New Georgia school chief visits two ‘failing’ schools and finds state grades don’t tell full story.

Interesting column by the new Georgia state school superintendent on his visit to two Athens-area schools with low accountability scores.

I have had the same experience Richard Woods describes — visiting a school labeled failing and finding a building full of hardworking educators and attentive students.

A few weeks ago, I was at one of the two schools Woods visited — Cedar Shoals High School — for an academic bowl tournament and was impressed with students I met and the facilities.

It is not always clear why a school struggles.

By Richard Woods

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to educational leaders from across the state at a conference in Athens. Part of my trip was visiting two schools in the Clarke County School District — Cedar Shoals High and Gaines Elementary.

One of my commitments is to visit struggling schools in Georgia. I specifically chose Cedar Shoals and Gaines Elementary because of their scores on the CCRPI, a tool used to score the performance of schools. Both schools were in the low 50s.

Before the visit, I had never walked through the doors of Cedar Shoals or Gaines. My only image was that which was painted by a series of state-collected data points. Logically, my thoughts turned to weak leadership, weak teaching, or unmotivated students.

These were my first two school visits as State School Superintendent. When I entered Cedar Shoals, I was met by a charismatic principal and a group of ROTC cadets, all beaming with pride in their school. As I walked in and out of randomly selected classrooms,

During a visit to a school with a failing score on the state accountability index, Superintendent Richard Woods said he  observed great teaching and engaged students.

During a visit to an Athens school with a failing score on the state accountability index, Superintendent Richard Woods said he observed great teaching and engaged students. (DOE Photo)

The principal knew every student by name and was eager to brag on this school and staff — their 9th Grade Academy, 1:1 initiative, and professional development partnership with UGA — all things that aren’t counted on the state’s CCRPI. The school was clean and orderly, a real climate of effectiveness.

I was able to have lunch with teachers. I was humbled and honored to have the chance to speak with and listen to them. These individuals weren’t the leftovers or outcasts from surrounding schools, these teachers were passionate and dedicated professionals — all elements that our current accountability model struggles to measure.

Entering Gaines Elementary, I was greeted by the principal and assistant principal — a true dynamic duo who are laser-focused on student achievement. The halls of the school roared as the students shouted and waved in excitement. This school’s climate of engagement and hard work is a model of excellence that we should want for all of our schools, but again, these are all elements our current accountability model struggles to measure.

I started the day looking over data points but, by day’s end, it wasn’t the TEMs, LEMs, and CCRPI that made an impact on me, or defined my notion of real effective teaching and learning. It was meeting school leaders who saw their schools as their homes, their teachers as their family members, and their students as their own children. It was meeting teachers who did what they asked their students to do: constantly work to get better. This wasn’t a show; it was sincerity.

I can promise you that any individual who had spent some time in these schools would have walked away labeling these schools as model schools with CCRPI scores in the 80s or 90s and would be shocked to learn that they are in the 50s.

There is a place for accountability, and I am fully committed to addressing the issue of chronically underperforming schools head-on, but I believe that we need to take a measured and targeted surgical approach. We need to develop, implement, and execute these tools with the utmost fidelity. We use these tools to paint a picture of our schools, teachers, and students.

Only when we start using all mediums, brushes, and colors can we begin to get a clear picture of the individual works of art that form the education of our children.

 

Reader Comments 0

75 comments
crankee-yankee
crankee-yankee

Well picture my surprise. The number propagation may be flawed? Oh my. Whatever will we do? Oh, I know, we shall ignore it! That way there won't be any embarrassing questions to answer. Problem solved the Georgia way.


Unfortunately, this is what I have come to expect from our elected "representatives". Nothing will be done unless there is a political upside for the power structure.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Here's the bottom line. It was wise of Woods to pick these two schools to observe.   Now we need to hear from the policy makers exactly why this school is failing.  Observations can be VERY subjective.   Of course the school would be on a good face for a visit from the Superintendent.   How much time did he spend in the classroom?   Why are students not learning in this school?   While you can't focus on statistics alone, something is missing here.   It's great that he felt the environment was a nurturing one, but why aren't the kids learning??   Mr. Woods, you can't just take one visit and deduce that the CCRPI is flawed.    Now we need specifics on what precisely is driving the lower CCRPI scores.  Which elements are deficient?  This is a political photo-op to push his agenda - nothing more.   @Maureen - it seems like the journalists need to do some investigative reporting on these schools and where the "disconnect" is.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@living-in-outdated-ed


See my post to dcdcdc below, as well as my post to Monica Henson, below.  Data must be analyzed with insight and balance. Data should be used primarily for instructional diagnostic purposes not to cast blame in an unrealistic mindset of simple answers to complex problems..

