How can Georgia improve middle schools?

Georgia was one of several states cited in a new report for having low math and reading standards in middle school.

The study from the Southern Regional Education Board — a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that advocates for education in Georgia and 15 other states – says weak standards fail to prepare students for the rigor of high school.

While schools and states have succeeded in boosting student achievement in elementary school, many studies and experts say problems develop when kids enter middle school.

Where do you see these gaps? Take reading. In Georgia, 88 percent of students passed the CRCT in 2007 but only 70 percent passed that year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In math, the study noted students across the country are being pushed to learn algebra and other advanced lessons before they’ve mastered basic skills.

Georgia has introduced new math standards requiring middle school students to learn algebra and other topics previously taught in high school.

Why do you think Georgia and other states struggle with student achievement in middle school? How do we improve our middle schools?

70 comments Add your comment

Happy

July 2nd, 2009
8:49 am

Uh NO. Its these lazy good for nothing parents that refuse to monitor their childs progress. They are the first to scream “my little latrina dont no nuffin.”

Cobb Science Teacher

July 2nd, 2009
10:06 am

They need to remediate better – in middle school, you can be promoted or placed from grade to grade, even if you fail basic classes such as math. Then, when they get to HS, there is this major wake-up call – you fail a class, you actually have to take it over again until you pass it – imagine that! No wonder the kids have trouble.

We need something in place for students who fail certain single classes, but otherwise pass the year – mandatory Saturday school, after-school tutoring, or repeating the class instead of an elective (connection or exploratory – whatever you call it – fail math in 6th grade, no PE or Art as a 7th grader) – SOMETHING – otherwise you’re just you-know-what in the wind.

There also needs to be some way to earn more HS credit – right now, only accelerated math and foreign language can get a student HS credit – there should be more options open to more students.

Finally, I’m not sure that this 30+ year experiment called middle school has actually worked – I think there is something to be said for the old 7-8-9 junior high arrangement. Sixth grade still needs things like reading, which it often doesn’t get at the MS level (in large part due to NCLB, believe it or not). I think the MS model would be fabulous for 4-5-6 intermediate schools, and the 7-8-9 junior high for older students to ease them into HS. I also agree with a poster from the other day who said that the 4 years of HS might be an outdated model – neither of my children needed a full complement of classes all for 4 years to graduate – with dual seals and honors.

Tony

July 2nd, 2009
10:21 am

Middle school students do need help, but it may not be as easy as you think to boost achievement amongst children in this age group.

First, the National Assessment of Educational Progress does not have a passing score. Its scores are reported in four categories that are broadly defined. The top two categories are often considered by many to be “passing”, but when you read the details of the broad score areas, you will notice that there is a huge gap in how “Proficient” and “Basic” are described.

Second, middle schools receive the least funding per child of all categories of schools. Believe it or not folks, it takes money to educate children. Teachers need more time to focus on the work that it takes to be prepared to teach. Planning and collaboration must become a priority in middle schools for us to reach more children and help them to achieve higher scores.

The new performance standards are better – especially the math standards. The problem now is getting all the teachers up to par with this new curriculum. There is plenty of research that shows how knowledgeable teachers are one of the important keys to students’ learning. Providing the necessary Professional Learning for the teachers should become a priority.

Third, there are cultural issues that affect student achievement that many people would prefer to turn a blind eye to. Schools can not be the only institution that provides support for children to overcome these obstacles. Poverty, lack of safe living conditions, poor health care (or no health care) and families’ lack of value for education all inhibit children’s success in school. (Parents: Teaching children basics of good behavior would go a long way in helping them with learning at school.)

Finally, teachers must acknowledge that middle school aged children have different needs than elementary or high school aged children. Teaching styles must adapt to these differences. There are plenty of resources available to teachers that would help them better teach the children in this age group.

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2009
10:34 am

Cobb Science Teacher – I’m with you, especially in regards to going back to the Jr. High model, in which teachers are actually certified in the subject matter, rather than in “middle grades education”. That would also address Tony’s point about teacher content knowledge.

This is not the first study showing that Georgia’s standards are too low. When that’s added to the fact that most students get sent to high school even if they don’t meet the already abysmally low standards, why should we be surprised when they struggle in high school or drop out entirely?

dbow

July 2nd, 2009
10:55 am

I’ve taught middle school math for 15 years now and I’ve seen educational reforms come and go and all of them were heavily touted as then next great fix for what ails students. They all failed. They will always fail. Why? Because they never take into account the human factor. Parents are unable or unwilling to help their children and the students themselves are unmotivated. The administrations of most schools have zero accountability standards for students and instead put all responsibility on teachers. BASICS, BASICS, BASICS!!! That’s what we need to get back to. It’s not the rocket science that the educational elite would have the public believe. The educrats want the public to believe that the solutions to these problems are vast and complex so that they can continue to spoon feed their agendas down our throats. Not true. High expectations, accountability and good teaching is all it takes.

high school teacher

July 2nd, 2009
11:03 am

In the middle school more than any other level, we need a true alternative school for kids who are deficient. Take them out of the traditional setting and keep them there until they are proficient. Then, they can re-join their class at the appropriate level.

