Friday, June 13, 2014

Overachieving Schools and Underachieving Schools

The blog post headline is a bit misleading as it is individual students doing the achieving/underachieving, but we'll stick with the story line.

Head over to Grading Atlanta (look at April 25th entry) for lots of research on public education and test scores.  The author has posted an interesting chart.  The chart plots test scores and the schools' percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches.  

The author states that a school with lots of students receiving free or reduced lunch scores lower than a school with fewer students receiving a free or reduced lunch (FRL).  Of course he has evidence to prove this as correct.  However, there are schools with a higher percentage of FRL students that test better than schools with a lower FRL population.  

First, visit his web site HERE and select DeKalb County.  No surprise that you will see most DeKalb schools fall below the line of expected achievement.  in other words, the majority of schools in DeKalb are full of students underachieving.  Take a look at Gwinnett schools.  Most of their schools are overachieving.

From GradingAtlanta:
One district in the metro stands heads and tails above the rest, and that district is Gwinnett County.  As shown in the graph below, virtually all schools in the county outperform what would be expected based on their FRL rates.  Even at Corley Elementary School where 95% of students are low-income and almost all are Hispanic/Black achievement is stellar.  Gwinnett County is “bending the curve,” a strong signal that something operationally is working right.  We should be learning from the district and highlighting their success, but because the data distributed by the state fails to adequately account for expected performance, that message is lost in the headlines.

From the Grading Atlanta web site:

Bending the Curve: Why CCRPI Misleads Educators and Parents

More than a year after students placed their pencils on the desk and closed their 2013 CRCT exam booklets, the Georgia Department of Education released its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), which is intended to inform schools how they fare relative to others in the state.
While the measure is certainly an improvement on the rudimentary Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark developed under No Child Left Behind, it can hardly be called a success.  It continues to miss the most important element of effective evaluations: expected performance.

Few would be shocked to learn that students who live in wealthy neighborhoods and have educated parents on average score higher on the CRCT than students who live in poor neighborhoods and have uneducated parents.  Yet, the majority of CCRPI points are awarded with no consideration of expected achievement.  Therefore, the measure is intrinsically biased.

This is problematic on both ends of the spectrum.  Schools with low-poverty populations are uniformly receiving high scores while schools with high-poverty populations are consistently receiving low scores.  Both are missing out on useful feedback.  If the intention of the measure is to let school and district leaders know where they stand, achievement should be measured relative to peer schools

In the interactive graph below, I have taken the CCRPI scores of all elementary and middle schools in the state and plotted them against a percentile rank for free-and-reduced lunch population (FRL Percentile).  By clicking the “type” and “district” options on the left, users can highlight the performance of specific districts and also see how local and state charter schools perform. The top 20 districts (by size) are listed first, then the remainder are listed alphabetically.  Users can also hover over the circles to see info about the school.

The trend line represents the score one would expect a school to achieve based on its FRL population.  Schools above the line are overachievers while those below the line are underachievers.

Above the line is good, below the line not so good

Why do DeKalb schools underachieve while Gwinnett schools overachieve?  Many parents place the blame on the quality of the teachers hired over the years.  Others blame the many programs forced on teachers over the years.  Place blame where you want - numbers don't lie.

Dunwoody Swim Week 3

Village Mill 395  Kingsley 379
Not since Johnny Weismuller have we seen such a winning streak in the pool as we had with the swim team at Kingsley.  But, as predicted HERE last week, the Kingsley streak is over.  The fine children of Village Mill defeated Kingsley this week 395-379.  Village Mill has a great meet next week against rival Mill Glen, our Meet of the Week (Comcast, live on Channel 846).  Kingsley goes to Brittany Club.

The Branches 422  Mill Glen 366

Zaban at Redfield - RAIN

Wynterhall 511  Deerbrooke Waters 259
Our good friends at Wynterhall move to 3-0 on the season.  Wynterhall now has its eyes set on a 5-0 season and a post-season party to celebrate.  After last week's out-of-hand celebration in the streets, it was calm this week as they take the win in stride.  With Huntcliff and Deerfield SL remaining we think da Hall goes 5-0.

Vermack 486  Fontainebleu 297
The Mack is Back!  After a beat-down last week, the Mack bounces back and trounces a local team.  Losing by only 200 is not that bad considering Vermack's star-studded lineup.  The Mack has a tough one next week with rival Garden Hills, then finishes the season at Mill Glen.

Dunwoody North 455  Huntcliff 341
The skies were dark, the river was swelling, and the meet was postponed. But fear not, Dunwoody North came back the next night and took care of business over in Sandy Springs.  After feeding the horses and skipping stones in the river, DN swimmers ate burgers and hot dogs and won some races. Dunwoody North should win their final two of the season.  Maybe DN should always have away meets.  

Huntley Hills 470 Deerfield Spal Lakes 288 

Rain Delay

Dunwoody North Swim Team 2014

A few more meets were postponed.  We'll update this post as they are completed.

 Week 3 Rankings
Wynterhall #1    last week #4)
Dunwoody North #2 (last week #2)
Vermack #2    (last week #3)
Kingsley #4    (last week #1)
The Branches #5    (last week #5)

Dunwoody Dog Park, What Next?