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@MaryElizabethSings @living-in-outdated-ed No argument that data ought to be analyzed with insight and balance, and that it should be used for instructional diagnostic purposes. I'd remove the "primarily" qualifier, however. To limit the use of data to purely diagnostic applications enables teachers/departments/schools with entrenched resistance to evidence-based best practice to continue to resist improvement, blame the kids and parents, and fail year after year. This is by no means the only variable, but it is a strong contributing factor in many cases of failing schools, and it is utterly unacceptable in the 21st century. It is naive to believe that simply providing training, showing the way, and encouraging teachers to use the data they are provided will spur all of them to do so. 


MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DrMonicaHenson 


Your words sound reasonable, but what you are proposing is setting up a business model for public education in which teachers are blamed for lack of progress based on data, which by definition, is limited in scope and depth in understanding the expanse of educational problems.  I have more faith in the ability of teachers to change their tactics than you do.  I am not condescending to teachers and I would never try to force change upon them with which they could not concur would help to improve students' performance.  That is not consistent with the teaching process of "leading out."  Yours, imho, is the tactic of the dictator, and that business model tactic would change the humane nature of the entire school environment..


https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education/

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@MaryElizabethSings @DrMonicaHenson You are of course entitled to your opinion, ma'am. My current staff and colleagues in previous schools I've led would differ profoundly, as would the parents and students, and that's all that matters to me. Interesting to see how you draw such enomrmously broad conclusions about my leadership style and presume to assess it, although you have no administrative experience of your own nor have you ever met me or watched me work. You know that I am a charter school leader, and that colors every single pronouncement you make from your secluded armchair of retirement through your jaundiced eye of lockstep defense of the status quo. Not every teacher needs to be in the public school classroom--that's a simple fact. Too many people who damage children continue to have access to them. I have tremendous faith in the ability of MANY teachers to change their practice. I also have 25 years' experience in the classroom and the administrative office and I know that there are also some who will absolutely refuse to do so, even when confronted with specific data over years at a time demonstrating that what they are doing is simply not working. What they are doing, most of the time, is trying to teach all the students a single lesson plan without taking into account any possible differences in skill levels and prior knowledge. Their position is, "I've been teaching [fill in the subject] for XX years, and if they don't learn it, it's not my fault."  I'll tell you what, Mary Elizabeth--after you've put in ten+ years leading schools and working as a principal with a faculty, I'll be glad to talk administrative policy with you. Until then, I am not going to attempt again to engage with someone who (1) knows very, very little about contemporary school leadership dynamics; and (2) is completely biased against school choice. It's just not worth the effort. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DrMonicaHenson 


You have some sweeping generalities in that long post, Monica.  And, you make quite a few erroneous assumptions.  I have worked 25+ years in school leadership.


As an Instructional Lead Teacher in a model innovative school of multiaged groupings and continuous progress format, without walls, I worked directly under the principal as the implementer of his vision.  I did not teach students during that decade.  My office was between the outer office and that of the principal.  My state certification included being a Supervisor of Reading and a Data Collector (which required that I evaluate other teachers), as well as being an English teacher and Reading Specialist.  As an ILT, I evaluated other teachers and I worked with teams of teachers in the school to build their understanding of how to assess student placement correctly and how to instruct to that specific placement.  All teachers turned in their end of level tests throughout the year to my office for me to analyze each student's score in reading and mathematics.  Together we built a magnificent public school.  I was fortunate that that knowledgeable principal chose me to be his right-hand person to help implement his educational vision.