Ditto to Cobb teacher – when kids fail English in 9th grade, they are amazed to learn that they must take the class again! Many years ago when the graduation test was in infancy, we pulled permanent records of kids who failed the English section. Most of them who failed the graduation test in 11th grade had not passed a single English class in middle school. Several were recommended by teachers to be held back, but the parents insisted that they go on to high school.

Sammi

July 2nd, 2009
11:19 am

GET RID OF THEM !
It is not wise to enclose { pen up} huge numbers of children in the midst of the most difficult transition of their lives . Public schools should be K-7 or maybe 8, and 8 or 9 -12.

Dr. John Trotter

July 2nd, 2009
11:51 am

What can improve education in the middle schools? This is the question. The answer: Some real D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E. The middle school students are coddled and pampered, resulting in the bullies running the schools. The administrators are afraid to discipline the bullies. Hence, there is a reign of terror. Example: Look at the chaos in Crawford Lewis’s DeKalb County School System. When a teacher does try to discipline a student, so many times the teacher is sent to see State Senator Ronald Ramsey or Robin Goolsby in the Office of Internal Resolutions. We have had many complaints from teachers how this Office immediately talks down to the teacher and takes a posture that the teacher is guilty. The administrators are terrified about parents taking complaints to the school board. Crawford Lewis and his entire adminstration need to go. If the school board does not get rid of Crawford Lewis, then the voters need to vote out everyone of the members of the DeKalb County Board of Education! This is particularly true for Sara Coplin-Wood.

The whole theory behind the middle school concept which came in vogue in the 1980s was a desire to coddle the little babies in middle school. It has never worked. It never accomplished anything in Georgia (or elsewhere) except to bring chaos to the schools. In fact, the General Assembly a few years ago took away the financial incentives for middle schools in Georgia. The middle school concept was again another trendy educational fad which proved demonstratively to be a flop.

At MACE, we simply believe that good discipline is the key to good education. The private schools understand this and hardly venture away from the model of good discipline. The public schools left this model years ago — especially school systems like DeKalb County. At MACE, our mantra is this: “You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.” (c) MACE, 2009.

Competitive

July 2nd, 2009
12:04 pm

I have taught middle school in Georgia for 10 years. These are my suggestions.

Smaller schools- Too many adolescents in one building is likely to cause problems. If the entire school cannot fit in one room (auditorium, gymnasium, etc.) for a schoolwide assembly, then the school is too big.

As dbow stated, high expectations, accountability, and good teaching are key.

High expectations- Students have to pass every subject each year (grades and CRCT) to be promoted. Attendance and behavior must meet certain levels to remain at the regular school.

Accountability- If you fail math, you retake the math course. Look at each subject individually, not together with the other subjects in the grade level. Teachers, parents, and administrators must stop making excuses for the students who are not performing and passing them on through the SST process. In fact, eliminate SSTs completely. They are a complete waste of time.

Good teaching- Give teachers the freedom to teach in the style that works best for them and their students, so long as they produce results. If the teacher can’t get results, get rid of them.

Also, as was mentioned by ScienceTeacher671, requiring teachers to have a more academic certification in their subject area would be helpful.

There are other factors that must be addressed, but this would be a good start. I’ll hold my breath and wait for them to happen!

TW

July 2nd, 2009
1:10 pm

Mandatory, daily physical education has been proven to reduce behaior problems, while increasing both motivation and test scores. Physically fit kids perform better academically.

Seen it all

July 2nd, 2009
1:17 pm

I hear many college professors complain about the students they receive from the high school. I hear many high school teachers complain about the students they receive from the middle school. I hear many middle school teachers complain about the students they receive from the elementary school. I then hear many elementary teachers complain about the students, their parents, and the homes they come from.

How about this as a solution to “fix” our schools- why don’t you just concentrate on teaching the students in front of you to the best of your ability? The United States of America has one of the BEST EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS ON THE PLANET EARTH!!!!!! Our schools are the BEST EQUIPPED, BEST FUNDED, WITH THE MOST HIGHLY TRAINED TEACHERS any where. Don’t tell me about Europe or Japan. We can teach our children!!!!! We just don’t want to.

There are countries in Latin America doing just as good a job as we are doing, with a fraction of the resources. These same teachers crying and moaning about how hard their jobs are are getting paid OUTRAGEOUS SUMS OF MONEY (compared to teachers in other countries), HAVE LUXURIOUS CLASSROOMS, LOTS OF COMPUTERS, TECHNOLOGY, AND RESOURCES AT THEIR DISPOSAL. THEY HAVE CLASSES OF 12-14 STUDENTS AND STILL CAN’T TEACH THE STUDENTS THEY ARE GIVEN.

I was in Mexico last year and I went to schools where the teachers get paid much less than what I get here. They had class sizes of 35-40 students!!!! There were no computers in the classrooms, no LCD projectors. Only a whiteboard or chalkboard, a teacher’s desk, and student desks placed in rows and columns. There wasn’t any fancy posters all over the room, etc. It was just four walls, the kids, and the teacher. But for some strange reason, the kids were learning.

