Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Folks, we've been played!

This is a crock. Of you know what.  The board meeting last night was just about the last straw for me.  We have been sitting in a slimy pit of limbo for over a year now.  I am ashamed to go back into this blog and read my childish posts believing hook, line and sinker in Ms. Tyson and the board's promises.  I have no faith in them. I have no faith in SACS. I have no faith in the Governor.  We are simply in a stalemate. A grossly manipulated situation that rewards the Friends & Family with the right connections, church membership or sorority, yet leaves teachers and students flapping helplessly in the breeze.

The following promises have been made -- and ignored.

In the September, 2010 post called, "Awesome Board Meeting" I blathered on about how wonderful the board was working together and how they seemed to be rising to the challenge of the SACS inquiry by hiring the new auditor. Today, in hindsight, my words look foolish.
..."Anyway, back to the auditor. They have hired a real pro. . . . His name is Gary Babst and he has 22 years of experience as an internal business auditor, having worked for GM in Detroit. He presented his 100 day plan which I will bullet-point below:
Build internal controls structure
Create efficient, effective business processes
Benchmark with other area school systems
Implement a fraud hotline
Implement an ethics program
Identify the "audit universe" and high risks for the system [??!]
Engender a strong tone at the top
Encourage management to create a sense of urgency and lead by example
Create clear goals and objectives as well as metrics to measure progress
Ensure high impact and high visibility for audits
Demonstrate that "we're looking after the taxpayers money"

Uck. He has done none of these things. We still don't even have that whistleblower hotline, which the board enjoyed so much positive press about! How hard can it be to install a whistleblower hotline? Three space shuttles have launched since that board meeting, however Babst has yet to produce a whistleblower hotline. (He says he does, however, have some bids!) Yippeee!

What about ROI? It "seemed" that Tyson and our board were finally starting to pay attention to the return on investment for so many expensive learning programs.
Happily, the board is now questioning how much money we are spending on "programs". Don heavily questioned Dr. Watkins on his request for another $120,000 for yet another Title 1 "program" to implement small learning communities. He read from the proposal and said it sounded like a bunch of 'gobbleygook'. Dr. Speaks questioned him further and we find that we've been throwing money at this program since 2004, and apparently have tons of data, but nothing has improved at these schools.
Oh well... no worries. Just approve, approve, approve!  For "some" reason, if Ms. Berry says, "Jump", our board says, "How high Ms. Berry?"

How about this?  I will quote my own interpretation of Ms. Tyson's empty promises,
"Ms. Tyson got it though. She knows she needs to dig deeper into this kind of spending to find out if we are getting our money's worth and if we should in fact, drop a program or two when they continue to not show results."
Ha. Ha. Ha. In hindsight, that one is particularly naive of me to believe. RESULTS? Who tracks those?!!! [I'll assume you've seen our latest test scores.]

Speaking of Ramona - she has managed to close or consolidate 8 more schools. That leaves us with literally dozens of abandoned properties dotting the county, however, when concerned, caring citizens attempt to start a charter school, one by one they are denied by Nichole Knighton and the board, ironically, according to Knighton, mostly due to the fact that they have no location!  This is in spite of the fact that the school system by law must provide charter schools access to shuttered schools.

Or how about this?
"Moseley is putting two buildings up for use - Heritage and Hooper. Womack stated that he could use Heritage for over-crowding at Oak Grove and Sagamore. (K-2) could move to Heritage. He's not sure that the community would want to do that."
What ever happened to those buildings? [Still closed.] Why is the International School and other charters still begging for a building when we have so many available, but shuttered and protected by board members as 'home turf'?

Or how about Marcus Turk and his "funny accounting"?  Our electric bills have increased over 57%.  Another department, simply called "other benefits" increased over 90%.  Our legal fees are beyond imagining, but we can never know, since they are not itemized, they are buried within each and every budget line. What a farce!  This is taxpayer money – you, Mr. Turk, need to tell us where it's going.  Real CFOs are clean - and unafraid of things like Online Check Registers.  What's the holdup with that idea, Turk? Tyson? Babst?

All I can say is -- looking back, all I hear now is "blah, blah, blah." This board is full of one empty promise after another - one unfulfilled ideal after another -- one distraction after another. (The distraction/inaction list is long: Marine Academy, Sembler proposals and the closing of schools, the Jaheem Herrera investigation resulting in nearly a half-million payment to a retired judge, SPLOST oversight committees, The Blue Ribbon Task Force, Citizens Planning Task Force, Citizen's Advisory Committee, RICO charges, investigations, a $100 million civil lawsuit, $15.5 Million in lawyers fees for the investigations, a superintendent search complete with leaked information, redistricting, cell towers, and RIFs.)  They focus on discussing, motioning and planning, but never acting on just about everything BUT educating children.

Dr. Lewis spoke of "urban inertia" when promoting the Marine Corps Academy back in March of 2009.  He had simplified a science term as he said, "In DeKalb, we find ourselves wrestling with the complexities of an original phrase I shall use - urban inertia. As you are aware inertia is a physics term that refers to force." Of course, being a former PE teacher, not a science teacher, Lewis didn't know that inertia does not simply refer to "force"; inertia refers to the "resistance to change". That's what we have here, complete, utter, stone-walling resistance to change.


Dekalbparent said...

Ahhhh, maaannn, Cere,you're bummin' me out!

This is a very sad post, my friend. Not to stir the pot, but there have been times in the last year that I have read some of the posts here and wondered what was wrong with me. Was I too cynical to give folks a chance? Did I have trust issues? LOts of posters seemed to think we were at the biginning of an upward trend, but I could never jump into it. I think it started when I went to an ELPC meeting and heard Mrs. Tyson promise transparency and a new beginning. I got hopeful, and then I heard the same exact words a week or so later at another meeting, and then the same exact words at an even later meeting. Then I had two Board members explode at me when I used the word "transparency".

Then I lost my religion.

BTW, I remember sitting at a BoE meeting at "the Brad" last year when they were approving/denying charter school applications, and really hearing the Board approve the application for Destiny, acknowledging that their application was incomplete and did not meet standards, ut the decision was to approve the application for a year, let them have that year to fix the application and DCSS personnel would work with them to complete it. Then this year the application for Peachtree Hope was rejected because it was not complete and that would not ever pass muster with the state.


Losing my religion again and again.

Gayle said...

DCSS lost its focus a number of years ago when the administration began to refer to itself as "Upper Management" and added hundreds and hundreds of non-teaching jobs that they filled with family and friends. The school system became all about relationships rather than competence. Power and salaries revolved/revolve around social and familial connections.

Here is just a sample of the minutes from the BOE for the first couple of years that Lewis was superintendent:

"Mr. Tim Freeman, Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services, recommended that the Board approve the appointment of Philandrea Guillory, a relative of a board member, as Director of the Public, Press and Partner Relations Department. A motion was made by Ms. Andrews, seconded by Ms. Roberts and carried with a unanimous vote. "

The head of the BOE (Ms. Edwards) voted for her own daughter to get this promotion. Ms. Guillory was recommended by a former superintendent's son (Tim Freeman). Also note that the entire PR department was fired by Ms. Tyson - except for Ms. Guillory - current salary with benefits- $144,135. Ms. Edwards son-in-law Dave Guillory was promoted to Transportation manager under Lewis - current salary and benefits - $144,150.

