Saturday, December 18, 2010

Better School Equal Better Education?

Does having a great new school help children learn? Does more money spent on a school improve student performance?

DeKalb School System recently published findings from school inspections.  These inspections are to be used not only for redistricting but hopefully for future improvements.

Chamblee High School scored 32 out of 100 while Lakeside High School scored 22 out of 100.  These scores would be OK if we were talking football (Chamblee's football team won only two games and only scored more than 10 points in a game twice all year, but their math team placed 6th in the UGA math tournament in October and their TEAMS squad was #1 in the state).  But we are not talking football, we are talking School Adequacy ratings based on an independent company conducting site inspections at all DeKalb schools.

Chamblee, a magnet school, had the top SAT scores in DeKalb and ranked 20th in the state.  Lakeside students earned a #25 ranking in the state.  Based on scores of 32 and 22 it's safe to say these schools are in bad shape. It was recently announced that a new Chamblee High School will be built at a cost of close to $70 million dollars.  Hopefully the school system will do better than Pat Pope and Co. in designing the school.  Someone please tell the person in charge of school instruction for DeKalb how big classrooms need to be and how many seats a cafeteria should have.  So Chamblee and Lakeside seem to have the best performing students yet the worst conditions.  Of course many of you already know that no matter how nice a building is, what matters is the effort put forth by not only the students, but also the parents and teachers.  DeKalb can build school shrines all over the place but student performance will not improve until students and parents take it upon themselves to learn.

On the elementary school level Austin Elementary has always had student test scores well above county, state, and national averages.  Yet Austin's School Adequacy score of 32 puts it at the bottom of all elementary schools in the county and second from last overall (only Lakeside High school had a lower score).

Even though the students at some of these run-down schools perform well on standardized tests, the kids deserve better learning environments than is offered currently.

Why has this school (and the others scoring below '40') been ignored by the current school board and central office staff while the school board built a $30 million facility (Mountain Industrial Blvd) for themselves and central office staff that includes $2000 chairs and a wellness center equipped with a weight room, basketball court, Cybex machines, etc. Meanwhile we have 3rd graders in Dunwoody spending the entire school year in trailers. 

Residents in other parts of DeKalb complain that the district spends too much money in the northern section of the county.  Take a look at the map below: (you can click on the map to enlarge)

The light blue colored circles are buildings scoring 90+. You will not find any of those light blue colored circle anywhere close to the north side of the county map.  See those red colored circles?  Those are schools below 50.  A majority are in the mid to north part of the county.  Now that the Board has blown any chance of ever getting another SPLOST approved by beefing up the retirement pay of Ramona Tyson, perhaps they can get around to fixing some schools. Chamblee is slated for a new building. What about Austin, Pleasantdale, Coralwood, and others?

Even if Chamblee, Lakeside, and Austin school buildings were to remain in poor condition, the students would continue to be top-notched learners.  But that's no reason to ignore the situation like the current Board has done for years. 

current school board members

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