Good News about some Dekalb Schools!

Last week, the Georgia Department of Education announced that thirty-eight of the 235 schools on the DOE’s watchlist of struggling schools had improved enough to get off the list (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/some-metro-atlanta-schools-make-it-off-struggling-/njXCn/). Three Dekalb County schools –Indian Creek Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr High School and Pleasantdale Elementary– were removed from the list because they had improved their test passing rates or graduation rates.

Dekalb School Watch looked up the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) results for these three schools using the GA DOE’s website.

2013 CCRPIs: http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2013/ccrpi2013.aspx
2014 CCRPIs: http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2014/ccrpi2014.aspx

The results were illuminating. Martin Luther King Jr High School received a 59.9 CCRPI for both years, meaning it was removed from the struggling schools list because of its increased graduation rate. Thank you Mr. Bullard, teachers and staff of Martin Luther King Jr High School: you have made a real, meaningful impact on the lives of countless graduating seniors.

Indian Creek Elementary School increased its CCRPI from 46.7 to 69.4…. an astounding 22.7 point increase (on a 100-point scale) in a single year! We at DSW are in awe of this amazing one-year improvement. Thank you teachers and staff of Indian Creek ES… and we hope to see Dr. Campbell as the next Regional Principal of the Year for Region 3.

Pleasantdale Elementary School increased its CCRPI from a 57.4 to 79.1, a 21.7 point increase in a single year. These incredible results explain why other DCSS Principals voted Pleasantdale’s Ms. Brown Region 1 Principal of the Year. Thank you teachers and staff of Pleasantdale Elementary!

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12 Responses to Good News about some Dekalb Schools!

  1. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    For more on the CCRPI scores, read this post at the Fact Checker >>
    CCRPI Scores – How Did Your School Do?

  2. concerned citizen says:

    Excellent job, Stan – but what else can we expect from you? The numbers do tell the story but don’t explain how the elite schools where all the money goes to just a few students are allowed to exist in the middle of such low-achieving schools (the vast majority of DeKalb’s schools). Thank you, Stan.

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    ^ I disagree, concerned citizen — the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.

    To REALLY see how your neighborhood school did, you need to go to the state’s 2014 CCRPI website and pull up your local school — select Dekalb County, then select your specific neighborhood school. That will load your local school’s CCRPI number.

    The next step is to load the full set of data on that school. On the “Choose Report Type” line, select the rightmost button (“Elementary School” instead of just “School”). That will load a bunch of tabs labeled “Achievement”, “Progress”, “Achievement Gap”, “ED/EL/SWD Performance”, “Exceeding the Bar”, “Performance Flags”, “Financial Efficiency” and “School Climate”. You then need to click on each of those tabs to see how well your school did.

  4. Hooray for Pleasantdale! I am disappointed that this article has only gotten a few responses and hope that others will take the time to read it and take time to comment.
    I am very familiar with Pleasantdale and have seen how hard everyone there has worked to get out from under the label of being a Focus School which dumps massive requirements on schools that appear to be in trouble. Pleasantdale did not deserve this label, but got it due to the numbers game that makes schools appear to be failures because of low scores in categories that may be almost impossible to manage.
    Miss Brown is an amazing principal and deserves a lot of credit. She has made many fine decisions that have led to this outcome including hiring a very effective retired teacher as a part-time teacher to provide special instruction to students on the cusp of success.
    But Pleasantdale was a terrific school full of hard-working people before it was labelled a Focus School, and I believe it would have improved without the pressure that resulted from that label. That pressure is evident in the exhaustion and low morale of teachers. Perhaps now that the pressure is lessened, people can go back to saying, “Everything is pleasant at Pleasantdale.”
    I agree with DSW2Contributor that the numbers do not tell the whole story. We should not be labeling schools based solely on the numbers. We should be looking deeper at the categories and reasons for failure before we label a school and make it the target of excessive requirements created by “experts” who have never taught or have not taught in years.

