Chamblee teachers write to Barge about ‘SLOs’

The “Get Schooled” blog at the AJC has posted a letter written by a middle Georgia teacher decrying the wasted time (up to 20 days!) spent on the new “Student Learning Objectives” (SLOs).

“The more time spent by teachers on measuring their own effectiveness, the less effective the teachers become.”

The state has a lengthy response to Maureen Downey’s request for a comment, which is followed by a very cogent letter to State Superintendent John Barge from a group of Chamblee High School teachers.

Dear Superintendent Barge,

As teachers dedicated to our mission of educating young people, we have grave concerns about the current plans for the SLO tests. As currently structured and implemented, we are unwilling to administer the SLO tests for the following reasons:

1. The pre-test takes valuable class time away from learning, for a test that the students know they will do poorly on, and that they have no reason to even try to do well on.

2. Since the tests have not been prepared in a timely manner, we can not pretend we are administrating a test of “pre-knowledge” when students have been learning for over a month.

3. Since teachers will be evaluated on improvement, teachers also have no interest in the students performing well on the pre-test. Wishing for our students to do poorly runs counter to our ethical and professional standards. We refuse to bet against our students.

4. The students have no reason to do well on the post-test, given that it is not part of their grade or any other sort of personal evaluation. Again, teachers will be evaluated on a test for which the students have little or no motivation.

There are also many practical difficulties with current plans to administer the SLO tests.

5. The tests require an unreasonable amount of teacher time spent on printing, grading and scanning. For one teacher with 160 students, some tests require more than 700 pages to be printed, graded, and scanned. Every teacher in the system with tests is going to have to find the time, find the resources, and learn to administer tests and record the grades under a regimen that will be going away after one use, if we understand correctly. SLOs require an enormous outlay of material resources (paper, toner, equipment usage) that we simply do not have, and of teacher time that could be better spent helping to our students.

6. The short answer portions of the SLOs require teachers to grade subjectively, even with the provided rubric. Teachers will be inclined to grade for the benefit of the teacher rather than for the student. Grading for learning will not occur on the SLOs. Further, if our job performance is to be judged on test grades, it is illogical to do any form of subjective grading.

7. While we understand that test integrity is incredibly important, current plans are ridiculously onerous for teachers and administrators. For a test on which the students have no incentive to cheat, and one where the students will already have seen the questions when they come to take the post-test, the labor involved seems unnecessary and wasteful.

As teachers, we must believe that classroom activities and content add value to our students’ learning, as well as to their futures. We believe the SLO tests as they currently exist do not meet this ethical and professional standard. With increased class sizes, reduced support staff, and reduced administrative staff, teachers’ work loads have grown significantly. All teacher work time must be efficiently utilized and contribute directly to student success. Administering the SLOs, which are only intended to measure the teacher’s effectiveness, directly conflicts with the teacher’s need to only accomplish value-added teaching tasks.

The more time spent by teachers on measuring their own effectiveness, the less effective the teachers become. We have no fear of being evaluated. But a fair evaluation system should be embedded in the system without becoming an additional burden to the system.

Cordially,

Chamblee Charter High School teachers James Demer, Andrew Milne, Shervette Miller, Deann Peterson, and Amy Branca. In addition, this letter is supported by more than 50 additional Chamblee teachers.

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Additionally, we are pleased to report that in spite of all of the budget cuts, class size increases and administrative distractions, teachers and students of DeKalb were able to increase SAT test scores to beyond state averages!

Congrats to DeKalb schools for impressive rise in SAT scores. Outpaces state.

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Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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39 Responses to Chamblee teachers write to Barge about ‘SLOs’

  1. cgregister says:

    Well said. It’s about time someone told the state that they are wasting too much valuable teaching time. They come up with all these crazy schemes and don’t think of the time/class size limits.

  2. The children are failing while the criminals go free. says:

    Glad to see ethical professionals exist in DeKalb. [REMAINDER OF COMMENT REMOVED.]

  3. The children are failing while the criminals go free. says:

    We need to hold the Georgia Dept. of Ed. and SACS to the fire until they resolve ethical issues in DCSS.

  4. Blindsided says:

    Are Tyson and Atkinson cousins??? Or is that just an unfounded rumor? Thanks!

