May SACS visit is underway

From Ty Tagami at the AJC:

Accreditation agency visits DeKalb

The school accreditation agency that placed DeKalb County on probation last year has returned for a review of the school district in preparation for a May 31 report.

A monitoring team from AdvancED, the parent company of accreditation agency the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, visited the DeKalb County School District Friday with plans to continue interviewing staff Saturday.

The team met with principals, teachers, administrators and board members, a school system spokeswoman said. DeKalb will be judged on progress addressing 11 concerns. SACS gave the district a December deadline to address them.

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The school system posted relevant files on the system website. Click here for the DCSS press release with links to the files. Or, click the links below to download them from our archives:

AdvancED Institution Progress Report

ADDENDA: CLARIFICATION OF ISSUES/CONCERNS RAISED WITHIN THE ADVANCED SPECIAL REVIEW TEAM REPORT (DECEMBER 17, 2012)

In addition, they included this very interesting update on the textbooks and the associated loan:
Textbook Executive Summary as of January 21, 2013

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21 Responses to May SACS visit is underway

  1. info says:

    So I’ve just reviewed the SACS progress report for May.

    I still don’t understand what an on-site SACS visit on May 16 and May 17 has to do with a banquet on Monday. But the “expenditure freeze” (p. 13) might explain it.

    What’s really scary about this “progress report” is the absence of teachers and students. In fact, it appears that the “achievement gap” will be narrowed simply by implementing more testing, more monitoring, more collecting of data, and more meetings (pp. 22-23). I can’t find one mention of smaller classes, more teachers, or more instruction.

    Apparently, the benchmark testing went so well this year that Thurmond and Howe will continue to promote the idea that teachers will use “benchmark data to regularly plan for instruction” (p. 22).
    Seriously? Has anyone in curriculum and instruction actually reviewed the data? At the high school level, only @ 6% of all test-takers were proficient on the Math, Biology, 9th grade literature, and American literature tests.

    From what I can tell, we’ll continue to use Pearson. This will mean spending more money on tests students aren’t passing.

    The report also claims that there have been interviews with teachers, parents, community members, etc… (p. 9). Can anyone confirm this? I don’t know anyone interviewed.

    Scarily, it would appear that no one (even Ramona Tyson who has been overseeing this school system for a while) knows what type of instructional resources the system has (p. 32).

    Shockingly, only 23% of parents/guardians have “parent portal” access. I guess that’s why Dekalb continues to produce redundant (and costly) paper reports.

  2. Confused Former Teacher says:

    Would a student support specialist be considered a non exempt employee

  3. info says:

    Teachertaxpayer and others,

    Dekalb changes plan titles, mantras, and acronyms so frequently, I wasn’t sure if RtI was the same thing as RTI. If I’m correct, a few years ago Dekalb got in trouble for being too “generous” with special education/504 accommodations, so we implemented (resurrected?) RTI.

    I’m sure that this is meaningful intervention when done right. Like so many things in Dekalb, though, it wasn’t. In fact, Dekalb’s preoccupation with meaningless data collection and review seems to be an effective way to reduce discipline referrals, reduce the number of students failing, and reduce the number of students needing special services. But how often and how much do CRCT, EOCT, and AP scores change?

    I can’t see anything to suggest that the previous implementation of RTI was analyzed (like SFA, benchmarks/SLOs, Phd Leadership Academies, etc…).

    And lets remember increased class sizes and extended days mean that some teachers work with as many as 210 students daily! Is there anything in the SACS report to even indicate that “leaders” recognize such large teaching loads?

  4. A simple story exemplifying the decline of DeKalb schools through one family’s experience can be found at one of our most favorite blogs, “The Other Dunwoody”…

    First You Must Get Their Attention

    This story about an experience with DeKalb County Schools was told by a graying couple who still live in Dunwoody. Their reasonably bright child was under the academic thumb of a highly thought of Dunwoody public elementary school from Kindergarten thru most of fourth grade. During that time their child’s nationally normed percentile ranking on the key standardized test of the day showed a monotonic negative trend. No ups and downs…just downs.

    Read more>>> http://theotherdunwoody.blogspot.com/2013/05/first-you-must-get-their-attention.html

    +++

    And after you’ve read that one, read these:

    What Accreditation Means

    SACS O’ Shite

    [In hindsight, we have come to completely agree with this position. The Governor’s interference and the appointing of a new school Board has not done thing ONE to improve our schools. In fact, it has become quite disheartening to us to see that this new Board has done nothing to secure a full forensic audit in order to access true information nor have they made a single move toward finding a professional, qualified permanent superintendent.]