Personally I think the middle school concept is fine. I think the kids are fine. I think the “professionals” working in the schools are the ones with the problems. I think we as Americans, we have gotten spoiled, pompous, and arrogant. Many of us feel that we should have things our way, all the time. I think that if we went into the classroom with the ultimate goal of being successful and making sure all of our students achieved, then our outlook on things would be a lot different. We would be producing better prepared and skilled students across the board. “Improving middle schools” wouldn’t be an issue because no one would be trying to use the middle concept as a cop out for poor administration and instruction.

When you take a look at things from another persepctive, it opens your eyes. Quite frankly, despite the little problems we encounter with students and parents, I think we have it quite good. If it is as bad as you think it is, why not go to Honduras and teach for a while. I suspect after about a year of that, you might kiss the floor of your current classroom and “Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire” for the rest of your career.

ScienceTeacher671

July 2nd, 2009
2:46 pm

Then again, Seen It All, maybe it isn’t the teachers. Here’s a quote to think about:

“Priests and other religious leaders are not held responsible for the moral failings of their parishioners and they, presumably, have God — not a hapless assistant principal assigned to discipline — to back them. Never mind the facts…schools and colleges of education are ’stuck’ with preparing teachers for a profession in which ‘changing people’ is the ‘whole job’. Changing people should not be our job….Knowledge (including knowledge of education) and its communication are the teacher’s spheres of responsibility; study is the student’s. Perhaps students will want to learn, perhaps even change, but that is their and their parents’ affair. It is not our ‘job’.”

It’s by William F. Pinar, by the way….I got it out of a book we studied for a teacher education class I took.

Where the AJC falls short

July 2nd, 2009
2:46 pm

Nobody in their right mind would even begin a discussion on how to address the dysfunction of middle school without addressing discipline. But when the AJC started a Conversation Starter blog, Ken Foskett was asked why the editorial board has never taken a stance on supporting teachers on discipline issues.

To his credit, he confirmed that going back almost ten years, the editorial board hasn’t addressed it and admitted that he honestly could not understand why. The question then becomes, if the editorial board hasn’t even considered addressing something that essential, how can they, or this newspaper, or this blog, have any credibility at all on education issues?

If you want an analogy to put it into perspective, ask yourself if the AJC editorial board had written editorials on terrorism going back close to ten years, and never once mentioned Al Qaeda, would you think just maybe they had their head in the sand?

Just maybe indeed. And of course, once these tough questions were asked of the editorial board, notice how they stopped the Conversation Starter blog?

Cobb Science Teacher

July 2nd, 2009
2:51 pm

Seen it all – you said “I think we as Americans, we have gotten spoiled, pompous, and arrogant. Many of us feel that we should have things our way, all the time.” I think you’re right. I also think that our children have inherited some of that mentality from us and that’s a huge part of the problem.

You see, I too, have visited schools in other countries – I have spoken with teachers and with students and I have seen them seemingly work so much better with so much less. I’ve also seen that in Japan teachers are encouraged to collaborate with one another and to improve both their lessons and their delivery (and they would strongly disagree at our being better trained). They are given time to do that. I’ve seen in Germany that by high school students are on either college prep or vocational tracks – and the vocational tracks are not throw-away – they are strong programs with internships leading to decent jobs. I have seen in Brazil how motivated students are in the lower levels to learn as much as they can to pass the vestibular – a good score on that leads to a FREE college education.

I’ve also seen the flip side here in the United States, where my “international students” (you know the ones anti-immigration people usually target as ruining our schools) run circles around my native born, native English speakers – why? They believe education is important, and they consider it a privilege. They take it seriously If you were to take the time to talk to them you would find most of them are shocked at how American children are allowed to behave in school (and by allowed I mean by their teachers, parents, and school administrators – we’re all guilty). Teachers here, both American and foreign-born, who have taught in other countries all talk about how much better it is abroad – yes, with bigger classes, and yes, with fewer “bells & whistles.”

I don’t make excuses for myself – I work very hard everyday to reach my students – my students and my parents tell me that they enjoy my class and they learn a lot, and I teach at a so-called challenging school. I also would never say that there aren’t any bad teachers out there – of course there are – you find incompetence in every profession. But to blame all of the US’s educational problems on teachers not believing hard enough that their students can learn is ridiculous. First, it’s not all bad – there are many places in the US where a public school education means something and is worth something. Second, there are problems at every level and from every stake-holder – to solely blame teachers’ beliefs is gross oversimplification at its worst. It negates the difference in readiness between the child of college-educated parents versus high school dropouts. It negates the effects of poverty and under-nutrition. It negates the effects of poorly trained and under-supported struggling teachers. It negates the effects of inefficient administration. It negates the effects of unsupportive parents – you know the ones who can’t even bother to wake their elementary school age kids up so they can go to school. Is it a factor? Sure, I’ll give you that – but is it the most important one? I don’t think so.

The truth left unspoken

July 2nd, 2009
2:56 pm

Seen it all once again wants to come on here and bash teachers and talk about what teachers in other countries don’t have, and why American teachers should just shut up. As if somehow advocating for better teaching conditions in order to improve learning conditions is a bad thing?

