Still Kvetching … Still Wringing Your Hands?

Hand-wringing_KvetchingThere’s a solution for that.

We have mentioned the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC) before, but it is worth mentioning again. The accreditation concern (i.e., losing HOPE eligibility, college admissions difficulty) for high school students is easily resolved through GAC – and is affordable, as well. So affordable, that GAC accreditation could be facilitated and paid for by the individual PTAs of each interested DCSS high school. Plus GAC provides some desperately needed competition – feared by SACS.

A list of Georgia schools (including high schools) that are currently accredited by GAC is available in the DSW Archives. Also available in the DSW archives are accreditation standards for ALL schools and for high schools. More information is available at the GAC website.

Compare GAC’s specific, measurable standards for “Accreditation with Quality” to SACS/AdvancED’s highly subjective “processes.” SACS/AdvancED appears to take the position that our children have unlimited “do-overs.” It is gratifying to see that GAC’s standards deal in reality and in those things that we know lead to better education.

Further, GAC, located in the College of Education at the University of Georgia, is all about measurable, quality standards for education at a reasonable, affordable price. GAC is not trying to sell their “products” to schools. Nor are they expecting schools to foot their bills for extravagant facilities, extravagant travel and other expenses and equally extravagant salaries.

Frankly, we think that disagreement among board members – especially in DeKalb County, where constituent culture and board member abilities are markedly different from district to district – is not a bad thing. Nor is it unexpected. It might be a good thing to have a professional facilitator at board meetings, including “Executive Sessions” to help board members learn to “disagree without being disagreeable.” However, we seriously doubt whether students are taking their behavior cues from board members. No. Students are much more directly affected by too many students in a classroom; media centers with no full-time media specialist and that are thin on books and resource materials; too few qualified and experienced counselors; and too few high quality teachers.

So, stop kvetching … stop wringing your hands. Take control. Assemble a committee from your school and get in touch with the Georgia Accrediting Commission – today! Tell Executive Director Carvin Brown that DeKalb School Watch sent you!

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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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19 Responses to Still Kvetching … Still Wringing Your Hands?

  1. Additionally, for a little history on SACS: We never were accredited as a SYSTEM until Dr. Lewis hit the scene. Lewis had ‘issues’ with wanting to control the Board. [Thus, most everything he presented was an ’emergency’ and thus he lied about finding Pat Pope via a ‘search firm’ when she had already been under his employ as a consultant… but I digress.] Think about it – if our schools were still accredited school by school – which ones would ‘lose’ accreditation due to the Board’s ‘behavior’? Answer: NONE! The ‘systemwide’ accreditation method is a tool for superintendents and SACS to hold a powerful threat over their Board. Plus, we are pretty certain that this kind of accreditation costs more — so it’s a win-win for SACS!

  2. Download our relevant documents at the History of SACS page under the DCSS FILES tab — or click the direct links below:

    Dekalb County Estimated Costs for GAC 7-16-12 (1)
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/dekalb-county-estimated-costs-for-gac-7-16-12-1.xlsx

    Georgia Accrediting Commission.Standards for ALL Schools
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/georgia-accrediting-commission-standards-for-all-schools.pdf

    Georgia Accrediting Commission.Standards for High Schools
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/georgia-accrediting-commission-standards-for-high-schools.pdf

    Georgia Accrediting Commission.Standards for Middle Schools
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/georgia-accrediting-commission-standards-for-middle-schools.pdf

    Schools Accredited by GAC 2012
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/schools-accredited-by-gac-2012.pdf

  3. waitaminit 1 says:

    how long before you think you’ll see the AJC mention the fact that Lakeside is already requesting this–and more to follow. Unfortunately, it has to be approved by DCSS first.
    Main thing is–we have options and can move forward–BUT the media isn’t interested in that–rather kick a dead dog some more.

  4. Ella says:

    The GAC is great if you plan on going to school in Georgia. It is good for scholarships (like Hope) in Ga. However, it is not accepted if you are planning on going to school out of state. This is where the issue comes in and why most school districts go with SACS. However, you can get accreditation from both which is not a bad idea right now for Dekalb County High Schools as this will give the students protection if they plan on going to school in Ga.

    Cutting SACS down right now is not necessarily going to help the citizens of DeKalb.

