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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Math anyone?

September 13, 2011 2 comments

A young family member of mine was visiting us after school recently. When I came home, my wife was working with my son on writing his name and coloring inside the lines. I asked the young family member if he had done his home work and he said he had. So I proceeded to ask him a question; convert the fraction one-fifth to a decimal. Now, I have been asking the young people in my family and my wife’s family that same question for more than a decade. And during that time few if any have been able to answer the question without some guidance. What is distressing is that I ask them at a time in their educational development where they should know the answer, as well as know how they arrived at the answer. So I have to ask the question;  how is it that an 8th grader in middle school cannot convert a fraction to a decimal and vice versa? And when I say he could not do it, I don’t mean he attempted to work through the steps and came up with a bad answer, he actually had no clue how to tackle the problem. How do you get to the eighth grade and not know basic math concepts. There is something wrong with that. If a student cannot do basic math how is it possible for him or her to understand complex mathematical operations later in their education. He is behind, an will likely never catch up. When I look at the CRCT scores for schools, I tend to zero in on the math. If you look at math scores they generally get worse across the board starting around the fourth grade and never rebound. I know there tends to be a general dislike of math in our society, but math is the driving force behind so many, if not all,  of the advancements we enjoy today. Things as widely available as the internet in its foundation is based on mathematical concepts. Software that run the myriad of sites we spend hours at a time on are based in large part on mathematic principles. It is disturbing for me when I see middle and high school kids unable to solve basic math problems. This problem should be a concern for parents as well as presidents. The educational morass that our children are in cannot bode well for our country’s future.

Entitlement generation in South DeKalb

September 2, 2011 2 comments

On my trip home from work recently, I overheard a conversation that involved about five twenty-something’s. The conversation involved an EBT card(food stamps for those who don’t know) and the fact that the cardholder was having some issues using it recently. She was obviously upset, and she should have been. after all, from my perspective, she could not purchase food for herself nor anyone she was responsible for. But it was a statement she made later that upset me. She went on to say that she “earned’ her “stamps” and “how could they “screw her —- up”. the others around her, another young lady and three guys all lamented her situation and echoed her belief that she had earned her “stamps”. How could “they” do this to me. One guy even chimed in that he had recently experienced issues with his card. All of this sent my head a spinning. How does one “earn” an EBT card? I always thought “they” gave you an EBT card. After a few moments digesting what she had said, my thoughts turned to frustration. How dare she say she earned her card considering it was our tax dollars that provided the funds for the card. Then that thought went away quickly as I realized my frustration should be directed at the system that allows such attitudes to perpetuate themselves. I started to think about not what she said specifically, but what her statement meant for us as a society as a whole. What I gleaned from this group of young people was that they felt they were entitled to that card. They felt that just being alive entitled them to have that EBT card so they do not have to spend any money on a basic necessity. By the time I got to my stop, I had come to the same conclusion that many others before me had; we are producing a society of men and women, and by extension children, who feel they are entitled to things. Nothing has to be earned, but it should be given. It has become a popular notion that just being born entitles you to food, housing, insurance, and even a diploma. All at no cost to the individual. The prevailing belief among a large number of people is that you should not have to work to pay for food and shelter, and other necessities. When you work you should be able to use that money for leisure activities, or so it is believed. No need to study hard, because they are going to have to let me walk across that stage, because I was born and I have a right to walk across that stage whether I met the requirements to walk or not. Why should I take care of my children when the schools and the state can do it for me. By the time all my thoughts had finished swirling around in my head, I settled back and realized that what is wrong with South DeKalb and with our society in general is that we have become a nation that feels entitled to things as oppose to working for them. It is obvious from our schools to the streets to our prisons. Successful individuals do not feel entitled to anything. They work hard and reap the rewards of that hard work. It transcends social standing, economic status and racial identification. It is a learned behavior and until many of us unlearn that entitlement mentality we are surely never going to be successful at anything.

