Friday, December 24, 2010

Bring Back Vo-Tech!

Don Sabbarese, director of the Kennesaw State University Econometric Center, said electrical, welding and plumbing jobs pay well. "Some of these guys make $27 an hour -- they should have people falling over each other trying to get into these programs," he said. "The state should be putting more money into vocational school programs. There is a real need for plumbers and electricians and carpenters. Why wouldn't we want to train people in these areas where they can make a decent living?"

The DCSS Central Office, whether under Crawford Lewis or Ramona Tyson, loves to focus on one thing more than anything else: Itself. And the Board of Education has enabled them to do so. "Hey if you have millions to spend, might as well spend it on ourselves seems" to be the Central Office Palace's motto.

Many of those who've posted on this site have called for a back to basics approach. Instead of spending well over ten million dollars per year on Audria Berry's Office of School Improvement and her army of staff, who like to tell veteran teachers such valuable info. like how to decorate a bulletin board, and who have no quantifiable return on investment (ask any teacher...America's Choice simply...stinks), or the MIS Dept. spending millions on ineffective software such as eSiS, etc., Vo-Tech education is a much better use of taxpayer dollars.

State Sen. Fran Millar, one of DeKalb's own, has been the leading elected official in Georgia pushing for better vo-tech in schools (

Go Get 'em Fran (click here):
These numbers are courtesy of Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), who in cooperation with House Speaker Glenn Richardson has introduced HB 905, also known as Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy, or BRIDGE. If enacted, the bill would implement a “market-demand skills program” in grades 10-12 in Georgia’s high schools. In short form, Millar says the proposed law would provide a separate track for kids who are not college material and give them the skills to compete in the job market while in high school.

If sheer enthusiasm could pass legislation, BRIDGE would be a law as we speak. Millar passionately believes in the effort. “We spend more than $10 billion annually in Georgia on education,” he says, “and for too long we have focused on every child going to college. Too many are not even finishing high school. Our legislation would give all students a choice of focused programs of study starting in the ninth grade, including programs for students who would otherwise drop out.”

In this economy, there are still many blue collars jobs that need to be filled. See today's AJC article:
Program exposes unemployed to blue-collar world
Georgia Trade-Up is partnering with the Atlanta-North Georgia Building & Construction Trades Council, a consortium of unions -- masons, plumbers, electricians, insulators, sheet-metal workers, heavy-equipment operators and laborers -- to introduce the blue-collar crafts. In the six-week course, students do introductory work in several crafts.

Then, once they find a craft they think they could do well, they can apply for a union apprentice program they will work as apprentices while going through the training school, usually over a three-year period. So far about 18 have been placed in apprenticeships and 40 more trainees are expected to complete the Georgia Trade-Up training in January.

"I go to these high schools, and the teacher will ask all the students who got a college scholarship to raise their hands. I always wonder, what about the kids who aren't college material? Who is looking out for them?"

Don Sabbarese, director of the Kennesaw State University Econometric Center, said electrical, welding and plumbing jobs pay well.

"Some of these guys make $27 an hour -- they should have people falling over each other trying to get into these programs," he said. "The state should be putting more money into vocational school programs. There is a real need for plumbers and electricians and carpenters. Why wouldn't we want to train people in these areas where they can make a decent living?"

Thomas said the local union apprentice programs are buying into both Georgia Trade-Up and Youthbuild, a program that seeks to channel young people from poor neighborhoods into blue-collar trades.

More info. here:

Youthbuild in particular focuses on low-income communities, and we sure need all the help we can get in DeKalb:

YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing, and transform their own lives and roles in society.

There are opportunities aplenty, but DCSS before under Gloria Talley, and now Audria Berry and Morcease Beasely, tends to focus on spending massive amounts on money adding more and more non-teaching staff, or on the educational fad of the day, or fancy, expensive consultants, or no ROI programs such as America's Choice, etc. Here's a call for parents and taxpayers to support vo-tech. And even though DeKalb votes primarily Democratic, we have our own Republican state senator in a Republican-controlled Gold Dome to help pave the way for vo-tech funding.

