaching. At one such college, it is being a Junior Achievement volunteer/teacher, at another it is simply a requirement of X number of hours of observation.

Both these give prospective teachers just a taste of the classroom, but many prospects end up changing their mind.

Anonymous said...

MIS has been and continues to be a problem for teachers and students in DCSS.

In the past it was okay for this department to be non-functional (although the money that flowed to the non-teaching personnel did have a negative impact on the classroom). In today's world of data driven decision making, online textbooks, Internet learning resources, and electronic communication, their slip is showing badly.

This department that cost $20,000,000 in salary and benefits alone must be make accountable and responsible for its support function. Taxpayers cannot keep pouring scarce dollars into this failed department. Students and teachers cannot afford to have so little support that most schools cannot make use of technology. Surely Ms. Tyson has some understanding of the overhaul this department needs. She ran MIS for many years until 2008.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:06
"Dr. Beasley has been roundly criticized on this blog-yet what you have written about at length is embodied in his approach. "

Much of what Dr. Beasley has tried to accomplish was not possible with the eSis and SchoolNet problems. MIS needed to ensure these systems as well as abundant access to technology (i.e. taking benchmarks and being able to use prescribe and use remediation programs via computers) was in place before he began asking teachers and students for data and results that drained time from planning and instruction. Dr. Beasley needed to communicate to Ms. Tyson that the need for abundant technology and a fully functional student data management system was a necessary component of his strategies. Dr Beasley is expecting 21st Century results from a 20th Century technology system.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 9:24. I couldn't have said it better myself! Dr. B came in with these edicts to scare the teachers into "respecting" him. Just ask anyone from Galveston, Texas, where Dr. B. was before he appeared here. They'll be happy to fill you in on his atrocious leadership skills.

We must find ourselves a Super whose number one goal is instruction! We must find someone who can bring in new fresh ideas as well as a leadership cabinet he or she can trust with the day to day operation of the district.

Right now we have leadership that is hell bent on protecting their turf. It's not about the kids it's about themselves. All we ever hear from Dr. Beasley, Alice Thompson, Robert Moseley, Felicia Mitchell-Mayfield, and Audria Berry is how another national program, that takes millions of dollars from the classrooms, will help our graduation rates and scores. ENOUGH WITH THE NATIONAL PROGRAMS! It's time we get the resources to the teachers and principals and get new leadership that have the same goals as the stakeholders do, EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN!

We must say good bye to the past and move forward. The only way I see in doing this is getting rid of the current leadership, that were given huge raises under the reign of terror, instituted by Crawford Lewis and his cronies!

Anonymous said...

Honestly a lot of what I see in this comment section is blame, blame on eSis, blame on friends and family, blame on the number of years admins have, when you close the door of your classroom and make those kids a priority because the kids are not necessarily aware that there is bloating at the central office - they come to us yearning for knowledge and will you be there to meet their needs?

Anonymous said...

Reading all of these articles as a whole, I do not see any solution --just more data that shows that our black students (particularly black males) are falling further behind.

Our nation has spent billions of dollars identifying the problem and has spent billions on many solutions but none seem to work.

As several authors hint, perhaps it is time for the community to have a different discussion. One that looks for solutions other than expecting the public schools to reverse this very disturbing trend.

Anonymous said...

11:38 Anon. My wife and I have been there to meet our kids needs. I read with them, books, magazines, internet sources of information, watch sports, we work on a myriad of projects and powerpoints. POWERPOINTS! We're having fun doing it to.

We go to the library, we watch historic documentary and entertainment films, but the most important thing is that we strive to have at least 4 dinners together per week, sometimes having to ignore our busy schedules. It takes work and sacrifice but we do it because they are OUR kids!

We've been meeting their needs but early on we discovered they're needs are never met, so we must always keep working at it! Failure is NOT an option, because they are OUR kids!

Anonymous said...

What you are saying is absolutely correct. There is that study from many years ago in which teachers were told that kids were "gifted" and approached them as such, and the kids did quite well, despite the fact that they were actually of average or less than average ability.

But I teach high school and have students who read on a third grade level. I cannot ask them to create a video that demonstrates their understanding of a work of literature that they cannot read. We have to read aloud in class and stop every paragraph or two--that it just the reality.

When kids reach me in a state of emergency--they need remediation.

I am not blaming the teachers in the lower grades. I place the responsibility on the parents--or on our failure to intervene in some way when these kids are very young. What can we do to rescue a kid who comes from a home is which the vocabulary is limited and reading is not part of daily life,

Anonymous said...

Mommy--I love the idea, but it will take more than will. The interns would have to be paid, wouldn't they??

So now you are blaming the teachers?? I agree that the bloating in the central office doesn't change my teaching practices one bit. But yes, assistant principals who never mastered teaching and are thus unable to provide the support I need are a problem.

Sorry but I can't just close my door and teach. Sometimes I need a kid removed from my classroom for creating a disturbance. If my administators were not in the classroom long enough to master the art of teaching, they lack the skills to deal with issues that arise.

And similarly, higher-ups who make decisions without the requisite classroom experience also hinder my abilility to just reach out to those yearning kids.

Now if I could find someone to intervene with the kids who skip class continuslly, how to ensure that 11th grade students come to my class on time with their book and pen and paper--oh, wait--they are yearning, and I just need to be there. I am the problem.

Anonymous said...

@12:27 I'm not blaming the teachers or you specifically, what I am saying is you have the most direct impact. I have had competent administrators and not so competent administrators. My middle school students did not care about that and I was responsible for meeting their learning needs. I floated from class to class my first year of teaching and had over 40 students in my class - yes things could have been easier, yes some things made it more challenging but my joy and satisfaction came when I planned lessons that challenged my students and I peaked their interest in a topic and continued to challenge my acquisition of knowledge to get better. Of courser there are students who don't "yearn" for the knowledge but Its my job to manage the class appropriately and find allies in other teachers if the administration is not "getting the job done.".

My point is- it will NEVER be ideal, there will always be something that makes this job difficult, pay, higher class sizes, inexperienced admins, technical glitches, new mandates- what will make the difference for our students is ultimately what we "close" the door and DO".

You don't have to agree with me... I'm not here to convince anyone otherwise- but it's the reality and exclaiming all the reasons why you can't do something does not help our current situation.

Cerebration said...

Check out this new video from Education Week -

Unleashing Technology to Personalize Learning

Anonymous said...

I used to think this blog mattered.It seems that it consist of about 25 people who blog, but do nothing else. If you think typing on your computer is going to change anything, your wrong. Now the one exception is Kim G. he actually gets it and does more than type on here. Doesn't the bad mouthing and negative comments get old. They sure do get old reading them.

Cerebration said...

Our blog stats tell a different story, Anon. Yesterday we had 2,225 page loads and 1,006 "unique visitors". Of those, of course, not everyone leaves a comment, and our stats actually don't give that data but we do know that 22.5% stay for over an hour. So there must be a lot of reading going on - if not commenting.

We are not here to solve problems. We are here to "watch" over the school board and the administration and keep a close eye on their educational decisions and how they are spending over 1.2 BILLION DOLLARS of our tax money EVERY YEAR -- PLUS another HALF BILLION in each SPLOST drive.

Anonymous said...

Here goes though, if right now you are at school that has very few at risk students, as described in this blog, do you really want a change that will mix that up?

School's test scores vary for a host of reasons, but demographics are one of them.

Cerebration said...

That's actually the over-arching point of this post. There is no way that people will agree to redistricting as long as our schools are so wildly inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

"The recent article on the NAEP shows that young black males have extremely low profficiency rates in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. So low that less than 20% of them are profficient."

And that will continue in spite of good teaching. Why? To hold back the kids who are holding back every other kids takes an act of Congress.

What happens? The kid is passed on from the 4th grade until he drops out or receives a hollow diploma that benefits the district but not the kid!

The same parent who raised child who is not ready to be educated will fight tooth and nail to have that child march at graduation.

Teachers cannot do all this "modern" teaching if students and parents think of schools as a 12 year babysitting service that gives out diplomas at the end of the 12th year.

Anonymous said...

"School's test scores vary for a host of reasons, but demographics are one of them."

Demographics is the main cause. period.

If a Martian visited Emory's or Georgia Tech's graduate schools, they would think our State of Georgia is a province of India or China!

Anonymous said...

"By age 4 the average child in a professional family hears 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family.

I have read this study and it is very interesting. It also talks about the tone in which words are spoken and how children are spoken to.

A big part of the Harlem Children's Zone project has been parenting classes to educate parents about this issue.

Even the founder of the Harlem's Children Zone says that it is going to take time.

Cerebration said...

But why is the only option to pass along a struggling student? Why can't we find a way to create very small learning groups (dare I say, psuedo "families")? We have $30 million in Title 1 funds almost every single year. Surely, we can find a way to use this money to break off small groups and give them intense tutoring outside of the regular classroom (hopefully at a very early age) and ensure that these students have the best basic reading and math skills we can provide?

Support for the classroom teacher with direct instruction outside of the classroom seems like one logical idea to improve learning. Blaming the family will not fix a thing. It really doesn't matter whose "fault" it is, can't we just find ways to get in there and bring all of DeKalb's children up to speed?

themommy said...


