How do you improve a school?

Teachers are expected to return to school soon for pre-planning. (Provided they’re not furloughed.)

They’ll be setting up their classrooms and getting ready for the first day of school. Many will pour over test data from AYP, CRCT, GHSGT and EOCT.

Discussions will take place on how to improve. What extra help can be provided to students who miss in math or struggle with reading comprehension or just can’t pass the high school science tests.

Teachers and others will develop new lessons and try new teaching strategies. They’ll figure out ways to give struggling students extra help during the school day or before and after school or on the weekends.

Are those steps enough?

When we look at struggling schools that have turned themselves around so much more comes to play.

Parents and community members volunteer their time as tutors and mentors. The central office and sometimes the Georgia Department of Education provides extra help. Students take more responsibility for their own success.

How can a school improve? How much of the work must come from the school and its staff and what role must parents, students and the local community play?

129 comments Add your comment

Jeff

July 24th, 2009
10:05 am

“How can a school improve?”

Change the schools demographics.

LSfromLawrenceville

July 24th, 2009
10:19 am

Enter your comments here

LSfromLawrenceville

July 24th, 2009
10:21 am

It’s known that most underperforming schools have low parental involvement. We need to start there. Kids will only perform with as much as required. When parents require nothing, then where is their motivation?

Smiley

July 24th, 2009
10:24 am

This question was answered by yesterday’s posts. Stop trying to track all children into college prep. Most kids cannot handle the classes required for a college prep diploma. Even fewer can handle actual college level classes once they graduate….. if they graduate. And… even fewer than that will actually land a job that requires a college education b/c most jobs do not require a college degree.

We are screwing over the kids who desperately need job skills rather than Shakespeare and calculus. We are also screwing over the high ability kids who are desperately trying to learn Shakespeare and calculus but they are having to sit around while the teacher deals with the kids who can’t keep up and don’t even want to be there.

As a result… no one is prepared for college and no one is prepared for a career. But… the educrats feel good because everyone is being treated exactly the same… and that is all that matters.

Education doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just glad I went through school when it did matter.

Flipper

July 24th, 2009
10:28 am

We seem to be trying to follow the “European Model” when it comes to health care. Why not follow it for education too? In most European countries, everyone does not get to take college track classes. Kids are sorted out in middle school, and the ones who are deemed worthy get to go on to schools with rigorous curricula that prepare them for college. The ones who do not appear to have the skill set for college are tracked to schools that teach job skills.

Seems that if the European way is good enough for health care .. it should be good enough for education.

Gwinnett Educator

July 24th, 2009
10:28 am

Time for my serious response. In situations such as mine, the school’s environment should be looked into if you want the school itself to improve. Teachers are NOT going to perform at their highest level when they are working in a poor environment where there is such great pettiness to deal with, lack of support from adminstration, and just all out foolishness from adults on a daily basis. Schools should be investigated when there is a turnover of 25 or more people every year (been going on here the past 3 yrs I have been here and I’ve been told it had happened at least 2 yrs before I arrived). That speaks a mouthful that you would lose that many teachers EVERY YEAR!!

A happy teacher will go over and beyond to make sure things are done at all times. Even when the students are challenging, when the teacher has been provided with a positive work environment, those obstacles are met with ease.

Bottom line, I don’t care how much staff dev., planning, peer planning/coaching, parental support (which is important), or whatever is in place, if the school’s morale is not where it should be..you can not expect that school to have significant improvements. It would never reach its potential.

just browsing

July 24th, 2009
10:30 am

I am of the persuasion that often times, particulary where I work, that there is a tendency for some parents to act entitled to good grades as they are tax paying citizens. Administrators will also take this attitude. The perception tends to be one where failure resides with the teacher, but the successes are usually attributed to the school or leadership. Schools will never improve if we are always looking for ways to attribute failures, and not looking at ways that we can all roll up our sleeves and address the issues affecting our students. Yes tutorial should be made available for students, however, my experiences have shown that most students are rarely vested themselves and usuallt will not attend, even when it is at their convenience. Also, parents tend to fault find with teachers, when they are confronted with uncomfortable news about Johnny’s performance, and sometimes will not even look at ways they perpetuate their own child’s irresponsibility or reprobate behavior. The PR issues have destroyed Georgia’s schools, from the testing, to the cultures which have become skilled at re-defining academic expectations. Schools are more inclined to be concerned with looking good- than actually being good schools.

The issues affecting lower SES schools directly reflect the issues prevalent in the community whether they be teen pregnancy, high drop out rates, drugs, or single parent households. In no shape, form, or fashion can these schools operate at the levels of those in higher SES communities UNLESS there is committment all the way around- even if the committment is just between the students and the faculty. It depends on each schools culture, and what is deemed important- looking good or acutally being good (which requires tremendous work in more urban settings). It can work however, I have seen it work- but good PR came as a result of developing a culture that emphasized success for all students from the administrators to the teachers to the students. All were held to a very high standard and teachers helped students to meet these expectation by keeping them focused on how much they were improving.

The charade starts anew

July 24th, 2009
10:47 am

How do you improve a school. Stop pretending. Stop pretending you can improve a school without addressing discipline. But, by and large, we’d rather pretend. And pretend. And pretend.

Way Down South

July 24th, 2009
10:53 am

That sounds like a vocational high school model and I can’t believe it has not caught on across the state. I know schools up north have them.
A large portion of our students have no intention of going to college and ramming English literature or ancient Rome down their throats has become a losing battle.
Teach them all but for God’s sake don’t teach them all the same.

