Sunday, January 8, 2012

Atlanta Magazine Top 50 (Public) High Schools—five from DeKalb

by Tom Doolittle

The January 2012 Atlanta magazine includes the first of its kind high school rankings. These are public school ratings only. What the magazine terms as “independent” schools do not distribute performance data. The list details nine numerical categories in what appears to be its most objective attempt to date. In previous years, Atlanta magazine provided a more subjective Top list for several subject area strengths, such as math/science, fine arts et al, allowing private schools to be included.

The Atlanta Metro's lifestyle oriented periodical states, “SATs are helpful…but (can) mean a school has little socioeconomic diversity.” The editors write confidently that their nine categories, “present a compelling portrait of how well public schools prepare their graduates.”

Five schools from DeKalb are in the Metro Top 50. In order of composite rank—DeKalb School of the Arts (#3), Lakeside (#16), Chamblee (#18), Dunwoody (#23) and Druid Hills (#42). Compare that to ten (10) each from Gwinnett; Fulton and Cobb. Cobb and Fulton had eight of the top 10 in the composite (overall) list.

In the most striking example of the breadth of the “portrait”, the five DeKalb county schools on the list make up five of the top seven in the “% college prep” category, however they range from #3 (DeKalb School of the Arts) to #42 (Druid Hills) in overall rank. Schools on the magazine ranked list generally have over 90 percent of graduates with college preparatory rather than vocational diplomas. None in DeKalb's top 5 were under 97%.

Like any data, you have to take it at face value and move along. For instance, SAT scores can be skewed by a school’s numbers taking the test; although determinant, neither school size or % of economically disadvantaged students can be objectively considered and no credit is given for progress toward closing the so-called “achievement gap”. It is also not clear how superior technology/vocational programs can be distinguished.

Figures derived from Georgia Dept of Education reveal all five DeKalb schools in the Top 50 have the highest % of economically disadvantaged students taking graduation tests, except two magnet schools in the City of Atlanta—and none less than 30.9% (DSA). Three are above 40% (Lakeside, Druid Hills and Chamblee). Except for DSA, only two schools in the Top 15 (higher than Lakeside at #16) had more than 20%. All Fulton and Cobb schools except one were less than 10%. Review of the data shows a marked gap between scores from the total population and that of the economically disadvantaged group, although those lower performing students did much better in environments with fewer than 10%--all passing AYP. Druid Hills passed AYP with 53.7% in the disadvantaged category, Dunwoody passed with 32.5%.

However, the full picture of the difficulties of high performing schools with large shares of economically disadvantaged cannot be appreciated until “student mobility rates” (ins and outs) are tabulated.

--5 schools in Top 25 overall (3 in Atlanta Mag Top 15)
--Top County for % College Preparatory Diploma--5 out of Top 7 schools
--Highest need for "Learning Support" among Top 5 Counties
--Top 5 in percentage economically disadvantaged (author research, not Atlanta Magazine)

(Data derived from: Georgia Department of Education)
(Modified from an article in The Patch)

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Cere.

The cynic in me believes that the substantial increase in economically disadvantaged students at Lakeside, Chamblee, and Druid Hills is due to AYP transfers.

Extra kudos to these schools for maintaining excellent academic performance even while adding hundreds of students who likely were behind academically (since the poorest both economically and academically are given priority in AYP transfers).

Anonymous said...

The author of the article is comparing 2011 FTE counts with 2009-2010 academic data. In neither year, has Lakeside been over 40% economically disadvantaged. We know that Druid Hills has been slammed with AYP transfers these last 2 years. And the only thing saving CCHS' academic standing is the magnet program.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta Mag data was 2010-20011. You acknowledge that the state data was 2009-2010 and state data stands on its own--40%. So what you're saying is that it probably dropped from one year to latest? How much maybe? How do you know--maybe it rose.
What's your point anyway--the author said Druid Hills had 52%--you arguing it was higher?
Author's point was that beyond Dunwoody (36%), no one else even came close.
That appears to be correct if you believ state dtata.
Conclusion was that Dekalb had highest econ disadv in Atlanta Metro--by far. You arguing that or a few measly points that you can't support?

Anonymous said...

What can't be supported is the measure by which "economically disadvantaged" is claimed in DeKalb School System. When there is "free" (aka taxpayer) money to grab, our board will find a way to make it happen. That's why at my child's school you see the free/reduced lunch kids transferred in via AYP standards being picked up in Humvees and Range Rovers by parents on their Iphones often with car tags from other counties. The school's poverty claims are a far extreme to the actual measures in the 2010 census. Every single poverty sticken family would have to have something like 6.6 children and they would have to all be school aged at the same time and all enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program to make sense of our stats.