But, having talk to many of these teachers from other countries personally, I can tell you what they have, that Seen it All has conveniently left out. Support for discipline. They’ll tell you, almost to a person in my experience, that it’s easier to teach class sizes twice as large in their home country than it is here, because of one word. Discipline.

Trust me, though they may be happy with the improved pay, and a chance to live in America, in talking personally with these teachers from other countries, the last thing they are doing is kissing the classroom floor.

Oh and Seen It All, if you had really Seen It All like you claim, then maybe you’d understand why teachers, who have been verbally abused, or actually physically assaulted, might have a legitimate right to talk when their legal rights to hold tribunal hearings have been trampled.

But no, Seen It All, obviously hasn’t, or won’t talk about it, because it doesn’t fit into the agenda of bashing teachers.

highly qualified teacher

July 2nd, 2009
5:10 pm

I agree with Seen It All. I think we have the most highly trained teachers in terms of college and graduate school degrees. Unfortunately, those degrees don’t always mean highly effective teachers. When we fill our schools with better teachers – not just highly trained and with many degrees – then our students will have a chance to compete against their counterparts from Japan, Singapore, the Czech, etc.

Yes, TEACHERS are the main issue — I know there are a lot of apologists for teachers, but I’ve seen too many incompetents…

Nikole

July 2nd, 2009
5:29 pm

@ Seen it all—-Have you ever taught public school in America? Please lecture me on how I should be a better teacher when you have been physically abused by a 6 year old on a daily basis. Or when you are trying to get through to a first grader that has been on armed robberies with his mom. Or when you ask for help in SST only to be told that the new process calls for you to figure it out on your own. Or half the class hasn’t eaten breakfast so we need to stop for snack breaks. Or your mom doesn’t care if you come to school or not. I could go on and on and on…….

Jeez Louise

July 2nd, 2009
5:42 pm

“physically abused by a 6 year old on a daily basis.”

I would have left that out! :)

you're kidding, right?

July 2nd, 2009
6:45 pm

I don’t understand why you continue to teach, Nikole. Why? Do you feel like you make any difference at all to anyone? Why are you putting yourself in the situation you describe every day? Enlighten me.

Nikole

July 2nd, 2009
7:20 pm

I love teaching, it is a fun job, however, to assume that some students don’t learn BECAUSE of me, is ridiculous. I get up and go to work everyday, despite that sweet-looking 6 year old, hitting me when I tell him to sit down, kicking me when he is asked to leave other kids alone, stabbing me with a pencil when I stop him from trying to stab another student, snatching a toy of his that I found, out of my hand and throwing it in my face, throwing a milk carton in my face when I go to whisper to him to sit down in the cafeteria. It’s my fault if he doesn’t learn anything? I love teaching because every year is a do-over. While other people have to go work and deal with the same people annoying them year after year, I get to start over in August. I get a whole new group of kids. My comment was made in response to another post saying that it is all my fault, as a teacher, that some kids aren’t successful, and I wanted to make it clear that my job is not easy. To do this job, you cannot be easily offended, you have to have an immense amount of energy and stamina and the patience of a saint. And I am so excited knowing that this upcoming school year can only be better than the last.

The question that needs asking

July 2nd, 2009
7:57 pm

Instead of asking Nikole why she continues to teach, why aren’t we asking why the system continues to operate like it does? People tell teachers all the time if they don’t like it they should get out, and think that’s doing something, but they forget one thing. Teachers do get out. Some bad, some average, but many, as in thousands, very, very capable.

And the system remains, because it’s easier to look at teachers at the source of the problem, rather than the system itself.

MBW

July 2nd, 2009
8:07 pm

I have taught middle school, and here’s what I think—

1) Expand/modify the age range to more of a junior high model—perhaps grades 5-9, or grades 7-9. And provide more leadership opportunities for students. Right now, in middle schools, the kids often don’t really have any positive older students to look up to.

2) More outreach to parents to help them adjust to this new phase of their child’s life. From my experience, many parents simply don’t know how to handle a middle school child and are desperate for answers and the schools don’t really help.

3) Better remediation. If students fall behind, middle school is the ESSENTIAL time to catch them. In my view, if the kids leave middle school without getting caught up, the odds of turning things around become very steep.

Seen it all

July 2nd, 2009
8:12 pm

Tonight’s homework: Get the book “Star Teachers of Children in Poverty” by Dr. Martin Haberman. A POWERFUL BOOK. A easy read (less than 100 pages), but filled with profound knowledge and wisdom.

I understand our teachers sometimes encounter challenges. But over the years, I have heard an enormous amount of criticism from teachers towards their students, families, and communities. Some of it is fair. Much of it is not.

I chose the name “seen it all” because I have been a teacher and have seen a awful lot over the course of my career. I have taught in lower income schools and upper middle class schools. I have taught majority white classes, majority black classes, and even majority Hispanic classes. I taught the gifted and the SPED. I had students who didn’t even speak English. I worked as a classroom teacher, an inclusion teacher, and teacher trainer. I have done extensive educational research and I also work as a consultant.

