Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DeKalb Schools prepared to pass accreditation

Rich McKay wrote a very balanced article updating us on a few key issues at DCSS in today's AJC online.

DeKalb Schools prepared to pass accreditation

DeKalb County Schools will meet every requirement put to it by its accrediting agency by its October 31 deadline, according to interim superintendent Ramona Tyson.

In her last official act as interim superintendent Tyson told the DeKalb Board of Education that they are ready for the test that could make or break Georgia's third largest school district.

"We are one month out before AdvancED returns and we are well underway," she said.

. . .

A new superintendent, Cheryl L.H. Atkinson of Lorain, Ohio, has been hired and her first day is Thursday.

New financial safeguards are in place and a new fraud hotline is set to go online later this month.

Academic improvement plans are in the works and a longrange planning session is set for Sept. 20 with parents and community leaders invited to participate.

But one of the eight areas of concern from SACS doesn't seemed to have been clearly solved in some parents' minds -- namely, can the board get along?

At a recent meeting when the board hired its new superintendent, the vote was 6-to-3, with board members Don McChesney, Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks voting against her. While the three dissenters told parents that they would back Atkinson, three other board members walked out of the meeting during a heated discussion.

That spurred ongoing public debate about whether or not the board is really making changes needed.


Click the link above to read the article in its entirety.


Anonymous said...

Despite the Freds of this world, those of us teachers in the cellar see that nothing has changed, and nothing will change.

Here comes the new boss.

Same at the old boss.

It's disheartening, dispiriting, and just plain a bummer to see the sheen the press and the board have polished onto a rusted heap of half-baked initiatives, incompetence, greed, corruption, and short-sightedness.

Anonymous said...

"Academic improvement plans are in the works..."

This is the same plan as last year and the year before, except more of it.

How many schools need to fail to make adequate yearly progress before something is done?

Anonymous said...

One of the problems is the definition of "failure" in terms of AYP.

When a school can raise scores in every single core area, yet still be a "failing school," something is really wrong.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon @ 7:10 PM

I agree, nothing will change and it has nothing to do with Dr. Atkinson. As she said, she can only be good as the people around her. Underneath all the smoke and mirrors is a "defunct" school district. Can the board get along? Look, employers, business leaders and government agencies look to the educational system to CULTIVATE the citizenry to prepare and maintain workforces. There is a BIG problem within DCSS. In the grand scheme of things, there is a growing demand to deliver more competence, SELF-DISCIPLINE, and responsiblity in our schools. Look at the behavior of this Board and tell me what kind of example they are setting. What you have here is a bunch of inflated egos. This is the common thread within the district, not just the Board. Where there is no vision, the people perish. This is prevalent from the central office, to principals and teachers. When that review comes down, incompentence should be written all over it. What we're dealing with is we have people in leadership positions who have NEVER ran a lemonade stand, yet "pretending" to be educated and run an institution of learning. Stop talking about at-risk students and families and look in the mirror. I have never seen so much incompetence. Who's doing the hiring around here?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:21

Kind of reminds me of who is in the White House.....

Somebody had to say it!

Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

"New financial safeguards are in place and a new fraud hotline is set to go online later this month."

Huh? The safeguards and the fraud hotline (coming on line a year after it was promised) may well prevent overt embezzlement, but where are the safeguards that ensure qualified, trained and educated people are earning salaries - as opposed to unqualified parent center "hosts" and non-certified "coaches?" How do we get action on stopping that fraud???

"Academic improvement plans are in the works..." Oh. What, did we just forget to do that the past five years? We just decided NOW to created academic improvement plans? Does it seem to anyone else that SACS is SO not about the business of teaching and learning? And really folks, stop this nonsense about "the problem is the definition of failure" and all that. To PASS the CRCT, children have to get about half the questions right. Questions that - seriously - they learned the answers to a couple years earlier. The vast majority of children in DCSS are not learning what they need to learn because we've run off talented teachers who refuse to work for the incompetents in the Palace.