The dog park at Brook Run is still the center of a huge issue for the city council.  There have been four options discussed recently for the future of this park 'amenity'.  

Councilman Heneghan has posted public comment on the dog park from a recent meeting HERE.  A true gem in the video is when a Dog Park Posse member (who does NOT live in Dunwoody and does NOT pay taxes here but MIGHT be buying snacks or gas in Dunwoody) refers to a person (who DOES live in Dunwoody and who DOES pay taxes and who HAS suffered from the poor placement of the dog park) as "vocal nasty people".  And that's not the first time we've heard a comment like this.  The Dog Park Posse does not care about anything but keeping the dog park where it is, regardless of any evidence suggesting it be moved (or closed).  Meanwhile city council allows the dog park to stay in place.  As we've discussed here before, Brook Run is NOT currently a park for local kids and active adults - it is a Regional Park for metro Atlanta.

Option 1 was to move the park to a new location.  The new location is close to the skate park and the green house, next to Peeler Road. This pleases the 30+ homeowners in Lake View Oaks, but not the homeowners on Peeler.  Peeler homeowners say 'not in my front yard'.  The Peeler Road homeowner had the classic NIMBY comment.  They do like to use the dog park when an out of town relative visits, but does not want the dog park within hearing distance of his home. It's okay for the dog park to stay close to Lake View Oaks homes, just not Peeler homes.  But he did say he hopes there is a way for the noise to be reduced.  (there is a way for the noise to be reduced, see Option 4 below).  The dog park location was decided by a former DeKalb official throwing a dart at a map of Brook Run.  Many of the Dog Park Posse say it's not safe for the kids at the skate park and playground to have the dogs so close.  Well, that's a comforting thought.  By their own admission, a dog park close to kids is not a great idea. 

Option 2 was to move it just a little bit, perhaps a small shift from its current location.

Option 3 is to keep it where it is and make some improvements.

Option 4, code named the 'Nuclear' option, is to close the dog park. Option 4 has not gained much support, of course.  There are future elections to be won.

There is now a new option, Option 5.  Option 5 moves the park away from all homeowners.  It places the dog park, which we are told is not harmful to the environment (yet too dangerous to be close to children) on high ground, just behind the Dunwoody Community Garden.

Option 5 is perfect.  No homes, no kids, trees, a nearby water fountain, a central location.  What about runoff from the dog park into the garden area?  No problem.  It's not harmful to the environment.  If the council members believe the dog park is a healthy resource for the park then there should be no hesitation to put it uphill from the garden.  Problem solved.  The garden did not surround itself 100% by a protective barrier insuring they stay in that spot forever tree orchard, allowing a dog park to move in.

But just in case the green thumb crew throws organic compost at this idea, we have a back-up plan, a 50-year back-up plan.  Let's rotate the garden location every 5 years.  Over the next 50 years all parts of the park will enjoy this amenity. This 50 year plan also blocks any harmful lacrosse, soccer, softball, football, and baseball fields from being built.

Option 6:  We keep hearing about the huge economic impact the dog park visitors have on our local tax base.  We've been told that dog park visitors go grocery shopping, buy gas, and eat at restaurants - on their way to and from the dog park.  Surely Fido is not sitting in a hot car as these folks leisurely stroll the aisles at Publix or dine at our local food establishments.  Our city's economic director needs to get involved here.  What really is the impact of the dog park on the economic engine of the southeast if these people stop buying candy bars at the BP and Chevron?  Will we need to raise the tax rate?  

Let's assume the economic impact of losing a dog park jeopardizes our city's existence.  How about we put the dog park in the 'town square' of the new JW Homes project in Georgetown?  This will cause a huge surge in sales of the home sites and the city's goal of transforming Georgetown will be a success.  The land swap naysayers will eat their own words regarding the Great Back Door Deal.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DeKalb Commissioners Aim to Spend Millions for YMCA for South DeKalb Residents Free Use

DeKalb Commissioners do not yet have enough'Yes' votes to spend $5 million for YMCA.
Glad to see Elaine Boyer voted against the deal.

DeKalb Commissioners Aim to Spend Millions for YMCA for South DeKalb Residents Free Use

The DeKalb County Commissioners will vote this week to buy or not buy the South DeKalb YMCA, using $5 million of taxpayer funds. DeKalb residents in certain ZIP codes will have membership fees waived (30346, 30338, 30350 not included, in case you were wondering).


and HERE:

No news yet if the commissioners will simply pool their county P-Card limits and run the purchase through Visa or MasterCard.

Meanwhile, Dunwoody residents still wait on the $7 million owed for Brook Run (look at your recent tax statement and you'll see we continue to pay the Parks bond and will continue to pay.

In local parks news, look for Dunwoody council to spend money on a new dog park. This new location will experience the same issues as the current spot. And future councils can vote to move the dog park every five years until the entire park has had a taste of canine urine and Fido droppings. Our grandkids will be so proud that the dogs have had such a great time over the years.

"Granddaddy, remember all the fun times we had together watching the dogs play at Brook Run? It was so nice of the city to dedicate money and that rare park space for the dogs. I didn't really need a place to play at that park. Brookhaven and Sandy Springs people were thoughtful enough to put in some sports fields for me and my friends."

The good parks news for the day is that the new park at Georgetown is a nice place for smaller kids in that area.  The city did a nice job there.