Archive for the ‘achievement gap’ Tag

A Day Late and A Dollar Short….   Leave a comment

For those who have never used the phrase or understood what ‘A Day Late and A Dollar Short’ means, click here because I am trying to keep this post short so that my ire doesn’t increase as I write. Let’s see how I do….

My adventures with the local district last year were….let’s say ‘interesting.’ I wrote about my experiences with the elementary PTA, the lack of services provided to Title I students by the high school, the non-school choice options, etc., etc., etc. Two weeks ago, before I attended the Open House at the elementary school, I promised myself to leave the house with a positive and open attitude. And I did! I don’t usually have issues with the elementary level bureaucracy, as I learned a long time ago to just bypass the principal and go straight to the county office. I even decided to let them slide on the photo mix-up for my two girls last year: One was a 1st grader and the other one was a 4th grader. Their pictures got switched in the yearbook. Granted, they are sisters and they do resemble each other. Oh yeah, the youngest is slightly taller than the oldest. But damn, if a kid tells you that she is the youngest/oldest, why wouldn’t you believe them? *grabs drink* Anywho…

So tonight I attended ‘Curriculum Night’ at the elementary school. This is the opportunity for teachers to review the county’s Academic, Knowledge, and Skills (AKS) curriculum. Yes, Gwinnett County is so special that it has its own curriculum. After all, they did bamboozle win $1 million bucks from the Eli Broad Foundation. As I am listening to the teacher review new policies and procedures for the school year, imagine my dismay when she said that this year the district is doing something ‘new.’ That new thing goes a little something like this: Any student has the opportunity to re-take five assessments that he or she failed during each quarter/nine week period. Using my old-school math skills, that calculates to twenty assessment re-takes during the school year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not upset about the opportunity to get a better grade on a test. I am, however, kinda pissed that this new policy is the prime definition of ‘A Day Late and A Dollar Short.’ If you read any of the blogs I wrote about how much my son struggled with Integrated Geometry last year, you may slightly understand my level of pissed-offness. The teacher’s words began to sound like those of the teacher on Charlie Brown: wah wah wah wah wah……

I couldn’t help but wonder (even though I already knew the answer): ‘Why did they wait until now to implement this new policy?’ Yep, I already know the answer. In a nutshell:

A bunch of non-Title I, non-minority, non-disabled, non-ESL students flunked either MATH I, MATH II, or MATH III last year. Some probably made-up the credit through Credit recovery; a bunch others probably did not. Of those who did not recover the Math credit, they likely will not be classified in their correct grade this year because you must earn a Math credit each year to progress to the next grade. Sooooooo, a bunch of kids may/may not graduate with their intended class due to the ‘new Math,’ the district’s reluctance to use the flexibility granted by the Georgia Department of Education, and the stubbornness of the powers-that-be in holding onto some facade of being a ‘world-class’ school district. I can only imagine the outrage of the parents who had plans for their kids to get the HOPE Scholarship to offset the costs of college tuition because they must maintain a 3.0 GPA in their core classes, e.g., Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. A kid who has failed one or more of the Integrated Math classes can pretty much kiss their hopes for HOPE goodbye now. Silly me; I was only worried about my son graduating from high school before he turned 21. Where are my priorities?

Stay tuned because I do plan to acquire the numbers, broken down by AYP subgroup, of students in Gwinnett who failed the EOCTs for MATH I, II, and III before and after summer school.

Advertisements

It’s a conspiracy…a C-O-N-spiracy!   4 comments

Last week I wrote about the plight of one Gwinnett parent, whose child has a disability. At the time, we thought dealing with the ignorance would be contained to Special Education issues but as I learned this morning, we were both wrong. Dead wrong. This is the text I received this morning:

‘Guess what Monise, the principal of Meadowcreek had the Parent Coordinator tell me that he doesn’t want me to volunteer any more because I spoke up at the Title I meeting held on Friday here at Meadowcreek HS. And that my interest isn’t in the best interest for the school.”