    I do think it speaks volumes that the DeKalb County Schools are the only school system on probation in the US. It shows how bad things really were and are. There is no doubt that there were major problems.

    We have been blogging about these problems on this blog for years. Finally something has happened. I cannot bring myself to say anything bad about SACS. I may not agree totally with everything they do or have done but I do respect them for taking a stand. I think it was way overdue. I think the school board had an opportunity to make changes and some of them did not take SACS warning seriously. They thought they were individually more important than SACS. They did not see their place as school board members. Some of them never came to realize that individually they had no power so their power has been taken away.

  5. To read about the meetings in Dunwoody today, click over to Audra’s “Aha!” newsletter — she took notes and posted them online. Thanks Audra!!

    http://www.theahaconnection.com/2013/03/audras-notes-from-the-dunwoody-public-school-forum/

  6. @Ella
    We are pretty sure you are just repeating hearsay and have no documentation to support your statement that GAC “is not accepted if you are planning on going to school out of state.”

    Colleges and universities do not “accept” students based on the accreditation of schools or school systems. If that was true, how do you explain the acceptance of homeschooled students into excellent, highly selective colleges and universities? As Nancy Jester has shown, accreditation has nothing to do with the quality of classroom education or what an individual student has learned. In fact, Nancy Jester has pointed out that the HOPE Scholarship should not be tied to accreditation since it is so unreliable in ascertaining the actual quality of education delivered.

    Homeschooling has actually made the accreditation issue moot in the college admissions process. Approximately 72,000 Georgia students are homeschooled; more than 2.1 million across the US are homeschooled. What counts with colleges and universities is the eloquence – well-written and meaningful – of the student’s application essay, the student’s achievements in a wide variety of challenging extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation from teachers and employers, and the student’s SAT and/or ACT scores and GPA. Because of homeschooling, most colleges and universities have eliminated school accreditation as a criteria in their admission policies.

    In the United States, accreditation is an entirely voluntary process, done by private, nongovernmental agencies. There is a lack of reliable central control or authority. Accrediting agencies such as AdvancED/SACS set their own standards and criteria for making their judgments, they answer to no one, have no accountability, and are not governmentally recognized at the K-12 level. Colleges know K-12 accreditation guarantees absolutely nothing – it is truly meaningless.

  7. @waitaminit 1
    We communicated directly with Carvin Brown, Executive Director of the Georgia Accrediting Commission and he said nothing about requiring permission from DCSS before seeking accreditation by school through GAC. We also have checked the DCSS Board of Education Policies concerning Educational Accreditation Relations and those policies (MK and MK-R, approved September 2000 and apparently not updated since then) say nothing about requiring approval of DCSS to seek accreditation through GAC.

    In fact, those policies still read as though DCSS’s individual schools were accredited individually. Which they were until Mark Elgart and AdvancED/SACS saw a way to make more money off of DCSS and sold systemwide accreditation to Crawford Lewis as a means to consolidate his control over the BOE.

    So, the BOE ignored their own policies and did not update them at all when they “voted” (rubberstamped) to enable systemwide accreditation. Typically, the BOE asked no real questions; they simply rubberstamped the ultimate destruction of this school system.

    It appears that if payment to GAC comes via PTAs or parents or otherwise outside the money controlled by the BOE, there should be no problem.

  8. howdy1942 says:

    It may be a good idea to pursue in the interim, but I would be concerned that it would appear that this step was taken to shore up any loss of accreditation by SACS. As you know, Georgia is not ranked very highly in the nation. Nonetheless, it is an option.

    Before I retired as a college professor, I well remember preparing for accreditation visits. We started preparing over a year in advance to carefully look at each specific point of interest and to insure that there were no deficiencies. In fact, we appointed a dedicated group and that was its major function – preparing for an accreditation visit. Reports were given to the University President and to the Dean of Academics every other week about any deficiencies found to include action items for fixing each one. Monies were prioritized to to fix areas of concern.