When I transferred to the high school level after he retired, those principals with whom I worked made me a schoolwide Reading Chairperson to assess all students in the school in reading skills.  I wrote a reading informational book for teachers to use reading in the content areas, which I distributed to all curriculum Department Heads.  I gave teachers workshops in how to use those teaching strategies in their classes.  I worked with all English teachers in the high school to test all 1800 students in the school on the Nelson or Nelson Denny Reading Test and I interpreted those results for all of the school's teachers.  I gave individual training and solicited individual input from every teacher about how those strategies were working in their classrooms.  I worked with all counselors as Chair of the Student Support Team and trained them as to how to utilize the results of our In-House reading tests for more pinpointed placement.  I urged them to share those test results with parents.  I gave many parent workshops in order to educate parents in this ongoing process to help every student succeed in an environment of mutual support.  For the efforts, my county's Department of Instruction nominated me to be a candidate for Teacher of the Year of a major corporation.  The corporation selected me as one of their Teachers of the Year based on my work and results.


I have no idea how you function as a school leader, but I do know that your posts to me have been less than egalitarian in spirit and that your words in your post, above, read so mandatory as to be dictatorial, imo.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

If the goal of schools is to produce educated kids, then test scores are the best way to measure how they are meeting that goal.  If they aren't achieving test scores, that's the trigger to dig deeper into why - and many of the "why's" aren't the fault of that specific school or its teachers - as pointed out below - it could be that the kids they are getting aren't qualified to learn at that grade level.  Or any number of other reasons.  But without a "key indicator", it's hard to know where "root cause analysis" is warranted, so a real solution can be found.


But to discount test scores as a key indicator is insane.  That's like saying, "lets not talk about murder rates in a community, because everyone waived at me and seems so friendly".  


I get that he's trying to build morale, as well as support for the public schools under his "care".  But sadly this memo will be used by many to bash the one true way we have to measure if students are meeting the goals of becoming educated citizens.  


If he had said "our schools are run by professionals, and they are doing the best they can to overcome the issues they face  - and here are my specific ideas on how to help them overcome those issues", then that would be understandable.  But to seem to discount test scores as a key measure, seems very strange.....  Almost like he is setting up an attempt to go back to the "subjective measurement, all is good" world of the past - in spite of everyone knowing all is NOT good, and we desperately need innovative ideas on how to change things.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dcdcdc


The surface analysis is to pit using diagnostic data against not using diagnostic data.  That is not, however, what Superintendent Woods has written about.  He has expressed a proper balance between the two extremes.  These are his words from his letter:


"I started the day looking over data points but, by day’s end, it wasn’t the TEMs, LEMs, and CCRPI that made an impact on me, or defined my notion of real effective teaching and learning. It was meeting school leaders who saw their schools as their homes, their teachers as their family members, and their students as their own children. It was meeting teachers who did what they asked their students to do: constantly work to get better. This wasn’t a show; it was sincerity. . . .


"There is a place for accountability, and I am fully committed to addressing the issue of chronically underperforming schools head-on, but I believe that we need to take a measured and targeted surgical approach. We need to develop, implement, and execute these tools with the utmost fidelity. We use these tools to paint a picture of our schools, teachers, and students.


Only when we start using all mediums, brushes, and colors can we begin to get a clear picture of the individual works of art that form the education of our children."


I would call that balanced analysis by Superintendent Wood wise.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@dcdcdc


Moreover, I must emphasize to this reading audience and especially to the members of Georgia's Senate and Legislative Education Committees, that State Superintendent of Schools Woods appears to understand why public school are better, more nurturing, foster a deeper and broader understanding of knowledge and how to apply it when they follow a traditional educational model where students and teachers are treated with respect in a loving environment. In these public schools teachers and students are both treated not as commodities for raising a simple test score on a limited test as a business model for education might expect. Instead they are treated "as a family unit."  This is why, imo, traditional public schools must remain focused on the total growth of students and teachers in an atmosphere of love, respect, and joy, not in the environment of a business model, in which the priority is often profit and forces teachers and students to be treated as commodities.  


It is so rewarding to me to see an educational leader of power who gets this.  I must say that I am proud of the fact that Superintendent Woods educational values and wisdom come out of South Georgia, where I was born and raised.