When I first began my career in education some years ago, I had many of the same opinions that other teachers (PARTICULARLY OF LOWER INCOME STUDENTS) had. I blamed every shortcoming that occurred in my classroom on somebody else. After being enlightened through life experience, reflection, and talking to other professional educators, I began to realize that I could make a change that would make my experience in the classroom more fruitful, productive, and less stressful. I learned how to develop better relationships with my students (and their parents). It was no longer “us vs. them.” I realized that if I changed my instructional methods to better meet the needs of my students, I might be (and was) more successful. I was never “Superteacher”, but I was able to find success in the classroom that many of my colleagues could not find.

I admit that I am not too sympathetic to many of the complaints I hear from teachers for these reasons:

1) Even when the teachers had compliant, obedient students, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
2) Even when teachers had small class sizes, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
3) Even when teachers had administrative support, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
4) Even when teachers had an abundance of materials and resources at their disposal, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
5) Even when the teachers had “supportive parents”, they seemed to have problems teaching the students.

Therefore one must conclude that the above criteria was not the key factor as to why their students did not achieve academic mastery of the required skills.

MBW

July 2nd, 2009
8:19 pm

My perspective on teaching is that I choose to focus on the things that I DO have control over.

-I can’t control each child’s home life…but I absolutely CAN control what goes on in my classroom.

-I CAN control how effective my lessons are.

-I CAN control how well prepared I am.

-I CAN control whether I set high expectations for my students.

-I CAN control how well I reach out to other teachers and to parents.

Teaching is a hard business to be in…but it’s no different than working in the “real world”. Even in the adult world you can’t control what happens in your co-workers lives…or in your employees’ lives. You have to play with the hand you’re dealt, no matter what your job is.

Cobb Science Teacher

July 2nd, 2009
8:24 pm

I agree with both your posts, MBW. In terms of leadership, it would be nice if there could be more peer mentoring between HS and MS students – maybe juniors and seniors could drive to the feeder MS and tutor/mentor/peer counsel – whatever – just offer some kind of age appropriate positive role model.

I absolutely agree with your second statement – more parent outreach to help, not lecture.

Teaching is not the real world

July 2nd, 2009
8:29 pm

“Teaching is a hard business to be in…but it’s no different than working in the “real world”. Even in the adult world you can’t control what happens in your co-workers lives…or in your employees’ lives.”

In the real world, when someone threatens or physically assaults you on the job, there are real consequences. We’ve allowed children to reside in an artificial bubble of public education, where we’ve decided it’s more politically expedient to ignore the physical assault of the teacher, or worse retaliate against the teacher when the teacher asserts their rights to a tribunal process.

But let’s keeps on saying that it’s the teacher’s fault for bringing these issues up, since that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.

Public school mom

July 2nd, 2009
8:42 pm

Middle school is a difficult time for kids but we improve it.

First, stop changing the curriculum in math and reading. The new MATH IS AWFUL and it is true that for a number of students the curriculum is too advanced because they never learned simple computation-addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The state did not need to spend millions and millions on new books and training. They needed to work on the delivery of the traditional curriculum.

And what educrat at the state DOE decided to implement an entirely NEW math curriculum in middle school? Can we please stop this before even more kids are damaged with an experimental high school math program that IS NOT USED ANYWHERE?

And the school systems must stop social promotion. Have the integrity to not promote students who cannot move on to the rigors of middle school. You are dooming them to more failure.

Eliminate differentiated teaching (lumping all levels of learners in one class) – it does not work and every teacher will tell you this. It dumbs down the class for everyone and does not help the learners who need extra assistance. Schools in Europe and Asia do not do this. Last time I looked there is no constitutional right to be in the honors or high achiever or advanced class.

Reality

July 2nd, 2009
10:01 pm

Totally agree with those that posted the MISTAKE of promoting middle school students from grade to grade when they have not earned it.

This practice is totally confusing for me. What does this teach the child? When that child (that has learned nothing) reaches high school, what do you think will happen?

IMHO, there should be a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade exam that the students must pass in order to be promoted. This test should be matched to the State requirements for the courses they were to pass. There should be NO exceptions made for ANY reason – if the student passes, then great and they can go to the next grade. If the student fails, then they must repeat that grade.

Let’s stop with the concern about ego, feelings, whatever. A student either learns the content or not, period.

Nikole is a disgrace

July 2nd, 2009
10:16 pm

If Nikole weren’t such a disgrace, if she’d only have high expectations like Seen It All does, we would have no problems in education today.

What Nikole didn’t tell you, because she was probably too embarrassed at her own incompetence, is that the first grader whose mom was robbing banks had Seen It All as a second grade teacher.

Because Seen It All used such superior teaching techniques, that child was able, in a few short weeks, to write such a persuasive essay that the mother no longer robs banks, and it fact spends her time making quilts for the elderly, and teaching self esteem classes to abandoned animals at the local Humane Society.

None of the other children Nikole complains about being hungry are actually hungry anymore, because in the first two days of Seen It All’s class, they were taught organic gardening techniques. No longer do they not come to school hungry anymore, they actually donate, on average, five thousand dollars a month in organic produce to local food banks. All thanks to Seen It All’s do it all attitude.