I couldn’t believe that (actually I could but didn’t think any person was actually dumb enough to tell the parent of a child they could not volunteer, especially when federal dollars are tied to Parent Centers). In fact, I am still a little shocked and a whole lotta pissed. Why? Because we have heard people say that parents, especially those of the Black and Brown hues, do not care about education because we only show-up for sporting events or when our kids are in trouble. Here we have a parent, armed with the assistance of an (free) advocate, a grasp of Special Education Law and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), who asks some questions (apparently the right ones) about the qualifications of her child’s teacher. How does the administration respond? The same way they usually do when they realize people are ‘on to them:’ They shut down and the walls go up. READ: ‘She knows too much and we don’t want her in this building everyday, talking to other parents and informing them of their rights.’ Kinds sounds like the reasoning slave owners used to keep slaves from learning to read. Only this time, the overseer (principal) is Black. Yep, direct descendant of Uncle Tom.

Now let me break-down the steps of the Conspiracy Theory:

  1. Talking heads and education ‘experts’ say parents don’t care. READ: Black, Brown, and low SES parents don’t care about education;
  2. Federal government waives extra money at districts to create Parent Centers to increase parental involvement;
  3. Districts indoctri, er…. hire people they know will only give parents enough information, but not too much;
  4. Said people mentioned in #3 should, when possible, be members of said disinterested parental groups, also known as tokenism in an effort to thwart any claims of racism when the superintendent says something stupid;
  5. Once this Parent Center is established, make sure that the building principal has complete control and liberty to select volunteers (yes, that’s an oxymoron);
  6. Any parent who asks questions of the Stepford Parent Coordinator should be annihilated immediately. Inform them that their services as a volunteer are no longer needed.
  7. If steps 1-6 are followed as directed, you can continue to assert (lie) that Black, Brown, and low SES students cannot and will not learn because their parents do not care about education;
  8. Repeat as often as necessary to perpetuate the opportunity gap.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a bad dream..people can’t really be this stupid and careless, can they?

It's a conspiracy…a C-O-N-spiracy!   3 comments

Last week I wrote about the plight of one Gwinnett parent, whose child has a disability. At the time, we thought dealing with the ignorance would be contained to Special Education issues but as I learned this morning, we were both wrong. Dead wrong. This is the text I received this morning:

‘Guess what Monise, the principal of Meadowcreek had the Parent Coordinator tell me that he doesn’t want me to volunteer any more because I spoke up at the Title I meeting held on Friday here at Meadowcreek HS. And that my interest isn’t in the best interest for the school.”

I couldn’t believe that (actually I could but didn’t think any person was actually dumb enough to tell the parent of a child they could not volunteer, especially when federal dollars are tied to Parent Centers). In fact, I am still a little shocked and a whole lotta pissed. Why? Because we have heard people say that parents, especially those of the Black and Brown hues, do not care about education because we only show-up for sporting events or when our kids are in trouble. Here we have a parent, armed with the assistance of an (free) advocate, a grasp of Special Education Law and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), who asks some questions (apparently the right ones) about the qualifications of her child’s teacher. How does the administration respond? The same way they usually do when they realize people are ‘on to them:’ They shut down and the walls go up. READ: ‘She knows too much and we don’t want her in this building everyday, talking to other parents and informing them of their rights.’ Kinds sounds like the reasoning slave owners used to keep slaves from learning to read. Only this time, the overseer (principal) is Black. Yep, direct descendant of Uncle Tom.

Now let me break-down the steps of the Conspiracy Theory:

  1. Talking heads and education ‘experts’ say parents don’t care. READ: Black, Brown, and low SES parents don’t care about education;
  2. Federal government waives extra money at districts to create Parent Centers to increase parental involvement;
  3. Districts indoctri, er…. hire people they know will only give parents enough information, but not too much;
  4. Said people mentioned in #3 should, when possible, be members of said disinterested parental groups, also known as tokenism in an effort to thwart any claims of racism when the superintendent says something stupid;
  5. Once this Parent Center is established, make sure that the building principal has complete control and liberty to select volunteers (yes, that’s an oxymoron);
  6. Any parent who asks questions of the Stepford Parent Coordinator should be annihilated immediately. Inform them that their services as a volunteer are no longer needed.
  7. If steps 1-6 are followed as directed, you can continue to assert (lie) that Black, Brown, and low SES students cannot and will not learn because their parents do not care about education;
  8. Repeat as often as necessary to perpetuate the opportunity gap.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a bad dream..people can’t really be this stupid and careless, can they?