"Dr. Lewis recommended a position upgrade for Jamal Edwards, a relative of a board member, from a 10-month Certified Teacher Support Specialist (CTSS) to a 12-month Network Liaison Specialist I within the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department, effective July 1, 2005....Ms. Andrews made a motion to approve the recommendation, and Ms. Roberts seconded the motion. In discussion that followed, Dr. Lewis apologized that this was not brought before the Board at the time of the promotion as required by Board policy. He has directed Human Resources to review and revise its standard operating procedure so this violation of Board policy does not happen again. Ms. Grant said this policy has been followed for a number of years unerringly and she is troubled that suddenly it has been violated. Ms. Grant asked for clarification of the process to determine which jobs are posted and which jobs are not posted."

Apparently, Lewis had already promoted him without even asking the BOE. Jamal Edwards - current salary and benefits - $72,471.

Gayle said...

"Dr. Lewis recommended a change in salary based on verified years of experience for Chanda White, a relative of a board member, in her current position as a Title I Parent Facilitator.....In discussion that followed, Dr. Lewis stated that Ms. White is one of nine people in this category requiring a salary adjustment based on verified years of experience as identified in the Compensation Classification Study. ....Ms. Grant made a motion to approve the recommendation, and Ms. Andrews seconded. The motion passed by a vote of 8/0/1, with Ms. Anderson-Littlejohn, Ms. Andrews, Ms. Copelin-Wood, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Franzoni, Ms. Grant, Ms. Joyner, and Ms. Manning-Moon voting affirmatively, and Ms. Roberts abstaining."

Ms. Robert's daughter is promoted using the missing Compensation and Classification audit to justify the promotion. Chanda White - current salary and benefits - $76,495.

'Recommendation: It is requested that the Board approve the following personnel assignments: Sharon Pritchett from the position of Prevention/Intervention Specialist to the position of Prevention/Intervention Coordinator Torie Callaway from the position of Pre-K Paraprofessional at Redan Elementary to the position of Prevention/Intervention Specialist Marilyn Griffith from the position of English teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School to the position of High Schools That Work Coordinator in the Department of Instruction ...The employees are related to the following cabinet members: Sharon Pritchett is the wife of Dr. Stan Pritchett, Deputy Superintendent of Administration & Business Affairs Torie Callaway is the daughter of Mrs. Frankie Callaway, Associate Superintendent of Student Professional Services Marilyn Griffith is the sister of Ms. Sheryl Croft, Area III Assistant Superintendent"

Torie Callaway went from a paraprofessional salary in 2006 to a Family Services Coordinator in a Parent Center with salary and benefits of $56,315. By 2009, she was a Parent Coordinator with salary and benefits of $61,775.

"Dr. Lewis recommended a position upgrade for Sally Wade, a relative of a board member, from a Secretary II in Human Resources to an FTE Specialist within the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department......In discussion that followed, Ms. Grant noted that since two of the recommendations on the agenda pertain to relatives of board members, the member associated with the candidate is not allowed to vote."

Ms. Wade - Current salary and benefits - $83, 600+

Read the BOE minutes of the first 2 years and you will see how many BOE minutes deal with the promotion of BOE or Cabinet members relatives.

This is an entrenched group.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Let's not forget that Jamal Edwards, after getting that new position and $15k raise, DID NOT report for that job for 6 months. It took parents at Nancy Creek to discover this, after watching a WSB-TV report on nepotism. Almost a dozen parents met with Clew and Ms. Loeb, Asst. Super. Ms. Loeb called Tyson, Jamal's direct report, on her speakerphone. Tyson was ummming and ahhhing for 5 minutes. She admitted she had no idea that Jamal had not reported to his new job. It's amazing this guy was not shown the door immediately. Plus, he had several cost of living increases.

One more note, when Jamal was the CTSS at Nancy Creek, there were so many printers broken that it took two parents several weeks to fix the printers. Problems like no ink, a paper jam, paper clip lodged in carriage. Most were simple fixes, but there were so many it took time.

This incompetence of the friends and family plan has been going on too long! Everyone in the "Upper management" MUST go. NOW! These bozos actually think they are doing a good job. We must continue to show up at that Palace and tell them the job they are doing is less than stellar and they should be looking for new work.

Ms. Tyson is part of the problem! Clew hand picked her! She said that transparency word and I chuckled at the DCPC, when she said it. I knew she didn't mean it. She needed to get her million dollar pension and move on before making the stakeholders too angry.

Passionate... said...

Amen! Your post is sad, but true!

robin said...

Well, sadly I believe that
1) The education historian from The Patch was right---- these sad occurences are symptoms of a decayed system
2) I realized last year that the educational system like so many other American institutions is in the midst of at least a seven to ten year decline
3) Big systems like Dekalb, Atlanta, Gwinnet,etc. are too big and out-dated for 21st century America
Any effective actions are going to be generated from the bottom ---- parents, students, individual schools and communities. Yes, the impacts will be much smaller and more limited but at least there will be some positive products as this decaying system continues to unravel itself. While we need to continue keeping eyes on the top, maybe it will be more productive to help individual entities see how they can create some positive or forge some alliance for our the kids.

betty said...

What would happen if children just didn't go to school one day this year in protest to our school leaders that we are no longer willing to deal with their bullship? I would take an unexcused absence to make a point. Like wise protesting the county, states, sacs inaction.

betty said...

A county wide day of protest, let's make it one of the crct days in April.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Our household decided to vote with our feet. Our children will attend Catholic school. I don't know where the money will come from and it's a 9 mile drive each way. But that's what it takes to ensure our children's academic needs are met. I don't trust the county school system any further than I can throw it. Maybe by the time our eldest is ready for high school things will be better. (she's starting kindergarten). A lot can happen in 10 years. Maybe.

bu2 said...

Great article in Dekalb Neighbor today by Dale Cardwell. Its the Neighbor Newspaper for Decatur, Tucker and Stone Mountain.

"Why no one's held accountable"
1. political fragmentation
2. individuals have lost faith in bringing about change to our political system (he could have quoted you Cere). He thinks it was very different 10 years ago.
3. profit-drive TV newsroom. He says Atlanta is the only market he knows where TV stations ignore news broken by other stations.

Catydid said...

Apparently AYP School Choice letters are being mailed to - get this - 31,000 families on Friday. That's 31,000 students who qualify to transfer out of their home schools. And in case any of you missed it, offering transfers is NOT required by law; it's only one of 14 options open to students at failing schools.

Cerebration said...

I don't know if ATLs hotline was internal or external, but judging from Bev Hall's comment below, I'm guessing internal. I mean really, who in their right mind would trust their anonymity to insiders? Our auditor said he was considering using staff to man the hotline -- to which I say, don't bother...