Will new superintendent be savior for DeKalb Schools?

August 18, 2011 10 comments

The short answer is no. The more in-depth answer is we do not know. I have poured over the available data of her district in Ohio, and what I saw was not surprising. An urban, poor school district struggling to teach its kids. This is not an anomaly. There are issues like poverty and race that cannot be solved by superintendents. Those are societal issues that filter down and affect many levels of our society. As outsiders we are looking at data and trying to determine what our outcome may be based strictly on test scores from a district that we have no intimate knowledge of.  No administrator is a miracle worker. All they can do is put in policies and procedures that foster a healthy environment that will eventually produce success. Lets face it, minority districts with large numbers of students living in poverty take time and resources. No one should expect her to turn around her district in four years, and they should not expect it here either. In all professions, be it school systems, private companies, or even sports organizations, decisions based on who to hire is much more complex than raw data. We need to judge this candidate as a whole and not via pieces and parts based solely on numbers. What concerns me more than the test scores of the students in her district, is the fact that she has moved around a lot. That makes me wonder if she will stay committed to DeKalb for the long-term, say a decade or so. If she could stay committed and turn around the system without cheating like what happened at APS, then she will be able to write her own ticket. I am not going to let test scores be the primary reason for not accepting her as superintendent. We do not have to settle, but we do need to move forward. I am sure there are better candidates out there, but who can say that those candidates want to be here. Time is running out a decision needs to made real soon. Unless something shockingly gross comes out, I would be willing to give her a chance. That’s just one mans opinion though.

On another related note, I am not hearing much from my brethren down here in South DeKalb. Whether you agree with the boards choice on this or not, you should let your voice be heard. It’s pointless to cry after the fact. And please attend the meet and greet.

Here is your official invite from DCSS

Some background info on Dr. Atkinson from DeKalb School Watch

DeKalb Schools approval poll

August 10, 2011 3 comments

School started this week, and I have resisted writing about my experience taking my son to his first day of Pre-K at R. McNair DLA. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised but that’s all I will say. I want to wait and see how things go for the first few weeks before I formulate an opinion of the school. So with that said, the folks at the DeKalb School Watch blog have posted a poll wanting to know how parents feel about the school system. I have added my input and I hope you would do the same. Those guys over there really have their act together, and I bet the info they get from that poll will show up at a board meeting one day. here is the link to the post.

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/08/approval-rating-poll.html

And here is a direct link to the poll

http://bit.ly/dcspoll

Screwed on taxes, Screwed on Education

July 14, 2011 4 comments

It has been a while since I posted, but there are two things that everyone is talking about and I want to chime in on both

Taxes

I think any of us with a functioning brain knew that DeKalb taxes were going to go up. I don’t see how it could have been any other way. I am no anti-government squawker who believes all government is evil, but I will say that unlike private sector companies, and unlike individual’s, governments just have to vote in order to increase revenues. They don’t need to take on an extra job, they do not need to change their product line or shift their marketing strategy. They just have to say yea and it’s a done deal. That is how I knew it was a done deal. And even when they lower taxes as a gesture of “we care”, it rarely equals the increase they forced on us in the first place. I believe that taxation is part of the societal contract that we have with one another. There are certain things, like public safety,  I do not want turned over to private enterprise, and the only way to pay is through taxes. I do want to see better management of the funds they do collect. Though the CEO touts he has cut some 100 million from the previous two budgets I think he can do a little more.  I wrote a post  last year about the Georgia State study that said DeKalb could shed nearly 800 positions and still provided a decent level of service to all citizens. I would like to see the CEO put those recommendation in place. He asked us to swallow an increase, the least he could do is trim the fat in county operations. Also, I don’t think it is coincidence that the three dissenters in the group are all up for re-election in 2012. Here is where I have to wonder about motives. Of course Boyer would vote against a tax increase, that’s her thing. But Barnes-Sutton and May make me wonder if they did the math and knew that they could dissent knowing that the increase would make it through, thereby giving them cover next year to say they voted against a tax increase. Barnes_Sutton may be trying to mitigate damage for the bad check scandal, and Lee May might have his eyes on an even bigger prize. It would not surprise me. The only one to vote for increase and is up for re-election was Kathie Gannon.