How many reports does it take to close the opportunity gap?   12 comments

Depending on your age, you may or may not be familiar with the commercial from which I borrowed (paraphrased) the blog title. Remember the Tootsie Pop commercial with the boy and Mr. Owl? The boy always asked, “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop?” Every time, Mr. Owl would take the boy’s Tootsie Pop and start licking; he eventually just bit into it. The boy could have saved himself the grief and just counted for himself, instead he continued to wait for someone to answer his question. What’s my point? Do we really need another report to tell us that the number of low-income school kids is steadily growing?  Didn’t we read a similar report from the Southern Education Foundation a few months ago? And yes, I weighed-in on that one too. I was surprised that Steve Suitts, the author of the January report and Vice President of the foundation, responded to my comments (and I asked how I could help). Here is an excerpt:

“The reality is that far too many students of color and low income students of all races and ethnicities aren’t getting the education they need. The students who need the most resources and support are now usually getting the least. For large numbers of these students to succeed, this pattern has to change. Our report is a call to arms in fighting for that change. Best wishes.”

So if the first report was a ‘call to arms in fighting’ for change, what does that make the second report? Better yet, what will that make the reports that we know will follow? By no means am I being cynical, but rather practical and realistic. Anyone who has spent time (as a teacher or volunteer) in an urban classroom knows the financial circumstances of the students. We know that the number of students now eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch has increased because the economy is in the crapper, and millions of people, with kids, are now unemployed. Did we really need another report to tell us that? How much money and human resources were spent on this study? Aren’t there better ways to use those resources? How about spending some time with lawmakers and educating them on the unseen effects of double-digit unemployment, e.g., families with fewer financial resources to pay for such novelties as food, school supplies, and after-school enrichment programs? Now I feel as though I sound like a broken record because I talk about the same issues, e.g., school reform, wasteful spending, etc., in almost every post. Stuitts has a valid point about the allocation of resources, but when will we see a detailed study on how these states (15 in the South), spend Title I and Special Education funds? Some districts spend more of those funds on administrative costs (unnecessary training, conferences, etc.) than instructional resources. And they get away with it because the federal government’s accountability system is weak. Unless and until stricter guidelines are developed, implemented, and monitored districts will continue to take advantage and waste free money our tax dollars.

Unfortunately, districts will continue to blame their AYP shortcomings on the fact that there are a large number of low-income students in their classrooms. And the madness will continue. So I am issuing a BOLO for the next study telling us that there are now more poor kids in America than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Could homeschooling be the next 'big thing' in education?   3 comments

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.”
— Source Unknown

I believe that quote is perfect for the way I am feeling right now, about education in general. The good. The bad. And the b.s. that has become too much to stomach on most days. If you have been following the road to rhetoric, where everyone with an Ivy League degree, a column in a major newspaper, or tv show is an expert, then you know what I mean. One thing that is true, no matter how you dress it: Our public education system is in shambles, but it did not happen overnight. Some blame No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I think placing the blame there is taking the coward’s way out. That legislation was a symptom, disguised as a solution, to the problem. As one of the most industrialized and wealthy countries in the world, there is no justification for huge achievement (opportunity) gap that exists between White students and those racial/ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, or those eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (FARL). Brown vs. Board of Education was supposed to eradicate separate but (un) equal educational facilities, but I think we can all agree that it did not happen as planned. And that discussion requires more than one blog post.

As important as those issues are, there is something else happening across the country: School districts are making significant budget cuts and eliminating hundreds of teaching jobs, as well as those of support staff, bus drivers, etc. Just today, the Cobb County School Board announced that it will cut 734 jobs; 579 of those are teaching positions. Just last week, the Fulton County School Board announced that it would slash $4 million from the arts budget, putting both the band and orchestra programs at risk. As I watched the news, a parent (and former educator) stated that she would have no choice but to homeschool her kids. The budget cuts will force districts to increase class sizes and her kids would not get the level of attention they need (and deserved) in order to be successful. I am still thinking about her words because I am inclined to speculate that the number of families who opt to homeschool will increase during the 2010-11 school year for that particular reason. Let’s face it: Teachers already have their hands full with current class sizes, ranging from 17 for Kindergarten to 23 for grades 6-8. Keep in mind, those are minimum class sizes required for full state funding. It is very rare for a district to maintain the smaller class sizes, especially in districts that have experienced consistent growth like Gwinnett County, because it is more cost-effective (so they say).