A number of years ago, we installed a hotline whereby persons with knowledge of misconduct could report it, even anonymously if they so wished. Anonymous emails and letters provided a further channel of communication. Even so, it now appears that our efforts and procedures were not enough.

The Retired Superintendent: ‘I sincerely apologize’

Anon said...

So 31,0000 is about 1/3 of the students enrolled in DCSS. I say it's high time for a new paradigm. I'm ready for vouchers.

Anon said...

Not quite correct. Once a school has not made AYP in three years, choice has to be offer. The system has lots of ways to offer those choices, including redistricting, opening new schools, adding on to schools, charter schools, etc, but DCSS is stuck in a rut, choosing to simply offer transfers.

Cerebration said...

Actually, that's really bad - as most of the transfers will be happening in the high schools. We don't have too many ES and MSs that are in year 3 of needs improvement. This is really about a majority of high schools. I heard that there are only three or four of the 22 high schools that will be able to take on transfers. Pretty sad. And then, when you transfer kids so late in the game, there's just no way to make amends for what they've missed - I don't care if you're the Mother Teresa of educators.

fedupindcss said...

I've become convinced that DCSS keeps offering transfers because that's what all the "upper management" did/does with their kids.

Cerebration said...

Transfers only serve to oil the squeaky wheels. They are not attacking the problems by finding the best ways to get in and improve children's learning, they are simply quieting the mob. However, that doesn't work with NCLB, because as you can see, due to not addressing the educational malfeasance, the same children continue to do poorly. This just creates a vortex of AYP failure and soon you have all failing schools and nowhere to transfer to!

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration
They just don't know what to do. Ms. Tyson has 2 years in the classroom from the 1980s. Dr. Beasley has 3 1/2 years in the classroom from the 1990's. I don't know about Dr. Berry, but I do know it's ben many years since she's been in the classroom. Having no classroom experience, they are just befuddled as how to move students forward.

teacher said...

@ @atl

I agree. Those running the district don't know what the heck they are doing. Not one of them has enough teaching experience to really know how to handle and deal with real education issues is coming to light. You can't do what you've always done and expect different results.

Fred said...

@atl, a friend shared this with me when I commented we are ignoring those who are putting pressure on the education leaders of school districts around the country. It comes from Education Week in 2000 and the facts presented are just relevant today.


I also had a conversation with another friend who agreed that while students at Title 1 schools can learn, they may not be able to learn at the same rate or pace as students at a school like Vanderlyn. To test a Kindergartener at a Title 1 school and expect a similar achievement level as one at Vanderlyn, given what it presented in Fact 2 of the linke, is possible but statistically unlikely.

RUKiddingme said...

You people write about Title I as though is a birth defect! It is not! The labeling is assigned to a school based upon the number of free and reduced lunch approved applicants at a school. As strange as this will sound to some readers, parents "do" lie on the forms!! Free and reduced lunch does not equate to being illiterate-low or non-functioning!!

teacher said...

I agree RuKidding me!!! Going to a Title One school has nothing to do with not being able to learn. It just means that the children are from poorer homes-that is it. The extra money is given to the schools to ensure that these kids do not fall behind and get the help that they need.

In DCSS our kids do not receive this extra help. Instead we spend the money on box programs that have not been effective and an army of coaches that over paid and not worth the money spent on them.

If the standards in DCSS were higher for the children, our children would not be so far behind. You can't expect one to excel when the goal is set so low. This has nothing to do with the children and everything to do with the administrators running the show.

Sagamore 7 said...

Can you tell me another entity / business where the leaders have VERY limited experience and are compensated so highly?

Interim-Superintendent / 2 years classroom experience.
$300,000 per year

Interim-Director of Cirriculum / 3 1/2 years classroom experience.
$165,000 per year

The only reason for this type of compensation would be if they were getting RESULTS!

Now look at the results we are getting from the CRCT scores!

FAILING the county and FAILING the children!

In any other environment, a BOARD of DIRECTORS would be held accountable for this severe waste.


Time for change, again!


Cerebration said...

Ms. Tyson is apparently finally realizing that they have failed in their responsibility to educate children. She now has a "90 day plan" (even though she only has 75 or so days left)... She will present her plan to the board on Friday.

This is a report from the (contentious) AYP transfer meeting the other night. Once again, the transfers are in a mess. There isn't space at Chamblee (they apparently will now have 40 trailers), Lakeside is 500 over-capacity, has a couple-dozend trailers and the entire place is under construction, and Arabia says they don't have room either (although I don't think they have trailers yet). DSA made AYP, but the board won't send students there since they're a magnet, even though with only 300 students, they have considerable space.

IMO, it's well-past time to get in these schools and fix what ails them for ALL students.

I attended the Public School Choice meeting last night. Ms. Tyson was present. The parent questions/comments fell into two clear groups 1) parents from two receiving schools questioning the chronic failure of DCSS to plan in advance for the annual migration of NCLB students and the subsequent gross overcrowding of the same receiving schools year after year, and 2) parents who wanted to know how they could get their children out of a rotten school and into a good school. Towards the end of the Q&A, Ms. Tyson took the mike from Bob Mosley and began with the comment "my staff is sitting in the back of the room and I promised them that I only came to observe and not to say anything but after hearing some of the parent comments about the ... (quality of education in their children's schools), I cannot sit silent. " She then proceeded to say that she is the mother of two young children and made it clear that she is weary of the Interim Superintendent role. She concentrated on trying to clean up the mess and crises so that the new Superintendent could hit the ground running and concentrate on academics and instruction. However, since there is no hire and she agreed to stay for 90 more days she will not ignore the core role of the school system which is to provide a quality education to the students. She said she tasked the staff to come up with new ideas and that on Friday morning she plans to unveil her plan for instructional improvement. She acknowledged that the CRCT scores are poor. She gave a few insights into the plan. She said she wants to "return the teacher to teaching and to eliminate all busy work." She said "chasing data for the sake of data" is a waste of time and she wants it stopped. She wants to stop buying products "off the shelf" and to focus on teacher training. It was clearly an unrehearsed talk and came from the hear BTW - Beasley was not there. If you can, plan to attend the 10:00 a.m. meeting on Friday and report on her plan. Any plan is better than no plan which is what DCSS has had for the last 4 or 5 years.

Cerebration said...

Fred, the article you reference is a very good one. As I read it, I think they are saying that testing does not show the ability to think critically or to be "actively" engaged. In fact, often those types of learners do worse on standardized tests. It is the superficial learner (those who just read, memorize and regurgitate) who do well on tests. Also, tests can be biased (I strongly agree and have posted my own experience with that) and those with money can pay for tutoring and test prep.

Testing is driving qualified teachers out of the business of education (Dr. Blackwood at SW DeKalb comes to mind - he was put on some kind of probation because he did not subscribe to Word Walls, etc and instead, taught students to think critically, connect the dots and ask questions.) We are losing our minds in this country over the idea that testing can sort people.

I would recommend that our bloggers read the article you posted though - it's a good one for debate!

Standardized Testing and Its Victims

Gayle said...