Your main point is on the money. At one of the small group discussion's on Tuesday night, a father from Fernbank mentioned that Fernbank was much higher performing than the surrounding schools. When asked what role demographics played in that, he said none that thet school were all very similar.

This isn't true at all. Fernbank has virtually no free and reduced lunch and is majority caucasian. The surrounding schools have very different demographics.

I will give the father the benefit of the doubt, that he has just no clue about the neighboring schools and believes that Fernbank is doing something extraordinary.

What is extraordinary about Fernbank is the amount of money and time that parents contribute to the school for extras, including teachers, that make a huge difference.

I don't know how you fix this, I just know that it is a problem.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, and deservedly so. His first iniatitive was to load teachers up with incredibly mindlesss work, such as scanning scantrons. Teachers lost countless hours with the numerous issues surrounding eSIS. It's very hard to teach in classrooms with ceiling leaks and non-functioning air conditioning."

The start of this thread on the blog was teaching so all the students could succeed. In it Cerebration outlined the mehtods that most likely would be effective. Those methods are identical with those Dr. Beasley is trying to foster. We have many good teachers who already use some or all of them. Who did we blame before Dr. Beasley for too many of our students failing to achieve on level? On the other hand, Dr. Beasley has no direct supervisory capacity over schools, principals, or the people who fix the ac. The man wants to support teachers and according to research one the best ways to support a teacher is to provide them with strategies that work. That is his job. Running the schools and maintaining them is someone else's. Now I dare you to say that our previous teaching strategies were working foll all students.

Besides having a passion to teach you have to continually work to improve your knowledge and skills. There is no one simple solution for all our problems. If you think so you are going to go through life profoundly disappointed. One of the differences research shows between the parents of successful Japanese students and students in the US is that Japanese parents believe that hard work (not innate talent) brings acdemic success. If I had a dollar for every parent that told me her child didn't have the math gene I could have retired long ago. Our schools are a reflection of our society-divided between the have and have nots, divided too often by race and region, dominated by materialism and "it's all about me". If we ever get together and work so that all the students are served then we will have another of the many successes that mark our history.

Anonymous said...

From EdWeek, Oct. 25:

"U.S. Found to Recruit Fewer Teachers From Top Ranks
By Liana Heitin
Premium article access courtesy of
Countries with the best-performing school systems largely recruit teachers from the top third of high school and college graduates, while the United States has difficulty attracting its top students to the profession, a new report finds.

Singapore, Finland, and South Korea draw 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of the academic pool, write the authors, Byron Auguste, Paul Kihn, and Matt Miller, of the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co., based in Washington. But only 23 percent of U.S. teachers come from the top third of college graduates—and in high-poverty schools, that rate drops to 14 percent."

Here is part of the problem. We need to elevate the profession of teaching in this country and attract the best and the brightest to the teaching ranks. Teachers must be paid more, and we must require teachers to meet significantly higher standards in terms of education, skills and training. If we make it harder to become a teacher, we will have better teachers. I know this may not be a popular opinion, but I am married to teacher and she agrees whole heartedly. There are too many teachers, particularly at the high school level, who simply do not know enough about the subjects they teach. Many teachers we know say the Praxis tests are a complete joke and that some of the teachers in their schools have had to take these test multiple times, just to pass. It is time to elevate the profession to one of honor and to pay more and expect more.

Anonymous said...

This isn't true at all. Fernbank has virtually no free and reduced lunch and is majority caucasian. The surrounding schools have very different demographics.
"What is extraordinary about Fernbank is the amount of money and time that parents contribute to the school for extras, including teachers, that make a huge difference.
I don't know how you fix this, I just know that it is a problem."

To be exact-
It is 16% Asian, 15% black,1% Hispanic. 62% white, and 6 % mixed race. Only 9% of the children are on free and reduced lunch.

It is a consistently high performing school where almost every student passes the state tests.

I don't see a problem-the parents are supportive and the students do well. If it is a problem-let's duplicate it throughout the county.

Anonymous said...


You are angel for putting the kids first regardless of their circumstances. I think your plan may work for many at risk children. Is society (since it the tax of the rich) willing to put this money in for small classrooms..etc...?

To compare at risk kids to lung cancer patients is awful bit bear with me. If Sloan-Kettering offered the best lung cancer treatment to a patient who was continuously exposed to heavy second hand smoke before, during, and after treatment, what would be his/her chances for survival? That continuous smoke is the bad demographics.

Anonymous said...

It is 16% Asian, 15% black,1% Hispanic. 62% white, and 6 % mixed race. Only 9% of the children are on free and reduced lunch.

Now, my fellow Americans, is that the demographics of Dekalb County?

You are making the point that the 62% white is the critical factor. One might venture to say that 9% free/reduced lunch (at poverty line?)does not represent Dekalb population.

Anonymous said...


My spouse is a teacher as well. He read about Finland's miracle.

You failed to mention that the Finn teacher's day is almost equally DIVIDED between teaching and planning to teach.

In Georgia, after spending 5 hours with very high maintenance kids my spouse cannot grade a single piece of the 144 papers he collected during the day nor can he plan on what to do next week!

Tell the whole story: quality of teachers = quality working conditions! Money alone would draw in folks for 2 or 3 years! ( Teach for America for example uses money--repaying of loans---but their Ivy League teachers quit in 2 or 3 years!!

Anonymous said...

@ 12:12

Your students are reading on a 3rd grade level, because most elementary teachers are truly ill prepared to teach a child to read. When a child doesn't learn by the whole language approach that has been used in DCSS, they don't know what else to do. These are the facts. Few teachers teaching K, 1, 2, 3, or 4 grade could tell you the 5 main components in reading and how they are utilizing them with their children.

I volunteer tutor at my old school 3rd and 4th grade students who have simply had poor instruction. With the knowledge and millions of dollars of research dollars spent to better understand reading, there is no excuse for this. I get upset when I hear teachers say that these kids should be tested for special ed. NO! They should have been taught using the five components of reading and they'd be better of today.

As I will tell anyone who will listen, we are loosing a generation of children, most of them black and Latino because our teachers aren't prepared to teach these kids. As a white woman, who has mostly taught students of black and Latino descent, this angers me.

By the way, your kids probably don't know their short vowels. I'd bet a drink on it!

Anonymous said...

I posted on another blog that there is a growing body of research that supports that elementary teachers should be specialists not generalists.

In other words, specialists in math would teach math, science teachers would teach science, etc. I always hated that teachers who were best at teaching reading could only teach their homerooms.

This is a real sea shift in how most elementary schools are run.

Anonymous said...

The problem starts in the colleges of education. I believe it is time to start holding professors and deans accountable. Think that will ever happen?

Universities will fire a football coach for a losing season, but do you think they will fire a tenured professor?

Cerebration said...

One of the studies states, "Our public schools are turning millions of normal children into dropouts and failures. This isn't because of a few bad teachers or principals, but because the natural learning behaviors of children are routinely penalized instead of praised."

I'm not certain I would use the word "praised" instead of something more like "nurtured" "guided" or "mentored". I have noticed a trend in teaching where absolutely everything is graded. It's deflating to turn in an outline for a speech and get a "D" with very little feedback. That kind of critiquing leaves little room for a "can-do" attitude.

I have learned about 2000 times more in my working relationships than I ever learned in any school anywhere. Why? Due to mentors - bosses and co-workers who know what they are doing - showing those under their wing how it's done. Editing work over and over again without criticism - instead with an end-goal of a good product for the client. And oddly, this is actually fun! Nearly every boss/creative director I have worked with has been a positive influence in my abilities and in my attitude. I am very thankful for the people who have guided me in my work word over the last 30 years. Yes, I had good teachers as well, but I think teachers could learn from the work world. Teaching is not always about "grading" -- it's much more about "guiding" and "inspiring" and "leading by example".

How about not grading so much? How about giving feedback several spots along the way and then simply grading the final product - which by then, should certainly earn an "A".

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 2:57 pm

"On the other hand, Dr. Beasley has no direct supervisory capacity over schools, principals, or the people who fix the ac. The man wants to support teachers and according to research one the best ways to support a teacher is to provide them with strategies that work. That is his job. Running the schools and maintaining them is someone else's. "

Would the job of running the schools be Ms. Tyson's? Didn't she hire Dr. Beasley? Isn't she along with the BOE ultimately responsible for the state of the education in DeKalb? When the DCSS administration micromanages the teachers with scripted learning programs, if achievement decreases, then the DCSS administration assumes virtually all responsiblity for achievement or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

I think that the problem is that teachers weren't part of the process. Let them have some ownership in the process and they feel better about it.

Cerebration said...

Truthfully, I think it was Dr. Lewis who was hip on the "programs" -- It appears he didn't have much faith in many of our teachers.

It's time to offer the teachers good old-fashioned support! Support in the classroom - support from specialists who work directly with students to bring up their skills - support so that teachers have time to properly plan and learn new teaching methods.

Anonymous said...

I love the part about "how we talk to our children molds them in to what they will become. Has everyone heard the Ebonics that the black children use. It is because they grow up hearing it. They glorify rappers who use Ebonics . There peers make fun of them if they use proper English. I have even seen Will Smith use Ebonics on TV so he shows that he is "cool"
Now I am sure people are going to call me racist.This all starts at a really early age. It seems the schools have to teach to the bottom students. I say teach to the top students and let the others hang on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cere.