But here are some potential drawbacks to a mass homeschool movement:

  • Not ony will traditional schools lose kids to charters, but they will also lose a large number to individual or group homeschool programs;
  • Those students physically ‘left behind’ by the homeschool movement are the same kids being failed by the pubic education system in present day;
  • If schools begin to lose significantly large numbers of students to private, charter, and homeschool programs, how will they remain open?
  • Some states could implement tougher requirements for parents who opt to homeschool, i.e., each homeschool parent must possess a Bachelor’s degree and take certain courses to prove they are qualified (this is something I forsee).

I have spoken with a close friend about the possibility of starting a University Model School program in our community. I have researched this program and it is sound; all schools using it have grown and produced very intelligent and ambitious students. These programs also teach kids things that are considered ‘extras’ in pubic schools, e.g., arts, college readiness, and basic life skills. I also struggle with this concept because, again, a large number of students who could benefit will not be able to participate for several reasons: Either their parens are unable to stop working in  order to fulfill the commitment requirement; or they simply cannot afford the tuition.

And so begins my quest to find a way to open access to this program for those who would benefit the most. Oh yeah, homeschooling will be the next big thing for parents but not for entrepreneurs because they can’t make nearly as much money as they do operating cashcows charter schools.

Could homeschooling be the next ‘big thing’ in education?   3 comments

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.”
— Source Unknown

I believe that quote is perfect for the way I am feeling right now, about education in general. The good. The bad. And the b.s. that has become too much to stomach on most days. If you have been following the road to rhetoric, where everyone with an Ivy League degree, a column in a major newspaper, or tv show is an expert, then you know what I mean. One thing that is true, no matter how you dress it: Our public education system is in shambles, but it did not happen overnight. Some blame No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I think placing the blame there is taking the coward’s way out. That legislation was a symptom, disguised as a solution, to the problem. As one of the most industrialized and wealthy countries in the world, there is no justification for huge achievement (opportunity) gap that exists between White students and those racial/ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, or those eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (FARL). Brown vs. Board of Education was supposed to eradicate separate but (un) equal educational facilities, but I think we can all agree that it did not happen as planned. And that discussion requires more than one blog post.

As important as those issues are, there is something else happening across the country: School districts are making significant budget cuts and eliminating hundreds of teaching jobs, as well as those of support staff, bus drivers, etc. Just today, the Cobb County School Board announced that it will cut 734 jobs; 579 of those are teaching positions. Just last week, the Fulton County School Board announced that it would slash $4 million from the arts budget, putting both the band and orchestra programs at risk. As I watched the news, a parent (and former educator) stated that she would have no choice but to homeschool her kids. The budget cuts will force districts to increase class sizes and her kids would not get the level of attention they need (and deserved) in order to be successful. I am still thinking about her words because I am inclined to speculate that the number of families who opt to homeschool will increase during the 2010-11 school year for that particular reason. Let’s face it: Teachers already have their hands full with current class sizes, ranging from 17 for Kindergarten to 23 for grades 6-8. Keep in mind, those are minimum class sizes required for full state funding. It is very rare for a district to maintain the smaller class sizes, especially in districts that have experienced consistent growth like Gwinnett County, because it is more cost-effective (so they say).

But here are some potential drawbacks to a mass homeschool movement:

  • Not ony will traditional schools lose kids to charters, but they will also lose a large number to individual or group homeschool programs;
  • Those students physically ‘left behind’ by the homeschool movement are the same kids being failed by the pubic education system in present day;
  • If schools begin to lose significantly large numbers of students to private, charter, and homeschool programs, how will they remain open?
  • Some states could implement tougher requirements for parents who opt to homeschool, i.e., each homeschool parent must possess a Bachelor’s degree and take certain courses to prove they are qualified (this is something I forsee).

I have spoken with a close friend about the possibility of starting a University Model School program in our community. I have researched this program and it is sound; all schools using it have grown and produced very intelligent and ambitious students. These programs also teach kids things that are considered ‘extras’ in pubic schools, e.g., arts, college readiness, and basic life skills. I also struggle with this concept because, again, a large number of students who could benefit will not be able to participate for several reasons: Either their parens are unable to stop working in  order to fulfill the commitment requirement; or they simply cannot afford the tuition.

And so begins my quest to find a way to open access to this program for those who would benefit the most. Oh yeah, homeschooling will be the next big thing for parents but not for entrepreneurs because they can’t make nearly as much money as they do operating cashcows charter schools.