"She said she tasked the staff to come up with new ideas and that on Friday morning she plans to unveil her plan for instructional improvement. "

Why is Ms. Tyson not meeting with teachers in the schools to hear what works and doesn't work in their classrooms? The same staff will give her the same ideas. The staff is not in the classrooms. Until she goes to the classroom teachers teaching math, reading, writing, science and social studies, she will not get far. Find the truly successful teachers and ask them what they think is impeding instruction. Is this really so difficult?

Cerebration said...

Interesting meeting next Wednesday, July 20, 2011
@ 9:00AM:

Budget, Audit, Finance & Facilities Committee Meeting
J. David Williamson Board Room
Administrative & Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30038

B. Discussion Items
1. FY 2010 Annual External Audit Results
Presented by:
Ms. Suzanne Hatfield, Deputy Director,
Mr. Brad Freeman, Audit Supervisor,
Ms. Jennifer Thomas, Senior Auditor
Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts

2. Office of the Internal Auditor ~ Updates
Presented by: Mr. Gary Babst, Director, Office of Internal Audits

C. Citizen Comments

To get on the list of citizen commenters, send an email to:

flayshigs said...

“Why is Ms. Tyson not meeting with teachers in the schools to hear what works and doesn't work in their classrooms? . . . Is this really so difficult?”

Ms. Tyson lacks the experience and management skills to tackle serious challenges and solve problems. Her continued presence maintains a status quo administration and extends the turn-a-round this school system desperately needs. I am willing to bet that if she met with a handful of DeKalb stand-out teachers she probably would not understand how to implement their practical input.

Cerebration said...

Good point, atl.

Let's see, how much teaching experience do Audria Berry, Bob Moseley, Alice Thompson, Marcus Turk, Jamie Wilson, Tim Freeman, Ralph Simpson and Morcease Beasley have combined?

Cerebration said...

Problem is, our school system focuses too much on "leadership" and not nearly enough on "teaching".

Gayle said...

The 2004 Ernst and Young Compensation audit was authorized by the BOE in September, 2003. By April 1, the study was complete and the Ernst and Young consultant Jim Landry presented his summary to the Board. The entire process took 7 months from start to finish.

If Ms. Tyson was not going to use this study to rightsize salaries when she took control in spring, 2010, she should have asked the BOE to authorize another study. That seems preferable to cutting teaching positions by 300+ (particularly after Lewis already cut teaching positions by 275 the year before).

Now MINUS 600+ teachers later, DCSS student achievement is worse than ever, and a few schools will be overcrowded beyond anything parents imagined.

I wonder if any of Ms. Tyson's "staff" will come up with the novel idea of spending some of that federal money to put a few hundred teachers in the classrooms to address the needs of struggling readers. My guess is they will want to save their jobs and will suggest more "training" done by - of course - more non-teaching staff.

Cerebration said...

Ms. Tyson can also consult the internet for white papers on student achievement. In fact, her former employer, IBM offers one available at this link: (You have to have a login account but it's free). Maybe this is similar to what they already use - or maybe it's not - but I thought it was interesting. It uses data to predict and effect outcomes, not just to label schools and teachers.

Decision Management for Student Performance: White Paper

Our educational system’s fundamental goal is to ensure that every student is successful. Addressing academic performance issues early, before they
become too severe, is the best way to ensure that students achieve their full potential, remain in school and graduate on time. IBM SPSS Decision Management for Student Performance is a proven early diagnostic solution that answers critical questions such as:
Which students are at risk of not advancing to the next grade?
What individuals are most likely to perform well given the challenge of advanced placement courses?
Who will respond to which intervention measures
What steps can be taken immediately to improve graduation rates?

Through the use of predictive analytics, educators and administrators at every level can act quickly to ensure that struggling students get back on
track and that high-performing students remain challenged.

With IBM SPSS Decision Management for Student Performance, you can use data about students’ past and present performance to predict their future success. The solution combines powerful predictive models and business logic with a simple and intuitive user experience to help educators quickly and easily:
• View and understand students’ progress
• Spot learning problems early
• Optimize individual intervention measures
• Maximize “on-track” performance and graduation rates

Going beyond basic reporting, dashboarding and scorecarding, the solution is designed for ease of use and real-time information assessment. For example:
• Superintendents can predict district performance and track year-overyear progress in benchmark assessment tests to ensure schools are meeting state and federal requirements for programs such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
• Principals can determine, improve and implement solutions for low-performing students before funding is impacted, as well as enhance teacher performance and efficacy
• Guidance counselors and testing coordinators can work with individual teachers to determine the most appropriate action for students deemed at risk of being retained, dropping out or underperforming to improve the student’s chance of success
• Teachers can pro-actively implement personalized education plans for at-risk students based on early identification of problems

As a result, educators, schools and districts can gain greater control over academic outcomes, deliver personalized, data-driven learning programs for each student and meet regulatory and compliance

Colleges use similar online programs for students. You can tell at a glance how you are doing and where you need to get extra help - at any point in time - not just at annual testing time.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration

"Teachers can pro-actively implement personalized education plans for at-risk students based on early identification of problems"

That's what the benchmark tests were supposed to do. But the benchmarks:
1. Were poorly written by Central office personnel
2. Students had to "bubble in" the answers with pencil and paper since there are not enough computers for them to use to take the tests - ironic isn't it when we spend all those millions of technology - where does this money go?
3. Teachers had to "scan" in hundreds of test sheets every six weeks taking away valuable planning and teaching time from students
4. The Schoolnet/eSis software was not configured by MIS to deliver the results to the teachers in a timely manner so they could change instruction in a short window of time. Rather the non-teaching staff at the Central Office got the analyses, then it went through the "Coaches" or other personnel in the schools, and finally filtered down to the classroom teachers.

Poor planning, lack of infrastructure, and no teacher involvement or buy-in precluded any success in the use of timely data feedback. Meanwhile, taxpayers spent $11,000,000 for eSis and Schoolnet (we're still paying). While it's true that the old AS400 that housed student records needed replacing, DCSS bought a Cadillac they didn't know how to drive and the support staff (MIS and Central) weren't willing to learn.

Judging from her remarks, Ms. Tyson understands that the data collection DCSS was performing did not give the results it was supposed to give and in fact was a drain on teachers' time. Many school systems use real time data collection effectively for students, and in the 21st Century DCSS should be doing this as well. Most Central Office employees do not understand or feel comfortable with instructional technology or technology in general. IMO -that's a huge problem.

Open+Transparent said...

Just a reminder, other than Gloria Talley, virtually the entire Crawford Lewis Central Office administration is still in place today. Yes, the same exact bloated, festering, inefficient, morally corrupt administration is still intact.

That's you Audria Berry, Bob Moseley, Alice Thompson, Marcus Turk, Jamie Wilson, Tim Freeman, Ralph Simpson, Robert Tucker, and the worst of all offenders, State Senator/Head of DCSS Infernal Affairs/persecutor of teachers Ron Ramsey. Ramona Tyson has made NOT ONE personnel change of note. Sorry, but she could not be more unimpressive and status quo.