  5. Do you have documentation that Atkinson and Tyson are first cousins or are in any way related? Please provide the documentation. Otherwise, we think they may just look a lot alike.

    If you have documentation that you do not want to share via this blog, please send it to dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com. We will keep your identity confidential.

  6. murphey says:

    Well said! I am proud of the Chamblee teachers. They have the courage and integrity to speak out against a policy that is harmful to student learning. I wish DCSD had similar backbone, courage, and integrity to refuse another paperwork and testing assault on students and teachers.

  7. We at DSW are proud of the Chamblee Charter High School teachers. Not only did they write a cogent, understandable, meaningful letter, they also signed their names to it. So proud!

  8. SS says:

    Dekalb Co is a joke. The teachers at my school had subs in their rooms while they graded SLO’s.

  9. fallenstar says:

    Bravo, and thank you for putting into words what so many others are thinking and feeling.
    I wish more parents would get behind this, since unfortunately teachers will just be labeled as “complaining” and “afraid of being evaluated”. Unless parents call for less testing and more instrucitonal time, there is no hope for change. It is despicable the way they have taken the money but dumped the associated work for RTTT onto the schools, without providing any additional help or resources — no there is already much LESS due to their cuts.

  10. This is an unfounded rumor started by a troll and rumor is NOT fact — no matter how many times it has been repeated. Consider this:

    In the US there are 38,240 phone book entries with the surname Howell and approximately 137,801 persons with this name.
    Thus, the surname Howell is the 215. most frequent name in the US.

    People with this surname live in 51 states. Most occurrences are in Texas: 3,191.

    Other states with lots of occurrences are North Carolina (2,809), Florida (2,777),California (2,446), Georgia (2,190), Tennessee (1,851), Alabama (1,717), Virginia(1,426), New York (1,229), as well as Ohio (1,132).

    Perpetuating a rumor with no documentation simply weakens all other verifiable real claims found on this blog. That is why one of the rules for this blog is that claims must be documented. If claims are not documented after we request documentation, we will remove the spurious claim and any further comments on any topic from the person who made the undocumented claim will be held by our filter. We are unpaid volunteers and we simply do not have time to sweep up after people (trolls) who won’t play by the rules.

  11. Ijustworkhere says:

    @DSW2 I understand your need to keep this site based upon facts…but to ask contributors to provide documentation for each and every share may hinder people from sharing. The two do look a lot alike. It also is interesting that Tyson has remained on, at her current salary. We are in essence paying two Supers.

    It is a fact that the Rich get Richer and the Poor remain Poor in DCSD.
    I commend the Chamblee High Teachers for speaking out in a professional and eloquent manner.
    SACS is all over Clayton, yet Dekalb continues to get warning after warnings. I call bull. Its all about money. If SACS was really concerned about what was going on, they would walk into schools announced and interview random (not educators and staff “chosen” by the admin) people in the schoolhouse.

  12. whoshelpingthekids says:

    @fallenstar: Parents have complained about testing and teaching to the test for years. With race to the top it is only getting worse. Any suggestions on how parents should “get behind this”? We scream about family and friends, the budget, testing, not giving teachers raises or TSA contributions, rif’ing schoolhouse staff, the math debacle, and the list goes on. No one listens, no one seems to have the power to make them listen and act in the best interest of the students.

  13. @whoshelping — vote for the charter amendment and get some people together to start one. The testing, the wasted money, the “Race to the Top”, the ‘children left behind’ the Title 1 ‘programs’ and staff… they are all the results of big, bloated bureaucracy school systems. Take charge of your schools. Go back to the day when schooling simply meant learning — with students and teachers. Period.

  14. In the frustrating right-to-work state of Georgia, brow-beaten teachers are beginning to push back the only way they can. More power to them!

  15. dekalbmom says:

    @ DSW 6:36 p.m. Why do you think voting for the Charter School Amendment would change testing requirements in a public school? I thought charter schools (since they are ALL public schools) are required to comply with all state testing requirements. Did you check your facts? (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

    To avoid CRCT, RTTT, etc. I believe you have to attend a private school.