    Dekalb County has the highest school millage rate in the State of Georgia. As DSW2 has pointed out so many times, money is not the issue in Dekalb County. The people of this County support our schools. It is the Dekalb County Board of Education that has failed – it has let down the parents and students. As pointed out above, it could have prepared, it could have set aside a group to identify areas of concern, it could have looked internally and began working as a board to identify and address problem areas – it didn’t. Instead it went about making the deficiencies already identified by SACS worse. They remained dysfunctional. They remained confrontational. They interfered with the day-to-day activities of principals and teachers as well as other staff. They threatened and intimidated teachers and staff. They increased spending for lawyers. They blatantly and arrogantly ignored SACS’ warnings. They didn’t care about children – in fact, they seldom talked about students in their Board meetings. And the SACS hammer fell on Dekalb and it fell hard! Rather than starting on December 20, 2012, this Board decided it “needed” and “deserved” its full holiday season. (I well remember working through the holiday season when we were behind schedule.) And when it came back on January 7, 2013, it decided to fight. And that’s what it has done for almost three months. More lawyers, more focus on politics, replacing the superintendent with another lawyer, suing in State Court and then in Federal Court – no concern and no regard for the students – none!

    I saw where Michael Thurmond canceled or declined his invitation to speak to Dunwoody parents. That will sure help! I read his “interview” in the AJC today – more words! I’m surprised that he even mentioned his meeting with Dr. Elgart saying that “Dr. Elgart had not confidence in him”. I don’t have any confidence in him either. He is full of himself, nice words, empty promises, and just plain crap.

    And I saw where Zepora “I’m gonna slug you” emerged again in the paper saying that it is not the kids that are crucial, it is her right to have her elected representative serve (regardless of how bad his performance may be). I thought that she was gone.

    Maybe someday, I can begin to understand that “voter” priority over students – I’ve really tried. I keep coming back to wondering why that guy I elected ever put himself in the position of being removed in the first place, especially when he had been warned over and over. I’ll keep trying.

  9. I cannot understand this conversation:

    “I asked [Elgart] if he is confident I can get the job done. He told me, ‘No.’ He followed up with: ‘Confidence is based on experience, and I don’t have any experience with you.’ But he said, ‘I do have faith you can get the job done.’ I told him ‘I couldn’t ask for any more than that.’ The truth is I couldn’t ask for any more. It was fair and honest.”

    He has no confidence but complete faith? Interesting.

    – See more at: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/thurmond-says-parents-are-supportive-want-district/nWfqL/#sthash.svfNa1JB.dpuf

  10. And then he goes on to totally throw Atkinson under the bus:

    Q: Do you know why no action was taken on the SACS to-do list from December until when you were hired?

    A: “I hesitate because I don’t want to violate any legal confidences. Yes, I know why. I know what I’ve been told. Senior staff was directed not to contact SACS.”

    Q: By whom? The former superintendent?

    A: (Silent for a moment.) “Senior staff was told not to respond to SACS. I think that’s one of the more compelling unanswered questions from the state hearing. It was brought up over and over again by state board members: Why did DeKalb School District not move forthrightly to respond to the [SACS] letter on Dec. 18? Dr. Elgart said he heard nothing until we [Thurmond] reached out to him.”

    – See more at: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/thurmond-says-parents-are-supportive-want-district/nWfqL/#sthash.svfNa1JB.dpuf

    I guess we’ll all have to hope that it really was due to Atkinson and Thurmond can make a turnaround happen. But it could take a while, as he is in the ‘listening’ stage right now.

    “I believe in three principals of leadership .. It’s the LLL, listening, learning and leading. I’m in the listening stage right now.”

    Yes, we’ve been in that ‘stage’ three times now with three superintendents in under three years. We tell the same stories and give the same suggestions over and over and over again…

  11. Bye bye says:

    A Dunwoodiy city Council person in the meeting yesterday and ilater his wife addressed obtaining accreditation from GAC. GAC has been very helpful and supportive. They are willing to accredit schools even in a system that doesn’t have accreditation.
    I am fairly certain that the councilperson said they would need the system’s permission.
    Additionally GAC has at least indicated that they are willing to waive class-size requirements for the next three years because I have class sizes are larger than permitted by their accreditation. This is not just an issue for our system that for schools across the state.
    However, and this is confirmed on Maureens blog today, one of the speakers indicated that regional accreditation is considered better then the smaller accreditation organizations. The Dunwoody folks are still researching this. At a minimum accreditation from GAC would allow students to easily get scholarships and into colleges in Georgia.
    Depending on the outcome of the court hearing, and any appeals, expect millar to introduce legislation to protect our students from the implications of loss of accreditation at least for Georgia colleges and for the Hope scholarship.
    My opinion is similar to GSW’s in
    homeschool kids across the country now get into college.