There is major harm brought to our county when schools are actually fighting over the privledge of claiming who has more children from poverty stricken families. Perhaps we should worry that soon we will have nothing but 100% poverty sticken families countywide. Who will pay the ridiculous property taxes then? Anyone who has not already taken a hit on their property values from the lack of attractive test scores, or lack of well maintained campuses will soon be hit with either cell towers, trailers, school closings, or the realization that they are working hard every day and just giving money over to attorneys who will be dragging out lawsuit after lawsuit while the children are bullied, radiated, ignored, undervalued, hazed, ridiculed, silenced and deprived of their right to an education.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:36 pm"Conclusion was that Dekalb had highest econ disadv in Atlanta Metro--by far. You arguing that or a few measly points that you can't support?"

The data says otherwise.

Look at the Economically Disadvantaged numbers of DeKalb, Clayton and Marietta City Schools (click on Test Participation tab):

DeKalb Schools
74% Economically Disadvantaged

Marietta City
76% Economically Disadvantaged

Clayton Schools
86% Economically Disadvantaged

Anonymous said...

It is a well known fact that Lakeside is the school of choice for the employees of the school system who are the bus drivers, security officers, front office staff, libraians, cafeteria workers and janitors. These folks obviously care about education enough to be involved in the schools to help their children. No one faults them for that. But, it just explains why a lower income family can still produce a child who can perform to high standards if given the opportunity and blessed by parents who place a priorty on their education. Being surrounded by high achievers is always a good way to use "peer pressure" in a postive way to help influence those who might not have had as much luck in another school environment.

Sadly, when an AYP transfer happens, the money to provide extra tutoring for the child does not go along with the child. So, a transfer to a non-Title I school means the child doesn't get the extra help and resources the program was set up to provide in the first place.

Anonymous said...

How did the footbal champs of Tucker High fair on that poll?

Anonymous said...

I know the author of the article. We both had children in the class of 2010 at Lakeside, whoc statistics are used for this study and comparison. I'm going to re-open a can of worms here but I am quite certain of my numbers because I attended every PTA meeting and nearly every Counsel meeting until we removed our child from the school in the middle of 11th grade and he graduated from a private school. The 89.9% (give or take) graduation rate provided by the state is wrong -- I think they "game" it by using senior year numbers. That class left Henderson Middle with 2 full "teams" of 125 kids (give or take) and 2 half teams -- so give them 375 kids coming out of HMS. Mr. Chelf annonced when we arrived at LHS that the 9th grade class had 525 kids in it... we were stunneed -- where did they come from? Some were AYPs, some were "returning" from Chamblee and private shoool (probably just as many left HMS for private school) but let's give that number 50 kids... the rest, it turned out, were "froshmores" -- they never made it out of freshman year... the fail rate was 50% across the board, in every discipline (give or take) per sheets posted in the xerox room mid-year. By the time we pulled out of LHS as a junior, the class was down to 304 kids, he made the class 303 -- we know one was lost due to a drug overdose sophomore year, one graduated early, about 50 did what we did and we can name the schools they transferred to... He left the class at 303--- they only graduated 272... so that's closer to 50% of the 525 that they began with. This isn't to say that LHS is any worse than any of the other High Schools (other than the magnets like Chambless Magnet (not non-magnet) or DSA) but to say that you really can't trust the statistics... they are gaming them. I don't blame the author -- these are the numbers reported by/to the STate DOE. No one is tracking the child from when they enter high school through when they leave high school to see how many are really making it all the way through -- when we pulled out they didn't really care where we were going (I think with my younger children we told them they were going to private school and coded them differently than child number 1 so the reporting may be changing).

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

The 89 point grad rate from Lakeside isn't that impressive anyway, compared to others on the list. An accompanying article in The Patch points out Lakeside was 28th on the Top 50 list compared to its #16 overall rank. Druid Hills beat Lakeside (#26 Grad Rate rank--much higher than their #42 overall).

In fact, the data may actually reflect much of the situation the previous commenter describes.

BTW--who games the system, the school or the DCSS?

Anonymous said...

I think it's DCSS gaming it and I think the graduation rate (public school) is closer to 50% across the board if you were to track it from start of 9th grade to end of 12th grade and track it child by child. I think that the state has a "stake" in the numers for some reasons having to do with federal money so there's an incentive to manipulate the data. No one seems to care about the kids who go "missing". My "beef" with it is that I think that the vast majority of the "missing" wind up on the streets, on welfare and in the criminal justice system so there's an enormous price paid by society by not engaging these kids in something that interests them and gives them something concerete to make a career out's the "college or bust" philosophy (some of it is the latino population with a cultural mentality of leaving school at 16 to work the fields south of the border but that's a smaller part of the statistic, I think). There's a big societal issue in here that we (as a society) are missing.

Anonymous said...

How is the graduation rate calculated?

To comply with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), Georgia has defined a graduate as a student who leaves high school with a Regular Diploma (this does not include Certificates of Attendance or Special Education Diplomas) in the standard time (i.e., 4 years). For the 2010-2011 report card, two graduation rates will be displayed; the Lever or proxy rate which has been used in compliance with NCLB since 2002 and the Cohort rate which is replacing the Lever rate as of 2012 in accordance with federal law.