Let's hear your thoughts and comments!


Cerebration said...

A pet project of mine too... I have advocated for vo-tech high schools since about 1999.... And I always share the link with the one in my hometown in Ohio which has a waiting list - shared by 5 school districts which only total about 30,000 students... So by those standards, DCSS should have THREE schools like this -

An additional plus - this school offers many continuing ed programs in the evenings for adults - it's a very busy place.

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea. It might help students to stay in school and get that diploma. Not every student is college material. Not every student wants to go to college.

Anonymous said...

Hope that this happens, as my friends who went to vo-tech are much in demand, even in this economy. Many of them make more than I did as a teacher, much more.

Anonymous said...

It is a societal and national issue as well, though. Even Obama is very pro-college, thought when pushed, he will say post graduate vo-tech programs count.

There is so much pressure on kids, educators and even parents to pick the path of college, that it is no wonder that some kids feel like school isn't worthwhile for them.

Anonymous said...

Obama is actually one of the biggest proponents of Vo-Tech we have had in a very long time.

pscexb said...

DCSS is actually recognized as having one of the top 'career tech' programs in the state. When you consider the light tech programs in the schools, heavy tech programs at the North and South Tech Schools along with joint enrollment opportunities at DeKalb Tech, it's really hard to compete with the options DeKalb offers for its students.

Concerns should be addressed to the state DOE as they got rid of the multiple diplomas a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

I hear from a number of parents that they don't even know what votech options are avai;able. And even worse, some middle school and high school counselors aren't aware of all the options, let alone advocate them to students.

Yes, parents and students have responsibility to seek out the options avialble to them. But DCSS has an equal opportunity to inform every student and parent. It's sad that some counselors don't know all the options/don't advocate the options for students who could benefit the most from them.

Ella Smith said...

The change in the diploma was horrible for many students who really just either do not have the motivation or skills to work toward an academic diploma. The new math classes which also are on a college level in high school are not for every student. Even with two periods of math a day with a math support class for many students it still is not enough and many students are struggling with the math curriculum. A college prep track is not right for every child. There is nothing wrong with getting a tech diploma. In fact many individuals with technical skills make much more money than individuals who have a college diploma. I really think the one diploma for all is a very bad idea and I am hopeful this will be reviewed and we will offer more than an academic diploma for those students who want the technical route instead.

Shayna said...

Thank you for the BRIDGE bill. I think it is a terrific step towards providing an alternative for kids who may not be interested in college, without precluding them from college should they ultimately make that choice. I urge you to follow through with this effort by ensuring consistency in other educational areas. Our current process for testing kids and the diploma choices we offer need to be adapted as well.
Teachers inherit students. Yet, at the end of the year, we judge teachers on the performance of their students without any consideration for where the children began the year. I propose that we change the paradigm of how we evaluate how successfully a teacher teaches a child. We have technology that allows us to track children from year to year. Let's use it. If a child sits for the IOWA test (or the ACT test in the secondary grades), the scores could be tracked from one year to the next. The "system" (local and state) could then assess the teacher's impact on each individual student. The children could still be evaluated on the same NCLB classifications that have been in use. Instead of using money to develop tests, let's use a test that is already extant. For parents, the nationally normed tests are much more useful than the criterion tests for these purposes as they convey a deeper assessment of a child's strengths and deficits.
Consider the 3rd grade teacher who receives a student reading on a 1st grade level, who brings that student almost to the 3rd grade level, but not quite. This teacher would have done a fabulous job with that student. But, the CRCT would show failure because that student would test below expectations. Conversely, a teacher would be applauded for a student reading on the 4th grade level, even if that student began the year reading at the 4th grade level and made no progress. This way of measuring performance does not encourage teachers to work with students where they are and move them to greater achievement. It may actually encourage the cheating making headlines in Atlanta and DeKalb and elsewhere. I submit that this may be one of the biggest "fails" in our current educational system. Children who land "below expectations" on the CRCT are not getting the real help they need and those "exceeding expectations" are not being developed and challenged either.