Lewis was a big believer in packaged programs.

Beasley is not my favorite, because there is no evidence that he has accomplished much.

One of the criteria for a new superintendent needs to be the ability to hire and retain the best people.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration
"Truthfully, I think it was Dr. Lewis who was hip on the "programs" -- It appears he didn't have much faith in many of our teachers. "

After Dr. Lewis was gone Ms. Tyson and the BOE renewed all of the scripted learning programs at a cost of tens of millions of Title 1 dollars. Jim Redovian said that he didn't know anything else that would be a good substitute. Dr. Lewis may have started us, but Ms. Tyson and the BOE members are certainly continuing these expensive and non-effective learning programs.

Cerebration said...

Well, sadly, no argument there.

Anonymous said...

The Baby College®
The Baby College offers a nine-week parenting workshop to expectant parents and those raising a child up to three years old. Among other lessons, the workshops promote reading to children and verbal discipline over corporal punishment. Over the past two years, more than 870 people graduated from The Baby College.

We need this type of program desperately in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

In fairness, I know educators who I respect who believe in America's Choice. The difference seems to be that they can take the good parts of America's Choice and make it work for them. And there are good parts. Writer's Workshop is fabulous.

The problem seems to be when you have principal's who aren't skilled in instruction who can't figure it out.

Anonymous said...

The article was sad but true. The big picture for DCSS is the need for intelligent and compassionate leadership; the board, superintendent and school house levels. I'm worried that the school board wont keep it's promise to bring in new leadership as promised. The Lewis regime is a live and well, no new ideas there.Sadly, Deal may have some ideas of his own for us.

Anonymous said...

Someone earlier wrote: "In Georgia, after spending 5 hours with very high maintenance kids my spouse cannot grade a single piece of the 144 papers he collected during the day nor can he plan on what to do next week!"

I don't understand what this teacher is doing with his other 3.5 hours of the work day? Why can't he grade papers then?

Anonymous said...


(12:12 here)

No, I wouldn't take that bet.

I have never taught lower grades, so I have to take your word for what goes on there. If those teachers are really that ill-prepared to teach reading, that explains a lot.

But still--it needs to come from both sides, and without "blaming" the families, let's understand the need for support such as the project in Harlem to get these kids on track early on.

We are not just losing a single generation. A lot of these kids are already becoming parents. What kind of chance will the next generation have?

Anonymous said...

Cere@ 5:23, the approach that you advocate is exactly how I teach my higher-level kids. The class is mostly student focused; you will find me at the front of the classroom maybe once a week. And they have only 1-2 grades per week. They each have skills to bring to the group and do master the material. Gosh, I love those kids.

But for the struggling kids--my other ones--No, they cannot collaborate. Sorry. You have to possess some skills before you can participate in a meaningful collegial relationship.

They need 4 grades per week so that they know that if they don't pay attention it will matter. I make them small grades--20 points or so, and then the test is 100 points. But no grade=no effort. They need that gratification.

Cerebration said...

Interesting! Once again, proving that you just can't teach everyone exactly the same way, right?

Anonymous said...

Stakeholder results are accessible on the 2020 Vision website. You can see that at,

Supposedly they have just begun loading the data with more to come.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:33,

I considered your question, so I am going to take you through my day and tell you exactly what I did with that "extra" time today.

I spent 110 minutes with one six-minute break, teaching 62 high-maintenence high school kids. That means almost two hours of continually asking them to sit down, stop talking, quit touching each other, stop throwing things, borrow paper and pen from a peer to take notes, sit up and quit trying to sleep, oh, yeah, and listen to what I am saying.

I'm going to be honest. I needed ten minutes of recovery time after that.

I then had 35 minutes to write up the two kids who skipped, call the parents of the five who are failing, send assignments to the discipline office for the guy who is suspended "in school," make copies--well, I spent ten minutes in line, but the machine stopped working--use the restroom, and read the dozen or more emails concerning everything from the new policy on posting grades to the upcoming debate tournament.

Then a couple more rounds of teaching. Walked outside for five minutes to get some air. Then I put some grades into the computer (not gonna go there, but it's not as easy as it once was), created a unit test because I am teaching a new course and don't have last year's materials to fall back on, stopped by the media center to schedule class time next week, answered a parent email, OOPS there's the bell--more kids coming in.

I had hoped to knock out at least one of the college recommendation letters that I graciously agreed to write. Maybe tomorrow.

Yeah, I have time to grade papers at work. I'm not complaining, just explaining. I got a pile here myself.

Oh, and I do eat lunch--sorry. Hope you don't mind my not working 8 1/2 hours.

Perhaps you were you being facetious? If so, forgive me.

Anonymous said...

The idea is that you go to a charrette and then fill out the online survey, though you can certainly fill it out without attending.

Anonymous said...

Cere@ 7:11,
You are correct, but I thought you were trying to suggest a better model for keeping "at risk" kids in school--less assessment, more collaboration. They need exactly the opposite. Which, paradoxically, is why they hate school.

Kim Gokce said...

Cere: The debate about how to properly educate our children has been going on, I presume, since the dawn of time and I don't anticipate a conclusion any time soon. As much as I appreciate the sentiment behind your post, I think the BOE has been irresponsible for decades in its fiduciary role and they must press forward with facilities consolidation and re-districting.

I do have an issue with putting off the redistricting and/or consolidations until "learning can happen in every school." Basically, the argument you are making, intended or not, will be used to put off re-districting indefinitely. That is not acceptable.

I believe we should expect our BOE to be capable of "walking and chewing gum" at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I saved this from an AJC entry by Mareen Downey. The writer is Andrew Broy who headed the state Charter school office. I was sorry to see Broy leave Georgia.

"The tricky thing w/ school funding (and I was a school funding litigator for more than 5 years) is that there is very little relationship b/t per pupil expenditures and student academic attainment. Even when states dramatically increase funding, they very rarely see any achievement bump (see: new jersey, wyoming, etc — NB: newark now spends north of 20K per year per pupil, excluding facilities costs and has seen a decrease in achievement over the past five years (at the same time funding increased by 30 percent in constant dollars).

That’s because, when funds are increased, they overwhelmingly go to fund one of two initiatives: across the board salary increases for the existing teacher corps or undifferentiated class size reduction. Just think: if qbe was fully funded this year, what would happen: salaries would bump up a bit (no furloughs) and districts wouldn’t be requesting class size waivers. I simply don’t think that is the most effective way to use enhanced revenues — and it certainly isn’t if we want to improve student performance.

The problem is that we rarely discuss how we spend the money available for our public schools. Instead, we just assume that more or less money will have some predicted outcome, when the evidence simply isn’t there. Why can’t we really talk about teacher quality and teacher distribution among schools? Why do we continue to incent teachers to get masters degrees that have no impact on student learning (and which have created a cottage industry for dubious institutions granting dubious masters degrees online)? Why can’t we talk about the original purpose of equalization and whether the current formula is fulfilling that mission? Why can’t we realize that there is no magic in a charter, but that there is magic in creating schools that can be autonomous, can allocate resources as a matter of right, can hire great teachers without worrying much about seniority rights (and can fire a teacher when, out of 30 hires, the principal makes a mistake), and are held strictly accountable for outcomes."

Paula Caldarella said...

Just to make a point about posting "anonymously" on the board.... I got snarky on this blog with an "anonymous" person that I later found out I know.

I feel bad..

Anonymous said...

Kim--As is often the case, you cut through it all to the heart of the matter! Can you be the new super?

Anonymous said...

We’re spending more on education, but class sizes are virtually the same as the 60s and 70s (maybe bigger this year). So where is the money going? Obviously, not to content area and grade level teachers. It seems like such simple math – follow the money.

Until Republicans and Democrats mandate smaller class sizes and a defined percentage of education funds be spent in the classroom, this will continue.

Public education has become a vast bureaucracy and big business has gotten in on the action with expensive for-profit learning programs, training (for DCSS witness America's Choice - $8,000,000 for the program, $9,000,000 for Instructional and Literacy Coaches, School Improvement Group - $3,000,000, Springboard for $1,400,000, - to name a few), etc. Testing and data systems (witness eSis for $4,000,000, SchoolNet for $7,000,000) also consume billions of school dollars.

DCSS may be an especially egregious example, but they are not the only system that has poured money into admin and support rather than the classroom. That has happened on a macro scale all over the U.S.

Cerebration said...

Well - this is good news at least!

State tightens rules on teachers getting paid for advanced degrees

Georgia teachers seeking quickie degrees at substandard colleges or in fields that won’t earn them certification no longer will be able to turn that off-the-clock labor into a financial windfall.

Basically - no more automatic pay boosts for degrees that don't relate to the subject area that a teacher teaches. (ie: "Leadership") Ironically, Georgia is Third in this kind of pay boost - while second to last in results.

beenroundtoolong said...

For those wanting more information on the topic of poverty and schools, please search for David Berliner seminal work from 2005: Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform published by Teachers College Record (TCR.) It is lengthy but very good.

Anonymous said...

To address Cere's original post: Yes, we do need to make things more interesting. I know we want our kids to be the best they can be, but there is more to that than academics.

"Back in the day" every kid took both Shop and Home Ec. I can mend a seam, make a mean lemon meringue pie and am pretty good with both hand and power tools. Laugh, but really--how many of our kids have these skills? I recall having PE every year and looking forward to it. I learned archery--how cool is that?