The 2010-2011 K-12 Report Card displays the 2011, the 2010 and the 2009 Lever graduation rates. It will also display the 2011 cohort graduation rate. A brief description of how the Lever graduation rate for 2011 is calculated follows:

Sum the 9th-grade dropouts in 2007-2008, the 10th-grade dropouts in 2008-2009, the 11th-grade dropouts in 2009-2010 and the 12th-grade dropouts in 2010-2011 for a fur-year total of dropouts.
Divide the number of students receiving regular diplomas by the four-year total of dropouts plus the sum of students receiving special education diplomas plus the number of students receiving certificates of attendance plus the number of students receiving regular diplomas. The number of students displayed on the graphs represents an approximation to the students in the ninth-grade in 2007-2008 that should have graduated in 2011 and is the denominator in this step
Change the result in step 2 from a decimal to a percentage (example: 0.83 equals 83%).

Graduation Rate Formula:

Numerator: # of students who graduate with regular diplomas

Denominator: # of dropouts in 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th from appropriate years + graduates + other completers

Anonymous said...

what happens to the ones that run and run further to a private school? How do they get factored in? Seems to me that you should be looking at the number that began 9th grade and the number that graduate and then see what happens to the ones that diddn't make it all the way through and that this shouldn't be so difficult with that thing we call the computer....

Anonymous said...

what happens to the ones that run and run further to a private school? How do they get factored in? Seems to me that you should be looking at the number that began 9th grade and the number that graduate and then see what happens to the ones that diddn't make it all the way through and that this shouldn't be so difficult with that thing we call the computer....

Anonymous said...

you can see that the grad rate is really an inverse of dropout rates.

So we are highly dependent on the definition of dropout rates. School systems all over the US are having difficulty tracking the movement of students. So they simply call any student that leaves a school prior to graduation a dropout.

If this accounting mentod for dropouts is considered legitimate, then all schools should have much lower grad rates--and schools in areas with what is called high "mobility rates" (parent households moving from distrct to district (common among "econoically disadvantaged") would have lower grad fault of their academic process.

Its probably gotten to the point with immigrant, homeless and households that change apartments, even counties of residents--that the so-called grad rate is more of a reflection of the economy than school program quality.

All of this calls for a redefinition of "dropout" and "grad rate"--which figures in "mobility". Naturally, even that would be subjective regarding school quality because families are "mobile" in affluent areas for different reasons than other.

It also may call for less emphasis beign placed on pejorative terms like "dropout" until the calculation can be cleaned up.

Anonymous said...

anon Jan 9 10:12
You have hit on the primary foundation of Title 1 fraud. Creating poor people, whether virtual or real.
Sure, virtual poor (those unqualified for free lunches on the roles) are part of the numbers.
However, the real fraud in Title 1 is the fraud that is a 50-year low-income housing racket.
Many many bureaucracies (HUD, schools) and institutions make money simply by creating low-income households. DeKalb has more low-income households than any county in Georgia (possibly the US)--a county literally dedicated to inviting the poor here.
So that carries into the school system in the form of low-income students--therefore high Title 1 numbers--therefore zillions in Federal aid.
Federal Aid then lines pockets of bond lawyers, banks, contactors, suppliers. It even grows government agencies HUD, SBA, Immigration, Social Security, refugee agencies at Federal level--law enforcement, courts, jails, etc at local levels.
Possibly the basis for most of the DeKalb economy.
This will not stop until a crisis ensues--its a boulder rolling down a hill.
The zillions passing thru this economy based on disfunction would make up half a book on post-WWII DeKalb hsitory.
A Federal Title 1 Investigation will never happen--it would be the tip of the spear to exposing too many connected powerful interests.

Dekalbparent said...

Not sure where to post this.

Was reading today's "Get Schooled" blog about the former Fulton and Cobb school head, James Wilson, threatening Kathleen Mathers about conducting an erasure analysis on CRCT test sheets. He was employed by Dougherty County Schools to be their rep and reviewer of the CRCT cheating data.

I will let you read the article and listen to the audiotape, but what caught my attention was one comment that stated that Wilson is a subcontractor for SACS, and thus represents them in this capacity. I am a slow processor, but I am disturbed by this. SACS is an accrediting agency, and yet a subcontractor for SACS (granted, in his capacity as a private consultant hired by Dougherty County Schools) is getting into a wrangle with a member of state government over whether the state should be investigating cheating in a school system.

Cerebration said...

Tom has another interesting post at the Patch --

Georgia ranked 7th (in the US) overall in one of the plethora of rating reports. This one from Education Week magazine

Click this link to read the rest:

State Education Rankings: Reality Bites, But Relativism Dulls Pain