  16. Yeah. Everyone’s a comedian. But not such a good reader, huh? We did not say anything about “avoiding” or eliminating testing. However, a correctly written charter school petition — as well as parents and teachers, who can’t be bullied and are committed to the concept — can put testing in its place, effectively utilize Title 1 monies and avoid garbage like the SLOs.

  17. dekalbmom says:

    Respectfully disagree. The OP wrote asking for suggestions on how parents can “get behind this” [the teacher evaluation process and SLOs] and you responded “vote for the charter amendment.” I sincerely doubt that this administration and its appointees on a Charter Commission would approve any charter school application that is not based on “data driven” decisions and rigorous teacher evaluations that are tied to student performance. Look at all the Charter schools run by corporate entities. For example, the KIPP schools rely on intensive testing data. I know they administer both ITBS and CRCT. And I do not believe that a charter school can share in RTTT funds unless they have a teacher evaluation system that coplies with all the RTTT guidelines.

    All that being said, I am not defending the SLO program required by the state and Dekalb. It seems poorly conceived and a waste of valuable teaching time.

  18. DunMoody says:

    The loophole in the Charter School Amendment (and I fully support it for many, many reasons) is that the principals in each schoolhouse will remain employees of their school districts. Even if the charter is written to give local control to parents, teachers, and administrators in terms of schedules, curriculum, etc., the principal still reports to HR. The Charter School Amendment, if passed, is just the beginning. How will the State protect county employees (principals) from punitive school system administrators?

  19. dekalbmom says:

    Oops. “coplies” should be “complies.”

  20. teachermom says:

    Not exactly on topic but did anyone happen to look at the DCSD website today? There is a link to a letter from the attorney general. They are requesting an explanation of whether open meeting laws were violated when SACs met with the superintendent and the board in a closed session. So now we have SACs looking at us and the Attorney General looking at the meetings with SACs. Everyday is a great day–for dodging accountability.

  21. mike p says:

    Chamblee teachers, thank you for writing your letter to State Superintendent Barge. I applaud your analysis, honesty and sincerity.

    I have been a teacher since 1979. I am concerned about our educational system – at all levels. I question the values of a society that so obviously needs the good work of professionals -teachers, yet fails to adequately support them in their efforts to positively affect the future of its most important segment – children. We need help – real help, not more testing. We need smaller class sizes so we may know your children in order to ensure that each child can reach their dreams. We need adequate and fair compensation for our efforts. Many of us work very, very long hours (including weekends, nights, holidays, and summer). Many of us contribute significant sums of money in order to ensure that our students have the tools and experiences to learn objectives and to intill a sense of wonder and possibility in our students. We do this with an ever diminishing set of financial benefits. I question what we as a people are collectively thinking and where we are placing our resources. Frankly, it is expensive to teach our children. However, the cost of not teaching them sufficiently seems much greater. I endorse accountablity, but ensuring accountability should not prevent us from recognizing the full cost of educating our children. In all of our hands rests the future of our children – help the teachers who after you have the most direct effect on our children. Support policies that promote teaching and learning. Become informed about candidates and their platforms. Choose to be involved at all levels of educational policy and share your views with those responsible for steering our educational system. Endeavor to become informed about the issues (from funding to curriculum). Talk with others in your community and share your views – listen to their views and build support. Civility is a must. Vote.

    We need your help and support, so we may do the best for your children.

  22. The children are failing while the criminals go free. says:

    Criminals make up this school system with the exception of the little people, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians etc. The state, SACS, and the governor must shut it down.

  23. Tucker Guy says:

    I also applaud the teachers from Chamblee H.S.

  24. @ Teachermom

    Notice that the letter is addressed to Ron Ramsey [snicker]. Wonder if the AG will ask him why he doesn’t disclose his employment with DCSD on his State Senate website? Ramsey is such a pompous idiot. I also notice that on his website he doesn’t disclose his law school. Guess he got his J.D. the same way most of the DCSD staff got their doctorates, by “email-order.”

    BTW, I don’t know Stefan Ritter personally, but I have met him, and he is a well-respected assistant AG. Can’t say that I have the same respect for his boss, Sam Olens, the AG, but Olens does have a good staff of assistants he inherited from Thurbert Baker.