I was a "Gifted" kid. but I was still a kid.

Cerebration said...

Anon, 7:55 PM - I guess I do still think that a little "positive" motivation goes a longer way than a constant "critique" that reveals poor grade after poor grade, depleting a child's spirit. I read recently that school could be more like video games, in that "failure" is nothing more than a motivation to start anew... There's just something about constant evaluation with negative results that eventually leads a child to believe that he simply cannot do it. Yes, there are groups that need grades - but perhaps collecting or increasing points by revising and re-taking tests or projects (ala - a video game) could be a motivator to stay in there and keep trying...

And Kim - the major point here is that our schools are so hit or miss that the board needs to expect major push-back when they attempt to redraw attendance lines. It's going to get ugly and stay ugly until we start offering a quality education in every one of our schools. And if that starts with closing the poor performers, then so be it. But to simply redraw lines to balance the capacities - I wish them luck.

Cerebration said...

Right on Anon 8:45 PM. I had the opportunity in school to take not only high level core classes, but cooking 1 and 2, home ec (sewing!), graphics and printmaking, painting, drawing, ceramics, jewelry making, PE that included archery (like you), field hockey, tennis, golf, basketball, volleyball, etc (just about something every day) - and my teachers would take two weeks every year to teach us their hobbies where I went bird-watching with my American Lit teacher and learned to crochet from my math teacher. Not only that, I was in a social communications class that went canoeing 70 miles on a river in Michigan and traded schools with a large inner-city school in Chicago for 3 weeks.

All this - AND study hall where I learned to play euchre and properly shuffle cards!

Anonymous said...


He has 20 minutes to patrol the halls, wait at the copier to make copies, attend parent conferences, participate in a meeting to see how the school can deal with a student with anti-social issues, prepare for mock trial club (no extra money just a thank you card) answer emails from parents, get 2 make-up packets foe sick kids, vacate the classroom so another teacher can teach in it.....

Buddy, you have no idea!

Anonymous said...

Gonna throw this out there...then duck! How about no need for lots of "paper activities - but student- led corporative work on real -world problems that are applicable to your subject area. Of course, Im Sure you do this on a regular basis anyway!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons teachers have so much paper and use so many paper and pencil assessments is that without that paper, there is no documentation to back us up when we're questioned. We have to have "evidence" to show that students have mastered a skill and be able to provide multiple copies of the "evidence".

In ten minutes yesterday, I was able to assess all 20 of my students on recognition of 3 dimensional shapes by simply asking them to come one at a time and identify the shape as I pointed to it. As each student performed this task, I used an index card to record any the students missed. That index card will not be accepted as evidence of student learning. I will have to have a sheet of paper for each student with the shapes each marked in some way to indicate whether the students could identify them.

The DeKalb goal seems to be to kill as many trees as possible and waste as much time as possible.

Anonymous said...

Something that everyone needs to keep in mind is that not every child attending a Title I school is an academic failure. I work in a Title I school. Yes, we have a lot of children who are struggling, but we also have gifted, talented, and highly motivated kids and attentive families. We make AYP. Some of you are painting with a very broad brush.

When you are dealing with struggling students you need to have small classes. A solid reason for redistricting some of our overcrowded schools. The teacher then has the time to focus on the needs of her students. When you work with at-risk students you sometimes have to build background knowledge because the students haven't gotten the exposure.

Access to books at home is often a problem. Reading may not be a habit that is kept at home. So, not only do you have to teach reading, you have to build motivation to read where there is none. Good readers read a lot. You won't develop reading skill if you don't read. Having friends who read and talk about the books they read is motivating.

When you tell these children how they are expected to behave and then follow through, they behave. I am never surprised when a visitor comes to my school and stops to tell the principal how nice the school is and how well the children behave. We teach them to do this.

Clustering these children into one school really isn't the answer. It is wrong to try to keep these children out of our "good" schools because they MIGHT lower test scores. You might be surprised to see many of these children step up and meet classroom expectations just because they were asked to do so.

Anonymous said...

OK 9:58, I'll gently toss one back your way. :-)

I'm wondering if you are thinking in terms of what worked and didn't work for your kids, and you are absolutely right. If a kid is at or above grade level (which was probably the case for most of you), his teacher shouldn't be at that copier. That is my belief and my practice.

But kids who are below grade level and/or who test poorly have to pass paper tests to graduate. It's my job to get them there. I hate it. I do.

Those are the kids that this thread set out to address, but how many of you come into contact with them? With respect, maybe some folks need to observe such classes--to come face to face with the problem that I knoew you genuinely want to solve.

Come to my class and listen to these kids read aloud. It is so very sad. You might cry. You might leave angry at whatever it is in our system that has allowed them to be 17 and barely literate. But you will probably never again suggest that more creative lessons are in order.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:35,

I am not sure that we are necessarily talking about Title I schools here. Being poor doesn't mean being stupid or ill-behaved.

I work at one of the top schools in the county. But we have struggling kids, too, who need the interventions that you cite.

And yes, some of them are great--warm and friendly and genuinely good students who can and do behave. But there are the proverbial bad apples mixed in--whatever the Title.

Passionate... said...

Excellent blog. Differentiated instruction based on students' learning styles is the only way to go. Putting all students in the same square peg causes repeated failures not only in schools but in life. Thanks for sharing a great blog.
I also wholeheartedly agree with anonymous at 8:02 a.m.

Anonymous said...

For all the educators on the blog, could part of the problem be that we have pushed skilled and concepts down to a younger age?

I have no idea, but it sure seems like student achievement has dropped at the same time expectations have risen.

Anonymous said...

There also is another broad stroke painted on this blog... That every school on the south end is disadvantaged or parents don't care. I just want to point out that there is some absolutely beautiful homes with scenic property and caring communities. So let's be considerate of creating a single stereo-type about "south end" communities .

Anonymous said...

Teach to the top students.

Let everyone else Hang on!!

Anonymous said...

The way kids are taught to speak at an early age is critical to there development.

Rap music is the down fall of the black race.

It's not "cool" to speak properly.

DCSS cannot do anything about this thug mentality.

The BOE even speaks like this at times.

The BOE has a thug mentality.

Anonymous said...

The Ron Paul School has is right. Go and take a tour.

They only teach to the top students.

Anonymous said...

@11:40 Worksheets aren't going to help these kids read. Teach them the vowels-especially the short ones. They don't know how to decode. Giving worksheets instead of spending time to teach these skills is a waste of paper and the children's time. Look at the web site to better understand reading instruction and what it should look like.

The best classrooms are those that use the fewest worksheets and have ALL children engaged in hands-on thinking activities at their level. Worksheets are babysitting tools for teachers. If you want the kids to practice their skills, than you can do it using their school work.

Teaching to the top kids and giving the other kids support is the key. Low level kids (and middle level kids for that matter) need to be taught what A students do to get their grades. They are never going to learn, if they are kept with low level students or if no one takes the time to teach them.

Anonymous said...

I read in the AJC yesterday that the Georgia house and senate is perilously near to a super majority. A super majority (2/3 of the respective bodies). At that point they can bring constitutional changes up for general election which only requires a majority of the votes. I wouldn't be surprised to see a call for many metro county school systems to be broken into smaller entities.

Cerebration said...

I think people are reading things between the lines that just aren't there. I think that we are not suggesting more creative teaching methods, we are suggesting more positive teaching methods. A consistent message of a failing grade without support or intervention is a recipe for a dropout.

We need to intervene at very early ages - for all struggling students.

Another story from my little hometown: In Ohio, they have trained groups of parents in teaching what they call "popcorn words" to K-2 students. These are the little word-parts that build into bigger words. Like at, it, of, do, etc... little 2 and 3 letter words that parents are teaching groups of struggling students so that they can build better, faster reading skills. It appears to be working.

Teachers need this kind of support. I agree that you should teach to the highest level in the classroom and that peer modeling is important. BUT -- you must also provide support outside that classroom for students who can't keep up on their own. That divide will only increase as time marches on, resulting in the 17 year olds described above.

To me, that is the worst failure our society can make. Why are we so willing to put so many resources into prisons, but not into those same people as small children?

Cerebration said...


The DeKalb Board of Education Committee on Budget, Finance & Facilities will hold a meeting on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:00pm in the Board
Room at the DeKalb County School System's Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.

The purpose of the meeting is to review Board policies and system-wide operations as it relates to budget, finance & facilities.

Click the meetings and announcements link on the side panel of the home page for the agenda.

Anonymous said...

8:38, (11:40 here)

English classes are divided by ability level. There are few "good kids" (good academically--not good as people) to serve as examples for those who are struggling.

You are absolutely right--that the lower level and advanced kids would benefit from being in class together. But that has not been the policy since I have been in DCSS.

The less able--or less motivated who have consistently performed poorly--are all put together, in the largest classes, which does them a great disservice.

And no, I don't use worksheets exclusively with these kids. I simply meant that I can't put them in groups to collaborate and share their skills, since they are put into classes where most are at the "lack of decoding skills" stage.

I work with them to improve their reading. Of course I do. But to pass the graduation test, they have to learn to analyze literature, including poetry. They are supposed to be able to read a passage and determine whether the author is a Romantic writer or Puritan. That is where I become frustrated. I need to teach them to read. They will never in their lives have to analyze a poem other than in school. I WANT to teach them to read! And yes, I have the tools with which to do so.