Just for grins: go to some of the Open Houses this fall for area private schools. Then meet with a DCSS administrator. Compare and contrast.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what the standard rental fee is for schools when an outside organization provides an afterschool activity for the children at that school? We have a group that is offering an afterschool activity to all who want to be involved, answering a need for one of the arts since the school is not providing it, allowing all students to participate even if they cannot afford it, and providing great benefits to the school children. The system wants to charge them a rental that essentially prices them out of the building (it may not seem like much on its surface, but the organization is donating its services to many of the kids)and effectively out of the kids reach.

What is the point? Really? Let's put them in afterschool and let them sit, bored, in the cafeteria instead.

I am so disheartened. Perhaps Tyson would be willing to donate some of her precious salary to the kids so that they won't lose this program, since she won't actually be doing the work of the superintendent anymore...she'll just be getting paid for it. We can afford her raise, but will deny this school one of the arts because they are so selfish they cannot "afford" to lower the hourly rental fee. Tyson, no longer doing the job of super, deserves a salary for a super; our kids do not deserve a break on a cafeteria rental for music because the system simply cannot afford it.

sick, sick, sick.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 8:10

"When a school can raise scores in every single core area, yet still be a "failing school," something is really wrong."

But many of our low income schools have a huge percentage of their students below grade level in Reading, Math, Science and Social Studies. Our achievement rate is the lowest in metro Atlanta - so much lower than other systems with comparable demographics (or even poorer communities).

Look at the state testing data. This data is not Just Made AYP data. This is achievement data that compares our students achievement with other systems - particularly with systems that have similar demographics.




Nothing new has been proposed - only the same failing academic improvement plans - just more of the same with the same players in place. Until the Lewis group and the "sit up here staff" is replaced, DCSS cannot improve. The current "Upper Management" personnel do not know how to improve student achievement, and they never thought anyone would ever ask them to do so.

Cerebration said...

@ Anon 9:09 -- Ask Stan Watson to help you. He's a nice guy - and he uses Chapel Hill Middle School for his political breakfasts. I'm certain he would help the children in your school gain access to the arts at no extra cost. Ask him to help you... He will!


Anonymous said...

Anon 909,
Call or email your board member. This came up at our school too and they were able to get the admin to work on this problem so that the kids could continue to get the after school activities they had been getting. If your board member doesn't get the help you need, contact the board member you know will help you. Just sayin'.

BhutrasGolly said...

what about a school not making AYP even though it passed in 14 of 15 of the categories and failed only in students with disabilities where if 4 more students with disabilities had passed then it would have made AYP. AYP was desgned by people who want to destroy public schools. A true measure of progress would be some value added model based on a nationally normed test. The idea that in a few years all of our children(that's right 100%) is only possible if we want to move more radpidly to the bottom.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your tips regarding making calls. I have done so and am awaiting responses.

Again, though, this situation just really incenses me. The money we spend on upper administration salaries, but they'll price an outside vender out of a building who is providing access to the arts over $300.

Seriously, priorities are out of whack!

Cerebration said...

The link below will take you to a free webcast course “Introduction To The Constitution” presented by Hillsdale College and Dr. Larry Arnn. If you know anything about Hillsdale College and Dr. Arnn, you know this should be a great opportunity. It starts tomorrow.


bu2 said...

Atkinson is saying the right words in her e-mail message today.

Putting more funds in the schools.
Evaluating senior management.

Leo said...

9:09 DCSS requires any group that is for profit to sign on to their facilities use agreement, which charges approximately $75 per time the group uses the facilities (non-profits, like Girl Scouts, get to use them for free). There are a few ways around it. If your school has an on-site after school program, see if that provider is willing to provide some type of enrichment activities outside of the program (some schools do this for sport-type activities but they may be able to offer something in the arts as well). Another option is to bring the outside entity as part of a PTA function (in Cobb they do this as a fundraiser) or to have your school pay for the person to come is as an activity offered by the school.