As far as the SST process goes, none of Seen It All’s students need it, because all of those students are now so successful, these second graders have already been accepted into college.

Sure, only 19 of the 21 of Nikole’s former students received scholarships to Ivy League schools, but that’s only because Bill Gates personally asked the other two to delay college to head up a new research and development initiative at Microsoft.

When asked if this was unusual to have 7 year olds in charge of multi-billion dollar projects Gates remarked that unlike Nikole, Seen It All was so adept at integrating leadership principles into the curriculum, his only regret was that Seen It All hadn’t taught them when he first started Microsoft, because if they had only been around in the beginning, Microsoft would have been a successful corporation today, instead of just a niche product.

When Gates was asked why he felt Microsoft had fallen behind companies such as Google when it came to Internet presence, he attributed to a former employee named Nikole who left to become a first grade teacher.

How embarrassing it must be for Nikole to go to Micosoft’s new Bing search engine, only to find out it was created by two of her former students who had the benefit of Seen It All’s superior teaching techniques.

Have you no shame Nikole?

AJC please get your act together

July 2nd, 2009
11:17 pm

If the AJC website knows a poster made a duplicate comment, then why can’t the AJC actually post the comment so that no one needs to make a duplicate?

This is how the AJC expects to market itself in the new media paradigm? Do they think that one day, people will actually pay for such online incompetence?

Seen it all

July 2nd, 2009
11:58 pm

Tonight’s homework: Get the book “Star Teachers of Children in Poverty” by Dr. Martin Haberman. A POWERFUL BOOK. A easy read (less than 100 pages), but filled with profound knowledge and wisdom.

I understand our teachers sometimes encounter challenges. But over the years, I have heard an enormous amount of criticism from teachers towards their students, families, and communities. Some of it is fair. Much of it is not.

I chose the name “seen it all” because I have been a teacher and have seen a awful lot over the course of my career. I have taught in lower income schools and upper middle class schools. I have taught majority white classes, majority black classes, and even majority Hispanic classes. I taught the gifted and the SPED. I had students who didn’t even speak English. I worked as a classroom teacher, an inclusion teacher, and teacher trainer. I have done extensive educational research and I also work as a consultant.

When I first began my career in education some years ago, I had many of the same opinions that other teachers (PARTICULARLY OF LOWER INCOME STUDENTS) had. I blamed every shortcoming that occurred in my classroom on somebody else. After being enlightened through life experience, reflection, and talking to other professional educators, I began to realize that I could make a change that would make my experience in the classroom more fruitful, productive, and less stressful. I learned how to develop better relationships with my students (and their parents). It was no longer “us vs. them.” I realized that if I changed my instructional methods to better meet the needs of my students, I might be (and was) more successful. I was never “Superteacher”, but I was able to find success in the classroom that many of my colleagues could not find.

I admit that I am not too sympathetic to many of the complaints I hear from teachers for these reasons:

1) Even when the teachers had compliant, obedient students, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
2) Even when teachers had small class sizes, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
3) Even when teachers had administrative support, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
4) Even when teachers had an abundance of materials and resources at their disposal, they still seemed to have problems teaching the students.
5) Even when the teachers had “supportive parents”, they seemed to have problems teaching the students.

Therefore one must conclude that the above criteria was not the key factor as to why their students did not achieve academic mastery of the required skills. What could it be?

College prof

July 3rd, 2009
6:57 am

As a college professor for over 15 years:
1. I think that our teens today are as prepared for college as when we were younger. Their style of learning may have changed, by growing up in an information overloading, multi-tasking world.
2. The Ron Clark Academy is in Atlanta’s backyard – why not ask him this question? http://www.ronclarkacademy.com
3. I know nothing about what it takes to teach in the K-12 system, especially with discipline issues. The teachers who survive and thrive are my personal heroes.
4. I do agree with TW above who mentioned that recess and PE are important activities to keep in schools.

Lee

July 3rd, 2009
7:43 am

A few random thoughts….

Back in my day, schools actually FAILED students in the elementary grades. Eventually, these students got caught up. Today, I read almost everyday on this blog where a teacher has recommended a student to be retained, but gets overridden by an administrator – often due to pressue from a parent.

I can remember doing multiplication tables until my eyes crossed. Yet today, in my 50’s, whenever I have to multiply a number in my head, I can still visualize line after line of those tables.

I learned to divide by working the problems in ‘long’ division. One of the issues I had with one of my daughter’s teachers was that she was teaching them shortcuts before they mastered the basics.

Those of you who cite an international classroom, think about the makeup of the class. I’m guessing a very homogeneous classroom. In the US, the politically correct pathogens will not allow grouping by ability level. Which means the teacher has to come up with a way to teach to the borderline retarded to the genius. For good measure, throw in a few ESOL and SPED students. Good luck with that.

What is with the infatuation to try to force feed everyone to take Alegebra I by the eighth grade. Way back when, we took pre-algebra in the eighth grade – and we were the “advanced” class who took a college prep curriculum in high school.