So DeKalb County went through the unprecedented scandal of having its Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer indicted for criminal enterprise, and the (feckless) Tom Bowen-led Board of Education has allowed the Crawford Lewis selected Central Office cabal to stay in place. Heck, Tom purposedly made a show of hugging Crawford at one of his many courtroom appearances.

Kudo's to the Atlanta BOE and interim Supt. Errol Davis for firing its four asst. superintendents under the disgraced Beverly Hall.

(Did anyone see the clown co-PTA chair of Fernbank Elem. singing the BOE's praises on Monday night? Hey, it's easy to sell your soul in exchange for no re-districting.)

The Deal said...

Open + Transparent, where is your posting from yesterday?

Dekalbparent said...

Teachers, I have a question:

Does it make sense to set the bar for achievement for a given grade level. At the beginning of the school year, you determine what it will take for all your students to meet that level. It would, of course, be different for each student, but we really shouldn't assume a child from a lower-income home cannot make a given goal.

You would need to adjust during the course of the year, I know.

So, if you had the tools to assess the students quickly, the class size to enable you to pay appropriate attention to each child, the supplies you needed and the time and autonomy to do it the way you thought best, do you feel like you could bring almost all of the class to the required level of achievement? Would it be fair to expect you to be able to do this?
If not, what would it take? You do not have to be PC about this - if tracking would be the way to do it, say so.

Thanks - I really want to know if all the ideas we are tossing around here make sense in the real world.

Gayle said...

@ Open+Transparent
"Did anyone see the clown co-PTA chair of Fernbank Elem. singing the BOE's praises on Monday night?"

I think calling this woman a clown is not very nice. Things have worked out for Fernbank, and their students are doing very well. She has a right to express her opinion just as you have the right to disagree with it without using a pejorative.

BTW - That's my opinion.

Cerebration said...

I think O&T was referring to a man. He praised the school board for doing such a great job and stated how pleased he is with his children's experience so far at Fernbank (I think they were young). Although he was definitely not a clown, he did, in my opinion, praise the board for successes that are mainly due to the hard work of the staff and parents at Fernbank. That said, they did not, in the end, get redistricted, and they will be getting a brand new school if SPLOST IV passes. So I can see reasons for his pleasure with the board. Others did not experience such good fortune.

teacher said...

When I taught in Chicago, we gave the ITBS. The children were expected to get a certain grade level score, which was increasing each year. The goal was to get them withing a few months of a particular grade. The test was given in first through eighth. The hold back years were third, fifth, and eighth. If a child did not meet the score, he was given summer school, took the test again and was failed if he did not meet the score on the second test. During that school year, he received extra help and support. If the score was not met again at the end of the second year in that grade level, he did the summer program again, took the test again, and then if he still did not pass he was tested right away for special ed. and learning disability.

What I liked about the ITBS is that I was able to see where the child's strengths and weaknesses were. I was given a print out of my classes previous scores and used them to help me make up small groups for extra instruction and for pushing people forward. It was also easy to show and explain to parents. A score of 3.3 meant third grade, third month. That was easy for a parent to understand and take in.

Cheating did occur with some teachers, as principals were able to see how many years growth your students made and that was part of your evaluation at the end of the year. I believe that high stakes tests need to be given by other people all together for the best results. That way everyone is on a level playing field.

teacher said...

If you want my ideas for making DCSS better. Here you go:

1. Stop the no zero/multiple chances policy. Raise the bar and hold it high. Students need to know how to work for their grades, so that they can have a true self esteem and have a work ethic that is lacking in many of the kids that I have had in classroom lately. No one is entitled to a 70, it needs to be earned, just like the A, B, and C.

2. Have swift and just discipline in our schools. Stop allowing children to disrupt the classroom and learning environment. Get repeat offenders out, even if they are in kindergarten. Find out why they are acting up, is it because they can't do the work, is there something emotional going on, and get them the help that they need right away, along with getting them out and keeping them out until they are ready to come back to society.

3. The standards should not be all that is taught, but the bare minimum. In Northern states, what DCSS does would be considered a stripped down curriculum. I was taught that the standards are the minimum that I should teach and expect for the kids to know at the end of the year, not everything. Currently in DCSS the curriculum department has teachers skipping entire pages and sections of social studies texts and math work, that would help children to better understand math and the history being taught. This doesn't make any sense, as we want our kids to understand history and math to the fullest.

4. Get the kids out of the schools and on field trips where they can experience the walk up Kennesaw Mountain that the soldiers took, to the Pow Wow at Stone Mountain Park, or the Early American Days held at the beginning of May at Stone Mountain Park, get them to the Atlanta History Center, the zoo, Stone Mountain Park for the many free science field trips they offer, the aquarium, the High, and other educational places throughout the city. Did you know that Title One money could be used for paying for these experiences?

5.Require principals and all administrators to have at least 10 years of classroom teaching experience. Also require elementary teachers to have taught a grade level where they have had to teach a child to learn to read. It's important for elementary principals and assistant principals to understand what our young children are being asked to do, so that they can guide teachers along.

teacher said...

6. Give our kindergarten, first, second, and third grade children a test like the DIBELS. It's quick and easy to administer, and something that the army of coaches should be able to do-or they need to go. Teachers need something to show parents where their child is with reading and what skills their child is good in and where they need improvement. In third through fifth grade at least more of a comprehension/vocabulary type test is needed, so that parents can understand where their child is lacking in the skills needed once he/she learns how to read.

7. The money for the coaches, needs to be used for Title One teachers helping children in elementary school with skills that they are in need of in the area of reading and math. These should be the best teachers we have in the district, and these teachers should be paid on the same teacher salary scale, as that is what they are. These teachers should work with kids all day long-no lunch duty, no substitute teaching, or being pulled for something else. These teachers should only be working with their small groups of children, keeping data on progress/or lack their of, and communicating what is learned to parents, teachers, and principals.

8. Stop over crowding schools. Offering transfers is not mandatory and needs to end. Instead the money and energy used to deal with the transfer issues, should be put into making the "failing" schools better. Offer these kids tutoring, put some of the onus on the parents. A school can't be responsible for everything.

These are my ideas.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration

Sorry - wrong gender. My comment still stands that - in my opinion - calling someone a name is not appropriate.

I read the Fernbank co-Chair comment on the live blog cast you did. It appeared to be an ingratiating gesture towards Ms. Tyson who has very few parent or taxpayer allies right now.

The message to Ms. Tyson was that she could count on the Fernbank community and PTA for support.

The actions of the Fernbank parents have not been helpful to the DCCS school community as a whole, but it has worked out for them. They are the most powerful group of parents in the DeKalb County School System. Their support is very important to Ms. Tyson and the current administration.

dekalb2 said...

After getting a job in Dekalb, a friend back home, who is a superintendent, asked me, "Who did you know?" Dekalb is not the only place that hires friends and family. I am not saying it is right and it really does bother me when it is done. I am sure that nepotism is present in most school systems. In the business world it is sometimes referred to as networking. As a teacher I do feel the quality of education, school climate of the personnel, and frustration of the Dekalb citizens are all impacted by the nepotism in our school system.

