If north Fulton teachers went to south Fulton schools, would achievement soar? Or is it the students?

Milton High outpaced many other Fulton high schools on the End of Course Milestones tests, but how much of that is attributable to the students who live in that area? (Fulton County Schools photo.)

One of the problems with bonus programs designed to entice top-rated teachers to low-rated schools is figuring out who the most effective teachers are and whether their effectiveness is portable. (We have been discussing incentives this week in relation to Fulton County’s abandoned pilot that offered certain teachers $20,000 to transfer.)

A teacher may dazzle in a school where students perform at grade level and parents jam open houses, but may fizzle in a high-poverty classroom where many kids are behind and parents are too busy working two jobs to run robotics teams.

We are still not adept at separating out how much of student performance reflects socioeconomics and family inputs and how much hinges on teachers and schools.

Consider the release Thursday of the Georgia Milestones scores, the state exams given each spring to elementary, middle and high school students and used to rate both schools and educators. In the five-county metro area, the top middle school for eighth-grade math was Dodgen in Cobb and the top elementary school for third-grade language arts was Lake Windward in Fulton. Both schools have 6 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, the proxy for measuring low-income households.

When you go to the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-performing schools on this year’s Milestones, many have 90 percent or more of their students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch.

At Banneker High School in south Fulton, nearly nine out of 10 students failed the state geometry exam, scoring below proficient, at the beginner or developing learner level. No student scored at the advanced level, according to the state data released Thursday. At the College Park school, nine out of 10 students are also eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, according to the state Report Card. At Milton High at the other end of Fulton County – where one out of 10 students is low-income  — 24 percent failed the End of Course geometry test. Nearly 30 percent scored at the highest level.

Would $20,000 persuade math teachers from Milton to move to Banneker where the lift to student proficiency would be far more arduous and frustrating? Even if they agreed to move — and most likely would not, given the distance and the challenges — could they be as successful with students arriving in geometry class in need of remediation?

As one teacher said on AJC Get Schooled Facebook, “It’s easy to look like you’re the best when your students are all on grade level and come to class every day. The better strategy is to grow the people you have on site and give them the supports they’ve been begging for for years.”

 

 

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181 comments
Jackalope
Jackalope

I read questions like this and it just amazes me.  Schools like Banneker have been on the bottom for decades.  In all that time, the number of different teachers who have taught at Banneker must be in the hundreds, if not thousands.  Are ALL those teachers sub-par?  Have they ALL been unequal to the ones in North Fulton County?
The constant isn't the teachers. The constant is the socio-economic group they serve.  When you have parents who don't participate in the education of their children, who don't demand academic excellence....you get Banneker.  Doesn't matter how much they make or what race they are.  Bad parenting will come through.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Sheared: Yes, of course. I spent close to 50 years running state testing programs, conducting research, and doing policy analysis for state education agencies (and, lordy help me, politicians). I forget that I shouldn't take shortcuts here. I assume people know such things and you make the point well. 

I under no circumstances would ever wish to suggest r squared = causation. Family income is related (but not close to unity) to many things, including parental education, experiential opportunity ranging from family vacations to books in the home, genetically passed intelligence, access to better schools (and teachers), and on and on. Guess what: kids with greater benefits going in more often than not come out on top.

Does that mean those of us who came from dirt poor homes (yes, I did) can't beat the system? Hell no. Even dumb country hicks like me can get Ph.D.'s and do something with them. What it does mean is that instead of assuming that the same menu works for everyone, we should one of these days figure out that if we're ever going to start leveling the playing field, we'll need to pump more into our public schools in less fortunate areas, rather than less. 

Changing topics, clueless folks like DeVos not only don't have a clue, they don't care about the bottom 95%. 

Our current fed ag secretary stole 7.6 BILLION dollars from the already shortchanged (even by state law) public schools when he was governor (the were called "austerity cuts"). Half of that was before the crash when the state was rolling in dough. Who'd that hurt most? The rural kids living around his country mansion. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

"90% of the variance in test scores is how much the parents make."


Correlation is not causation. By this I mean if you created a government program to bestow substantial incomes on the community that supports a "low-income" school, I doubt that the students' test scores would rise dramatically.  


Maybe people who are smart and disciplined tend to make more money AND tend to have children who are smart and disciplined and thus successful in school. Just a thought.