Here's how it played out in our house: my middle son (now in 10th grade) began first grade reading and comprehending at a 5th grade level. He also ended the year reading and comprehending at a 5th grade level. His teacher failed him that year. Had CRCTs been given that year, no doubt his score would have indicated he "exceeds expectations." His teacher would have been credited for doing a good job.
My eldest son (now in college) had this same teacher for first grade. He began the year not knowing how to read and the teacher voiced that with his summer birthday, he should have been held back. But by March, he was reading at a 3rd grade level. The CRCT (had it been given back then) probably would have shown "met expectations" when actually he made huge progress, his teacher having done a terrific job.

end part 1

Shayna said...

Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies, Richmond, Va.: Unlike the science-math orientation of most of the public elites, the focus of this school is on world cultures and building students' leadership skills.
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham: This school, established in 1980 in an abandoned hospital, started the small but interesting trend of state-created boarding schools drawing bright and ambitious high-schoolers from all over the state.
Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Oklahoma City: A state-funded boarding school that teaches all courses at the university level.
Pine View School for the Gifted, Osprey, Fla.: This public school opened in 1969. Only those with 130 IQs or above may apply. It has grades 2 through 12 and many successful academic teams.
South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, Hartsville: Another state boarding school, this one is for 11th and 12th graders across the state.
Stuyvesant High School, New York, N.Y.: It has been teaching the city's most academically ambitious students for several generations. It offers about 55 AP courses every semester, and has plenty of courses above that level.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County, Va.: The most selective public high school in America, drawing mostly from the affluent households of northern Virginia, it has one of the most talented faculties in the area.
Union County Magnet High School, Scotch Plains, N.J.: This selective-admission school also focuses on science, math, and technology.
University Laboratory High School, Urbana, Ill.: There is competitive admission for this day school on the campus of the University of Illinois. It makes good use of its higher-education environment.
Whitney High School, Cerritos, Calif.: Like Jefferson and High Tech Highs, a suburban version of the New York-area superschools, with very competitive admission. Unlike students at the state boarding schools, those at Whitney go home at night.
Jay Mathews is a NEWSWEEK contributing editor and Washington Post columnist.
Editor's note: The Bronx High School of Science was not originally on the 2010 Public Elites list due to an error in the SAT scores that the school submitted for consideration. Bronx Science officials have since supplied a corrected SAT number that is above the highest average for any normal enrollment public school which is the criteria for placement on this special list.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see posts from Shayna. It seems hurts to know she could have been a BOE member instead of Foghorn Leghorn/Mr. I Know Everything and You Don't So I Will BE Rude and Dismissive TO You Parents/Mr. I Don't Value Teachers Paul Womack. Please run again, Shayna! We need you, and to have you serve next to Nancy Jester and Donna Edler would go a long way to bringing accountability, transparency and good schools with lower property taxes because waste is cut to DeKalb!

Anonymous said...

@ shayna

"We have technology that allows us to track children from year to year. Let's use it."

The problem is the standardized testing is not comprehensive or timely enough for teachers to modify their lessons throughout the year in order to maximize their instructional efforts. Ideally, the class you had would have a short (10 to 15 questions) benchmark tests given throughout the year as concepts are taught. For example, after a teacher has taught Perimeter and Area in Geometry, the students would go to a computer lab or with abundant access to technology in the classroom, spend 15 minutes on the benchmark test which assesses their understanding of this subtopic. By the end of the day, the teacher would be able to access an analysis telling him/her which students and what percentage of the total class did not master the content. If most of the class did not master the content, the teacher could reteach the entire class. If a group of students did not master the content, then the teacher would move the class forward while he/she worked with the small group in class or in a tutorial. If an individual student needed assistance, then again the entire class would move forward while this individual student received help. This information could also be shared with parents so they know exactly the strengths and weaknesses of their children.

DCSS spent $11,000,000 on eSis and SchoolNet (a student data management system) to obtain this vital information. However, the benchmark tests are poorly written, the students do not have access to abundant and working technology so they can take these tests, and the SchoolNet system does not deliver the analysis to the teachers.