Dekalbparent said...

I remember my kids being tested early in elementary school, and the results shared with me - I think it was the DIBELS (it rings a bell). I know for sure they both took the ITBS every year, except for the year DCSS decided to use the Sanford, which tripped everybody up, because they had to equate it somehow to ITBS scores so parents could understand it.

Nevertheless, DCSS at one time used these tests. I am sure (this is before the advent of CRCT)- am I remembering correctly?

I know when I was a kid we had ITBS twice a year, so teachers could get a good handle on where they were starting out with a class, and where they ended up. This makes sense to me, but I guess it's pretty costly. Still, ITBS has always seemed like a better measure than CRCT. How do we know how we are doing in comparison with the rest of the country if we don't use a national comparison? Of course, I understand why - the NCLB comparisons. If we want to look good, we have to make up out own test, so we're not taking any chances...

September said...

The ITBS tests specific skills. Not only are students tested on reading comprehension, they are also tested on a whole range of skills from spelling and punctuation to word usage and vocabulary. The math on the test includes basic computation as well as word problems. When you get the scores back, you actually have something that you can use to plan instruction. You have information that you can use to discuss a child's progress with parents. Here is where your child is and this is how your child's scores compare to other students at the same level.

I have to agree with teacher. We skip a lot of important learning when we focus solely on teaching the standards. Math textbooks are set up to teach the concepts in a logical progression. If you skip a skill or jump around in the textbook, many students get confused. It doesn't make sense. Someone who is good with math, will probably be fine, but someone who is having trouble won't. You don't have to do every math problem, but you should follow the progression in the book.

When you purchase a textbook, you do so because it covers the topic you are teaching. It makes no sense to me to buy the books and then tell teachers to only use it as a reference. I think a good textbook helps a teacher cover the topic. We may be missing important concepts that are needed to meet the standard because they aren't specifically mentioned in the standards we are teaching. A textbook helps you to teach the subject.

Georgia is quick to abandon nationally normed tests. I think that is because we don't measure up very well. State leaders don't like the scores we are getting so they abandon the test when we should be analyzing why we aren't doing well and making adjustments to our instructional practices. IMHO the only reason the SAT is still around is that the State can't make colleges stop using it.

Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Deal said...

I concur with O&T on the tool comment. If everything were going well in DCSS, it would still have been obnoxious b/c Fernbank only got what they could b/c of the inordinate concentration of wealth and power in its parents. With things going as badly as they are, it was akin to going to the site of a car crash and expressing relief that your car didn't get scratched when other people are being carried off in stretchers. The non-Fernbanks are being carried off in stretchers! In a county like DeKalb with such insane diversity, the school should be a safe haven from the income/power gap that exists. We all pay the same for our schools, unlike our houses. This is not an attack on Fernbank, but it is an attack on the judgement of the co-PTA president to have the nerve to stand up and praise the utter disaster of leadership we have simply b/c they are getting what they want. Allowing this to happen is just one of the many problems this particular school board and administration has.

Gayle said...

@ Dekalbparent
"I know when I was a kid we had ITBS twice a year, so teachers could get a good handle on where they were starting out with a class, and where they ended up."

You are right. We gave the ITBS twice a year so in the fall we could see where our students were at the start of the year and then in the spring so we could see where they were at the end. There were Title I Math teachers and Title I Reading teachers as well as Reading and Math Specialists in Title I and non-Title I schools. Reading and Math Specialists tested their students diagnostically to pinpoint weaknesses and then remediated accordingly. Students in small remedial classes were expected to show gains and not remain in remedial classes forever.

The ITBS is a norm referenced test addressing a very large universe of test takers (much better validity and reliability) and administered on a national level. In addition, you can see the discreet strengths and weaknesses of each student since a student is placed on a spectrum.

As DCSS collected more tax money, programs and groups of non-teaching personnel were added while direct instruction was cut. The way to follow a "Career Path" was to get out of teaching a grade level or content area subject and advance to a non-teaching position. The ultimate goal was to gain a position in "Upper Management".

DCSS is by no means the only school system that did this. But they are (except for APS) the most egregious.

Gayle said...

@ The Deal
"This is not an attack on Fernbank, but it is an attack on the judgement of the co-PTA president to have the nerve to stand up and praise the utter disaster of leadership we have simply b/c they are getting what they want. '

The Fernbank Community has decided that their efforts are better spent working the system for their children than trying to reform the system for all children.

In the 1990's when they lost some teacher positions, the parents went to other schools in the general vicinity and actually measured the physical sizes of the classrooms to show that other schools had more square footage per child than their children had. They had data and charts and graphs and parents who are lawyers, etc. They met and planned and had their ducks in a row when they met with the DCSS administration. They got those teacher positions back and decreased the class sizes.

Currently, Fernbank Elementary has extra teachers due to the large number of students classified as Gifted. They have almost every teacher certified in Gifted so they can use them as regular ed teachers and still meet state regulations for extra Gifted funding - plus they have a dedicated Gifted teacher. The PTA hires a foreign language and special hands-on science teacher. They know hands-on and laboratory science experiences are important to the mastery of science content so they ensure their children have this.

Fernbank parents are smart, organized, connected, and many are affluent. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it should be a concern to all DeKalb taxpayers/parents when they support personnel and programs that impede the progress of students in other schools.

Cerebration said...

Maybe we should have the Fernbank PTA run the whole system! Personally, I can't blame them for fighting for their own children - it's the way the system is set up - they really have no choice.

RUKiddingme said...

Dr. Audria Berry in the Office of School Improvement should be able to produce evidence of improvement for the 8 million dollars a year investment that she made with America's Choice. Get it straight! It's "8 million dollars a year" for a program with no results except the big bucks it broguht to former DCSS employee Debbie Rives who sold the brilliant program to CLEW and Berry. Well, they probably were treated royally also! Schools were told that this was the panacea for all ills! Talk about being played! America's Choice played and was paid! Who benefited from this big sale- not the kids!!!

Gayle said...

@ RUKiddingMe

Let's not forget the 90 Instructional Coaches required to implement America's Choice at close to $9,000,000 a year in salary and benefits (almost $100,00 per non-teaching Instructional Coach). And now Dr. Berry has recommended adding more Instructional Coaches.

Why is DCSS not adding teachers - particularly when the tactics of the Central Office and especially the Office of School Improvement are presiding over declining student progress?

Debbie Rives, an assistant superintendent promoted under Lewis, retired and went to work for America's Choice. She ended up being the Project Manager for DCSS to implement America's Choice.

RUKiddingme said...

Nothing will ever change in DCSS without change in "Top Administration." You are wasting your time talking about any substantial change without change agents! What does Alice Thompson know about curriculum? When was the last time anyone even heard her voice? And how much does she earn? Who's going to let her go? What does Timmy Freeman do? Who's going to let him walk? So, folks, admit it, we've been played!! Giving RT those big bucks sealed the deal for more of the same! The interim super for ATL -he's a change agent!!! That's real "Top Administration!" Gotta love him!

bu2 said...