Education

Everybody is up in arms about the APS scandal and the cheating on CRCT tests by teachers and administrators. It is a sad thing when people we trust our kids education with would betray them and us in such a way. They have sent a decade’s worth of children into possible poverty, crime, and hopelessness. Not all of the children touched by the scandal will end up that way, but I cannot wait until the report or documentary comes out examining what happened to the children who attended some of the schools with the most egregious offenses. That brings me to DeKalb and South DeKalb in particular. At the same time revelations about APS started to bubble up, DeKalb also was in the mix along with a few other systems. In fact, the principal at Atherton resigned and was arrested for falsifying documents in 2009. Now there is no proof as of yet that the state or the media found any systemic problems in DeKalb, but that does not mean it isn’t a problem. I do know that local media are looking harder at all the systems who were in the original report, so do not be shocked if DeKalb gets hit by this wave too. In fact this open letter sent to the AJC by the DeKalb County School Watch blog  could stir up the hornets’ nest and reveal some unpleasant information. In the end, we do not know what these children would have done later on in their academic careers, but what these teachers and administrators did was to take from them the  possibility of  academic success. They passed them along knowing they were not properly prepared. These are men and women who turned their backs on the very children they were suppose to prepare for the harsh reality of real life. Instead of preparing them, they turned into a bunch of Judas’ and handed over these childrens future to the streets and ultimately the justice system.

A failing grade for informal education

May 18, 2011 8 comments

Today was transition day at my sons school. It was a promotion ceremony for those who were moving from Pr-K to Kindergarten. I never really liked these things because I felt they had taken a minor accomplishment and made it into a very big deal. Growing up in Indiana, I never had a promotion/graduation ceremony until high school. Anyway, standing there taking pictures and listening to the ceremony, I found myself disturbed by the program and the reaction of the parents in attendance. Education is a lifelong process that involves formal and informal styles. Going to a school environment provides us with the formal education. Things we learn outside those walls via experiences are less formal. It is this less formal education that far too many parents are forsaking. I witnessed that today in the transitioning program. For example, The transitioning classes were tasked with dosing a performance of some sort. One class did a rendition of “one, two, buckle my shoe” with a sort of hip-hop flavor to it. It was actually very cute and you could see the teachers put a lot into getting the kids to do it correctly. Contrast that with the class who did a swing routine to an old ragtime song. It was very well coordinated and the kids performed a routine that required great timing. Like the previous class, you could tell the teachers put some work in to get the kids to do the routine.

Of course the class who did the “buckle my” shoe routine was showered with raucous applause. The other class with applause but with much less enthusiasm. I overheard one lady refer to one little girl in the first routine as “sassy”. I had to ask myself why did the second routine get such short shrift from the audience? Both classes performed beautifully, the only difference being what was performed. Then it hit me. It was the informal education that seeped into the school. These kids were exposed to this at home, and the school basically reinforced what they had already been exposed to. The swing act was strange and foreign. It was out of so many parent’s comfort zone. Many could not appreciate the fact that the second group probably had a much tougher time, since few of them would have had any exposure to a genre that is out of fashion right now.

For me that is at the heart of the educational crisis that we have in this country as a whole. Children who are exposed to a wide variety of activities and cultural knowledge tend to do far better than their counterparts whose world view is limited by the informal education at home, but also by the formal education at school. I have heard teachers in the past say they want to interact with kids in a way they understand. For me, you are doing more harm than good. If you come to them and deal with them in a way they already are comfortable with, how can you possibly expect them to grow and to explore. I remember when I started the 9th grade, some of my friends were taking shop classes and I wanted to take shop classes also. My mom had another idea. She wanted me in chorus and orchestra. I was so embarrassed, and spent the first week pouting and complaining. By week three I realized that I was there and there was nothing I could do about it. At the end of the semester, I had come out with a B in both, and learned that there was a whole new world of music out there that I had never even heard of and had some rudimentary music reading skills. To this day I appreciated the fact that my mom was willing to make me suffer in the short run so that I could learn something new and fascinating.