The technology is simply not there in DCSS to do what needs to be done in a timely and efficient manner for students when it comes to data analysis. MIS has had these systems since 2007 and the kinks are still being worked out. They have spent literally hundreds of millions in the past 5 years, and we have little to show for it in the way of student progress.

The U.S. is moving in the direction of managing student data in a way that allows teachers easy and timely access to information that will drive their instruction in a more efficient manner, and parents are demanding to know what content their child has mastered at any given point in time. DCSS MIS is lagging behind and the teachers can do nothing about this problem.

Please reference the first round of Education Recovery Plan funds (aks stimulus money for education) that DCSS received. In my opinion, DCSS should be using this money:

"to design, develop, and implement statewide, longitudinal data systems to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student data…… support informed decision-making at all levels of the education system, including the classroom and school; increase efficiency with which data may be analyzed to support the continuous improvements of education services and outcomes."
(source of quote: Department of Education Recovery Plan:

Instead DCSS spent this money on America's Choice and non-teaching personnel under the Office of School Improvement.

Anonymous said...

Georgia has a residential aviation, math, engineering, and science program. It is called GAMES and is located at Middle Georgia College. Here is a link:

Students can earn a high school diploma and an associates degree. I don't know if it is as rigorous as some of those listed but it is a public option. Both of my sons have been notified about this program directly from the program, not from their high school.

Shayna said...

Part 2 of first post.... (letter to legislators):

If the scores were tracked by student from year to year and the IOWA (grades 1-7) and ACT (grades 8-11) were used, scores would be comparable from year to year. Both tests break down by subject area and both tests would, I believe, would once again allow teachers to actually teach kids rather than teaching to the test. It may also enhance the incentive for teachers to seek national certification. The differences in the standards for national teacher certification versus Georgia certification are, frankly, shocking. Nudging teachers to seek national certification would result in enhanced quality in the classroom.
Finally, for BRIDGE to work, diploma requirements must align. Over the past decade, high school diploma options have disappeared, making it quite difficult for the non-college bound student to earn a high school diploma. A student interested in engineering at Georgia Tech would need counseling for the college bound diploma but there should be other diploma options for the student interested in becoming an electrician after high school. At the same time, there should be sincere efforts made to create partnerships with corporations and businesses to provide training opportunities for students who wish to enter the work force directly from high school. “Non-recourse” tracking is not advisable but tracks “with recourse” (meaning a student choosing a non-college track could move back onto a college track) may be a better and wiser use of resources. Sixth or seventh grade students who are clearly not on a college track would greatly benefit from BRIDGE programs that would keep them in school, engaged in something they are interested in and less vulnerable to negative influences. This may mean creating schools dedicated to certain strengths instead of schools that are “jacks of all trades” (pun intended). This also would mean that we need more very high end “math and science” gifted magnet schools for the high end (top 1%) students. We would do well to look at what’s happening in North Carolina, where schools in this model receive national acclaim.

Again, thank you very much for helping to provide for the children at risk, those most in danger of getting “lost.” Please consider what can be done to make this effort complete, that more dollars actually make it into the school house – and not into administration.

My best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season. Thank you for all you do.

I sent this to various Fulton & Dekalb Legislators (parts 1 & 2) merged. I'm not sure why I've had so much trouble posting part 2The other 2 posts were a follow up e-mail I sent to a new, in-coming legislator who requested follow-up information. Please feel free to use and contact state legislators on your own. I geatly appreciate the teacher input on how we can better use benchmarks to help students -- based on my 8th grader's behchmarks and grades/psat scores (and ACT) -- the benchmarks seem pretty useless.

Anonymous said...

"DCSS MIS still spends millions a year with Dell for the tough IT work, even though there are over 200 MIS employees in DCSS.