  5. Teachermom says:

    I agree with teachertaxpayer about Pleasantdale. From what I am hearing the morale is very low. Many of the teachers who are actually the ones responsible for raising the school off of Focus status will not be staying next year. This is one of the schools that has rampant bullying by a so called coach, micromanaging, and unfair tks “grading”. The teachers did this work and they are the ones who should be given the lions share of the credit.

  6. Current DeKalb Teacher says:

    As a current teacher at Pleasantdale, I respectfully disagree with your comment regarding “rampant bullying”. While it has been an extreme charge to get off of Focus School Status, not to mention exhausting, I cannot fault anyone for pushing us to exceed for the benefit of our students. I have never worked for a group of administrators and support staff that completely want our hard work to be acknowledged. At times it may have seemed over the top but who can argue with our results? Sometimes we have to not take things so personally when we all wish for the same result…success for our students.

  7. Has the new Pleasantdale Elementary School construction started?

  8. Regarding construction: No; I think they are still in the planning stages.

  9. A Teacher says:

    The CCRPI is a new checklist of things that need to be done. As schools take note of the checklist, their scores should increase. These schools that improved so much were very low to begin with, and rose to average scores. Their teachers were pressured to increase the numbers, and it sounds like the school culture was not a focus. I don’t blame the teachers or their principal, I blame the system, which we need to stop buying into. We need to do what’s right by our kids.

    Dekalb schools decreased on average for both elementary and high, and moderately increased for middle grades. Dekalb schools were below the statewide average to begin with. Statistically speaking, scores are more likely to move towards the average. In addition, with increased awareness of the system, scores should have improved. Those scores that increased came with a cost. There are many things these scores fail to consider, including staff and student morale, school culture, and student safety.

    I teach at an elementary school where the building is several decades old, dust covers every surface, students have trouble with asthma, students leave food and trash around in the cafeteria, they write obscene graffiti on the wall with curse words and pictures of genitalia, and the school has grown over 10% each year for the past two years only adding trailers and classrooms, but not bathrooms or janitorial staff. There is no school nurse. There are no plans for reconstruction. There is one translator who is there two days of the week for over a thousand ESOL (English as a second language) kids. There are two copy machines, both of which break down frequently and/or run out of toner. The laminator is nearly defunct. Students gather in the cafeteria, which is only supposed to hold 300 something people according to the fire code, and there are frequently double this number, occasionally more than triple. These issues do not affect the score.

    Instead, to raise scores we are expected as teachers to demonstrate that we are doing A, B, C, D… and all the way beyond Z… a litany of things that are a waste of time, but are thought to increase these numbers. Honestly, they don’t, but the administrators think they do, especially district-wide. Each student receives 5 hours of math instruction a week: there is a set structure to each class that is identical district-wide; there are several ‘initiatives’ that are ill-conceived; and none of it takes into consideration the needs of specific populations. That’s why overall the scores have dropped, particularly growth in student achievement. Teachers know their students best. Administrators should check how teachers are doing by how the students are growing, provide support to those who are doing well and stop demanding them to do things a certain way. Let the teachers be the leaders in the school that help other teachers who are having difficulty. The admin should facilitate this process, not dictate from on high.

    Not only is the approach to increase scores backwards, but the CCRPI itself is also flawed and encourages a poor approach.

    Some things administrators can easily do to up their scores take away the flexibility to do what works best for students in your school. Some are just things the state has decided everyone should do, but take no real effort besides an administrator making sure it gets done.

    Here’s how to increase “Achievement”
    10 pts: Complete the identified number of grade specific career awareness lessons aligned to Georgia’s 17 Career Clusters: “Percent of students in grades 1-5 completing the identified number of grade specific career awareness lessons aligned to Georgia’s 17 Career Clusters”
    10 pts: Move SWD (students with disabilities) back into the normal classroom: “Percent of Students With Disabilities served in general education environments greater than 80% of the school day”
    10 pts: Make grading more lenient: “Percent of students in Grade 5 passing at least 5 courses in core content areas (ELA, reading, mathematics, science, social studies) and scoring at Meets or Exceeds on all CRCT”

    These are bad ideas, at the very least in some situations. Children do not choose their careers in elementary school, so many of them would benefit from the instructional time being dedicated to areas they need help on, like math and reading. SWD students can be very disruptive to other students in the classroom (depending on your students, the disabilities can be behavioral), and many would benefit from support outside the typical classroom for more than 20% of the school day. Students must learn to cope with failure and receive honest feedback about their academic performance. Meeting CRCT cutoff scores (50% on a multiple choice test where guessing would get you 25% on average) hardly indicates a passing effort in my opinion.