I don’t want to sound like someone who dismisses anything to do with hip hop because I don’t. It is actually a powerful movement that has provided us with a whole new perspective on the world around us. But it should not be the only thing that we expose our little ones to. We should expose them to classical, rock, international music and so on. We should take them camping or hiking or even gardening. If possible, we should travel with them. I believe that parents should compliment their child’s formal education with and aggressive informal education at home

My gut tells me that so many of the children that transitioned today will not get that exposure. And they will be at the mercy of a society that will leave them behind and feel no sense of sympathy for them. It all starts now, because if we don’t start now, we are going to regret it twenty years from now.

Can you reform poverty and ignorance?

May 2, 2011 Comments off

Snagged this from the AJC Get schooled blog. Its been around for a a week or so, but thoought it was well worth the read. No amount of resources will reform student achievement unless there is a change in mindset by parents. The most successful students have involved parents or guardians. The least successful students have parents who not only abdicate their responsibility towards education, they are lacking responsibility in most areas of their lives.

Are we asking too much of schools when we expect them to transcend indifferent parents? | Get Schooled.

Saquan lands at M.S. 223 because his family has been placed in a nearby homeless shelter. (His mother fled Brooklyn out of fear that another son was in danger of being killed.) At first, he is so disruptive that a teacher, Emily Dodd, thinks he might have a mental disability. But working with him one on one, Dodd discovers that Saquan is, to the contrary, unusually intelligent — “brilliant” even.

From that point on, Dodd does everything a school reformer could hope for. She sends him text messages in the mornings, urging him to come to school. She gives him special help. She encourages him at every turn. For awhile, it seems to take.

Meanwhile, other forces are pushing him in another direction. His mother, who works nights and barely has time to see her son, comes across as indifferent to his schooling. Though she manages to move the family back to Brooklyn, the move means that Saquan has an hour-and-a-half commute to M.S. 223. As his grades and attendance slip, Dodd offers to tutor him. To no avail: He finally decides it isn’t worth the effort, and transfers to a school in Brooklyn.

The point is obvious, or at least it should be: Good teaching alone can’t overcome the many obstacles Saquan faces when he is not in school. Nor is he unusual. Mahler recounts how M.S. 223 gives away goodie bags to lure parents to parent association meetings, yet barely a dozen show up. He reports that during the summer, some students fall back a full year in reading comprehension — because they don’t read at home.

Going back to the famous Coleman report in the 1960s, social scientists have contended — and unquestionably proved — that students’ socioeconomic backgrounds vastly outweigh what goes on in the school as factors in determining how much they learn. Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute lists dozens of reasons why this is so, from the more frequent illness and stress poor students suffer, to the fact that they don’t hear the large vocabularies that middle-class children hear at home.

Yet the reformers act as if a student’s home life is irrelevant. “There is no question that family engagement can matter,” said Klein when I spoke to him. “But they seem to be saying that poverty is destiny, so let’s go home. We don’t yet know how much education can overcome poverty,” he insisted — notwithstanding the voluminous studies that have been done on the subject. “To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”

That last sentence strikes me as the key to the reformers’ resistance: To admit the importance of a student’s background, they fear, is to give ammo to the enemy — which to them are their social-scientist critics and the teachers’ unions. But that shouldn’t be the case. Making schools better is always a goal worth striving for, whether it means improving pedagogy itself or being able to fire bad teachers more easily. Without question, school reform has already achieved some real, though moderate, progress.

What needs to be acknowledged, however, is that school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.