  5. For anyone wondering how the meeting last week about citihoods around the county went – read this article in the Dunwoody Reporter >>

    Legislators, community meet to discuss possible annexations

    As people filed into a town hall meeting at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, they were offered a piece of paper listing the half dozen local governance bills filed during the last session of the state Legislature that proposed pulling their neighborhoods into cities with names like Lakeside, Lavista Hills and Briarcliff.

    The bills, sponsored by different DeKalb legislators, aimed to reserve a spot for their constituents in what is sure to be a convoluted and painful conversation about municipal options for that part of the county.

    “This process should not be driven by a single legislator or former legislator or group,” said Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta. “What each area does has impacts on everybody else. We have to talk about this as a community and as a county.”

    Hosted by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, the May 6 meeting was the first attempt to bring legislators, community organizations and members of the public together to discuss the various cities and annexations that have been proposed in the swath of unincorporated DeKalb County between Brookhaven and Decatur.

    Read the rest and see the maps of proposed cities >>
    Legislators, community meet to discuss possible annexations

  6. howdy1942 says:

    I’ve lived in Dekalb County now for 40 years and both of our daughters attended Dekalb County Schools for all 12 years One was Valedictorian of her class at Tucker High and both graduated Summa Cum Laude from college. One has her PhD from Yale University and both are full-time faculty at reputable colleges. I say this to simply say – Dekalb County Schools were once great – outstanding – top-notch – in the top 5% nationally. What happened?

    First, there was a racial discrimination lawsuit. The result was the majority-to-minority “busing” program. The changes were abrupt and people left Dekalb County in increasingly large numbers. Most of those who left were white, affluent people who were very interested in educational outcomes for their children. We moved into Dekalb County in 1975 and, like so many others in Dekalb at the time, had not lived here long enough to contribute to any wrongs in the school system yet we were the ones who had to pay the price exacted by a Federal judge. What has the result been? First, the racial mix has not improved – it is just as one-sided now as it has ever been. Second, so many of the people who really cared about the schools simply left. Third, the quality of the leadership of the Dekalb County School System deteriorated and became unstable. It became even more racial in its decisions and, like any decision based on race, these decisions were most often poor and counterproductive. On a county-wide basis, our government was placing more emphasis on opening and promoting adult clubs and allowing them to expand hours of operation to 4 a.m. in the morning. Businesses left. Corruption followed in the county government as well as in the school system.

    Now the Dekalb County School System has gone just about as far down as it can. SACS has been an ever present entity in the school system for years and just this weekend was continuing its presence.

    It is time for change – big change – in Dekalb County. First, I am very actively encouraging Governor Deal to change the way in which school board members are selected by asking the legislature to set minimum requirements. The school board should be selected by key members of the community – business leaders who would employ our graduates, college leaders who would seek students from our high schools, a member appointed by the Sate Board who has no bias, and other key leaders. Second, I am encouraging wholesale change in the failed administration of Dekalb County Schools. I have no faith in them to be accurate or honest or competent in any aspect of managing our school system. Competence and performance must become the stalwarts of our administration. I can assure you that had the Company at which I worked been so wrong in so many decisions and become a place where decisions were made based on race and where failure had become the rule – I would have left long ago. We should seek people who have proven experience and competence in other school systems that have a reputation for excellence, high morale, and academic performance. Third, we need a tough, but fair superintendent and we need to get out of his/her way. It does not matter what the race, ethnicity, or how fancy the degree might be or how many of those degrees he/she has or how many papers he/she has written. Experience, integrity, results. He/she should clean house without lucrative separation packages.

    We cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results. I hope that Dekalb can change. I don’t plan to move, but I do plan to work hard for change. Our children deserve much more than they are getting our of the present failed system. I’m also not putting all of my eggs in one basket. I am also a strong supporter, financially and personally, of pursuing cityhood. I will lobby our Governor and our legislator to change the Georgia Constitution to permit new school districts to form. If we can’t change the way that we select school board members and if we continue to elect people who fail our children, then I strongly believe that local control of our schools will be the answer. One way or the other, change is coming.

    I also believe that local control over zoning decisions would be a big positive. We can become more business-friendly while also becoming more people-friendly. Better road maintenance is needed. We need a county government that is managed by a Commission and led by a County Manager. We need less tension in government. The CEO is suing the District Attorney? Really? Strong communities look like strong communities, people are excited about their communities, and the schools are strong.