We need to have reading classes in every school. This is not a south vs. north issue. Every kid who cannot read at grade level should have a separate reading class. The English teacher would then incorporate comprehension into lessons while teaching the required content.

Cerebration said...

Good points. After all, if you can't read - how on earth can you do well in science or social studies? Lots of reading there. I'm hearing that even the new math requires very good reading skills.

Reading is key.

Anonymous said...

differentiation and meeting all of the students' reading needs is important, even vital. however, high school level english classes here in the south end, even in ap classes, are extremely mixed. and my kids will not read. i introduced several high-interest works into the class and had success, but if my ap class is really supposed to be college level, then should the students not be working with more classic literature? many of them can't handle it. furthermore, so many of them won't handle it. one of my ap students loudly complained of having to read "boring s**t". what was it? Hamlet! If differentiating and reading coaching are not going to be addressed in elementary and middle schools, then high school teachers should not be under the administrative gun to prepare 30+ students of extremely mixed ability and motivation levels to become ap ready in just two semesters.

p.s. as for intervention: i gave our title I english coach a short list of names of students who needed pull-out coaching for the ghsgt writing test. how many did she pull out? none. yet this student's scores will be blamed on me.
when will we quit having meetings, filling out reports, and really be able to focus on our students who need us?

Anonymous said...

I read in the AJC yesterday that the Georgia house and senate is perilously near to a super majority. A super majority (2/3 of the respective bodies). At that point they can bring constitutional changes up for general election which only requires a majority of the votes. I wouldn't be surprised to see a call for many metro county school systems to be broken into smaller entities.

I talked to a Republican sentator from the metro area this week and he thinks this is unlikely. Remember much of the legislative body comes from outside Metro Atlanta, this won't be a priority for them. When reapportionment is accomplished, the metro area will gain at least a half dozen seats.

This session is likely going to be dominated by reapportionment and budget woes. It doesn't look like much else will happen.

Anonymous said...

Cere wrote I'm hearing that even the new math requires very good reading skills.

It does, it is unbelievably difficult to be successful in GA's math curriculum if you can't read well.

Anonymous said...

"Would the job of running the schools be Ms. Tyson's? Didn't she hire Dr. Beasley? Isn't she along with the BOE ultimately responsible for the state of the education in DeKalb? When the DCSS administration micromanages the teachers with scripted learning programs, if achievement decreases, then the DCSS administration assumes virtually all responsiblity for achievement or lack thereof."

Yes and what is your point?

Anonymous said...

If we can speak candidly here- who has scripted learning programs? Those schools that "opted" to be in America's Choice have complete local school control over what they will implement and not implement. Are there other scripted programs that teachers are forced to use? Please inform us!

Anonymous said...

RE: scripted learning-my principal--at a school that hasn't made AYP in a couple of years--said that it was not up to him. Maybe her just doesn't want to take the heat for imposing an unpopular program on teachers.

It does make sense, though. Why would the county pay that much and then make it optional? OK strike that last question.

Anonymous said...

“It is 16% Asian, 15% black,1% Hispanic. 62% white, and 6 % mixed race. Only 9% of the children are on free and reduced lunch.
Now, my fellow Americans, is that the demographics of Dekalb County?”

No DeKalb County is according to the US Census data from 2009 found at

43% white, 53% black, 4% Asian, 11% Hispanic with 15.6% below the poverty rate

Meanwhile DCSS schools are Asian 4.40%; Black 71.30%; Hispanic 11.75%; White 10.70%; Multiracial 1.60% according to the DCSS website

Free and reduced lunch includes low income above the poverty rate but in DCSS schools it is 63%.

The difference in the county and the school system is that most white families have abandoned public schools unless they live in a neighborhood like Fernbank or somewhere north or their child can go to a magnet school. None of these facts or figures tells me that Fernbank ES has any problem. It is a great school whose students reflect the surrounding population. If it is a problem then DCSS needs many more such high performing problem schools.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I would like to see same sex classrooms. I taught my guys one day in one of my classes and we had a great time communicating and sharing experiences and how it relates to the material. The same result for girls as well. I felt they were able to open up and share more than being intimidated to not look silly for asking a question or making a comment.

Cortlandt Minnich said...

There is a great deal of time spent on teachers under this topic. If you have seen “Waiting for Superman”, you saw the model of children being an empty vessel into which teachers pour information. Common belief, but it doesn’t seem to work.

There is also an air of defeat for those who do not hear 35 million words before elementary school. I see the logic, but then can't explain the success stories that have overcome this deficit.

I had the chance to listen to two great speakers last week, and their talks, though worlds apart, make the same point. Children will pursue (with ultimate passion) what interests them. No mountain of requirements, no list of required reading, no special consultant developed program can overcome a lack of interest.

- Sugata Mitra discussed his astounding results from putting computers in front of children in India’s slums. This TED video is 18 minutes well spent.

- Jim Brazell (no video) pointed to the need for 21st century learning. A combination of “vocational/technical/applied” knowledge combined in programs that span from high school into college. He points to the Shell 1000mpg challenge results as evidence of this working.

We need to stop flogging and tracking and then re-flogging teachers and find a way to help make school interesting and relevent! Curiosity and interest are an incredible natural vacuum for students of all backgrounds. We cut art, music, photography, band, sports, shop, and pep rallys in favor of more focus on reading and writing and wonder why it’s hard to get kids out of bed in the morning.

ANON 8:45 – I think you hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous commented on the Ron Paul ,School, I think the meant The Ron Clarke School.
Ron Clark take teaching the kids to a whole new level. It take parent involvement and they only teach at the top , they do not teach to the bottom. The ones at the bottom will adapt and get it.
Ga. gov't schools dumb down everything when some one complains that it is too hard. The new math is a great example. When enough people complain about it being too hard, the state will change it.

But no matter what the schools do, if the parents don't care, the student will not care either.

I say school vouchers for everyone......

Anonymous said...
43% white, 53% black, 4% Asian, 11% Hispanic with 15.6% below the poverty rate
Meanwhile DCSS schools are Asian 4.40%; Black 71.30%; Hispanic 11.75%; White 10.70%; Multiracial 1.60% according to the DCSS website

-I taught to a high ranking DeKalb County administrator about this before, and he clearly stated that the Hispanic population in the county was underreported and could be up to five percentage points higher than reported on census data.

Free and reduced lunch includes low income above the poverty rate but in DCSS schools it is 63%.

-Believe me on this, do not ever trust any free and reduced lunch figures coming from DCSS. DCSS is known among school administrators from throughout the state for fudging FRL numbers. If the feds ever came in to audit, heads would roll. There have always been whispers about school staff coaching parents to sign up for FRL even when they should not qualify. They'll tell a parent to only put down one parent's income and not list the second parent's income.

The more students on FRL, they more Title 1 dollars. The numbers don't add up. Despite the economy, DeKalb County has a strong lower middle class and middle class population base. FRL is a dirty little secret that the Central office has been allowed to manipulate for years. If the Feds ever investigated, it would be a big enough scandal for Teflon Ron Ramsey to lose his job as head of DCSS Internal Affairs.

Anonymous said...

The BOE never talks about the quality of our schools. They spend so much time talking about construction projects, etc. Buildings don't teach kids. However, construction projects can line your pockets and those of your friends. So.... of course that gets the attention. I sure hope District 1 and 7 get it right in the run-off. The board should be ashamed of their record. If they had any respect for children they'd resign.

Anonymous said...

DeKalb schools officer involved in shooting near Redan High School

Anonymous said...

Why is an SRO off campus at 3:30 pm?

Anonymous said...

He was called to the scene. A student from DeKalb Alternative School was trying to make trouble for some Redan students.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't DeKalb County Police have responded instead? Certainly DCSS and DPD have interagency radios.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You're worried about who responded to the shooting?

Anonymous said...

It's possible it wouldn't have been a shooting if someone else responded.

Anonymous said...

You guys are incredible! The disdain for DCSS runs a little runs a little to deep.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:11 pm

My point is that you are saying facilities (e.g AC and heat), overcrowded and/or dusty and moldy classrooms, etc. are not under Dr. Beasley's control yet he is responsible for student achievement. He should be informing Ms. Tyson that the classroom environment directly affects student achievement since obviously she doesn't realize that. If she did, she would be decreasing admin and support and moving to ensure direct instruction of students in smaller classes is critical to student success. Dr. Beasley needs to have her help to get our kids to succeed - which is the only reason Dr. Beasley and Ms. Tyson have their jobs.

Ms. Tyson should be supporting Dr. Beasley's efforts by ensuring the learning environment is top notch for all students.

Your post would absolve Dr. Beasley of all responsibility for the learning environment. If he is telling Ms. Tyson that overcrowded and environmentally unsafe classrooms are a deterrent to student achievement, then he is doing his job. If he ignores these critical pieces of student learning, then he is not doing his job.

I don't see a move to decrease right size the admin and support numbers so more personnel are instructing students. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that either Dr. Beasley is telling Ms. Tyson and she is ignoring him, or he is not telling Ms. Tyson how critical direct instruction in smaller classes are for our students.

Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:45, sorry I offended you.