Again, Superintendent Woods words full of humane, educational wisdom:


"It was meeting school leaders who saw their schools as their homes, their teachers as their family members, and their students as their own children. It was meeting teachers who did what they asked their students to do: constantly work to get better. This wasn’t a show; it was sincerity."

Retiredmathteacher
Retiredmathteacher

This is the most encouraging story I have read in a long, long time!

John Knox
John Knox

Dear Superintendent Woods, take it from the proud parent of a graduate of the Clarke County School District, including Cedar Shoals High School, whose son is now a Ramsey Scholar at UGA: these schools are way, way better than those stupid scores indicate.  


Here is my Athens Banner-Herald op-ed from last year on this subject: 


http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2014-02-08/knox-monday-open-house-opportunity-see-truth-about-clarke-schools


And to the critics: this isn't about one drop-in visit.  Or a couple of weeks at the school by a 'qualified educator.'  I'm speaking from 13 years of experience as a parent of a graduate of the schools, a parent who is also a faculty member at UGA.  When we moved to Athens, we heard all the warnings about how you had to send your child to a private school, or to Oconee County, to get a good education.  That "advice," like so many of the comments on here, was laughably wrong.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@John Knox


How refreshing to have read your op-ed praising the Clarke County public schools.  Too many people have personal agendas based on private biases, but you do not.  You think for yourself. Thanks for your keen insights regarding educational delivery in Clarke County and for taking the time to share your positive thoughts not only in the Athens' online paper but also on this public blog.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@John Knox  Go into the DOE website and look at Cedar Shoals performance on the 2011 GHSGT - in the low 80's in passing in English and math.  Compare that to Cobb or Cherokee County.  YOUR kids may have succeeded, but they were the top ones - there were a lot who failed.  By the way, my kids described the GHSGT as "ridiculously easy".

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@John Knox Have had 3 kids in a public high school that is very similar to CS.  Mine have excelled...as yours have.  But mine were likely to excel no matter what, and in reality they were in a "bubble" of high end classes.  The only time they experienced the actual school was in the halls, and the lunch room - and those could be scary places.  And mine were athletic and outgoing...I can't imagine how rough it is for someone who is small, mild mannered, and easily intimidated.


The issue with schools like this isn't in the higher end classes.  Its in the other 50%.  And if you kids are not academically strong, then sending them to a school like this can be a sentence to failure in life.  Sadly, just how it is.  



MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The Superintendent appears to be a wise educator.  If I may be so bold as to offer him one suggestion.  Use standardized test data for instructional diagnostic purposes to better pinpoint the needs of individual students, not as a gross tool mainly to label a school, which can be ineffective for that purpose, as you are aware



Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@MaryElizabethSings  My guess is that the creators of the tests would agree with you.   That appropriate use eliminates the necessity of teaching to the test -- which really is memorizing -- which is of limited use in learning to solve real-life problems.  Developing the ability to think and solve problems are the points of education, not developing the ability to memorize.


The truth is that, in too many schools, we are presented with what the Superintendent met --  too many kids who we can see are bright, but whose essential literacy levels and academic performances are anemic, nevertheless.  Misuse of the tests to label schools and punish teachers and administrators is far too blunt an instrument to solve a variety of complex problems.  


Personally, I think that the cause of much of this is simple -- not enough school work and outside reading are being done by the average student.  This arises from a multitude of causes, none of which are fixed by forcing teachers to teach to the test so that students memorize far too short a list of what they need to know, while not learning to think critically in the bargain.   Solving the problem is far harder.   Somehow, real discipline needs to be restored in the classroom, and students need to radically change how they allocate their time outside of the classroom.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Carlos_Castillo 


Let's keep the focus on using standardized tests for instructional knowledge in how to best teach individual students to mastery level.  Public education has far to go, yet, in achieving this valuable end.  And, discipline problems would drop significantly if instructional delivery were more refined and targeted than it is presently.

