Archive for the ‘AYP subgroups’ Tag

They Can Slow Me Down, But They Can’t Stop Me..or Why I Have Decided To Fight From The Outside   4 comments

I have spent the past month recuperating from two round-trip drives home (Indiana, 12 hours each way but I managed to shave off an hour coming home the last time…no snitching!), a minor illness, and a 7 Day Mental Cleanse (upon the advice of my Life (saving) Coach @MyLifeKeys and @StephanieAlva). I will be honest, I thought I would go crazy without my social media vices (mostly Twitter but I missed Facebook a little too). After the first 2 days, I was actually getting used to and making the most of the free time by reading, thinking (without thousands of other people’s thoughts coming at me), and planning to launch my own business(es). I was amazed by the amount of work I accomplished by unplugging from the extra noise.

Being away, however, did not change this drive I have to fulfill what I believe is my purpose in life: Use my knowledge, education, and passion to provide equal education and access to the arts for minority and/or low-income kids. I am human and I will admit that whenever I hit a roadblock, I get frustrated. I question why the path to ‘doing good’ is always fraught with politics, red tape, and malarky b.s. Why is it that when someone (Read: A black, female, outspoken, liberal, and educated Yankee -that’s what they call me in the South, as if it hurts my feelings) identifies a need within his/her community, the powers-that-be old White boys’ network works so hard to make people believe there is no such need? But then I check myself because any time we (minorities) start shouting about our realities and how we perceive know things operate, we’re labeled as sensitive. Or even worse, we get accused of playing the ‘race card.’ First of all, I don’t view this thing called life as a game. So what in thee hell is a ‘race card?’ And unfortunately, the majority of us with melanin-infused skin and obviously non-European features cannot pick and choose the days that we are something other than what the mirror reflects. My point, and I do have one, is that someone (whom I respect a great deal, even though we don’t agree on everything), validated the feelings I’ve held for the past 4 years: There is no place for (all of) us at the table. And by ‘us’ I mean those who are not willing to placate, secret handshake, shuck-n-jive, skin-n-grin, or throw kids, single moms, or teachers under the bus to make others comfortable enough listen to us, let alone hear and consider us. Or give us our own segment on some Cable News Network.

As I read two of Jose’s (@TheJLVposts, I thought: I can either spend my time, talents, and energy trying to get on the ‘inside’ so that I can fight them on their turf, or I can fight from the outside by continuing to encourage parents to speak-up and be the advocate their kids need. I can also fight by doing my own thing; providing opportunities for our kids, where the local board of education’s approval is not needed. Yeah, I think that would be a much better use of my time.

Whatever they throw at me, I will always win as long as I remember: They can slow me down, but they can’t stop me.

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.

The results are in……but don’t celebrate just yet!   Leave a comment

Earlier this week, the Georgia Department of Education released the overall results for the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT), which will become a thing of the past for the Freshman class of 2011 (READ: Performance for the state and districts as a whole, not the results for AYP subgroups. Those results will not be made public until mid to late-July) . I won’t go into my P.O.V. on phasing out the test here, instead I will save that for another day when I find myself putting off struggling to write. Today we got a glimpse of the overall performance on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), which is administered to kids in grades 3-8; those in grades 3, 5, and 8 are required to pass the Math and Reading tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. As I read the article in the AJC and Maureen Downey’s AJCGetSchooled blog, I didn’t even bother to dissect the scores or pop a bottle of champagne in celebration of the what they want you to think is good news. Instead, I pulled a few snip-its from the article, tweeted them, and added my own .02, which all follow below:

EDUCATIONCEO TheParentsEducator
Math scores highlight CRCT gains  | ajc.com ajc.com/news/math-scor… #Georgia #CRCT #testing #education
EDUCATIONCEO TheParentsEducator
So they are spinning the test score results to say new Math curriculum might be working.How do we explain scores for h.s. students? #Georgia
EDUCATIONCEO TheParentsEducator
And why in the heck are schools ‘preparing’ for the test at beginning of year? Let teachers teach & test prep is not necessary.
EDUCATIONCEO TheParentsEducator
One student said a few questions were poorly written or confusing.http://ow.ly/5eoAZ (This comment from a student is especially troubling.)
EDUCATIONCEO TheParentsEducator
I won’t celebrate CRCT results until I see the AYP subgroup breakdown…which takes them FOREVER to release… #Georgia
And that last tweet is the motivation for writing this post: We cannot and should not measure everything our kids are supposed to learn based on one test, especially since that test does not measure growth. And we cannot distract the public from the real issue: The ever-present and pesky opportunity gap. Yes, my 4th grader passed all four sections on the first administration; I had no doubts that she would pass. But each day she came home and she said she was tired of testing….she said the same thing last year. Boy Wonder was one tired soul too. As a high schooler, he had to take End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) in three subjects as well as final exams in all six classes. That’s just testing overkill.
I will credit State Superintendent John Barge for phasing out the GHSGT and instead, using the EOCT as 20% of the final grade. However……..we still have to address the obnoxiously obese elephants in the room: The ‘new’ Math Curriculum and the toxic fall-out, including (1) the drop in GHSGT Math scores, (2) increase in the number of students taking remediation/credit recovery courses; and (3) the number of students who will be disqualified from receiving the HOPE Scholarship because their low Math grade lowers their overall G.P.A. (in core classes only). Yep, Boy Wonder now fits into two of the three afore-mentioned categories because he failed Integrated Geometry, and miserably I might add. Despite that setback, he still managed to crank-out a 3.1 G.PA. this year but more than likely he will be disqualified from receiving HOPE (both the scholarship and actual hope.)
But seriously, when are we going to start doing the things necessary to actually eliminate the opportunity gap? No, I am not speaking in terms of closing it because anything that is closed can easily be reopened, right? When you eliminate something, it is gone and has no chance of returning unless those in power create the conditions conducive for its return. Hmmmm….marinate on that one for a minute (or hour/day/week/month). I think that in order to eliminate the opportunity gap, we (all) need to acknowledge the reasons why there is a gap to begin with. Unfortunately, there are too many people who are uncomfortable with the truth would rather believe that everyone has had an equal opportunity at eradicating generations (plural) of illiteracy, poverty, and just overall lack of opportunity.
I didn’t set out to change the world with this blog post. Instead, I just want people to keep their eyes (and ears) open, use discernment and common sense when people try to convince you that we are making considerable strides in education.

A school for the kids: It’s still calling me….   Leave a comment

You know how you have this one thing you really, really wanna do? But no matter how well planned your plan is, road-blocks and obstacles always seem to find their way in your way. Sometimes the plan is so grand and the vision so intense that you can’t sleep or you find yourself drawn to it at weird hours of the day.  There may have even been a time (or five) where you thought: “To hell with this; it’s a waste of my time. I could be doing XYZ with those 16 hours I spend researching, writing, making phone calls, etc.” Surely, I can’t be the only person who has felt that way at some point or another, right?

When I get to feeling that way, I start thinking about Langston Hughes‘A Dream Deferred’ poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

It may sound simple, but that poem provides me with some motivation. Why? Because I don’t want to ever get to the point where I sit around thinking, ‘I wonder what would have happened if….’ Life is too short and precious to be filled with ifs. (Can I get an ‘Amen?’) Well, my dream was to open a Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I know there are many people out there who are against charter schools, but for some of us, they are our only option. I will add that I am against these faux, non-profit predators organizations opening-up schools in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods, promising parents that their kids will succeed and go to college. Hell, depending on your definition of ‘succeed’ anyone can promise that. Furthermore, I can take a bus load of kids to a college campus, let them step foot on the campus and then proclaim that they went to college. Just when we thought the last thing our communities needed was a liquor store on every corner, but I digress.