Middle school = puberty. Probably makes more sense to have a K-6, send the kids home for a couple of years, and then bring them back for 9-12.

catlady

July 3rd, 2009
7:49 am

I have been an ESOL teacher for 10 of my 37 years in education, and when I travel I go to the schools (for fun!) Some of the differences have been mentioned above in terms of student motivation and parental support. I can say I have only had one parent in all these years who wasn’t supportive (we were picking on his thug son). Other than that I am met with “We will take care of this tonight”. Discipline is another issue. My ESOL students who attended school in other countries are uniformly shocked at the behavior that is allowed in American schools. In addition, students who misbehave are physically punished, their parents are shamed, and if the bad behavior continues they are put out of school, no matter their age.

Finally, another difference is that many other countries do not provide sp ed services like we do. If a kid can’t cut it, for whatever reason, they are out of school and it is their parents’ responsibility to take care of them. (Did you know in the US sp ed kids can go to school till they are 23? And all the teachers, services, etc have to be provided?)

On improving middle school. Could you possibly put together a worse age group, developmentally, than 6-8 grade students? And our schools are waayyy too big–just warehousing. I taught for years in a k-7 school, and we had a much lower dropout rate and disproportionately more honor graduates once they got to the high school level, yet our community was NOT wealthy or well-educated. Why? I think it was personal attention in the lower grades (300 students total), accountability, parent support of the community school, and the opportunity for the 6 and 7 graders to be the leaders in the school, instead of the babies they would be at the middle school. It was a travesty when the 6 and 7 grade was taken from that school and put at the middle school, with very negative effects.

Happiest teacher

July 3rd, 2009
9:28 am

Ask the KIPP schools…They both rate with the best private schools in the state with a decidedly different demographic.

No wonder they are happy

July 3rd, 2009
9:38 am

And what do the KIPP schools embrace, that the regular public schools are too afraid to address?

Discipline. It’s not the only thing a KIPP school does differently, but without it, I would think even KIPP advocates admit their approach wouldn’t succeed.

A KIPP school will actually, get this, hold a child accountable for his actions and hold them accountable to his peers for disrupting the learning environment!

Discipline. What a concept.

Public school mom

July 3rd, 2009
10:01 am

This is very annoying. I drafted a detailed and careful response and it never showed up.

In a nutshell:
1) Get rid of the new math curriculum in middle and high school. Fire the DOE educrat who decided to implement a completly new curriculum in middle school and came up with integrated math HS courses that have NEVER been used or even pilot tested ANYWHERE.

2) Stop changing the curriculum and teaching methods. This was not the problem. The problem was failure to implement and monitor teaching of the traditional math and reading programs.

3) Put 6th grade back in elementary. Go back to smaller junior high schools with grades 7-9

4) Stop wasting instructional time in middle school with the CRCT. Use the ITBS – it is far superior and provides better metrics.

5) Stop social promotion of students who cannot do middle or high school level work.

Cobb Science Teacher

July 3rd, 2009
10:55 am

Public School Mom – we can’t just opt to use the ITBS – it doesn’t fulfill the requirements for NCLB which mandates standards-based assessments. The ITBS is a norm-referenced test, which means it compares to a normed group (giving the national percentiles that so many people are prefer). The CRCT is criterion-referenced, which means the performance is graded against a standard (either you demonstrate that you know it or not). Both types of tests are valuable – I say that they are akin to a PET or CAT scan and an MRI – they all give valuable info, just slightly different.

The problem as I see it, isn’t with the type of test, it’s with the bad reputation that Georgia’s particular brand of criterion referenced test has earned. Rumors of bad questions and low cut scores along with cheating and “teaching to the test” has undermined its importance and quality as a diagnostic indicator. Other states have their own versions of CRCTs (http://www.edinformatics.com/testing/testing.htm) yet many other states don’t seemed to be as mired in controversy as we are.

Wikipedia has surprisingly good articles about standardized testing and NCLB.

BTW – for the record – I am not an NCLB proponent, nor am I a huge fan of the CRCT – I just see that “dump the CRCT” comment often, and I feel that people need to know why we just can’t do that. Now, would I like to see changes in NCLB and how it’s implemented…ah, yes, but that’s for another day and another blog!

Cobb Science Teacher

July 3rd, 2009
1:35 pm

Public School Mom – I, too, wrote a post lost to cyberspace – basically I said you can’t trade the ITBS for the CRCT as they are not the same type of test, and the ITBS can’t be used for NCLB. Look up NCLB and standardized testing in wikipedia for some more info.

Frances Wilson

July 3rd, 2009
7:44 pm

Schools need to hire math teachers that can actually teach the subject matter, and care that their students learn it.

Born Too Early

July 3rd, 2009
8:22 pm

With all the hot teachers in middle schools now hooking up with students, I wish I could go back to 7th or 8th grade now and get some of this action! The teachers in my middle school in the 90s weren’t that hot or crazy wild like they are now.