    I have a feeling that the AG’s office will uncover many more violations of the Open Meetings Act. Maybe this will be the AG’s investigation will jumpstart the process to scouring DCSD of all the corrupt buffoons who hold the power and the pursestrings.

  25. To follow up my comment from last night at 7:18 about teacher’s pushing back:

    And their doing this with absolutely no assistance or encouragement from that emasculated pseudo-union, ODE. After all, some, if not all, of the bozo administrators that designed Dekalb’s administration of these bogus assessments are surely members of ODE.

  26. ooops…”they’re”

  27. curious says:

    Ron Ramsey attended John Marshall Law School, according to the state bar website, where his employer is listed as Ronald B Ramsey Sr PC in Lithonia.

  28. Thanks for sending in the fact, curious.

    Everyone — try to put this on your calendar and tune in on Monday:

    NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION WORK SESSION & MEETING

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold a work session & meeting at 6:00pm, Monday, October 1, 2012, in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Center at the DeKalb County School System’s Administrative & Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain.

    Meeting information can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

  29. We might applaud and laud these teachers for their outspokenness, but what about Dr. A or their principal? I wish more would/could speak out more on a variety of issues from wastes of time and money.

  30. @ betty – this is the core difference between teachers and administrators. Teachers are craftspeople – artisans if you will. They have a passion for their craft. Administrators are beholden to the bureaucracy – and their resulting fat paychecks. Always look to a person’s motivation – it will show you why they do what they do and behave as they do and make the decisions that they do.

  31. The children says:

    Tyson was to get her salary for 6 months. I really hope its not true that she is still on the payroll as supt. If it is substatiated that Tyson and Atkinson is related then the AG needs to act. I hope and pray that its true. Because the vetting process did not occur with atkinson. The board had an ethical responsibility per federal law EEOC to not discriminate.

  32. According to the document we received late last night, in response to one of our Open Records Requests, Ramona Tyson’s salary is $235,041.73. Dr. Atkinson’s salary is $275,000.00. We are effectively paying for two superintendents – while Rome burns.

    Check out our recently uploaded files under the DCSS FILES tab in the ORR Responses page of the pull-down menu.

  33. Cedar says:

    Only fools would design a pre and post test with subjective grading sections that is graded by the teacher whose salary and job rating depends on the final score. Another example of the brains we have in the field of Public Education Administration.

  34. GTCO-ATL says:

    It must be a set-up.

  35. Ha says:

    Chamblee teachers receive email about following chain of command ( or threatened with being insubordinate). This chain of command is a way to keep letters like this from being published.

  36. We would like to see that letter about the so-called “chain of command” and re-print it here. If someone would scan it and send it to us, we will not reveal your identity.

  37. GTCO-ATL says:

    Good for you, teachers! Thank you for working together, for calling attention to what kind of unrealistic hoops you are being asked to jump through and for escalating your very valid concerns to both a high level of authority as well as to the media at large so that a public light will shine on this issue. Too many backroom deals are made in this system that leave too many people owing favors for getting what they deserved in the first place. We hope other teachers facing the same problem will now follow your lead and write similar letters so that the subject matter stays in the public eye until a solution is found.

    And, if you must go forward with the SLO’s in the meantime, grade carefully as you know you are very likely in the midst of something intended to make you look bad. Don’t take any chances. And, ask your kids to study because it is important to you. They might surprise you. Maybe trying to form some study groups after school might help so your good students can influence the others to do the right thing.

    Bringing the truth out in the open should never, ever be considered a bad thing. Only those with something to hide would ask you to keep quiet, especially when there are children involved. Thank you for doing the right thing.

  38. Another Dekalb Teacher says:

    Today we gave the district’s benchmark test. It was a joke, it was hard for an English speaker. Never mind my English Language Learners. My students had no idea what to do. I mean some have never used a computer until last month. Now they’re supposed to take this test online. Whoever compiled this assessment has not been a teacher for a long time.

  39. Kenrus says:

    I applaud the Chamblee Middle School teachers for standing up for what is right. I wish we had done that in my school because there’s too much testing done. We just finished SLO’s and benchmarks, and COGAT and ITBS will be given over the next two weeks. Almost 4 weeks of 1/2 days of instruction, teachers with little planning time, paperwork overload, etc., etc, …. and the Super says “victory in every classroom”.

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