For all the talk of power politics, the reality, as shown on this blog a few months ago, is that schools like Fernbank, Oak Grove, etc., get significantly less $ per student than the schools in the south end of the county. And anyone who has seen the facilities, knows that the schools in the north end of the county are in embarrassingly bad shape, so they sure haven't gotten maintenance either.

Fred said...

@Cerebration, thanks for reading the article. Ironically Maureen's blog on 7/15 touches on the impact of High Stakes testing. I believe the next questions that will be asked is WHY are we using the CRCT as the primary measure for determining whether were are educating children, WHO insists that we use this and are we making decisions based on the results that may actually be harming children and communities.

NCLB evolved from the "Texas Miracle" program and results in Houston that were later proven to be false. Now this has spread across the country with a target of 2014 to have ALL schools making AYP. Anyone here think that will happen?

Cerebration said...

No and we've said the same thing for a very, very long time. Having experienced the onslaught of transfers into Lakeside, pushing the school to 500 over capacity, I can tell you (and have said for years now) that this "transfer" idea does not work. Especially in high school. We really need to focus on early skills and not promoting children who are not ready. Maybe eliminating "grades" in pre-K-1st would help? Maybe make the whole thing a "first grade package"? And when you complete the skills, you go on to the big school - and "2nd" grade??? Just a thought.

One very good thing about NCLB has been that it forced schools to disaggregate data by sub-groups. I noticed at an awards ceremony at Shamrock that most of the awards went to white students. They actually separated students in the bleachers for the ceremony - those who were to receive awards and those who were not. It was a very segregated crowd. It shocked me really, and I pointed it out to the Asst Principal who hadn't noticed!

A group of us then aggregated our own data and found that although Shamrock showed an "average" score of 70 or so, that this average was the result of half the students scoring in the 90s and half in the 50s or less. There weren't many students in the 70s. Again, a very segregated situation.

Then, on to Lakeside, where the school seems integrated by glancing at the numbers, however, if you checked by classroom, you would see that the numbers of minorities in AP, gifted classes and things like orchestra and strings are a much higher percentage of whites than the 40% of whites in the school overall. The "integration" happens during class changes and in general ed and classes like PE and somewhat in band.

Just tellin' it like it was a few years back. Other schools may be more integrated within the classroom. If things have changed and AP classes have much more minority participation at Lakeside, I'd like to know. But these are some of the reasons that just transferring won't make a difference. Minority students are not accessing the same level of education at Lakeside as the white students and are therefore, not really receiving that high-achieving "Lakeside" education. (It is available to all - they are not being denied these classes. I'm just saying that these choices are where you'll find mostly white students.)

Cerebration said...

I will add that the minorities you see taking the AP classes are usually the ones who actually live in the attendance zone, the AYP transfer students are not usually taking these high level courses. The courses they take are the exact same courses offered at every other DCSS high school. The only difference is the teacher (which all come from the DCSS pool, but are chosen by the principals) and the environment. There is more structure, discipline and a culture of high expectations in schools like Lakeside, but Miller Grove is an example of a south DeKalb school I'm aware of that has a similar culture of expectation. I'm sure there are others.

Really -- does anyone track the AYP transfer students? First, were they even the students with low test scores? I have a problem with the transfer system in that anyone from a "failing" school can transfer. It should just be open to those in the failing category and starting with those who scored the lowest. As it is now, the most-involved parents, usually with the most successful children, are the ones to take advantage of the transfers, leaving the struggling students essentially "Left Behind", negating the purpose of the law.

Fred said...

"Really -- does anyone track the AYP transfer students? First, were they even the students with low test scores? I have a problem with the transfer system in that anyone from a "failing" school can transfer. It should just be open to those in the failing category and starting with those who scored the lowest."

I've seen this discussed on this blog and others around the county quite a bit. This is a fallacy with NCLB, that ANYONE from the school not making AYP can transfer not just those in the impacted subgroup. DCSS is following the law when it comes to transfers because ANYONE at the school can request the transfer however priority has to be given to those with the lowest scores. We know what would happen if DCSS did not follow the law. This is a hole in the federal legislation that should be fixed.

I saw one school not make AYP because of the Students With Disability (SWD) category. After a few years of not making ATP, transfers were offered. Many of the stronger students that were doing well took advantage of this, because their parents wanted a different environment for this children. This ultimately resulted in the school not making AYP in Math, because their stronger students left.

You can't blame DCSS for parents taking advantage of what the Federal Law provides. It's easy to say, "You should try the tutoring" but given the history of M to M transfers, some see this as a way to escape their home schools, even if their children are getting a good education.

Stnuocca said...

The last few posts about AYP transfers suggest that Lakeside students who access gifted, AP, orchestra are largely the kids from the attendance zone( with the family income, peace, security, stability,parent profession allowing for 1 stay at home parent and/or job flexibility).

Cerebration said...

You're exactly right, Fred and you make the same point as I. When special education or ELL or poor students are the category causing the school to fail, they should be the only ones who can opt for a transfer.

EAV Mom said...

I can't get any info from DCSS today. Does anyone know which elementary schools are the receiving schools for those seeking transfers from schools who failed to meet AYP.

RUKiddingme said...

Is DCSS under the radar with the cheating scandal now that ATL is in the spotlight?

Fred said...

@RUKiddingme, the only other school district in the state officially under investigation for cheating is Dougherty County, where Albany is located. I believe all school districts should be audited to see if others repeated what was done in Hall County (transferred students between schools). This was similar to a technique used in Houston that was credited with the Texas miracle.

Anonymous said...

@EAV I think anumber of school systems are waiting for the state DOE to certify the AYP data on Monday 7/18/11 so that they can determine which schools are sending and which are receiving.

Did anyone go to the meeting this morning to see what the proposals are to improve academics so schools will stop failing to make AYP?

themommy said...

The receiving elementary schools are
Flat Shoals, Hambrick and Kingsley (as published Tuesday night at the meeting -- can't swear it won't/hasn't changed).

The only elementary school that has to offer transfers is Oak View Elementary. It is possible that Indian Creek, McNair Discovery and Stone Mill will have to as well, pending the results of AYP from the state. (I may have missed one or two, but I don't think so.

Remember that for a school to be a sending school they must not meet AYP in the same subject for three years in a row.

Anonymous said...

Any information as to the Middle and High Schools designated as "Receiving" Schools?

Fred said...

Correct me if I am wrong but typically AYP transfers have been offered for middle and high schools, not elementary schools.

Shoes Keep Dropping said...

As of last night's meeting, the receiving high schools are Druid Hills, Chamblee, Arabia Mtn, and DEKA. Think they also said Tucker and Dunwoody could possibly be added depending on state certification results.

Cerebration said...

Fred, I think that's just due to the fact that our elementary schools aren't doing so bad... there aren't that many who fail AYP for three years in a row - as the mommy points out, only one so far this year.