Good luck! DCSS makes this much harder than other systems, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Atkinson may be getting some of the words right, but not all.

Atkinson is working for the DeKalb County School System (DCSS), not DeKalb County School District (DCSD).

As was pointed out a number of times, Atkinson exhibits a surprising lack of attention to detail -- beginning with her resume and her DCSS application form (where she was caught in an out-and-out lie).

Only time will tell if Atkinson actually makes good on "the right words" she is parroting. She has 90 days to stop parroting and start doing.

Erin B. said...

While you are making that request to use the facility, could you ask how much T-mobile had to pay when they used 12 school cafeterias in May for "informational" meetings about placing cell towers in "various locations" throughout the county? We would really like to know if they had to pay the charges like everyone else, and fill out the forms which include providing an agenda for the meeting in advance to the principal. If that happened, then isn't it odd that the principals all claimed to know nothing about the subject matter? If we let them off without the standard procedures, then it's pretty clear they were already at our schools as "partners" with the board, not just to give us a pitch so we could mull it over and get back to the board with our feedback. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Anyway, if they made an exception for them, I'm sure they can make an excpetion for anyone else. Hell, the rules are all out the window, so why do we have to play by them if they don't?

This "ready for SACS" thing is really because they are concerned there will be trouble. Why else did they suddenly have to come forth with a whistleblower email at the last minute? And, all those endorsement letters of Ms. Atkinson that came to press AFTER she was already hired since we all complained that they were not telling us why they were supporting her. All we heard we from the ones who were against her.

Anon said...

The educational credential of a number of the educators in the top private schools in the city is astounding--Ivy League and near Ivy Legue, nearly all (or all) of them hold masters degrees or PhD degrees in the subjects they teach. At the high school level they actually treat the kids as adults -- with respect and they expect that they will handle the work responsibly -- they are expected to track their loads and to turn in their assignments on a timely basis. They respect the kids and get work back to them on a timely basis with grades that make sense. They are themselves well educated and can, therefore, teach others. We have encountered a handful of teachers who handled their students in this fashion, and with similar backgrounds, in our DCSS experiences, but it was more of a "once in awhile' thing that we marveled at and still speak in awe of those teachers -- they were truly outstanding. There were too many others who really seemed "out to get" my child and who treated the teens like children and without respect. Some were nice but couldn't quite be understood clealry. Others did not follow rubrics. Some didn't return graded work on a timely basis. The contrast between a top private school and a top DCSS school is night and day and much of it can be traced to the quality of the staff, across the board (administrators on down).

Anonymous said...

The educational credential of a number of the educators in the top private schools in the city is astounding--Ivy League and near Ivy Legue, nearly all (or all) of them hold masters degrees or PhD degrees in the subjects they teach

Could you provide some examples? 'cause I know that's not true.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anon. Sept. 16, 2011 10:58 PM
RE: Anon. Sept. 17, 2011 8:16 AM

The substance of the problem DCSS is confronted with as it pertains to teachers is QUALITY or the lack thereof. We have teachers that have NO business being in a classroom or near a school for that matter. Period. The delicate question DCSS should not run from is: Can so-and-so teacher teach? By answering this question we can eradicate problems. I can attest to THE FACT that I've personnally witnessed a number of teachers that are not possessed with teaching skills. I did NOT say they are not nice people. They just can't, CANNOT teach others. I wonder at times are we being literally "set up" to FAIL. Do you know how much money I personally could save DCSS by firing these teachers. It takes someone "gifted" to teach. I have that gift. I can recognize if one is a good teacher or not. This is not merely a subjective observation, but an objective one. If YOU know what you're doing it will show. On the other hand, if you don't, students, parents, and co-workers and the like will know you are a FRAUD. These have to go!!! Our future is at stake...

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are some teachers with ivy league educations in the private schools, largely at the high school level. But we all know great teachers from good public schools like Ga State or UGA or NC state. Great teachers do not need a PhD. But middle and high school teachers should have a degree in their core subject - not an education degree.