Lynn43
Lynn43

Social promotion.  I don't like it either, but should we be building parking lots for the student drivers in elementary school?  Social promotion is not the answer, but it is a problem we should be working on--what to do with students that just refuse to do the work to pass even though they are capable. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lynn43


How long, Oh Lord, how long?  When are the people who read this blog going to realize that there is a wise instructional option to social promotion and that is teaching each student where he is functioning on every curriculum continuum, regardless of his grade level.  Students who are misplaced for instruction will often refuse to do the work as a mask for being misplaced and thereby not grasping the material.  


More diagnostic data is needed for each student (in a student's developmental history on computers) to determine the truthful facts about each student's progress or lack thereof.  We must stop making assumptions about why students fail and, instead, turn to diagnosis with test data to know for certain why given students fail, as the medical profession does with sick patients.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady 


Never say never, Wascatlady.  My last high school before I retired received a grant from the state of Georgia for $25,000. in 2000 to implement a form of this plan which I designed to be implemented in that high school just before I retired.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady


Mary Elizabeth,


We are doing our level best to meet the individual needs of our students, but as I am sure you know from experience, that gets very difficult when you have a class where some are reading at a 5th grade level and some are at a K-1 level.  We make use of parent volunteers, Title and EIP instructors, flexible groups, small group instruction, para pros etc. to do all we can to differentiate instruction, but now, thanks to the new "accountability" rules put into place to make us do a "better" job, we are actually having MORE trouble reaching all our students since our students are now "locked in" to certain classes with particular teachers for a particular percentage of the year - so our ability to flexible groups has been curtailed.  So, once again, the bureaucracy designed to "improve" education is actually making things worse. I am so utterly sick of it!  If a school does their job well, and is succeeding, then the big wigs need to leave them the heck alone and let them do what they do best!  Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same "one size fits all" approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning.  If a school is succeeding, then they do not need to be hammered with all these "reform" measures that do nothing but make my job even more difficult!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Quidocetdiscit 


In many ways, I agree with your points, Quid.  I especially agree with this sentence you wrote: "Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same 'one size fits all' approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning." 


Your post actually reaffirms what I have continuously stated:  There will always be students functioning on different grade level curriculum in the same grade level because all students do not learn at the same rate to mastery.


When I post, the audience I am trying to reach are those in administration at the county office level and at the school level.  I want those in administration first to start believing that what I am writing is true and that the ONLY way they are ever going to help every student meet with success is to design schools that can have flexible scheduling with teachers having much more input about the continuous placement of students in the groupings throughout the school, or at least throughout the department.


Thank you for what you do daily to teach students.  I know what obstacles teachers must overcome and one of the most blatant which I read about on this blog are adults who have spent a professional lifetime in other careers telling teachers how to teach.  Their arrogance is incredible.  Don't let any of this deter you.  Keep your eye on the prize, and that is each student.  Why not get a group of teachers together to talk with your administrator about letting teachers have time blocks together (without students) so that they can plan instructional delivery for, say, 150 students, together)


In the meantime, I hope this will give you some additional techniques for dealing with students who have multi-level instructional needs in the same grade level:


https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/ways-to-teach-students-who-are-functioning-on-different-instructional-levels-in-the-same-grade/

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Wascatlady Diagnostic, data-driven instruction is what is used in Massachusetts.  It began when the MCAS assessment system was implemented after the state curriculum frameworks were drafted. The drafting/review team included many teachers. I was one of the MCAS readers for ELA exams while I was a classroom teacher. 

With statewide data warehousing, it is possible for teachers to review student performance data in ELA and math going back for several years and pinpoint within a specific classroom, down to the student and standard levels, exactly where students have excelled and where they have struggled.
The Student Longitudinal Data System here in Georgia provides a similar level of detailed analysis over time. The key is ensuring that teachers have access to the SLDS and are trained to use it. Although GA teachers are not given access to released testing items in sufficient time to use them for purposes of instructional adjustment, the way that Massachusetts teachers always have been, they do have the Online Assessment System item bank to be able to generate their own diagnostic assessments using items developed in Georgia by fellow teachers and the State.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaryElizabethSings @Lynn43 Mary Elizabeth, I agree with you.  But there is NO WAY this course of action will EVER be funded in Georgia, nor supported in any way.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DrMonicaHenson 