Now, middle and high schools are totally different. Some of them are doing pretty poorly. I remember Dr. Lewis discussing this several years ago at a Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council meeting. It was in the library. He made all kinds of promises to work extra hard on improving high schools as they are our weakest link. (I also distinctly remember him saying that it's expensive though, as each teacher costs the system $65,000 in salary and benefits!!!) It was a bit shocking to hear a superintendent complain about the cost of a teacher.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration

"I think that's just due to the fact that our elementary schools aren't doing so bad... there aren't that many who fail AYP for three years in a row "

We thought that because that was true historically, but then in 2010 the Title 1 schools that did not make AYP increased from 23 to 43. It will be 2012 before we see a 3 year cycle.

Title 1 schools are the only ones who are required to offer students transfers. Non-Title 1 schools do not have to offer transfers. By and large non-Title 1 schools have remained at about the same number not making AYP, very little variance.

Gayle said...

See excerpt below. DCSS touted the ever increasing number of schools that made AYP in their Press Release in 2009.

Then the number dropped off the cliff in 2010. No Press Release for that one.

"DeKalb Boosts AYP Standing: 11 Schools Improve
As of September 2009, 77.8% of DeKalb schools have made AYP, an increase of nearly nine
percentage points from the 68.9% originally tabulated from July test results, according to the
State Department of Education. Nearly one-dozen schools helped to boost the Adequate Yearly
Progress (AYP) standing for the DeKalb district—as detailed in a recent report from the Georgia
Department of Education (GADOE)."


Gayle said...

"Don heavily questioned Dr. Watkins on his request for another $120,000 for yet another Title 1 "program" to implement small learning communities. He read from the proposal and said it sounded like a bunch of 'gobbleygook'. Dr. Speaks questioned him further and we find that we've been throwing money at this program since 2004, and apparently have tons of data, but nothing has improved at these schools."

The BOE can refuse to authorize the spending on a program. If there is no ROI, don't spend the money.

dekalb2 said...

OK. I am a Dekalb teacher and I have been in the system for quite a while. In the 90's we used the ITBS throughout the schools and the scores were posted in the newspapers. Yes, it is a norm-based test. It is a good qualifier and it is used as one of the ways to identify gifted students. When we were told to get ready for the test, we had to teach above grade level skills in addition to skills on grade level because the test is used to see who is above, on, or above grade level. It was very frustrating to teach a second grade student third grade story problems when they could not add or subtract.
No Child Left Behind uses proficiency tests which tests the standards for the grade that is being tested. ITBS is still used as an indicator for gifted in Dekalb County in some of the grades.

We are in the process of starting to receive Race to the Top funds. The program will be gradually rolled out over the next couple of years. If I remember correctly starting in 2014 teachers will be financially rewarded for improvement in test scores. I feel that the best way to do that is test the students in the Fall with the ITBS and again in the Spring to look for gains. If a students enrolls after a specified date their scores will be exempt.

Cerebration said...

Interesting. I know a mom who actually grew up in the school system in Iowa where the ITBS was created. It stands for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. I think it's a grade level skills test --- in Iowa at least. To her, as she recalls it - the test was no big deal at all.

The University of Iowa website says -

The primary activities of ITP are to:

-develop standardized achievement tests for use nationally in grades K-12

-administer statewide achievement testing programs for the schools of Iowa, provide consultation to school systems on test use and score interpretation, and conduct research studies involving practical and theoretical aspects of test development and use

-help prepare specialists in educational measurement through graduate-level educational programs

When exactly did these tests go overboard in value?

Cerebration said...

From its beginning in 1935 with the Iowa Every Pupil Tests, the emphasis in the program has been on the use of ITBS results for instructional purposes. To that end, virtually all Iowa school districts-both public and private-have voluntarily participated in this program annually since its inception. For their part, the schools provide assistance to ITP by participating in research projects and test development efforts conducted by Iowa Testing Programs.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration
The ITBS tests students in every subject. The questions range from easy to hard. Some are easy enough for a 1st grader to read but hard enough for a 12th grader to read. (That's a little simplistic since there are different level of ITBS depending on your grade level, but this is the general idea). For example, on the 4th grade ITBS Reading test there will be questions on Reading comprehension on First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth grade reading level, etc. all the way to 12th grade.

One Fourth grade child may score at a 1st grade, 2nd month - that means he is reading like the average 1st grader in his 2nd month is school is reading.

Another Fourth grade child may score at the 4th grade, 9th month level (50 percentile). Still another may scores at an 8th grade 6th month level and yet another may score at a 12th grade reading level.

You see how children score on a spectrum. A Specific Learning Disabled 5th grade child may score at a 9th grade level in math, but she may score at a 3rd grade level in Reading. The ITBS tells the teacher this.

The ITBS is nationally normed with an large universe of test takers.

The ITBS has many subtests. For example the math Assessment has 3 tests:
Math Concepts, Math Problem  Solving, and Math Computation

Look at the subtests for English/Language Arts (ELA):
Reading (part 1)
Reading (part 2)
Each subtest takes about 15 to 20 minutes and is timed.

All of the subjects tested (Math, Reading, ELA, Social Studies, and Science) have subtests.

The analysis they give on every child is not just if they passed the test. You really see the depth of critical thinking skills for every subject.

It is more valid and reliable than the CRCT. It helps identify Gifted and Special Ed and Learning Disabled students. I suspect Georgia has steered away from this because they wanted a test they could control. In addition, Georgia does not want to be measured against other states. It's like DCSS says we are doing better, but if you measure them against all of the other metro systems, they are not progressing at the same rate as the other systems.

The ITBS is normed nationally - that is to say, the scoring is based on - for example in 4th grade - what MOST 4th graders can compute in math computation. It costs them millions to norm each grade level.

The CRCT questions are ranked by teachers - If the chosen group of teachers says the questions are harder than the year before - students have to answer less questions to pass. Thus the "cut score " is lowered. Instead of answering 50% of the questions correctly, the students must answer only 40% of the questions correctly.

Can you see the difference ? In the ITBS, they use the actual performance of a relatively group of students to set the standards. In the Georgia CRCT - teachers give their opinion of the relative hardness or easiness of the questions.

The ITBS was created in 1935 in order to assess students relative strengths and weaknesses so teachers could improve instruction. Standardized testing to assess teachers is a very much a 21st Century concept. From the inception of standardized testing, the goal was to assess the discreet skills learners had mastered. Teachers were to take that information and modify their instruction. One of the main reasons we are having such a difficult time with using standardized testing in evaluating teachers is that we have taken a concept specifically designed for one goal and substituted another goal.

Dekalbparent said...

The ITBS showed each of my children had specific learning disabilities. I could use these results to discuss strategies with the teacher, obtain tutoring for my kids and work with the educational psychologists to determine how to best help them. They gave me a basis for discussion with all these people.

One of my kids is young enough to have taken CRCT tests after ITBS was dropped. There is no way the CRCT would have given me the help and specific knowledge the ITBS did. The kid just showed up as doing OK for her grade in most subjects, and a bit below average in the subject of her biggest challenge. I would not have obtained the help she needed based on these scores - we just would have drilled her harder (unsuccessfully).