I think we have all experienced teachers from subpar schools-I mean third tier schools I've never heard of. Plus I have to say that without any exception, the teachers with masters and EdD degrees from internet or "distance learning" programs are the WORST teachers my children have experienced. I absolutely refuse to dignify these degrees by referring to the teacher or principal as "Dr."

Anon said...

September 17, 2011 8:16 AM

Go take a look at the Westminster, Pace, and Paidea websites and look at the credentials of the teachers teaching high school core subjects. I think you'll be stunned. I have been. I'm not saying that there are excellent teachers coming from Ga. State and Auburn but there are very poor ones coming from other places and I really do agree with the comment about the on-line Ed. degrees from subpar institutions (bottom tier).

Anon said...

Sorry -- I'm not saying that there are not excellent teachers....

Bewildered said...

To: Anon, 16 Sep 11, 10:58 pm

I will agree with most of your post; however, private schools have a distinct advantage over public schools--they can pick and choose their students. If students lack motivation (i.e., goof-off or are disruptive in the classroom, as well as not completing homework assignments in a timely fashion (or not at all)), they can be discharged--public schools do not have that luxury.

I believe teachers in private schools have more autonomy within their classrooms, are, by far, better supported with enforcing discipline standards within their classrooms, and are not forced to teach from pre-scripted lessons.

Lack of discipline enforcement is a big issue in the public schools--"You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions", Dr. John Trotter.

If I had a master's or PhD from an ivy league school, I would probably choose to teach in a private school--it would be easier! The administration would be less likely to "run me off" for my creative teaching styles, my questioning of curricula, and my "stringent" discipline standards.

Until DCSS chooses to first address their discipline policy within the school (by actually enforcing it), they will not be able to recruit (the best and brightest) in the education field!!

Bewildered said...

Oops! Please forgive my error on over using parenthesis. ...they will not be able to recruit (the best and brightest) in the education field!!

should read: ...they will not be able to recruit the best and brightest in the education field!!

On another note, two partial articles--

Lack of Discipline, The 800 Pound Gorilla In Parlor, & Willingly Naïve Legislators!
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

If students perceive that they come from a non-reading culture, then these students will not value reading. If there are not books in the house (just National Enquirer!) and the students do not see their parents reading, then the students will not value reading. It is very simple. The motivation to learn is a cultural phenomenon. I always want to credit one of my old UGA professors, Dr. Eugene Boyce, with this concept. Dr. Boyce studied on location how education worked in Nigeria, Kenya, China, and the Soviet Union, besides running the lab school at Florida State University. I always thought that he was brilliant and never got the credit due to him. From his observations through the years in several parts of the world, he concluded that motivation was the key to learning--that this motivation was culturally conditioned.

The motivation to learn is a social process or a cultural phenomenon. And the legislature wants to give these non-reading, irresponsible, and, in many cases, irate parents the control over the professional educators? Good grief. When desperation sets in, there's no telling what they will do. It would be nice if they starting off by mentioning the unmentionable...a lack of discipline in the schools. Discipline (or the lack thereof) is the 800 pound gorilla in the dainty parlor that no one (and I mean NO ONE) is willing to talk about. All of the moving of furniture in the parlor will not remove the fact that an 800 pound gorilla is still moving around in the parlor, knocking over marble-top tables and French chairs. This is how ridiculous...Georgia legislators look; they are re-arranging the French chairs in the parlor and ignoring the 800 pound, smelling, and growling gorilla in the parlor. MACE, February 11, 2011

What Makes Good Schools?
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

What makes good schools are indeed good students. And, if you are addressing a low-performing school, it is almost invariably because the school is fed by low-performing students, not low-performing teachers. The best thing that you can do for these low-performing students is (1) establish discipline within the school environment and (2) free up these teachers to be creative so that they can figure out a way to motivate these "at risk" students. Putting the teachers in straight-jackets, making them teach pre-scripted curricula in a specific manner under oppressive top-down, heavy-handed snooper-vision will simply suffocate, frustrate, and eventually eliminate the teachers, and these "at risk" children will continue to be disengaged from the learning process.

