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.
I have never minced words about the current attack on the public education system’s stakeholders, e.g., teachers, students, parents. Nor have I gone easy on educational ‘leaders.’ You know, the ones who make the executive decisions as they relate to discipline, instruction, testing, etc. Far too often, the little people are blamed for everything that ails public education despite the fact that, individually, they hold very little influence in how the machine runs. Let’s face it: Teachers can only control what happens within their respective classrooms, and sometimes they have very little (creative) control over that domain as well. Given the nature and scope of their responsibilities, our education ‘leaders’ should abide by a certain set of standards. After all, they are setting policies that will affect our children, teachers, school systems, and overall communities. How can we hand over such responsibilities to people who openly lie, publicly threaten television reporters, and willfully shirk their financial responsibilities to their own children?
Honestly, I didn’t think the shenanigans in Gwinnett County would continue after a group of teachers filed a formal complaint against the CEO, J. Alvin Wilbanks. The teachers were non-renewed at the end of the 2009-10 school year, supposedly for budget cuts, at least that is what the CEO stated in letters sent to each of them. Unfortunately, the budget cut excuse was scrapped in exchange for about ‘performance issues.’ As a result, many of those teachers have been unable to secure teaching positions in neighboring counties. To put this in context: Georgia is a ‘Right to Work’ state, meaning an employer can fire you simply because they do not like you, your hair, your clothes, or even if they woke-up on the wrong side of the bed on any given morning. Sadly, employees in this state have NO rights as many have been
brainwashed led to believe that unions are the equivalent of the anti-Christ.
Are your elected officials more suited for a jail cell?
Imagine my surprise when I read the article in the AJC about a Gwinnett County school board member who was arrested for failure to pay child support to his ex-wife, a crime that could result in a misdemeanor/felony charge, fine, driver’s and professional license revocation, and/or jail time. The board member in question posted a $7,000 bond in exchange for his release. I am assuming that the bond went towards his delinquent child support payments. But here’s the million dollar question: If he had the $7,000 to post bond, why didn’t he use it to pay his child support? To me, his actions demonstrate that he willfully ignored his financial obligation to his children, who are students in the Gwinnett County Public School System. I cannot begin to imagine the embarrassment this incident caused his children. On a positive note, I am sure his ex-wife will appreciate getting the financial support she rightly deserves.
Several weeks ago, BlackEd (Thursdays, 9 PM EST – shameless plug) launched on Twitter. It is an opportunity for parents, teachers, and community members to ‘meet’ once a week and discuss different issues regarding the education of Black students. The interest has grown and I am glad to see many non-minorities actively participate in the discussions each week. However, I will admit that a medium such as BlackEd is long overdue and we have a lot of ground to cover. Here is my concern: Once we discuss these issues, how do we take what we have learned and apply it to the classrooms and communities in which we live? Better yet: How many of us actually have the power (or politics/money) to apply what we learn to the classrooms where our kids spend 6-8 hours each day? What if our communities do not want us to improve education for our kids, and instead, block our efforts at every turn? Now pose those same questions to our Latino brothers and sisters, who are trying to find ways to address the same issues for their children. It becomes very overwhelming, but we must do something now rather than later. Too many of our kids are dropping out, everyday. Too many of our kids are short-changed by the institution of public education. Too many of our kids are conditioned to become criminals and delinquents; not enough of them are trained to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. How do we fix this?
During the past few weeks I have limited the amount of time spent on Twitter in an attempt to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life and the amount of information swirling around in my head. Another reason for my Twitter ‘fast’ has been to avoid reading all of the education rhetoric that is tweeted and retweeted. Sometimes that amount of verbiage b.s. is just too much… I have also learned not to even comment on some stuff because, well, some people post things just to make themselves feel/seem important. As I watched the dialogue last night, I couldn’t help but wonder: If I were a man (first White, then Black), would I have fewer problems working in the Education system? It seems to me that the majority of those in positions to make important decisions have different genitalia. We could say the same words, in the same manner but I know no one would take me seriously or even listen for that matter. Do I really need to jump on the ‘blame the parents, teachers, or unions’ bandwagon to make things happen? Should I follow in that woman’s footsteps and start sleeping with men in powerful positions to gain entrée into leadership roles? Would I ever be able to go into a suburban school, fire all the (Black and ineffective) teachers and then accuse them of abusing children knowing that my job is protected because Gates and Broad believe that I am increasing test scores? Hmmmm…I doubt it.
Yes, we have a few Black and Latino leaders in education, but I can’t help but wonder if they actually believe everything they say? Do they really believe that blaming parents is productive and necessary? Or do they say those things to appease White people, e.g., district officials who call the shots? I can’t help but wonder why Pedro Noguera is not a household name (in households other than those with Latino names, that is). Why have we not seen him or Baruti Kafele featured on NBC Nightly News or 60 Minutes? Who will speak for the Black and Latino children? There is only so much information you can obtain from research articles and longitudinal studies. At some point, someone needs to ask a Latino how to serve his or her community effectively. At some point, someone needs to ask a Black, single parent what kinds of programs s/he needs to help their kids succeed in Math and Reading. Who will speak for us? Better yet, why won’t they let us speak for ourselves? Afterall, asking someone from a privileged middle-class background to represent kids from Southwest Atlanta is like asking me to be a spokesperson for the Asian community. And we all know that will never happen.