Just because student achievement is higher in "high-income" schools, that doesn't mean that the higher income is actually causing higher student achievement - the income is just the most visible and easily measurable characteristic among several other more important ones.


class80olddog
class80olddog

The "rich" parents who want their child to have the opportunity to study calculus in the sixth grade (if they are up to it) should be able to do that through an honors track.  The bottom percentage should be required to attain a minimum level of learning.  IF a diploma is awarded, it should indicate that a minimum level is achieved (too bad they took away the GHSGT).  If you can't do the minimum, then you need to quit school and enroll in the School of Hard Knocks.  

jerryeads
jerryeads

Hi Maureen - sorry I'm not spending much time here in retirement - saw this piece in today's paper and couldn't resist the urge to chime in.

You've heard me say before that "90% of the variance in test scores is how much the parents make." We could replace the state's testing with the family 1040 gross income and save the taxpayers millions - or better, just pass it on to the schools to work with teachers.

I'm sure Bracey is looking down being very pleased with your wisdom. Teachers in schools with high family incomes can be superb, just as those who choose low-income schools. But it looks to me that very different skillsets are beneficial. It may well be that the teacher who sends Gwinnett kids to Harvard and MIT could learn to do great things with inner city kids, and vice versa, but what you need to reach an 8th grader who can't read and hasn't eaten in three days just isn't  what will best help a middle-class straight A kid get to MIT. And it's just deplorably stupid to expect state low-bid minimum competency testing to tell you anything worthwhile about either.

What I saw in my three-year study of the state's "alternative schools" a decade and a half ago is the same I see in other research: It's leadership. A great school in any socioeconomic clime will have a great principal who's been there a while. It doesn't matter if you plant great teachers in a school with lousy leadership. It'll still be a place neither teachers nor kids will want to be.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@jerryeads Your post tells the exact story of what is wrong in the current Education system.  First, a student should NOT be in the eighth grade if he/she cannot read.  Second, if the child has not eaten in three days, the parent should be arrested and the child should be placed in an institution by DFCS.

class80olddog
class80olddog

We have talked about the teachers (small but measurable effects), students (huge, but related to #3), and parents (the 800-lb gorilla).  But we have left out one subsidiary of the educational system that could make a lot more difference.  The Japanese have a saying "A fish rots from the head down"  and that is true of the educational system. ADMINISTRATORS are responsible for DEALING with a lot of the issues in failing schools.  They are the ones who socially promote students, making it less likely that even good teachers can teach the class the next year.  They are the ones who let discipline slide for fear of "racial bias".  They are the ones who refuse to enforce truancy laws.  And the basis for all this "rot" is Political Correctness.  It is not poverty.  Poverty by itself it not a cause.  Lots of successful children came from less-affluent homes.  Rather, the causes of poverty are often the same causes of poor performance in schools.  One of the biggest causes of poverty - single motherhood.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog


Stereotypical thinking tinged with racism, class 80.  Not meant to insult you; only meant to raise the consciousness of you and some readers.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings


I believe I wrote "tinged with racism," class80, in my post to you. Mainly your post was an example of stereotypical thinking of other people.


I believe you are stereotyping all races of single mothers (and other people of the underclasses), Class80.


Treating people as villains, or objectifying others as demons, in your own mind, will help no one, from my experiences in public education.



Nancy
Nancy

I have taught in inner city schools as well as in Roswell and Johns Creek schools. I doubt if many of my North Fulton colleagues would last past Christmas break if they transferred to high poverty schools in South Fulton. Why not spend the money on supporting the teachers already on the job there?

Starik
Starik

@Nancy Why not move selected kids and families to North Fulton? Tens of thousands of non whites are thriving here. Be selective. Our immigrant families have selected themselves, and the best of the black folks too.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @Nancy


"...the best of the black folks, too."

-------------------------------------

Very telling about your state of consciousness, Starik.  Not very egalitarian.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik @Nancy  Egalitarianism isn't reality. Some are brighter than others; others have intelligence, but are captive to bad neighborhoods, bad culture, bad classmates, and bad parent(s). That's reality. 