You're right. Dell does the heavy lifting. Even though SPLOST is not supposed to be used for ongoing labor it's supposed to be used for capital improvements), MIS has gotten around that by building in the cost of installation and maintenance of computers and Activboards in the price of the computers and Activboards. Thus a $500 computer becomes a $900 computer with the installation and maintenance built into the upfront cost. This results in less computers for students (why do you think our students only have 2 computers per classroom of 30+ students. It also results in less for MIS to do.

This group has many functions that could be outsourced. It's a shame Ms. Tyson is not looking at outsourcing this group.

PS - I am for outsourcing any and all non-teaching positions. We can't reduce the number of teachers we need anymore than we already have. It's already causing problems for students. We need more teachers, not less.

Kim Gokce said...

"I hear from a number of parents that they don't even know what votech options are avai;able."

I can tell you one reason that is true of the former "DeKalb School of Technology - North" (now integrated admin at CKHS). After the move to Cross Keys, the Career Tech counselor position was cut because the school could not have two counselor positions at that level. So, no more road shows and recruiting efforts - very smart!

On the more broad question, I have to harp that the Career Technology programs at Cross Keys include Dental Technology, Health Sciences Technology (CNA certification), and Computer Science Technology in addition to the more traditional Cosmetology, Construction Tech, Auto Tech, etc.

So, while I think developing the future plumbers and carpenters of DeKalb is a great thing, I think the frame of reference for the discussion is out of date. We should be focusing just as much, if not more, on the "knowledge worker" development as we do craft or manual labor disciplines.

Yes, we need qualified carpenters, etc., but we also need nurses and information technicians and other professionals and LOTS of them. These career technology programs can be a track directly to the workforce or as a job skill for students who will continue to college but who must or wish to work concurrently.

Please let's dispel this notion that college is for academic high achievers and work is for the rest. There are post-secondary educational programs that would benefit ALL our young people - it is not either/or.

Kim Gokce said...

One more observation about Vo-Tech ... in terms of earning potential, let's take the points above one level deeper.

Sure, a certified plumber can make $27 or whatever and that's great. But what about career earning potential? Your plumber's career path is very short and earnings grow slowly, if at all.

Contrast this with a young person who pursues dental tech, Certified Nurse Assistent, or a computer tech path. They make make no more than the plumber or carpenter to start perhaps even less. However, young people in these paths have enormous options for life-long learning and earnings growth.

We really, really, really need to realize that Vo-Tech is not about keeping kids in school and not about marketing kids who are not college material. Some of our sharpest kids are deep in career tech programs. Did your uncle's Vo-Tech school have a robotics team?

Anonymous said...

@ Kim
Please let me know who your plumber is. My plumber makes $85 an hour. He has his own business and hires several other people (we've had other plumbers and that's standard). I'm serious. Dental hygenists will never make that. Neither will teachers. Of course he's sending both his sons to Morehouse. Go figure. That's the American dream. But that dream is eroding fast.

BTW my plumber (I have an old house so we see him a lot) is a very literate person who thinks deep thoughts and speaks very well.

Electricians make big bucks too although thank god I don't have a lot of electrical problems.

$27 an hour - LOL I only wish.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth - it took more than a decade and half before my husband and I earned more as lawyers than friends who didn't go to college & who went to work for Ma Bell (I'm dating us here) on the lines, and the electricians and some carpenters (and we pay our plumber more than the prvevious poster) -- and they didn't have college and law school loans to pay back and they got to start retirement savings much sooner than we did... don't knock it. Sometimes assumptions about what makes the most sense are off. I wouldn't change places -- both of us love what we do and love being here but we strongly discourage student loans as we see our kids being crunched as part of the upper middle class that don't qualify for any aid at all (it took us a very long time to pay back our own student loans).

Anonymous said...

There is some very good news coming out of the State BOE. While I have not seen any plans to rework the entire integrated math program, there is a proposal to add three new courses to the state math curriculum. Instead of having to take and pass Math IV (pre calculus) students will now be allowed to complete their fourth math credit by taking one of three practical math courses,i.e., think business math but fine tuned for today's world.

I think this is a huge plus for schools throughout the state, including DeKalb.

I am sure the proposal will pass and it may have already been adopted.