    I’ve just said that enough is enough! I’m weary of corruption, weary of incompetence, weary of failure, and sick of racially-biased decisions. And it will soon be better.

  7. John Hope says:

    howdy1942,

    Good reminder about the way things were along with a reminder about the changes to DeKalb. Also congratulations on the accomplishments of your daughters. I would add two more points to consider.

    Yes, the white/minority ratio has changed significantly since the 70’s. According to some data that I have seen, the white flight that occurred after the Pitts v. Cherry case saw a system that had over 90% whites in 1969 to about 10% today. The ratio was equal in the mid 80’s and has declined for whites until stabilizing in the late 90’s. Not every white student that graduated from DeKalb schools went to college but a good percentage did.

    I believe the significant change in the overage socioeconomic status has been a large contributor to the decline you referenced.. DeKalb was a wealthy suburban county and has changed to one that has a variety of economic classes. There is a much higher concentration of poverty now than there was in years past. Children born in poverty can learn however face greater challenges. I;m not sure how well the school leadership adapted to the changing student make-up.

    I’m sure there are more contributing factors to the change in the school district but these two stuck out to me. It makes for a good conversation topic while reflecting of the changes over the past 30 years. I would also submit that like your daughters, many students are still going to top schools. I think the opportunities for higher education and going into the workforce are greater than they were before. Too bad no one kept stats of the percentage of students that went to college over the years as it would be interesting to see. If this was measured, would we have seen improvements?

  8. hopespringseternal says:

    @howdy: I’m always appreciative of your thoughts on this board. Many of your points are well-taken. I’ll insert a couple of my own thoughts so that the picture has even more clarity:

    First, there was the racial discrimination lawsuit because there was racial discrimination. The lawsuit wasn’t manufactured out of thin air. My own family was subjected to this discrimination in the school system, the delivery of medical services and (not least importantly) the near death of my brother when he was narrowly missed by a car in our front yard, with the driver yelling the n-word as he screeched by in his attempt to run my brother (an elementary student). We lived in the epicenter of white flight and angst.

    As the lawsuit dragged on, which tied the school system’s hands in a number of ways, various forms of “relief” from the racial discrimination emerged. Busing, as you call it, was but one of them. Wholesale movement of teachers was another, as was the creation of magnet and theme schools. In my own opinion, each of these things was the norm in major metro desegregation cases, but they are all short-sighted. Or, depending one’s point of view, entirely deliberate. For all of those things have served to divide us all and promote a type of intra-racial classism where even we’re running from us. Our current superintendent even opined that if his child couldn’t get into a theme school in S. DeKalb, there was no other public school option. If that’s not a glaring statement of the times I don’t know what is. I don’t disagree with him. Not because there’s better education delivery in theme schools, or better teachers or better anything. I can say this with a straight face: when my child is sent to school with children whose parents didn’t raise them with a focus on education and a modicum of decency, it is a distraction the likes of which dwarfs the years of racial discrimination we suffered. The clamor for the boutique schools is because we don’t want to be among us. Not because we think White is Better. These days it has little to do with race, and much more to do with self-imposed classism. Teachers can’t teach well when the inmates run the asylum. And a child’s core beliefs in learning and being disciplined come from home. (I’ve also seen the specter of entitlement on the part of some white students. It is breathtaking and can provide as much disruption in a classroom.) Let’s be honest: Kool-Aid was proffered in the form of desegregation initiatives, and we drank it. Now everybody has to clean up the mess. So what’s the solution? We have all these vacant properties and a need for immersion in the basics. If we’re going to spend money, we need to be focused on immersion. Without re-hashing how the child got to be deficient. Government can’t fix the homes, but it can provide a relief valve for immersion while protecting the rights of learning students. Extra exposure to subject matter and the world at large is what the children lack. So give it to them. And yes, in the spirit of the whole theme school premise, require parental involvement. There’s much more to say on the subject, but a long blog post is an oxymoron. I wish someone would have the courage to start The Conversation. All children are capable of learning. The world at large is not an evil place. Most people, of all colors, are not bigots. We have to start there.

  9. John Hope says:

    hopespringseternal,

    You definitely added clarity! As you suggest, decisions made back then resulted in many of the problems we see today. Perhaps NCLB exposed us to problems that have existed for a long time however did not get the attention that it should have. We don’t know because the analytics that we are using today were not used back then. We do know that the socioeconomic status has drastically changed and contributed to some of the challenges.