Thank you, Monica, for this current information regarding teacher use of testing items on computers.  I can envision personnel hired within a school to generate such updated testing instructional items on computers for teachers, so that the teachers themselves do not have to spend hours of their own time plugging this info into the computers.  After the computer resource person for the school updates the instructional testing data for each student, teachers would be able to pull this diagnostic information up for a whole class in a matter of seconds.  Likewise, if teachers were allowed to plan together in a team approach for a group of 150 students in several teachers classes (while the students are outside in P. E. activities), the developed computer program would allow the teachers to team- generate instructional groupings that are homogeneous in instructional need, across several classes and even across several grades.  As the teachers move students in their section of the building to other teachers' classes for instructional pinpointed groupings, teachers overall would have much less differentiation to cover within their individual classes. (Five heads are better than one.)  Teachers need the administrative flexibility to be able to structure this grouping design within the school, using the computer data as the intial genesis of the groupings with verbal input added.  One last point:  Confidential I Q scores should also be a part of this mix of data on the computer programs because students with lower IQs will, in general, not be able to move through concepts to mastery level as quickly as those students whose IQs are much higher.  Because IQ can vary from year to year to some extent, these scores likewise should be confidentially updated.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@MaryElizabethSings @DrMonicaHenson I hired a Director of Data Operations to oversee these processes and free teachers up to use the information to refine their teaching. Our student information systems vendor has been engaged to do the data entry legwork so teachers don't have to. The Director will train instructional staff on how to generate the types of reports teachers need to be able to identify specific students in need of specific remediation so that teachers are able to group students accordingly. The Director also will produce reports so that instructional leadership administrators are able to analyze data and see trends to share with the teaching staff.  

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@DrMonicaHenson 


Excellent.  This computer access to test data should also be implemented in traditional public schools across Georgia, which have value beyond simply relying on test results (which I described above in complimenting State Superintendent Woods' balanced approach to educational processes).


Woods believes in running schools throughout Georgia within a family-type, loving, joy-filled school environment, which I refer to as an "educational model," as opposed to a "business model," for public education.


For more detail, see link below:


https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education/

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@popacorn 


I am presently typing and editing the 16 chapters in the book of my deceased father which he left to me to edit, as well as all of his poetry.  When I finish with my father's book, I may consider making my blog entries perfected into an edited, completed book.  However, that undertaking might be completed a decade from now. 


In the meantime, the content of the educational entries in my blog need to be available to educators and parents NOW to analyze and understand.   Judging from the number of "hits" I have received, daily, to my blog, many people and many educators are already making good use of the ideas and concepts in my blog.  As usual, your little mind shows forth, Popacorn, in what you post.  The quality of your mind is what would embarrass me, if I had a mind as petty as  yours. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

A drop in visit is not a very good way to determine what is wrong.  Some independent qualified educator needs to spend a couple of weeks in these schools and observe them under more normal conditions.


When a celebrity comes, even back in my day, the school puts their best foot forward.  The Marching Band plays, the President of the Beta Club gives a welcoming, the cheerleader sing the school fight song, blah, blah.  Those kids are not the ones failing.  If you are a celebrity and have only 30 minutes to spend in a school, spend at least half of it in the detention room and call one of the students who is absent that day, if you are interested in what is really going on.


popacorn
popacorn

Heisenberg Principle: The act of observing something changes it. Walk into any school with an entourage and cameras flashing and of course what you observe will be altered. The roaches have plenty of time to scurry under the carpet. 

teacher_educator
teacher_educator

@popacorn That's a terrible assumption to make.  Have you spent any time in either school?  Why do you perpetuate myths about high schools like Cedar Shoals without any first hand knowledge of what really goes on here? 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@teacher_educator @popacorn  We have heard from someone (a teacher) who has had first-hand experience at Clarke County Schools.  Plus just look at the 2011 GHSGT results, objective data that says this is not the greatest school (you would have to have good students for that).

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@popacorn I know we had a FABULOUS lunch the day the state SoS Cox came to our school!

