The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
English teacher Alyssa Montooth said many are from single-parent households, with no one to push them to study. Some have jobs. They don’t eat well. They don’t get enough sleep. And they’re not doing homework like they used to.
Montooth teaches seniors at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, where the poverty rate climbed 11 percentage points in her nine years, to 55 percent.
“These kids are so worried about so many other things that they’re getting harder and harder to reach,” she said. “It’s like school is an afterthought.” Six years ago, she wrote three dozen college recommendation letters. Last year, it was 17. So far this year, she’s written three.
Yet it was worse at Cedar Grove High, where she taught in the early 2000s, in economically-depressed south DeKalb. Montooth remembers neighborhoods battered by foreclosures. Many of the students were transient.
“The place was absolutely off the hook all the time,” Montooth said. “Kids at Cedar Grove would be outwardly rude to me. Like kids in the hall, I’d say, ‘Hey, take off your hat.’ And they’d say, ‘Hey, **** you.’”
Nearly three-fourths of DeKalb students come from low-income homes, up from half in the late 1990s. Superintendent Michael Thurmond said the “pathologies of poverty” — homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, medical or mental health problems, disengaged parents — are difficult to address in suburban schools because social services are concentrated in the inner city. Thurmond is a former director of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.
Schools need a closer collaboration with state caseworkers, he said. “We expect teachers to be social workers, but they’re not. All of these problems come to the schoolhouse, but they originate outside the schoolhouse.”
DeKalb has lost some engaged parents, such as Barbara Bowman, who moved away last year. She enrolled her first child in DeKalb schools in 1995, when the district had a reputation for excellence. The next year, the poverty rate climbed above 50 percent. By the time her fourth child was at Lakeside High School, she felt the quality had slipped.
One teacher showed Disney videos all day, Bowman said, and another sold cosmetics. The toilets were in disrepair. Her complaints to administrators yielded defensiveness rather than solutions, Bowman said.
“It was just kind of a free-for-all,” she said.
Read more >> Poverty rates climbing in Georgia schools