The news reported a child was shot by a DCSS SRO, off campus and out of jurisdiction. It was not an exchange of gunfire.

Maybe we should have the SRO's patrolling county-wide now since there's public support and there are so many of them.

Good Grief!

Cerebration said...

Oh my gosh. This is a terrible event. One of our SROs shot an armed student who was threatening other students. This student was from the Alternative school. The student survived the four shots and is now in Grady Hospital.

I believe the DeKalb police are already very familiar with the Alternative school. This was the school from which a group rode the Marta to Decatur HS last year, resulting in a lock down of Decatur's middle and high schools.

Michael Brown, who lives adjacent to the school, said he heard six shots and immediately attempted to contact his son, a Redan student.

Brown then walked over to the small crowd gathered that had gathered about 60 feet from his home.

“[The school resource officer] was hovering over the kid and keeping everybody back with his revolver” said Brown, adding that he was disturbed by the sight of an officer pointing his gun at the dozen or so students standing nearby.

“He was laying on his stomach and bleeding profusely from his midsection,” said Brown, who added he saw a small caliber handgun on the ground near the boy.

Brown said he has lived next to the school since 1993 and this is the first time something like this has happened. Still, he said Redan could use more police officers.

Cerebration said...

To clarify - as I understand it, this was an Alternative school student who was tussling with some Redan students off campus - in a neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Cere, keeps on deleteing my post.
She is the blog Nazi, if she does not like waht you write she deletes it.

I wrote in Ebonics, which is the prefered way to speak in DeKalb County and she deleted me. I glorifed TI and she deleted me.

I did not call anyone out.

Anonymous said...

The Blog nazi keeps deleting my comments because she does not agree with me.
All the students use Ebonics, the BOE uses Ebonics,but use Ebonics on here and you get deleted.

Cerebration said...

Just curious. Does America's Choice have any kind of guarantee? Below is a quote from their website regarding the "promised results" - well, advertising claims anyway - of using their program. DCSS has been using their program for a few years now and have only seen our scores go down. Is there a way to recoup some of the millions of dollars we've spent on this program or a way to get the company to send in some reps to work directly with teachers to implement the program? Maybe we just need better guidance? I just think it's terrible to spend so many millions and not get the promised results.

From the America's Choice website:

Implementation Commitments
What People Are Saying
Assessment and Reporting Online

An overview of the School Design, with Judy Codding, president of America’s Choice, as well as educators and external evaluators.

A comprehensive, coherent, research-based solution for schools—elementary, K–8, middle, and high—that improves the performance of all students.

For more than ten years, America’s Choice has been a proven turnaround partner; we have helped over 1,000 schools across the country. We have the results you are looking for—improved student achievement, higher test scores, increased graduation rates, fewer discipline problems, and more effective leadership and teaching.
The America’s Choice School Design helps districts and schools focus on five critical elements of school improvement.

Creating a standards-based system with assessments that monitor progress and inform instruction

Aligning instruction to standards and focusing teaching on moving students from where they are to where they need to be

Strengthening instructional leadership
Building professional learning communities
Engaging parents and the community

The America’s Choice School Design is a coherent, comprehensive design that offers exceptional instructional materials and strategies with first-rate coaching and professional development.

“America’s Choice has produced significant improvements in schools where it has been implemented, helping to close the achievement gap and lifting more students to high standards.”

— The Education Innovator, U.S. Department of Education, October 25, 2004

Auntie Gerrymander said...

Regarding Fernbank demographics:
Here is the average sales price for homes in the following attendance areas for the past 12 months:
Fernbank $481k
Briar Vista $387k
Medlock $254k
The demographic impact of these numbers are skewed by the numbers of families with school age children who live in apartments in the Briar Vista and Medlock zones, compared to the almost complete absence of apartments in the Fernbank attendance area. Coming from a family with the educational background to attain the income level to live in any one of the homes makes a big difference to the expectations and the extracurricular educational support the families can provide their kids. If the majority of kids in a school come from such families, then the school's job is that much easier.

Sure Fernbank is magic. Sure.

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry that the shooting of a student occured. I feel that we all regret this. Since none of us were there, we do not know all of the details. It does seem clear that the student had a gun. What was the officer suppose to do? Should he have waited to see if someone got shot? Should he have allowed the fight to continue? I am a parent. Sometimes it seems that this blog places total responsibility on the schools and the school system. I do not want to blame any parent. You may try your very best and still things happen. I have not seen any mention of why a 16 year old had a gun? Did any of the well meaning adults that spoke on TV call 911, when they observed a group of students fighthing? Some awful crimes have happened this week. The death of the young man in Douglas County, the killing of the man in Rockdale, who just happened to be shopping in a store. Are the schools to blame for all of these crimes? We as parents and adults must parent our children. We have to teach them right and wrong and allow them to face the results of the bad choices they have made. I am very sorry about the shooting yesterday. Let us not rush to use this as another way to blame the schools. We as adults must work on finding ways to save our children. Douglas County, Rockdale, Hidden Hills; will it be your family next? Each day I work with young adults trying to help them understand their actions and help instruct them about making good choices. I invite parents to come and visit. Some do and others make every excused not to be involved. As a parent and an educator, I refuse to leave everything up to the school. We must do more than complain. Kim is one of many excellent examples. He is trying to make a difference by being involved and at the school. He does not even have children at the high school. We all need to be involved. This is not a North South issue. While people are trying to lay fault on the SRO, let us spend some time on talking about ways that we can help our young people, especially our teens. If we do not try and influence them in the correct way, there are planning of forces ready to lead them in the wrong way.

Cerebration said...

You are absolutely correct. But I would say that this is a societal issue that needs addressed from all angles. It seems to me that even the government is pushing all of the blame on the schools, when the juvenile system could be doing much more as could other social support systems. If we are going to fix what is wrong with our society that we have devolved to the point of teens with guns in neighborhoods shooting each other, then it is going to take a major societal shift to make a change.

Putting out educational dollars as a competitive "Race to the Top" isn't going to make a bit of difference. Scrutinizing and testing isn't going to make a positive change. Putting cops at every street corner isn't possible. We need to create a society with hope for those who have none.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:14pm...say something of substance and I'm sure you won't be deleted.

Ella Smith said...

I think what is being missed is that this young man had a gun going after other young men from Redan. Of course our SRO had to respond as this is an incident regarding two groups of students from two different DeKalb County Schools and these students where probable skipping school to cause this issue.

The reason SRO carry guns is because they need them. I teach at a high school. I do not think some realize what happens in high schools. Today in Atlanta students over 17 are raping students under age. Crimes are being committed right and left. In fact students cannot even carry bookbag to class at Lakeside High School because of thief being so bad as things are being stolen out of bookbags and then put in other bookbags. It is happening in all of our back yards and the economy is not helping the situation.

This week at North Springs Charter High School they are locking all the doors except one to the offices because of thief in the main office. Now that is getting real bad. Things are different. Kinds do carry weapons and SROs do have to carry guns. I see students in handcuffs weekly. This is just part of the scene on most high school campuses today.

There are drug dealers caught. There are boys and boys and girls and girls and boys and girls who sometimes get caught in the act right on high school campuses. You would be surprised as what happens and why we need so many SRO on school campuses.

I do understand there are many SRO and there actually may be too many. However, as a teacher who has work in high schools for over 30 years I think many may be unaware of the need for many SRO at a high school. There really should be 2 SRO probable at each high school to make sure our students are safe. They need to be walking the grounds and securing our high school and rooting out the crime. There is a real need and they assist in helping many young people stay out of trouble also.

Ella Smith said...

The two SRO at my school now are excellent and I have nothing but positive things to say about them.

However, I also will say this has not always been the case and I have seen extremely corrupt SRO also.

Cerebration said...

In response to the very sad funeral for Bobbie Tillman, a 17 year old literally beaten to death for no reason by a pack of wild teens roaming the streets of Douglas county.

In response to Bobby Tillman's death, hundreds meet to stop the violence

More than 600 people, mostly high school and college age, filled a Douglasville church sanctuary and spilled into an overflow room Thursday night to discuss ways to stop the senseless violence such as that which took the life of Bobby Tillman at a party last weekend.

The gathering, termed a "summit," also included school, clergy and law enforcement officials, and sought to help clear the air between friends of Tillman, 18, and the four accused of stomping him to death.

According to witnesses, Tillman was attacked as he and a group of teens tried to leave a house party on Independence Drive. Witnesses said the fight began as a spat between two girls, one of whom struck a boy, who angrily declared that while he would not hit a girl, he'd hit the next boy he saw.

That turned out to be Tillman.

Tillman's mother, Monique Rivarde, told those gathered at the Marvelous Light Christian Ministry they deserve a good life and to put in their minds, "I deserve a good life."

She said her son "used to tell me it's nothing wrong with doing the right thing and I'm telling you all, there's nothing wrong with doing the right thing."

Officials at the summit say it is the first step toward more comprehensive efforts to address violence in the community. They gathered names of those in attendance to follow up with other activities and to use to recruit more participants.

What a brave, strong woman you are Ms. Rivarde. My heart goes out to you in your loss.

Something needs to be done about this kind of social nightmare. Yes, we can blame the parents of these boys who are nothing more than wolves, however, it is Bobbie Tillman who paid the price. No amount of blame in the world will change the outcome.