Our organization is truly a grassroots group, made-up of parents (Black, White, Latino, etc.), teachers, and community members. We had the passion, purpose, vision, and research bases covered. We had no idea we’d be expected to turn water to wine raise a ridiculously large sum of money in such a short time. We were all discouraged, and rightly so I do believe. No such demands were placed on other groups. That is when I decided to walk away (after I raised more than my fair share of hell, of course). So when I learned of the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling on the Charter Commission, here is what I thought initially: ‘Like I always say, God don’t like ugly.’ And by ‘ugly’ I mean the way our group was treated as well as how other grassroots groups were dismissed because they did not have the name recognition of EMO/CMO groups, or because their boards actually reflected the communities they planned to serve. Yep, that’s how it went down. Even uglier, then-State School Superintendent Kathy Cox chose not to address the issues. Charter Commission members ignored emails, as did the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Yep, those organizations created to help charter school developers turned their backs on us. They turned their backs on our kids. I guess because our school model was not controversial enough to garner national attention, we were not worthy of their support or even an offering of mediation. Ok. I see you. But now the entire (education) community sees you and your obvious lack of research and knowledge of the law, even though the individual responsible for drafting the language has a law degree and graduated from TFA. Laughable, but I digress.

So, this whole experience/desire to open a school with a well-developed arts program is coming full-circle now. As I was speaking with a student, who is also a single parent, I learned about the Arete Scholars Fund. As it turns out, people and businesses that owe taxes to the state of Georgia can donate those funds to a scholarship fund to pay tuition at a private school. Hmmmm. This is obviously a well-kept secret, or at least it was until I found out about it. I shied away from opening a private school because I knew that the students I wanted to serve would not be able to afford private school tuition. Now there is a way to open this school, without the bureaucracy and politics of public education. Most importantly, I don’t have to deal with short men with Napoleon complexes who expect me to kiss their arses….as if.

My, how the tides have turned. Assembling a dream team of educators. Time to change the game. Dream not deferred, just re-imagined. Stay tuned.

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!

Beware of false prophets:Is GA capable of leading the nation?   Leave a comment

Although some people may beg to differ, I do not consider myself to be a pessimist. Simply stated: I am a realist because I have enough motivation and common sense to look at things as they actually are, how they could/should be, and then I compare the two. I believe that I am fair in my comparison of the two; perhaps even a little lenient at times, but fair nonetheless.

As I browsed Maureen Downey’s GetSchooled blog for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, I came across several quotes by State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox that caught my attention. Cox was speaking at the DeKalb Rotary Club and discussed how Georgia’s new Math Standards (based on Massachusetts’ 10 year old standards) will allow our state to surpass the model state. Hmmm. Let me make sure I understand this: Georgia has adopted standards 10 years after another state, and not only will we surpass that state, but we will also ‘lead the nation’ in academics? Pick-up any research book on educational change, and chances are you will read something to the effect of meaningful educational change only taking 3-5 years. We missed the bus 5 years ago.

Cox also alluded to Georgia’s performance on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administration. According to Cox, Georgia is keeping up with or outpacing the nation in almost every demographic. Talk about double-talk” keeping up with or outpacing and almost. Those vague words and phrases should automatically make everyone (or maybe just me) run to the NAEP web site to see exactly how much ‘out pacing’ Georgia is actually doing. Since NCLB was supposed to address the opportunity gap for certain groups (Black, Latino/Hispanic/ELL/SWD/FARL), education policy experts and administrators focus on the scores of those groups first.

Let’s look at the NAEP Math performance of the  3rd grade Students with Disabilities. The national average score is 220. Here is the breakdown of performance by state:

  • 24 states performed above the national average, with Massachusetts having the highest average of 227;
  • 6 states performed at the national average of 220;
  • 21 states, including Georgia, performed below the national average, with D.C. having the lowest score of 193 and Alabama with a 194.

This is only one example of a state-by-state comparison. Anyone interested in looking at scores for other content area/grades can do so at the site. You can generate very specific reports for any subgroup.