    There are other problems, if achievement is based on things like lexile scores and overall percentages that meet or exceed a target measure, instead of growth, then you are being completely unfair to schools with populations of students who have poor learning environments outside the classroom and to schools with populations of students who have english as a second language.

    Why is overall achievement even a factor when you can measure growth? Growth is included in the measure and better reflects the school’s contribution to achievement, so get rid of the “achievement” part.

    Progress:
    The growth scores are categorized into groups instead of just averaging them together. There is a statistically strong measure called SGP (student growth percentile) that ranges from 0 to 99% and, instead of averaging across students, it is categorized into three groups and counted. This is like counting the number of A’s and B’s in the school instead of averaging together the scores of the students. Just a poor choice that does not allow real comparisons between schools, because it disregards how high the A’s and B’s were, and how far below a B the other students were. It adds randomness and chance. Why do that?

    Achievement Gap:
    Unsure what value this adds to progress scores. It is just the same as achievement and progress, but applied to the bottom quartile, so it suffers from the same problems.

    Exceeding the Bar:
    Students should complete a career portfolio by the end of fifth grade? Some things are in exceeding the bar that are nice, but mostly it’s just a small ‘bonus’ category of things the state has decided are important.

    Not sure what happened to the financial efficiency or school climate. They don’t appear to factor into the overall score and are unreported this year.

    There are a few things that should be taken into consideration in creating a score to measure school quality.
    1) Is it easy to interpret?
    2) Is it psychometrically strong?
    3) Does each part incrementally add to validity?
    4) Does it address the most important aspects of school to student outcomes?
    a) School Culture and Safety
    b) Student’s Academic Growth
    c) Participants Attitudes about School (parents, staff, and students)

    CCRPI does a poor job. It is designed to do a poor job, and the consequences are devastating. I don’t get it.

    We have a statistically strong measure of academic growth called Student Growth Percentile (SGP). We should use it properly. There are many statistically valid ways of measuring attitudes and culture, as well as objective measures of safety.

    If we started from there, and adjusted the scores based on other known factors that can affect growth, like poverty and language and class size and other barriers, then we could come up with something valid. I don’t know how we ended up with this, but I can guess.

    It looks like a bureaucratic pile of junk, with just a few functional pieces, thrown together, rather than a puzzle of beautiful pieces placed nicely to complete the picture of school quality. I would encourage the government to put some scholars in charge of developing this, and let go of their need for everyone to have their input based on their positions of power in a corrupt system of government. It didn’t work for CCRPI. It didn’t work for TKES. SGP was developed by statisticians and researchers. Can we do the same for these other measures?

  10. September says:

    There is no argument that school rating systems are inherently unfair. I have to wonder, though, if following checklists and doing the required tasks was so easy, why didn’t other schools get better results? Let’s not make light of the success that these three schools have achieved. When you work with at-risk students you learn that these are often bright kids who have experienced more than their fair share of difficulties. It is not like working in a middle class school. We can have a good discussion about CCRPI and what constitutes adequate yearly progress, but I’m not sure it will help. These are political solutions that our elected officials are using to prove they are fixing the “education problem.”

  11. dsw2contributor says:

    ^^ There is ONLY ONE “problem” with the CCRPI: The CCRPI shows just badly the Dekalb County School System is failing black children.

    Pay no attention to “A Teacher” and others who complain about the CCRPI — they’re just trying to distract you from discovering the real story.

  12. To dsw2contributor: Why does everything always have to be about race? The system is failing all the children. “A Teacher” is providing facts he/she believes to be true and has said nothing to indicate he/she advocates ignoring the needs of black children.

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