A little change requires a little (or a lot of) discomfort   17 comments

Yes, the presidential election is over but people are still using the word change when describing anything from politics to education. I can’t help but wonder: Do most people really want change? I think a lot of people talk a good game, but when it comes to walking the walk, folks start to disappear or get really, really quiet. Yeah, I think I may need to go a little ‘rogue’ in this post because there are some things that need to be said because a lot of people are oblivious to what’s going on in the world, especially as it relates to education.

Barack Obama was elected the first African American President of the United States. He made history. We must move on. I did not hold any unrealistic expectations for this president because I understood (to a certain degree) the mess he inherited: two wars, a crappy economy, a broken-down educational system, and hatred from other countries of the world. As David Letterman would say: I wouldn’t give his problems to a monkey on a rock. Obama definitely has his hands full and he needs our help. First and foremost, we all need to be realistic: He is not going to come close to fixing all of these problems during his first term (yeah, I am claiming a second for him). Secondly, there are things we can do to be the change we want to see (Ghandi).

How? You might ask. Well, for starters, there are thousands of educators on Twitter who have an opportunity to participate in ‘professional development without walls’ like never before via various weekly chats. We can communicate and share best practices with people from all fifty states and many foreign countries. However, simply talking is not productive. Let me go a little deeper: Ignoring the real issues facing our educational system will not make them go away. Since I was a little late to the chats, I thought I would ‘observe’ first to get a better understanding. After observing for a few weeks, I started to notice a recurring theme: Technology. Now don’t get me wrong, I think technology is great, especially since I can connect with other educators. Unfortunately, technology is not solely responsible for the opportunity gap (or achievement gap, as others call it) that exists for millions of students. Let me be more specific: Lots of African American, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities, and kids eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch. You may know those students as members of the AYP subgroups. I don’t doubt for one second that Interactive White Boards (IWB) are great educational tools but let’s keep it real, shall we? How may schools actually have them? Do they have enough for every teacher? Better yet, how many Title I schools have them? I have said it before and I will say it again: Too many kids have to dodge pimps, whores, crackheads, and dope dealers on the way to school. Reality check: School is the safest place for a lot of students, whether you care to accept and acknowledge that fact or not. Ignoring it won’t make it any less true. I seriously doubt they give a damn about whether their teacher is effective at using an IWB. Reality check: Yes, technology can be a great teaching tool, but when I am hungry and my stomach is growling, I am only focusing on how/where I can get something to eat.

So this brings me to my issue: I suggested that we discuss a real educational issue, like what different schools are doing (besides talking) to address the opportunity gap. Well, the question submitted was completely edited/altered and in no way reflects the one submitted. Hence, the point is completely missed. If ‘professional’ people are too uncomfortable with addressing the issues, are they really competent enough to be in front of the student groups in question? I am reconsidering my opinion on that one because you cannot enter a classroom with the notion that you don’t ‘see color.’ If something is right in front of you, how do you not see it? That’s something David Copperfield could master, but the average teacher, I don’t think so. But here’s a better question: Why do people attempt to stifle the dialogue of those who are interested in addressing these issues? Whether the stifling comes via completely ignoring or changing the question posed, it’s ignoring nonetheless. And it’s not right. It’s unprofessional, offensive, and dismissive. Certainly counterproductive in any attempts to address and eliminate the opportunity gap. I guess we are not as far removed from D.C. as we’d like to believe, huh?

Million dollar question: Do my honesty and directness make you uncomfortable? If I were a man, would you be less uncomfortable? Do you genuinely care about your students’ success? Do you care enough to acknowledge that they may not pay attention to you because they are wondering if they will eat when they get home? Or they could be worried about whether they will have a home at all. Did you ever stop to consider that? If not, you need to at least acknowledge that, as of today, you are not equipped with the knowledge necessary to adequately deliver any content to your students, whether you use an IWB, iPad, Mac BookPro, or not. Period. Before you can take them anywhere, you have to know and acknowledge from whence they came. Yep, it really is that simple. By the way, notice there was no mention of one (racial) group not being competent enough to educate another. I know some of you were looking for it (and probably found or interpreted it somewhere) but I never said it. I will not stop discussing the real issues just to make people feel more comfortable. Sorry, there is too much at stake for me to live in oblivion. If my stance means I have to talk to myself, then so be it. I usually get more done and better answers that way anyway!

Peace!