It is great that our state’s education leader wants to emulate the success experienced in Massachusetts, but I believe that we waited too late to implement the necessary changes. I can’t help but wonder:

  • How my kids were retained during the 10 year ‘wait-and-see’ period?
  • How many of those retained kids could have been successful with the new curriculum?
  • How many kids dropped out because they felt hopeless?

No, Cox has not been in office for the last 10 years, but what Georgia needs to improve education now is a leader who is abreast of research, policy, and not afraid to make executive decisions. In my opinion, Cox does not possess any of those. She is better suited for a position at the local level. If Georgia plans to be a serious contender in education reform, we need someone who will roll-up their sleeves, hire people based on education, experience, and ability-not someone who is under pressure from his or her political party. A real leader knows that you can only mislead the public for so long with vague statements, such as ““No matter how you measure it, our graduation rate is improving,” (Cox, 2009). In reality, the graduation rate is only improving for certain groups, but when you use the average rate, it does imply that our graduation rate is steadily increasing. A leader who knows that only 44% of its SWD population graduates would not insult the constituents with false prophecies. Yes, Georgia is ready for change, but leading the nation will require considerable change within the infrastructure-from the top down.

NAEP Data: It is what it is   2 comments

Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, released the December 2009/January 2010 newsletter. It included a list of the 17 schools that moved-off the NCLB ‘Needs improvement’ list, as well as a summary of Georgia’s performance on the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The assessment, administered every 2 years, compares academic performance of 4th and 8th grade students across the country in areas such as Math and Reading. With the exception of the SAT and ACT, it is the closet thing we have to a national assessment. I believe I may have blogged about this topic before but I feel it’s important to revisit it because I have a problem with people presenting data without using full disclosure.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that the national average is just that: An average of scores from all 4th and 8th graders across the country. I did not find the word average anywhere in the article; I read it four times.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show great improvement in Georgia.

Let’s analyze the data to see exactly what determines ‘great’ as opposed to say ‘good’ or no improvement at all. Data for AYP *subgroups is listed below.

4th Grade Performance Math (2003 to 2009>6 year period>4 administrations)

  • GA (All Students) 230-236; +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • Nation (All Students) 234-239;+5 points >1.25 gain/admin
  • GA (Free & Reduced Lunch) 219-225 +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • Nation (Free & Reduced Lunch) 222-228; +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • GA (Black Students) 217-221; +4 points > 1.0 gain/admin
  • Nation (Black Students) 216-222; +6 points > 1.5 gain/admin
  • GA (Hispanic Students) 201-212; +11 points > 2.75 gain/admin
  • Nation (Hispanic Students) 199-204; +5 points > 1.25 gain/admin

The article stated that Georgia is “…leading the nation in improving student achievement,” (Cox, 2009). For some reason the performance of Students with Disabilities (SWD) and English Language Learners (ELL) were omitted from the newsletter, so I decided to check the NAEP site for those numbers.

GA ELL Population

  • 2009 > 220
  • 2007 > 212
  • 2005 > 208
  • 2003 > 208

Nation’s ELL Population

  • 2009 > 218
  • 2007 > 217
  • 2005 > 216
  • 2003 > 214

GA Students with Disabilities Population

  • 2009 > 215
  • 2007 > 219
  • 2005 > 218
  • 2003 > 209

Nation’s Students with Disabilities Population

  • 2009 > 220
  • 2007 > 220
  • 2005 > 218
  • 2003 > 214

Although Georgia’s ELL population performed higher than the national average for 2009, performance in other years has been considerably lower, with 2 years of no growth at all. The scores of the SWD group have been on the decline for the past three administrations, while the national average scores have improved. Perhaps that explains why those two groups were omitted from the newsletter. Just a thought. If anyone is interested, I will probably (meaning definitely) do a state-by-state comparison of each subgroup and compile some sort of ranking for each. I will likely start with SWD since I am a former Special Education teacher.

Thanks for reading!

 *AYP subgroups=those groups of students identified as having a ‘gap’ in their achievement compared to White, Asian, and economically advantaged students: Blacks, Hispanics, Students with Disabilities (SWD), and English Language Learners (ELL).