The truth hurts, doesn’t it? I will borrow a question that St. Paul used with his Galatian brothers and sisters: Am I therefore your enemy because I tell you the truth? MACE, February 11, 2011.

Anon said...

Bewildered - I know that you are right and disclipline is definitely an issue. I also know that learning is taking place in "classrooms" in dirt hovels in Africa and India in situations where they have significantly less than the poorest of the poor in DCSS -- in situations where there really is real poverty -- and to that the only response is "attitude" -- those children must see education as a "ticket out" and our "children" are such a product of the "gimme" culture that they could care less unless they come from situations at home that can change that. That being said, there are too many teachers in the DCSS system (and I'm sure elsewhere in Georgia) as a result of Georgia's weak certification standards (vis vis a state, say like Massachussets, which ranks in the top 5) who are unable to speak, write and otherwise communicate in proper English and who can not do math properly and who do not know their basic facts about American history (e.g. that there are 50 states and what the Constitution means). Until the teachers who are not themselves properly educated are weeded out of the system, even with the discliple issues addressed, I think DCSS will still be at the bottom.

Bewildered said...

To Anon

Until the teachers who are not themselves properly educated are weeded out of the system, even with the discliple issues addressed, I think DCSS will still be at the bottom.

I absolutely agree with you on this issue!

The "dirt hovels" in Africa and India have far more motivated students than we (DCSS, in particular) have. They don't seem to take their education for granted. Until this generation realizes that "education is not a right, but a privilege", I'm afraid that even the very best teachers in this country will be "hard pressed" to change the outcome.

Bewildered said...

To Anon

I've often wondered if DCSS ever thought of researching the top performing school systems in the country (their credentialing process, curricula, discipline standards, etc.) and attempt to replicate it. If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

The "dirt hovels" in Africa and India have far more motivated students than we (DCSS, in particular) have. They don't seem to take their education for granted.

That is without a doubt one of the most ignorant statements ever posted on this blog..

Until this generation realizes that "education is not a right, but a privilege"

Education is a right - it is written so in the State of Georgia Constitution.

September 17, 2011 5:52

Anonymous said...

Education may be a "right," but our kids aren't being educated in our public schools. They are being indoctrinated into what the government wants them to believe and know, which isn't much. Even those of you who send your kids to "good" schools in DCSS this is happening to your kids. They may score higher on the standardized tests, but in reality the tests are frighteningly easy.

Our education schools are producing low quality teachers who don't know much other than psychology on how to manipulate children and even that is debatable. This isn't going to change until the American public opens their eyes and reads documents from the government about education and it's views on educating your children.

I dare parents to read "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America." Read the documents that Charlotte Iserbyt has on her website and those that are in her book and you will begin to understand. People/Teachers who want better for the children are constantly made fun of, dismissed and called trouble makers because they see that the system is wrong.

The system is not going to change for the good. The re-writing of NCLB is a sham to make parents think that they have created change. It won't do much to improve the over all education that your child receives. It may help your school look better on paper (have better statistics) but that is about it.

I am not one on conspiracy theories, but having been the teacher to constantly speak out about the quality of education that our children weren't getting, I really am understanding why our public schools fall further and further behind and educate less and less.

This quote from Professor John Goddard from 1965 woke me up: The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational questions will not be "what knowledge is of the most worth?" but "what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?" The possibilities virtually defy our imagination.

This is what is happening in our schools.

Anonymous said...

DCSS is in desperate need of a shift in its identity, a reinvention. We need to see action not more rhetoric. Dr. Atkinson needs to identify critical changes and regularly communicate those changes with employees and parents to avoid any more apprehension and anxiety while implementing her plans.