    I was also concerned when Thurmond made his comment about his school choice for his children. Though we should never question the decisions each parent makes for educating their children, he initial comment struck me as a type of classicism. I don’t question that he cares about the education for all children despite him not being a life long educator.

  10. plusone says:

    It seems to me that more people have abandoned the fight to make the system better. Many people feel like the layers of corruption are so thick that it would take much of ones lifetime to change.
    As an employee there doesn’t seem like there’s much hope left. The workload continues to grow with the SLOS,TKES,benchmarks,etc….my colleagues are overwhelmed,underpaid, & never appreciated. Morale which is so important, because it can be transferred to students, continues to dive lower and lower. There just doesn’t seem to be a rainbow at the end of this storm.

  11. info says:

    plusone,

    I agree that morale is at an all time low. However, I’m optimistic enough to think there is still time to help Dekalb’s students and our county. But this will only happen if enough teachers, parents, and employees speak up and out.

  12. howdy1942 says:

    @John Hope and @hopespringseternal, thank you for your comments and support. I agree that racial discrimination did exist, not just in Dekalb County, but in Fulton County, Cobb County, Forsyth County, throughout Georgia, and throughout the South. As the young son of an Army sergeant, my mother and I went to live with my grandparents in North Carolina while he was away in Korea. There weren’t a lot of kids that lived close-by, so my best friend then happened to be African-American. Although he lived only about a mile from me, we went to different, segregated schools. He lovingly referred to me as “white boy” and I lovingly referred to him as “Sambo”. My grandfather regularly allowed the two of us to “go to town”. I always wondered about drinking fountains labeled “while only” and “colored”, restrooms labeled “white only” and “colored”. This was a sharp change from military schools that were already integrated. I have seen segregation and despise it today as much as I did then. While “Sambo” has passed on, I still find myself chuckling at our memories.

    You are exactly right – there were much better ways to rectify segregation and Federal judges who ordered wholesale busing with little input from the communities involved did not help. Integration is not something that people should be made to fear, but one that they should be encouraged to embrace. That didn’t happen. I remember well that one solution that almost happened in Dekalb County would have bused my two young daughters (then) over six miles away when we have a neighborhood school less than 100 yards away. What would have happened had one of our girls been involved in an accident or become sick while at school? How were we supposed to be involved in daily activities at that school? What would have been the impact on our daughters to be bused into another community away from their neighboring playmates? How much earlier would they have had to leave in order to catch a school bus and how much later would they have been in returning home? What about the dangers involved in transporting our kids across town during rush hour in Atlanta? None of this made any sense then nor does it now and Federal judges should have known this – it’s not rocket science. Thankfully for us, this solution was not adopted and our two daughters remained close to home and received an outstanding education in the Dekalb schools of that time.

    The key issue at that time and remains so today is the quality of education in the classroom. Children are bused great distances today in Dekalb County – I see it every day. When I walk my dog at 4:30 p.m., I usually meet the school bus – 4:30 p.m. – kids just getting off the bus! Right in the midst of rush hour! How safe is that? How involved are the parents of these kids in their schools? Too often, they are not. Many may choose not to be involved, but I suspect that distance is a major factor. From my perspective, schools and communities go hand-in-hand. You cannot take one out of the other. Just as it made no sense to me for “Sambo” and me to live in the same community and be bused to different schools, it makes no sense today.

    Dekalb County needs to end any remnants of decisions based on race. It needs to emphasize the importance of the community. Tucker is Tucker – it has many white, black, Latino, Asian, and a whole mix of people. We care about Tucker. We care about its roads – we ride on them every day. We care about our police because crime affects everybody. We care about our fire protection because fire doesn’t discriminate. We care about medical facilities because not many people I know would want anyone needing medical treatment to be denied. We care about our schools. I can’t begin to speak for those who live in LIthonia or Dunwoody because I don’t know those communities. But I do know the Tucker community and I think that our values should be shared, supported, and taught. That can’t be achieved when our school board is dysfunctional and makes decisions based on race. That can’t be achieved when our County government is dysfunctional and one party is suing another. That can’t be achieved when the policies of our school board and our County government pit one community against another. That is what must change. For the sake of our kids and all of us, I hope that we can change.

  13. dekalbite2 says:

    Dr. Lewis and M. Tyson said we can’t use Title 1 funds to reduce our class sizes as those two superintendents increased class sizes to historical levels. What does Mr. Thurmond say?