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings @Nancy Well what do you do with the dumb white people since THEY are so saintly in your "red neck" eyes.  You are so pitiful and sad.  What about that reality since you seem to miss that each time you speak on black people?


casper09
casper09

and for those who say we need more monies i say no what we need are parents to get involved with thier children education stop throwing monies away

casper09
casper09

no its a combination of both the parents and the students those students in the south mostly come from single parent homes where the parents do not stress the importance of early development and spending time with the students and making sure they are prepared look who show up at the parent teacher meetings as well

Lexi3
Lexi3

Sure. Just move motivated, well-behaved students whose parents are engaged there, and you'd get similar results with teachers from the Northside.


Fact is, the behaviors and attitudes so well chronicled in this thread are self-perpetuating and magnifying.Thank the "Great Society" which created enormous financial incentives for breeding in one "parent" households. Right after WWII blacks were marrying at rates as high as or higher than whites. Surely, there  was more "racism" then, than now. So, the current dismal state of affairs has nothing to do with racism--other than the soft bigotry of low expectations.

BigPapi
BigPapi

Good players make coaches look good

Ashley Renee
Ashley Renee

Teaching in a South Fulton school made me a better teacher. Prior to working there I taught in a higher income school where the bulk of my teaching involved lecturing and assigning/discussing readings--and very rarely did I have a student who failed a standardized test. When I moved to a South Fulton school I realized quickly that lecturing wasn't going to cut it. I had to be creative. I was dealing with many students who didn't have a roof over their head the night before or had to work the late shift at a fast food restaurant or had moved schools for the 5th time that year. I had to be creative. I had to be engaging and make everything fun. I had to learn how to break things down for my kiddos who were far below grade level, kids who didn't have parents who could pay for private tutoring and other enrichment activities that many North Fulton parents can provide their children. Was I able to get most of my students pass the standardized tests? No. But they ended the year having gained more knowledge and skills--and so did I. Most of my colleagues in South Fulton work just as hard as I did and are some of the most skilled and passionate teachers I've ever known. Low income schools aren't full of bad teachers who can't get jobs elsewhere. They're full of caring teachers who show up to a difficult environment day after day for the same pay as teachers in affluent North Fulton schools receive. Give the South Fulton teachers a raise for the hard work that they're already doing--especially those that stick it out year after year. I only made it a couple of years before the stress and the lack of support wore me down. Encourage the good teachers of South Fulton to stay. Don't insult them by bringing in teachers from the North who are considered "better" just because their students score higher on tests. That's just further proof that the hard-working South Fulton teachers don't get the respect they deserve.

Jason Tircuit
Jason Tircuit

Excellent comments and insight, I taught in Dekalb county for years and the parental involvement/contact was slim to none. Now I am in Gwinnett and it is the complete opposite, but the strategies I used while in DeKalb, I still use in Gwinnett and now administration wants me to lead professional developments on student engagement. Because of this my classes are now being filled with students that are not as prepared because other teachers don't know how to "teach" these students. The demographics are changing and the "sit and get" days are coming to an end. 

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

No. Good teachers are important, of course, and only a fool would dismiss that truth. But they are not as important as what the child goes back home to day in and day out. 


The hard and difficult (and denied and ignored) truth is that children who live in homes where it is the "gospel"  that a good education and real learning can only be achieved with two, present, dedicated and caring parents - working together, from the cradle on up - can instill the desire, passion, and motivation in their children to learn . . . well, sadly that hard, but essential  truth has been thrown into the trash bin by  the Eduacracy. You know the Eduacracy well if you have lived in Atlanta during the last five or six years - those who see education essentially as a[ professional career, a professional opportunity to enrich the lives of the administrators and the teachers.


Of course, there are exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule, and the efforts and successes of those single parents out there striving and doing their best to help their children learn and get a solid education are not to be dismissed or denigrated. 


Family is the key, and family is never discussed. Those who say that the government schools and professionals can accomplish the mission (but, of course, only if more and more funding and greater pay and benefits for administrators and teachers can be provided) are selling a bill of goods. The amazing thing is how long will those whose children are not educated have bought into this fantasy . . . . and how much longer will they get away with it? 



MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I read through most of the entries, and I saw nothing new presented.