David Montané said...

Kim Gokce said "The debate about how to properly educate our children has been going on, I presume, since the dawn of time...."

Only a few generations ago, formal education was not state-mandated and families were solely responsible for their own children. Children and adults can learn without formal education, in fact we were far more literate in past generations. You can do some free reading into this issue from this Harper's magazine article by former New York State and New York City teacher of the year, John Taylor Gatto, here:

The problem we are currently watching (like a very slow shipwreck) on this blog is one of centralization. The solution is to decentralize. If Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Tucker, Avondale, Lithonia, et cetera were to be split off into separate school districts like Decatur, those of us who are interested in what is being done with our tax money would have more say in the process.

How sensible is it for us to have 9 people making decisions affecting 98,000 children and $1.2 billion per year?

David Montané said...

For a longer history, read the free online book by John Taylor Gatto, "The Underground History of Amercian Education", at

Cerebration said...

I like Gatto's books too. One of my faves is
"Dumbing Us Down", which I have quoted from occasionally.

On another note - check out this article in Thursday's AJC -

href=">Study: Politics deters growth in DeKalb</a>

Some are saying that this exact conversation took place in DeKalb over 15 years ago. We're in a vortex!

<i>Consultants additionally cited the county’s cumbersome permitting process, an outdated website, no marketing plan and a history of “politically-motivated development” as deterrents.

Business leaders also complained that the county’s economic development office is inaccessible. Visitors must go through metal detectors and have a police escort on elevators.

Consultants also found that the county’s school system is one of the major detractors for DeKalb.
“A lot a negative publicity surrounding academic performance has damaged DeKalb’s ability to attract business,” Tinsley said.

The chamber has already cited beleaguered schools as the number one problem, including recent
negative publicity surrounding an accreditation investigation, allegations of teacher cheating, a
superintendent indicted for corruption and other ethical violations.

Ellis said he has made an effort to talk weekly with the school board chairman and interim superintendent to make sure there is an improvement in communication.

“We can’t afford any longer to look at county government and the school system at different tables,” Ellis said. “We can’t move on doing things the same old way.” . . .

. . . “DeKalb County has some of the highest scoring schools in the state of Georgia,” DeKalb schools' spokesman Jeff Dickerson said. “Any analysis that the school system is impeding economic development efforts seems simplistic at best, particularly in light of the proposal at the Doraville GM site, which would have created thousands of new jobs and generated more than $1 billion in economic

Anonymous said...

If you google Ebonics + California, there BOE wanted to make it an actual class.

I say that would be a great idea for DCSS.

1. All the students would get an easy A in the class.

2. I was at a school in Ms Woods district the other day and several teachers were talking in Ebonics to each other.
They all had the same soriety logo's on and were not speaking English, they were carring on in Ebonics.

They said and I quote" where u stay at" I could not belive my ears<
The other teacher said I stay near McNair, and the party gone be fly like a G6 latter on tonight.

This is not a joke.

Please listen to the way everyone speaks outside of Dunwoody and report back.

Stop this improper speech and AYP will improve across the board.

Anonymous said...

"the party gone be fly like a G6 latter on tonight"

What on earth does that mean?

Anonymous said...

Googled "like a G6" and here are a few samples of what came up...might explain the comments.

Ella Smith said...

The scissors (which is not spelled right of course) is a drink that is illegal and causes you to be very lethagic. The G6 is about a plane-the G6.

I think this is inappropriate for teachers to be talking about at school where they can be heard regardless. I am old school about things like this.

The violence in our community with our young people and the young in our high schools is real. This is the reason we have SRO in high school. It is to protect our children. The economy has also caused more stealing in our schools. Kids do not have lunch money today so they are trying to steal it.

Anonymous said...

Purple drank
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Purple drank is a slang term for a recreational drug popular in the hip hop community in the southern United States, originating in Houston, Texas. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine.[1] Cough syrup is typically mixed with ingredients such as Sprite soft drink or Mountain Dew and pieces of Jolly Rancher candy. The purplish hue of purple drank comes from dyes in the cough syrup.

There are numerous slang terms for purple drank, including sizzurp,lean, syrup, drank, barre, purple jelly, and Texas tea.

Anonymous said...

My god, this article is a jumble of disconnected, somewhat out of context statistics.


What is the point of all this?

Is it that public schools suck?
Really, then explain how (given that the vast majority of kids in the USA still attend regular public schools) the nations SAT scores have increased steadily over the last 40 years. Or how the achievement gap between groups has gotten smaller over the last 40 years. Or the fact that if you control for poverty and access to health care our students do just as well as those wonder kids in Finland.

Is the point that boys are mistreated by "the system"?
Then how do you explain the continued male (mostly white male) domination of the following:
Corporate boards.
CEO positions.
The state legislature (of all 50 states, by the way).
The National Government (House and Senate and of course President).
Wall street managers.
And most every other big money, policy maker, decider type position on our country?
I guess perhaps the " hunter, builder" boy lost out to the "sit still and learn so he can go to harvard" boy. But he sure did not lose out to girls, al least not when it comes to money and power.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:33pm

"Really, then explain how (given that the vast majority of kids in the USA still attend regular public schools) the nations SAT scores have increased steadily over the last 40 years..."

There's actually a pretty easy to answer, and it doesn't involve rigorous instruction. I'm somewhat surprised you used this as an example of educational progress.

When the College Board renormed the SAT verbal test, the 1994 50th percentile score of 424 became the 1995 50th percentile score of 500. For example, a pre-renorming 640 verbal is a post-renorming 700. It was very controversial at the time. Look at this article from 1994 in Education Week just prior to the scores being renormed.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:33 pm

Oops! Sorry. Here is the link to the 1994 Education Week article discussing the effect the renorming of the SAT was going to have on scores:

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 12:33

"Or the fact that if you control for poverty and access to health care our students do just as well as those wonder kids in Finland."

I'm confused. Are you saying we have more children in poverty than Finland, and that's the reason for our lower scores? If that's your reasoning, I'd certainly go along with that premise. I also believe that teachers cannot be responsible for raising low income students to the level of middle and upper income students with no additional funding or direct instructional resources. Title 1 funds need to be used for direct and intensive instruction of small groups of struggling students. Title 1 federal funds are paid for by all tax payers in order to "level the playing field" regarding low income students and middle and high income students (i.e. not "free money"). That is not happening in DCSS. Coaches and administrators and other non-teaching personnel are receiving almost all of the funds meant for struggling students in low income schools. Direct instruction in small groups and the ability to properly fund programs, technology, science equipment, reading and math materials specific to the local school needs is the proven way to "even the playing" field for low income schools.

Until Dr. Berry and the Office of School Improvement send the funding decisions back to the schoolhouse and allow the schools to increase the level of small group direct instruction, this will not improve. DCSS Title 1 schools are the very schools that have declined precipitously in making AYP. Dr. Berry should be replaced as we need a new head of the Office of School Improvement who will improve the performance of students in our Title 1 schools. If you want to write your BOE members about something, that's something that you can show them the numbers (declining "Meets AYP" in the Title 1 schools) to back up your request.

Anonymous said...

Why is Dr. Berry still head of the Office of School Improvement when our schools have steadily declined? Why does Dr. Beasley keep her in that position? It's time that the upper level administration at DCSS be responsible for student achievement or lack thereof. Teachers have complied and complied with their directions and it has had a disastrous effect on student achievement. Until Ms. Tyson, Dr. Beasley, Dr. Berry, Mr. Moseley, etc. are held accountable, we cannot move forward with student achievement in DCSS. Their ideas have just not worked.

Anonymous said...

I always had about 100 points to my SAT score when bragging about it to my kids. LOL. But it is true, the test was renormed, so you can do the same!

Anonymous said...


Every time I read one of your posts on this blog, I thank God that you did not win a seat on the BOE. That is not meant to be personally offensive to you (I know how thin-skinned you are to criticism) or to your minions (I know how over-protective they are of you, knowing as I do how thin-skinned you are to criticism). At the high school level, teachers should be discussing a variety of issues that are not included on the pacing guides with the students. I don't know whether you've been in a south DeKalb high school lately, but many students have babies and many consistently drink and do drugs -- some, you may be surprised to know, at school even!

ANYWAY, here is my news for the blog.

Remember Felicia Mitchell's daughter, Michelle Jones, being made principal at Clarkston High School? Nepotism at work again in the Friends and Family Plan that is DeKalb. Well, I understand that she actually told her faculty that she has been listening in to various teachers' classes via the intercom WITHOUT LETTING THE TEACHERS KNOW THAT SHE IS LISTENING IN TO THEM. That is patently illegal and unethical. Will anything be done about it?

There will be no change in DeKalb Schools until these people in charge are removed and their relatives and lovers lose the jobs they were given without any consideration being given to merit or talent!

Anonymous said...

The only possible explanation for Audria Berry still being the head of the Office of School Improvement has to be related to the Crawford Lewis trial. The Office of School Improvement spends millions on staff yet our test scores decline annually. it's bad enough she accompanyied Lewis on a trip to the Carribean he paid for with a school system P-card.

Tens of millions spent of the Office of School Improvement with absolutely no return on investment.

Anonymous said...