    Here is what APS superintendent Davis says:
    “Title 1 Funds
    Superintendent Davis argues that all but 7 schools receive Title 1 funds which they can use to purchase extra teachers to reduce their class sizes. What opportunity costs are involved in using Title 1 funds to pay for teachers rather than educational programs and materials. If APS intends that Title 1 schools will use Title 1 funds to staff their schools at desirable class sizes, why not simply admit the importance of class size and staff accordingly? You must VOTE NO to limiting Title 1 schools’ flexibility to use their federal funds for items other than teachers.”
    http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/may/20/aps-parents-urges-board-delay-vote-budget-and-larg/

  14. Taxpaying Public Advocate says:

    Look Busy!

  15. Concernedmom30329 says:

    You can use Title 1 funds to reduce class size (sort of), but you can’t use it to reduce class size if the system is paying for non-Title 1 schools to already have the smaller class sizes. (Does this make sense? I am confident that the piece was written by a parent at one of the 7 non-Title 1 schools in Atlanta. )

    Title 1 does not allow their funds to be used for anything that the system is paying for at non-Title 1 schools. So, if the system were to provide every school with an Art teacher say, Title 1 funds could not be used to provide any schools with an art teacher. A second Art teacher, but not the first.

    Here is a good explanation. Essentially Title 1 requires that Title schools get their fair share of local and state dollars.
    http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/staff/fedstprog/TitleIPartA/TitleIFILES/SUPPLEMENTNOTSUPPLANT.pdf

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    @concernedmom30329

    “You can use Title 1 funds to reduce class size (sort of), but you can’t use it to reduce class size if the system is paying for non-Title 1 schools to already have the smaller class sizes. ”

    Yes. I know that. But instead of highly paid Coaches, Directors, and Coordinators, DeKalb could be hiring hundreds of Title 1 Math and Reading teachers, substantially lowering the class sizes of the regular Ed teachers while ensuring struggling math and/ or reading students get the small group classes they need.

    Parents have been told too many times that all those highly paid personnel are mandated by Title 1 and this simply is not true.

  17. Stan Jester says:

    Decentralization
    Decisions need to be made closer to the point of delivery. This would be a good opportunity for the administration to practice this “decentralization” they have been preaching. Maybe these Title 1 schools need more math and reading teachers, or interpreters, or coaches, or whatever. Title 1 money should follow the child to the school and the community or principal should decide what their community needs and the best way to deliver those services.

    Relinquish
    Nancy published an excellent article today, Relinquish.

    “Could it be that the structure of what is managed and governed by Superintendents and Boards is the heart of the problem? … No Superintendent or central office bureaucrat can engineer an outcome as optimal as allowing the producers and consumers in the marketplace of education to simply operate as they see fit.”

  18. hopespringseternal says:

    Once more teachers had no problem with trying to protect children. Please pray for the citizens, including first responders and media personnel in Oklahoma.

  19. We agree, hope. Watch this video and be proud of teachers everywhere. They hold a level of trust not given to most in our society – we trust them with our children’s lives —

  20. DeKalb County schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond will speak Thursday evening at a meeting of the Northlake Community Alliance.

    Speakers include school board vice chairman Jim McMahan and board member Karen Carter. They’ll discuss what the board is doing to get the district “back on track and on top,” according to an NCA announcement.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m., in the back lot building at Briarlake Baptist Church, 3715 Lavista Rd.

  21. At one point, Thurmond expressed confidence in ‘saving’ SACS accreditation, because the old board is gone – and according to Thurmond, the old board was 60% of the problem.

    Additionally, the ‘new’ board is 7/9 appointed by the governor’s committee. Thurmond is confident in them, because they were hand-picked by the Gov, not elected as our former, terrible board members.

    Nobody could have ever anticipated leadership like this. According to the North Druid Hills Patch,

    DeKalb County voters are partially responsible for the strife and discord that has pushed the board of education to the brink of its own removal, interim schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond said Wednesday.

    Because voters elected the board members, they must take some responsibility for the state of the board and the school system as it struggles to regain approval from its accreditors, he said, speaking before the Emory Lavista Parent Counci at Oak Grove Elementary School. It was his first public appearance since the embattled school board hired him last week to replace Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson.

    “My job is to correct mistakes. I did not make them,” he said shortly before the meeting came to a close. “I’m here to correct many of the mistakes [the school board] made but to also correct some of the mistakes you made.”

    Nice. Thank you Reverend Thurmond.

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