Sara0507
Sara0507

@popacorn I have found this to be true in general not just in education.  When my in-laws come, I tend to clean my house a little more and when my boss is watching over my shoulder, I make sure to look extra busy. Everyone does it.   I live in South Forsyth county where we have top performing schools.  But one day when I was volunteering in our elementary school classroom,  a school board member "dropped by".  He spent about 10-15  minutes in the room most of which was talking to the kids.  He introduced himself to me and shook my hand and thanked me for volunteering.   After he left, the teacher confided in me that his visit was a BIG deal and that the administration had spent WEEKS getting the teachers ready with alot of detailed instruction on what they should and should not be doing in the classroom on that day.   So I get your point that what he saw was not the day to day goings on.  It was a  super cleaned up, best behavior, mind your Ps and Qs  kind of version that may not tell the whole truth.  As I said, our district is a top performer so I don't think it was as decieving.  But "drop ins" in general definately don't give the whole truth. 

BCW1
BCW1

For the 100th time, our schools are a reflection of the shape of our society. If you want go test scores, give me good students and parents that take school seriously. The PC'ness and lack of respect of authority is undermining what schools are attempting to do. Granted that is not all schools, but it most of them.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Some things he left out of his article:  did he review student test scores, particularly test scores of incoming freshmen (see poster below about HS students arriving three to four grade levels behind).  Did he review attendance and make sure that they were not cheating on attendance figures - is class roll called in every class (see poster below about parking lot kids)? 


Did he see evidence of effective handling of discipline, or did he just meet with the best of the best and the problem students were hidden away while he was there.  Did the principal warn everyone that he was visiting and everyone should be on their best behavior that day?



Starik
Starik

Potemkin village?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Interesting to me that he chose the schools my kids attended during the 5 years we were in Athens.  The biggest problem then (and I hope it has truly been rectified) was behavior, and lack of consequences.  At Hilsman, the middle school located between the two mentioned, my son saw a female school resource officer knocked to the ground and kicked and stomped, and the principal blamed the officer!  My elder daughter made an audio tape in her AP class to review, and in the background you could hear horrible banging and cursing.  A student in class next door had gotten mad and hurled a desk around and into the hall and was cursing and swinging at a teacher AND MY DAUGHTER DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE IT.  She labeled it "common".  Cedar Shoals also had "parking lot kids"--kids that never went to class, but hung out in the parking lot all day.  At the elementary school, my son saw a boy choked to passing out over a pencil.  And all three of my kids were assaulted in school.  While the teachers cared, and a few actually stuck up for the kids being mistreated, the administrations were too busy making excuses, saying, "They just don't know any better."


Moving back to the mountains, my younger two were AMAZED at the behavior differences shown and tolerated.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady  By the way, I am glad that you made the CHOICE to escape the situation, Wascatlady.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the students in "failing" administrations  have NO choice, and the educational system does not WANT them to have any choice.  You were able to move, perhaps sell a house, and find a job in a better area - what about those whose job ties them to DeKalb county (or a very long commute)? 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Sara0507 @Wascatlady Please remember this was 1990-5, a long time ago.  And perhaps things have improved remarkably. Perhaps the thugs and their parents are not running the show as they were then.  Perhaps administrators now have a backbone, and have quit making excuses.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog @Wascatlady In some ways not a choice--I finished my dissertation!  But while there I went to board meetings, advocated for teachers and students, and I am proud to say the principals and office staff at all three schools knew my name within a month.  I was even interviewed on TV!



class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady  There you have it folks - the TRUE reasons that STUDENTS fail in these schools (I won't say failing schools).  My three main issues are: DISCIPLINE (see above story), ATTENDANCE (Parking lot kids?), and social promotion (see poster below about kids entering high school three to four grades behind).  Solve THOSE problems (ADMINISTRATORS - the ball is in YOUR court here), and you will go a long way towards building a better school system.  It still will not solve student apathy, but it is a start. 



class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @class80olddog  I would agree with that and add parental interference.  My sister was a teacher and the day she reached retirement age (52) she retired - mostly because of parents interfering and being unhappy with teachers - their little "angels" who could do no wrong.

Astropig
Astropig

@class80olddog @Wascatlady


Yep. Public school teachers have choice. They can move to any system or school that will have them. Their students do not. Maybe we need a "zip code" hiring model for teachers like we have for school attendance.