3:25 PM, is she really did tell the faculty she's been eavesdropping on them wihout notice, all one of them has to do is contact the AJC or a local TV stattion, and Michelle Jones won't be a principal much longer. But it's up to the faculty to step up and come forward.

Anonymous said...

From the AJC blog --

"My principal told us last week that he was sent an e-mail just as I am sure that many other, if not all principals were sent an e-mail asking them to send a list of teachers that they did not plan on renewing their contracts."

If true, shouldn't they also be talking about reducing the central office by a huge number?

Cerebration said...

I suppose that on it's face this post has a lot of discombobulated data, however, it's all thrown out there to simply show that we are very far from providing an education in the variety of ways that children learn. First and foremost, that should be our goal.

All I ever hear our board discuss is buildings, redistricting (which they have bantered about for a year and a half or more yet have been frozen and unable to actually do it) and political grandstanding (either racially or otherwise pretending to "care" what "their" schools "get"). Never have I seen them hold a superintendent's feet to the fire to bring in respectable test scores - systemwide - whatever it takes.

Fact is - our school system is a microcosm of the nation's schools at large. Some US public school systems are excellent and others - even a few miles away - are downright scary. (Think Gross Point vs Detroit)

This idea to just redistrict - without addressing the core problems at struggling schools - is going to result in a small war. (Imagine if those Gross Point people were told their children now had to attend a Detroit city school.) We've only seen the tip of the iceberg of the reactions to school closings and possible redrawing of attendance lines. You just can't do it and not fix the basic problems in education (and yes - societal issues such as poverty).

This is a uniquely DeKalb issue - as DeKalb crosses between excellent schools to poor schools and back - and uniquely represents the entire history of the south in one county. These inequities have been ignored, pushed under the rug and allowed to fester and stew for far too long. Redistricting will bring them to the fore. (Unless, of course, as Dr. Walker promised the Fernbank people - it won't happen. Which makes me say, if I were in a school about to be consolidated or closed by Dr. Walker, who just promised someone else he wouldn't touch their lines, I'd be pretty ticked off.)

Anonymous said...

Yes, the central office needs to be reduced. Greatly reduced, but if you read the whole comment on the AJC blog, you would have seen that it sounded like they were talking about non-renewals for performance reasons.

DeKalb has to do more of this, no school or system has all good teachers, but I fear that DCSS has more than its fair share of not good ones.

Anon said...

Which makes me say, if I were in a school about to be consolidated or closed by Dr. Walker, who just promised someone else he wouldn't touch their lines, I'd be pretty ticked off.)

For the purposes of my example, figure that no new students are zoned to Fernbank. Imagine if they add on to Fernbank and consolidate two other schools in the area, closing one. Can you hear the screaming now?

Anon said...

Actually, I need to correct what I wrote.

Gene Walker will always be a no vote if it benefits him. He knows that enough of the board members will vote for something, like the budget, that he can choose to make a political stand and vote no. Before that vote is cast, he knows that it is meaningless.

Anon said...

Walker is a special breed isn't he.

He can tell the teachers he supports a tax increase, tell Fernbank parents he won't vote to redistrict them, and on and on absolutely knowing that it doesn't matter what he says.

It isn't like he spends a lot of energy trying to convince the other board members to go along, he just says it and votes it and then moves on.

And takes credit for being the nosayer.

Cerebration said...

Yep. He voted against Lewis' raise, however, he was Lewis' personal sponsor into the Commerce Club.

Anonymous said...

@anon 2:01PM

We have more OBESE children living in poverty and receiving free lunches than any other state.

Dr Walker will vote to redistrict to dumb down the schools to the lowest common denominator. He just hates to see the non Af Am kids succeed.

Anonymous said...

What a great article in the LA Times:

"Tired of the blame for failing students, more teachers take charge to turn around school"

The pros and cons of teacher led schools are discussed.,0,344192,full.story

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous Nov 14 3:25pm:
Michelle Jones anonymously monitored classes through the intercom at Chamblee too.

Anonymous said...

Do you think her mom taught her how to eavesdrop via the intercom?

She probably thinks this is totally acceptable. That is the culture that principals are raised up on in DCSS. They see principals treat teachers in an unprofessional manner (e.g. dressing them down like children in front of students). That's often the only the role model they see so naturally they think this is the way to be. That's not true of all DCSS principals, but it's true of too many.

I'm so sorry that DCSS teachers are subjected to such unprofessional treatment. As a DeKalb citizen, it's embarrassing as well as disgusting. Hiring family and friends is never a good idea.

Anonymous said...

If Ms. Jones wants to be a role model for teachers, why not go into the classroom and teach some classes. Show teachers that she knows what she is talking about. Several posters said she was a good teacher. She'll gain a lot more credibility and respect if she models some lessons with students while teachers observe.

Anonymous said...

"Your post would absolve Dr. Beasley of all responsibility for the learning environment. If he is telling Ms. Tyson that overcrowded and environmentally unsafe classrooms are a deterrent to student achievement, then he is doing his job. If he ignores these critical pieces of student"

You are wrong. No one reports building conditions to Beasley. The responsibility for reporting conditions at the school are the principals. They do not report to Beasley-they report to their area superintendent who reports to Tyson. You might as well tell the bus driver as Beasley. He is responsible only for instruction not building conditions. You might as well say they bus drivers are responsible. Unless of course you also connect Beasley with the Kennedy assassination.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong but don't some of our best performing schools have less than adequate facilities. Lakeside and Chamblee come to mind. Cross Keys also has done very well of late with a deplorable facility. Now all are getting new facilities. Maybe if we hold Beasley responsible for bad facilities we should credit him for these improvements? No he doen't have any thing to do with facilities either way.

Anonymous said...

Here's a news flash; the schools can't fix everything. I agree totally with Anon 11:59 that the communities need to come up with solutions other than the public schools. Schools are not responsible for the high birth rate to unwed mothers or any of the other societal problems, but we are expected to fix them often without any parental support. Honestly, what do you expect teachers to do? I'm a hard-working teacher and I'm asking.

Anonymous said...

Put teens (anyone who has hit puberty) on birth control.... pair schools with walgreens or cvs on site to get 'nurses' or "nurse practitioners" into the schools via their clinics that are coming into being to get birth control into middle and high schools to start breaking the cycle!!!! Let's give the kids in middle school and high school who are clearly not interested in a college track (e.g reading waaaaay below grade level and not able to do basic math) some alternative track that will make them productive members of society wihout the need for college (I know these are wild and not politically correct comments but we need to tackle some of this by the horns!).

Georgia Gal said...

In 1975, as an education class assignment at GA State I spent a week at Hope Elementary School on Boulevard and wrote down virtually everything said in a 4th grade classroom. The curriculum ran through singing Yellowbird in music classes to learning about deltas in geography class. Yet thechildren could not read.

First day of middle school and then high school, 6th and 9th grade and every year for new children, I would take all the teachers for a week and have them observe every child reading aloud..individually. Those students who could not perform at a given level I would place in reading classes where they did nothing but learn to read. No cousework at all, just reading. They would do this for the first semester. If there were no classroom for this I would even take them out of doors.I would ask the retired (I am one) from nearby to help for one on one instruction, but I would also hire in regular literate people, not credentialed teachers for the job.

Then when I knew students would could read would be enrolled in middle and high school classes.

This would mean completely restructuring the schools and where most children could read, putting some on buses to go other places, but have teachers working with literate students in regular classes.

Cerebration said...

Brilliant Georgia Gal! I have long said, how on earth can we teach science and social studies when students need better reading skills in order to comprehend the material? These days, the new math actually requires significant reading skills. Reading is absolutely key!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd like to see Dekalb County Schools eliminate the "No Fail" Policy (i.e., teachers unable to give a child an "F" on an assignment when that is exactly what the child deserves, or multiple chances for turning in projects and assignments). I believe this contributes to a child's total lack of motivation.

I also believe the County should not be promoting children year after year who cannot read--but they repeatedly do so! What a disservice to this child--we are handicapping him for life! How can a kid be expected to learn math, science, social studies if he can't read. This policy really frosts me!

Why can't the County create specialty/reading schools for the non-readers that focus exclusively on reading to get these kids up to par. The reading material could touch on the other subjects; however, the primary focus should be reading.

Anonymous said...

That's not necessarily true. you do realize that it doesn't necessarily matter what students read. Reading is like anything else - the more you do it, the better you get until you are fluent, and then then the more you practice, the more fluent you get.

Just because you can't read doesn't mean you should miss out on science and social studies content. Students should be reading science and social studies content as part of their reading. We separate the content areas out from reading, but really reading science and social studies content is just as powerful in the exercise of reading practice as reading fiction. This is called cross-curricular learning - meaning that you read in the content areas of science and social studies and you get to be a better reader. Better yet, you write about what you read and get even more bang for your buck.

Good reading teachers know this. We really need good reading teachers to address struggling learners difficulties. Dr. Beasley and all of the Central Office personnel can train teachers all they want, but packing classes to the rafters with 30+ kids, a number of who have reading difficulties, will not get this job done. it's just physically not possible to devote the kind of time - e.g. a teacher sitting down with as many as 10 or 15 learners to hear them read aloud to see where their difficulties lie - not enough hours in the day when you have huge class sizes.

DCSS administration and BOE chose admin and support personnel over teachers and predictably it is going to be an even worse mess than it was before. Jobs program over kids is what I call it.