    To read and hear more about the meeting go to Dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com

  12. Elizabetth Davis says:

    I spoke with admissions officers at two colleges this morning about accreditation. At Virginia Tech, they indicated that if DCSS loses Sacs accreditation applicants would be treated similarly to homeschool students and thus would require additional standardized testing (two SAT Subject Tests, one of which must be Math II). So it is possible to get in there. I asked whether getting GAC accreditation would eliminate that requirement and was told no because GAC is not a regional accreditation agency.

    At Carnegie Mellon they indicated that it doesn’t much matter if a high school is regionally accredited, although SAT/ACT scores will likely be given more weight if the school isn’t.

    So bottom line seems to be that whether SACs is a big factor varies from school to school. If we lose SACs, it may make applying out of state more expensive and time consuming for schools that require additional standardized testing.

  13. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    This Friday is another furlough day sponsored by our own BOE! No salary for teachers or other employees. Maybe we should take our students down to the Palace to protest. You know the media would love it! Think we could arrange something like this with such short notice…..

  14. Thurmond has been here three weeks. He has been thrown into the middle of the largest crisis to hit our district in its entire history. There is no one else right now for the parents to rally behind if there is any chance of saving the district’s accreditation unless you suggest we count on Melvin Johnson who has 25+ years of running things the way they have always been run. Thurmond is dealing with the issue that must come before all others because without the accreditation, we have nothing, or nearly nothing.

    What would you have him do differently? Have you suggested it? DSW advocated for Jim McMahan pretty heavily from what I recall, and he supports the decision to bring Thurmond in. Would we be better off with Akinson? No way! Do we have a couple of years to hope another recruit will come to us by way of an APS rejection list? No! Did that work for us last time anyway? No!

    There had to be a Superintendent. He is the employee of the board. Do you typically go around on missions on week three at a new job suggesting that your boss and others be fired? Or, when they bring you in to solve a problem, do you try to solve it?

    I understand the criticism of SACS and their methods for determining who is accredited and who is in danger, but I agree with Ella – at least they called a lot of the things we have complained about on this blog into the light. More voters, taxpayers and people all of Atlanta have finally heard about our problems thanks to SACS and the board members are being “handled” I have a feeling there will be others who are shown the door by Thurmond before Dec. 31 rolls around.

    Sometimes you actually might get what you ask for, but once you start the ball rolling you can’t ask it to stop!

  15. Media Guy: Have you contacted the student group that was posted on DSW2 a few weeks ago? Email us at sayno2celltowers@yahoo.com. If you want to make it happen, we can help! Every good protest must have their talking points for the media, so let’s discuss. Top of our list is: will our schools be facing more cell tower contracts in the future? Are the original towers still coming? If so, what happened to the money??

  16. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Suggested signs for Furlough Day Protest!

    -Hey Ho Tyson’s got to go!
    -Teachers need dough, not a furlough!
    -Not another attorney..DCSS has no money!
    -Where in the world is Jamal Edwards….
    -Smaller class sizes… Teachers have fewer surprises….
    -Success For All has cast a pall!
    -Turn off Americas’s Choice… Turn on DeKalb’s voice…..
    -Hey Media join the fray… It is another furlough day!
    -We need a new way…. Not a furlough day!
    -We need a Super.. not a political duper!
    -BOE quit being a leach…. let the teachers teach!

    Add your suggestions……
    I need to change my work schedule, but if others are willing to show, I will!

  17. Achelous says:

    Wonderful ideas! As a teacher, I’m staying as far away as possible from DCSD, thigh I will work from home and answer e-mails…

    Has anyone checked on the admissions requirements of the Historically Black Colleges? If they are fine without SACS, and the above schools mentioned are ok with it, then I say stop paying them money!

  18. Concerned Citizen says:

    The signs are to die for. I am so ready to protest! I can make signs and be there and happy to do something besides think and talk. WHY has the fed judge not ruled?? His timing may have already thrown us under the bus.

  19. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    The judge ruled… no protest needed…. for now. Watch and listen to the folks Deal chooses, make sure he hears your voice, as the process moves forward. Watch Thurmond closely too, because we know a certain Doctor who still has his ears. The case will move forward, unless Dr. Walker is willing to walk away.

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