Archive for the ‘Georgia Department of Education’ Tag

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  |… #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. (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.

Help Somebody: Each one, teach one   Leave a comment

(Started this when I woke-up this morning) It’s only 9:18 in the morning and I am up. Not really spectacular, unless I tell you the other part: I didn’t get in the bed until 4:00 this morning! (Blame it on the not-so-good influences of @VisionSpeaks and @ClaytonMuhammad. Beware of the company you keep on Twitter!) On any other day I probably would have stayed in bed after the kids left for school, but today is different. I got another one of those phone calls yesterday (sometimes it’s one of those emails) from a parent of a child with Special Needs.

It all started a few months ago at the birthday party of my kid’s classmates. Initially, I had planned to do what the mom suggested, just drop-off the kid and come back later but for some reason I stayed. As the party went on, the adults sat around the kitchen table talking and playing Spades (y’all know how we do), we really got to learn a lot about eachother. It just so happened that the hostess had family members who drove in from Ohio, so there was a house full of kids and noise. As we talked, one of the kids came in from outside and began asking his mom for 1,001 things (y’all know how kids do!). Well this particular kid has Special Needs’ I don’t remember every diagnosis she rattled off but I was able to ascertain what his primary classification would be if he lived in Georgia.

Anywho, mom talked about the different doctor visits for various reasons, including experimenting with different medications. As we continued to talk, she explained that her son was on this and that, for this and that. I listened intently but I also watched her son’s behavior, trying to figure out why he was taking meds for ADHD when I hadn’t seen any signs of hyperactivity during the several hours I had been there. (Side note: They skipped a few doses during the summer since he was at home all day. But I still should have seen something.) Now I understand that there are some parents who prefer to medicate their kids for better behavior management and self-preservation. In no way am I judging those who do, but I always caution parents about starting kids on ‘new’ medications without doing research and being fully aware of side-effects and long-term consequences. I have seen both sides: Kids who should have been on something and kids who had no business being on their prescribed drug, or anything at all. I even had a student who fell asleep EVERYDAY and never ate while he was meds. I would have to force candy or some type of snack on him. But he was a completely different person when he didn’t take the meds: He was very active (which didn’t bother me) and he gained weight because he regained his appetite. Those obvious behavioral differences make me a little wary about giving kids meds just to keep them in a seat.

We continued talking about her son and some of the ‘problems’ he had during the past school year. I couldn’t help giggle a little because every time he came in the house he would look at me and smile. I was thinking: ‘Yeah, I can tell that he can be a hell-raiser when he wants to!’ But in all fairness to him, he has several health issues and has been on a slew of medications, but I don’t doubt that his outbursts were his way of saying ‘I’m not getting what I need and I am sick of all these damn pills!’ (Well, he probably wouldn’t say damn, but you get the point.) Also, he is non-verbal so I am sure that adds to his frustration. As she talked, I rattled off questions:

Me: Have you gone to every IEP meeting?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Do you understand everything they talk about in the IEP meetings?

Mom: No. I don’t understand a lot of that stuff.

Me: You have the right to ask questions. You are not required to sign anything. Has anyone ever told you that you have access to an advocate?

Mom: No. I can’t afford someone to help me.

Me: The advocates are free. If I am not mistaken, the federal government pays for advocates in every state. At least that’s how it works in here.

Long story short(er): I told mom that I would contact the Ohio Department of Education and find the person in charge of parent advocates, then pass on the info to her. And that’s exactly what I did. I thought that’s where it ended, but there was another family member (who resides in Georgia) who needed help. You will have to wait until tomorrow to read about that one because this post is already longer than I intended and I’m sleepy! But seriously, we are awaiting a response from someone at the Georgia Department of Education. I promise to give you an update!

Thanks for muddling through this!

Edreform epiphany: Charters on crack   Leave a comment

(If you are reading this, my sensationalized headline served its purpose!) By now I know better than to draw conclusions based on a sensationalized headline, so I took the time to read through the recent @AJCGetSchooled blog post by Maureen Downey. Actually, it was a  letter written by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky who suggests that we can fix education by making every school a charter school.

According to Smagorinsky, “Charter schools have been offered as one way of invigorating public education by excusing them from many of the rules that bind ordinary public schools. In exchange, they provide charters that outline their mission and means of accountability.” He’s kinda right and kinda wrong. Just like a lot of other people who have not actively engaged (Read: Devoted 2 or more years to developing a charter application) in the charter ‘business.’ Yes, petitioners (those who write and submit charter applications) can opt to seek waivers for some of the state regulations; however, some regulations must be followed, e.g., attendance rules, accountability measures, etc. Be leary of anyone who says that charter schools have different or fewer accountability measures. Any charter school operating in the state of Georgia is required to administer the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), End-of-Course Test (EOCT) and/or the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). Why? Because that is how Georgia’s Department of Education determines whether a school/district meets Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). No publicly funded school can opt-out of those tests. Not one. Ultimately, the decision to grant any waivers lies with the State Board of Education. We have to stop alluding to the fact that charter schools can pick and choose the laws/rules to which they will adhere.

Here is where my frustration lies (ok, at least one of them): I have yet to hear or read anything about the role lack-luster leadership has played in the demise of public education. Ineffective teachers – check. Bad-arse students – check. Apathetic parents – check. Irresponsible single parents – check. Poor kids – check. When will leaders own-up to their failures as leaders? You know, wasting money to fill unnecessary central office positions. Or wasting money on textbooks not supported by classroom teachers. Changing instructional models/methods every 2-3 years without giving the previous one enough time for implementation and tracked results, or with every new superintendent. Does anyone reading this have any links to any stories covering screw-ups of overpaid central office administration, aside from the indictment of a metro-Atlanta superintendent? I’m still looking…

So here’s what we need to realize: Whether districts opt for charter schools, turnaround schools, firing every staff member, etc., none of these methods will deliver the results they seek. Why? Because some people (leadership) fail to accept that they may be a key contributing factor to the problem. From what I’ve learned, a true leader knows when it is his/her time to move-on to something else. The problem with education is that many decision-makers have been in authoritative roles for 20+ years and still think that solutions of the 90s are applicable to the problems of 2010.

But that’s just me: A crazy mom and former Special Education teacher. What do I know?