One day this state and this nation will care again to tackle poverty and illiteracy in a meaningful way as Lyndon Johnson did with his "Great Society" and "War on Poverty" social programs. Until that time arrives in the hearts of citizens of America to support those social programs, we will not see improvement in schools in impoverished areas.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@SmartAlek69 @MaryElizabethSings


Absolutely so. It has moved the illegitimacy meter light years though, and created a subset of the population completely dependent on hand-outs.


Funny, but our national debt almost exactly matches the cost of those counterproductive programs.

George Harris III
George Harris III

There was this movie called "Trading Places" with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd, I think the movie, though a comedy, was socially relevant to this discussion. Conditions and environments matter as well as resources.

Tcope
Tcope

It is the educational culture of the parents that most influences the academic success of the students. Wealth has a correlation with academic success but not a causation. Poverty in south metro Atlanta has a lifestyle that includes plenty of food, air conditioned homes, mobile phones, free education, cars, computers, etc. Any of us that have been to a 3rd world country understand true poverty does not include anything like the lifestyle of what we call poor in Atlanta.

LJTCD
LJTCD

Teachers have become the convenient punching bag for politicians whom don't want to state the truth. Children who do not do well in school are the result of a lack of parent involvement-period. Many low income parents believe it isn't their responsibility to attend school functions or be involved in checking homework and study habits. The Hispanic community refuse to learn the English language and make the excuse that they can't help. The obvious is shown in school's test scores. Until all parents decide to value education and be invested in their child's education- we will continue to have failing children. In addition, people who can't afford to have and take care of their own children- should not be having children until they are ready to take fully responsibility. It is not a teachers job to raise your children. You can move teachers from high performing schools to Title I schools and the outcome would be the same. The teacher wouldn't last at a Title I school because the administrators at Title I schools place blame on the teachers. It is a very tough job.

Tiersa Holmes McClardy
Tiersa Holmes McClardy

This question is divisive. Starting the teacher bashing at the beginning of the year...smh

palepadre
palepadre

My parents didn't graduate from High School. My step-father didn't finish grade school. my aunts and uncles, didn't finish High School. They got jobs that were learn as you go. 35 years later in some cases,my uncles were doing the same type of job. Aunts married,and stayed home. My parents felt they didn't know enough to teach me. They expected the schools to create a child bordering on genius. I believe it is 50/50 Genetics,and exposure to education. I was not told,nor did I see what good any of the math above general was going to be good to learn. I was going to work with my hands, not my brain. The same with science. I would have no use for chemistry,or physics. Family ambition was work the amount of time to receive a seniority raise. One idea students must get into their heads. When you go into the classroom, you become students. Without skin color. Acting white, must not be a consideration. History, Literature, these subjects can involve race and religions. The math and science curriculum are based on verifiable principles. None of them are of one race.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I will not say that teachers have no effect on learning at all, but when you have to teach skills years behind where students are supposed to be, it is unrealistic to expect the 7 hours a day a student is in school to master several years of preliminaries to even begin working on the current year's expectations.


I think moving teachers from top schools to lower-income schools would be an interesting but futile "solution."  There might be a small spike for a year or two (the New! Improved! effect), but then things would be back to "normal."  And I suspect the teachers who were moved to the poorer schools, instead of being challenged, would be trying to get out of there.


I taught for 40+ years in low-income schools.  The one that was most successful was the small one(300 students, K-7), with a long history in the community, and many teachers who had attended that school.  The students from that school routinely outscored and bested students from the other schools when they got into high school, and were disproportionately honor graduates, although the area was even more rural, and a bit poorer, than the others.  What was the difference?  The parents, overwhelmingly--even the grandparents, and aunts and uncles.  They supported the efforts of the school and were proud of it.  They expected  their children to be at school, and to have homework every night.  Behavior problems were minimal, and were generally handled by paddling. Parents supported this.


Unlike well-to-do schools, there were no parent volunteers, or special activities or programs.  In fact, the "town school" had several "benefits" that this school did not have (special PE teacher, art and music teachers ).  But the school was the anchor of the community. (It was over 130 years old).


I think this school, which has been closed now for about 6 years, was the school of the future, especially for at-risk students.  When the kids were moved into the big, consolidated school, their advantage, the involvement of parents, disappeared.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

One additional note: The schools I taught in had 60-80% free lunch.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Starik @Wascatlady Well, closing that school put all the kids at the same disadvantage:  too large school, too large classes, behavior problems, no school/community cement.