Middle School Teacher

July 3rd, 2009
10:29 pm

The reason middle school students struggle is NCLB. The Federal Government has ridiculous standards on states, which has forced them, Georgia among them, to up their standards in math and reading. The study noted that students are being forced to learn new concepts in math before they’ve even mastered basic skills. That is because students have to take the CRCT in the spring, which is going to test them on those standards for their grade level, whether they’ve mastered basic skills or not. It has nothing to do with the teachers. I work in a school where 97% of 8th graders passed the reading CRCT this year, and over 90% of the 7th graders passed the Reading, Math, and ELA CRCT. And those numbers include SPED students. We’ve got good teachers. Parents need to take a bigger responsibility for their child’s education and the federal goverment needs to revise NCLB.

had enuff

July 3rd, 2009
10:46 pm

Houston County middle schools’ classes are too large; stick with the same small classrooms pushed during elementary schools. Address the discipline problems: teachers think the students can solve all of the problems that come up between students. Allow the students to engage in more extracurricular activities; it is already tough socially, and to say that the 6th graders cannot participate in any activities make the transition harder. The transition socially is the hardest problem in middle school—not the curriculum.

say what?

July 3rd, 2009
10:47 pm

OK, can we stop the teacher, parent, and administrator bashing? the problem is bigger than these 3 groups. It is difficult to do much teaching with children out of control, but I notice that there are some teachers who can still put the fear of the teacher in the kids, and get them to work hard in the classroom. Respect for the child at such a difficult life development stage is important.
Now everyone talks about discipline discipline discipline. a few months ago Columbia Middle School was happy to be recognized as 2nd in the state, 1st in DCSS for the amount of discipline referrals, yet over 150 8th graders had to attend summer school? which is more important discipline that puts kids out of the class, or working with the child and parent/guardian to make sure the child has some positive experiences. Kids listening to staff complain about other students can definitely affect children’s behavior, discipline, or self worth. Not helpful to put kids in a large building and say find yourself. Back to Columbia, when the principal tells parents, “mom it is time for you to cut the strings” (more than 5 times, more than 1 parent)what does the school environment get for this type of parent appreciation?
Grades 7 and 8 together may be the best because 6th graders are seriously immature. 9th graders have to be housed in the hs because 9th grade is a part of carnegie units for graduations.

A good option to include the parents would be offering an opportunity for those parents who are afraid to do homework with students, a class every six weeks on what will be taught in the next six weeks. Parents who don’t know, may trivialize the homework as unnecessary because they don’t understand. Helping parents to help themselves may go a long way in helping the student. Harvard Family Parent Project jsut issued a new report on developing the school-family-community partnership. If we could get teachers, principals, and non-school administrators to actually apply what is read some situations could be altered.

Ricky

July 3rd, 2009
10:55 pm

I believe that if most middle schools would get rid of the thugs at their school things would improve. You can’t teach those who do NOT want to learn. Too many administrators and teachers think that they can “save” that child. You know what if it didn’t work in earlier grades it isn’t going to work any time soon. Place the thugs in alternative schools for a year. If they can handle it at their regular school after that so be it. If not back to alternative school. That’s the way it will be in life. Jail, then back on the streets. If they can’t handle it it will be in the grave or back in jail.

Johnny

July 3rd, 2009
11:22 pm

Why am I not surprised at all that the blue jean thieves are all black and their mug shots portray them with the thug look. What a couple of stupid looking specimens.

That one guy – Quantavious? WTH kind of name is that – except for a stupid moronic thug. I looked it up to see if it was a real name and what it means.

It means “smart”.

Ricky

July 3rd, 2009
11:23 pm

Get the thugs out of the middle schools and you will have better middle schools.

Courtney

July 3rd, 2009
11:43 pm

The State passed a law that if you failed the 5th grade Math CRCT then you should not be promoted. But schools exempt 99% of these kids and socially promote them!!! Middle schools can only deal with what Elem principals give them.

Luther

July 4th, 2009
12:09 am

come on black folks, enter society. learn etiquette. stop cracking gum, littering, spitting, cussing, showing your underwear, using cheap headphones sharing your music will everyone, disrespecting others and join the team. Teachers in the ghetto should quit inflating grades.

Steve

July 4th, 2009
6:49 am

Lot of comments that show most do not have a clue. Teachers in middle school are certified in content areas. The problem is that the math and science teachers with common sense tend to move to the high school instead of stay at middle school. This means having to find a warm body to cover the curriculum. See, in high school the students just drop out or never come back but they are there in middle school. I have personally witnessed high school teachers kicking kids out of class for stupid minor stuff but middle school teachers try to get something out of the student. Of course if they wrote all the kids off the high schools would have nobody to teach. Socially promote those that don’t. If you want some 17 year old thug in class with your 12 year old daughter then you are basically stupid. Tons of great ideas like remediate but where is all the money going to come from? Are any of you volunteering? The main difference between middle school and junior high is the desire to take a hormonally dysfunctional child and get them to achieve. I can see that most of you don’t work with this age group. Ship them off – where you going to put them? Reality is that you would have to ship off 90% of the students because this age group constantly challenges accepted social boundries. Remember, middle schools, like parents, do NOT keep the good ones and just send on the “bad” ones. Boot camps don’t work. Hand picked academies look good but why isn’t Oprah spending her money in the US? How much does Ron Clark have to spend per student compared to a typical middle school? Private schools just kick out the bad ones and send them back to public schools. Most of you live in lala land. Not one good idea has been promoted on this post.