Friday, April 5, 2013

Too slow, No jumpshot, Teacher Fails

Last month the Georgia legislators passed HB 244.  HB244 means that a large part of teacher evaluation will be based on student test scores.  And you thought Teaching to the Test was bad already?

Imagine using this same system for evaluating a gym physical education teacher.

Jimmie enters gym class with very little athletic talent.  He's a great texter, posts to Instagram hourly, and checks in on Facebook every three hours.  But Jimmie can't make a free throw on the basketball court. Jimmie can't run a mile in under nine minutes.  Jimmie can't dodge the dodge ball.  Jimmie can't throw a football.  So the P.E. teacher has Jimmie in class.  Jimmie changes into his T-shirt and polyester gym shorts along with 119 other students at 10:10 AM and walks into the gym.  He awaits instruction from 'Coach".  Coach tries to work a bit with Jimmie, but Jimmie hates gym class and Coach has way too many students. But Coach's job depends on Jimmie being able to make 50% of his free throws.  Coach will be reprimanded if Jimmie can't get a better time in the mile, and Coach may get fired if Jimmie can't do 30 push-ups.

Dunwoody Area Charter Cluster Information

In response to DunwoodyTalk blog posts earlier this week, the DPCQE group has submitted the following response:


As two of the team members of Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education, the group that formed last month to spearhead alternatives to the current status quo, we’d like to respond to your points below.  We suspect our activities are a bit misunderstood and we want to be completely transparent in our efforts.

Before we talk about our efforts, please know that we agree with your first point about SACS.  The dysfunction in DeKalb occurs at all levels, is long-standing, and won’t be addressed when SACS waves their magic wand and takes DeKalb off probation (just before the legislative session, as you point out).  Nor will it be solved by the new temporary Superintendent or the new temporary board members.  The solutions to the dysfunction will be realized locally in Dunwoody, not from the Central Office Palace. 

We are pursuing multiple avenues for Dunwoody educational independence. These are not separate groups with competing agendas.  And, rather than sabotage each other, these two initiatives are actually complementary.   Let us explain why.

Getting the legislature and the voters of Georgia to give us the opportunity to form our own school system is a long process with a very uncertain outcome.  Our state reps have told us that this is a huge mountain to climb and that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in this basket.  That said, we are fully committed to pushing forward with this as the ultimate goal.

It is worth noting that in the hearing on Representative Taylor’s constitutional amendment that took place in the House subcommittee on Education on March 20, one of the skeptical members of the House asked us why we hadn’t pursued a Charter Cluster designation and pointed out that state law already provided a mechanism for granting autonomy.  Our chances of success in the House improve if we can point to attempts to avail ourselves of the avenues that already exist.

Those of us working on the Charter Cluster concept are agreed that the governance model must include a structure that has the Cluster non-profit corporation as the employer of the teachers and principals.  We will not be satisfied with, or push for approval of, a Charter Cluster contract that does not give us true educational autonomy.  We must have (as you put it) a checkbook.  The Cluster needs to be able to hire educators, reward great ones, and remove lousy ones.   The DeKalb teachers in Dunwoody will have a tough decision about whether or not to leave the County’s employment and accept jobs with the Cluster.  We expect the good ones to welcome the change, which will be empowering and rewarding.

We don’t know if we can get five members of the new DeKalb Board of Education to give us this autonomy, but that is what we will ask for.  If they say ‘no’, then we have an answer for the skeptics in the Legislature.

We need to make three other points.  First, the community discussion and work that would be required to submit a petition to the County for a Charter Cluster is the exact same effort we would have to undertake to start our own school system.  Getting community-wide work groups together to define what—and how—to teach in an autonomous Dunwoody must be done regardless of whether or not we are asking the County for a Charter Cluster or the Legislature and the State Board of Ed for an independent system.  Everything we put into a Charter Petition is reusable when we get our own system.

Second, our current efforts to submit a Letter of Intent are entirely non-binding.  We are not committing the community to anything, only trying to secure an opportunity for us to decide whether or not to pursue a Charter Cluster Petition.  We will only go down the petition path if there is strong community support, but to get to that point, we need a Letter of Intent.    

Finally, you talk about a local group having a sharpie ready to re-draw attendance lines.  This is an attempt at creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  No one today is working on trying to re-draw attendance lines but when it is necessary; don’t we WANT that done locally rather than by the bureaucrat in the central office?  Whether we have a Charter Cluster or an independent school system, any future redistricting ought to be done by the Dunwoody community.  This is the same argument we used to justify a local Dunwoody city government.  Don’t we want the ability to control our own destiny?  

Allegra Johnson
Robert Wittenstein

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Plan to Stop Independent School Districts

Here is how one casual observer sees the independent school issue failing to make it to a statewide ballot:

Step 1. SACS mouthpiece Mark Elgart keeps DeKalb County Schools on double-secret probation all of 2013, then magically changes status in 2014, just as Georgia senators and representatives meet. The headlines all over the AJC and on blogs will proudly show that DeKalb Schools is now functional and off probation. Nothing will have changed really, but the probation issue is not about fixing schools. SACS does not want a Dunwoody school system, nor do they want any new independent school districts in north Fulton County. SACS will continue to use the DeKalb probation issue as a political football, kicking us all the way.

Step 2. The good-ole Lipstick on a Pig technique. Here the DeKalb School System allows high school feeder systems to create Charter Clusters. Dunwoody High School, including all schools in Dunwoody plus Hightower, will be allowed to form a Charter Cluster. This Cluster will not have a checkbook. It will not have power to hire and fire teachers or admin staff. It will not have power to improve school bathrooms or other suffering infrastructure. What will it do? Well, perhaps it will have the Power to redraw attendance lines. Yes, we predict the Charter Cluster leaders will be given a Sharpie and a blank map, especially with a new Austin on the horizon.

The DeKalb School System will also allow other high schools feeder systems to form these distractionary "innovative" Charter Clusters. There will be lots of press releases on this issue, and planted stories in the AJC. All this will be to defuse the movement of the independent school system movement. Approval for these Charter Clusters will come just before the next General Assembly. Remember, the power brokers in DeKalb do not care about education or improved learning, or anything other than controlling the $1 Billion budget. A new school board thinks they are in charge, yet the central office still runs the show. After two New Board meetings we have a new calendar and a bunch of new cars for central office staff. What a great start.

Step 3. Get one legislator to bury this independent school issue in committee where it never sees the light of day. Not all the senators and representatives play nice in the Capitol sand box. No matter how influential a person is/ is not, it takes only one key person to stop this movement. We need our legislators out there publicly working hard for this independent school district. We don't need them to drop other Bills next year.

The focus now in Dunwoody should be on the independent school district. Everything else is taking away steam from that engine. If the Independent school issue fails, then seek alternatives.