Dr. Atkinson must hold ALL principals accountable. A true leader takes responsibility and steps down from one's post if the job is not getting done. Isn't that what their job is all about, getting things done? Building an organization that meets the Superintendent's expectations and possibilities. Any principal that oversees a DCSS school that does not pass AYP for 3 consecutive years (retro) should be fired or reassigned. NO EXCUSES. Three (3) years is ample time to rectify problems impeding progress within our school district. Waiting any longer is counterproductive and placing blame elsewhere other than where it belongs. Maybe this will force everyone to work together. Time is of the essence.

Anon said...

For those of you "upset" with the comparison to the children from the hovels in Africa and Asia -- this comment was recently posted on the AJC blog by a well-intended and well-educated, relatively new teacher:
"Tara on Ponce": I spent a lot of time teaching in 3rd world countries prior to coming to Atlanta to teach in the public sector. I thought I was well prepared to deal with kids from all walks of life – I am fluent in 2 languages including Spanish and I have worked extensively with sick and orphaned children.
Despite my experience and Ivy League education, I was not prepared to teach in Atlanta and no amount of money can change that. Ever! This will be my last year. Why?
1. Lack of parent involvement and kids that have no interest in learning – why should they when their parents seem to do fine with no job or even the ability to read?
2. Working in an environment where teachers that come to work late, wear inappropriate clothing and have loud personal conversations on their cells is not punished.
3. The threat of being sued is a daily occurrence.
While I consider myself highly educated and a really good teacher, I will be leaving Atlanta. Money is not a factor but more the ungrateful children, the work environment itself and lack of anyone caring at all.
I am going back to Peru to teach where the children are respectful and grateful for the chance at an education. Despite the majority of the children coming from extremely poor and uneducated families – the parent, grandparent and community involvement is overwhelming.
In America and specifically some of the poor uneducated communities in Atlanta could learn some lessons from the some of the places I have taught. Being poor does not give you an excuse to be rude, ungrateful, disruptive and uneducated. And trust me, none of the kids I teach in Atlanta have ever come to school hungry or without shoes.

Anon said...

Although there is a constitutional right to an education -- that doesn't mean you can force them to learn. There has to be a desire to learn and a willingess to cooperate in the learning. This includes coming to schoool regularly and doing the work that is assigned. It means not being a discipline issue and holding the rest of the classroom back. There is a distinction to be drawn between a constitutional right to an education and the problem a child becomes when they hold the rest of the classroom back due to issues having to do with really bad parenting; bad attitudes and bad behavior which dovetails into "entitlement" and not a willingess to learn and better oneself.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon Sept. 18, 2011 10:43 PM

You are describing the "entitlement" mentality that exists in our communities. I hear you concerning the lack of parental involvement, but there are steps principals can take to get parents to buy into their program aside from enticing parents with a FREE meals--so much for speaking about entitlements. Principals, their assistants, and teacher alike MUST go into and become ACTIVELY involved in their students' lives beyond the walls of the school house. That's why I believe it's important principals reside where their schools are located. If they did, they will have a REAL vested interest in the community. This is a necessary and missing component. Another problem is the lack of business and community leaders getting involved. This is how you show everyone in the community you genuinely care. Behaviors can and will change as a result.

Look, many of these people really don't care as they are no different than how segregated blacks & whites are on Sunday mornings. I believe we have a minority that do care. I would like to see statistics showing a breakdown of the number of principals, APs, faculty & staff at a particular school that live w/in and w/o the school's community and DeKalb County.

As far as discpline is concerned, it starts at the top. Dr. Atkinson should be looking at these numbers with a fine tooth comb. However, they can be easily sandbagged and distorted to cloak what the numbers otherwise would tell us about a principal's discipline methods. As you so eloquently stated, discipline or the lack thereof, is directly and indirectly tied to how well our students are learning or not learning in the classroom.

Anon said...

Kim (or Sandy) -- Cere is out of pocket - can one of you start a column for "positive" suggestions for Dr. Atkinson like the one posted above -- let' s get people to post strong, good, well-thought out suggestions for Dr. A and we'll get them to her.... Let's try to be objective and give her every beenfit of the doubt and provide a service.... What do you think?