Just Peacheee

July 24th, 2009
11:04 am

But…but…Way Down South, that makes far too much sense! Can’t do that.

Seen it all

July 24th, 2009
11:12 am

How do you improve a school? Get people who care about the children and are actually interested in their well-being. Getting people based solely on appearances and “qualifications” won’t work. Almost everybody has the prequisite skills. They all went to college. All of them have state teaching certifications. Most of them can give a good interview. They can tell you about “classroom management” and “guided reading”.

But what everybody doesn’t have is empathy, understanding, and compassion for people different from themselves. Not everybody is interested in all of their students learning, achieving, and growing. In fact, deep down, some people don’t want their students to grow at all. Some people, particularly those who work with minority populations, see those students as part of a group of second and third class citizens. Some people call them little thugs, hoodlums, trash, illegal aliens, immigrants, Mexicans, etc. They dismiss these people as insignificant and not WORTHY OF THEIR TIME, EFFORT, ETC. Many of these people see their teaching job as simply a stepping stone on the path to “someplace better.”

Why do I know these things? Because I have lived and worked among people who came into the game with the attitude that their students and families were beneath them and inferior. Despite all the “teaching skills” these people supposedly possessed, their students never seem to rise. At best, they barely meet state standards.

To make my meaning plain- if you don’t like poor whites, working class whites, blacks, Hispanics, non middle class Asians and Eastern Indians, and other nonwhite, nonmiddle class groups, don’t take teaching jobs where the majority of the student population is made up of those people. I understand that you “need a job”, but don’t take one just for a paycheck and something to put on resume. When you do that, you end up being miserable and the children end up being miserable as well. This explains why our schools are in the condition they are in. It’s not the class sizes, “teacher training”, teacher salaries, materials and resources availability, etc. It’s having people as teachers (AND ADMINISTRATORS) who are not interested in working to get the best out of the students put in front of them. They see them only as objects to be controlled and manipulated.

So as it has been said before, it’s the teacher (and principals, etc), not the system.

Dr. John Trotter

July 24th, 2009
11:14 am

“Charade”: You’re right. It all begins with discipline, but you won’t hear this word even pop in any conversation by policy wonks, legislators, State Board members, or superintendents (especially not from the university professors of education who have their heads so far into the clouds that you cannot see their crania — the plural for cranium, eh?). Therefore, the public schooling process will NOT improve — not until student discipline improves. Establishing student discipline is the “dirty work” for administrators, and hardly any of the new genre of administrators want to do it or even understand its importance. Our so-called “school leaders” of today are trying to explore the high seas of school improvement using flat earth topography. It is really pitiful watching them wring their hands and wondering why the schools do not improve…heck, they think, “We’ve passed good education-legislation, commandeered standardized tests for the children to take and even published the scores in the media, and we have commanded the scores to go up.” And? No improvement emerges. In fact, the reality is this: The Georgia schools today are in worse shape than ever, and it is NOT the fault of the teachers. The Nitwit Educrats and legislators who are making decisions about education in Georgia do not have a clue. It would be like me teaching how computers work or teaching the advance (or lower) stages of Calculus. I wouldn’t have a clue. It is this simple: They do not have a clue, and they certainly haven’t even thought that starting with the establishment of school discipline is the essential prerequisite before anything else can even have a chance of working. I wonder if people like Christopher Columbus had folks to look haplessly at them when they kept saying that the Earth was round. Hey folks: A Round Earth, A Disciplined School. You have to start here. (c) MACE, July 24, 2009.

Where are GAE and PAGE?

July 24th, 2009
11:18 am

Where is the statement from GAE and PAGE saying if you have been furloughed do NOT go in? Prepare at home if you feel that’s what’s best for the students, but do NOT send the message that their are no consequences for the state to unilaterally violate your contract.

Of course making a statement like that would require taking a REAL stand for teachers, something that might pose of problem for organizations who have school administrators in leadership positions.

Where are GAE and PAGE?

July 24th, 2009
11:20 am

Make that “but do not send the message that THERE are no consequences.” Don’t want the grammar police to issue a citation.

A question

July 24th, 2009
11:24 am

Just a question here. Can we all agree that there have been efforts, with prodigious amounts of money spent, on “school improvement effort” that have been total, abject failures?

One the other hand, has there ever been a school that genuinely improved discipline conditions and the school still failed to improve? Ever?

Old School

July 24th, 2009
11:32 am

Our school could benefit from becoming 3 charter schools: College Prep with a rigorous curriculum designed for those truly college bound; Technical Prep with an equally rigorous curriculum that melds the academic with the vocational (technical writing/grammar/business communications, technical math/applied physics matched with specific training areas, etc); and (this will get me splattered) Special Needs with a curriculum that addresses life skills and academics tailored to their needs. These students could be carefully matched and placed into vocational areas as well. All three charters would come together in fine arts, physical education, and JROTC. Participation in extra-curricular activities would be more closely monitored for classroom behavior and academic achievement with intervention swift & sure.

Probably would take a lot of work on everyone’s part but by going charter, stronger and clearer disciplinary actions could be implemented and higher expectations put in place. I’d be willing to bet we’d see much improvement throughout each charter school.

Just me thinking with my typing fingers. . .

jim d

July 24th, 2009
11:33 am

THIS SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE.

CLOSE THEM!!

just for one day then reopen as schools of choice

Do the math

July 24th, 2009
11:35 am

Almost 500 comments on teacher furloughs, but at this rate, they’ll be less than fifty on how to improve a school. If teachers don’t stand up for things that are really important, how can they turn around and expect anyone to stand up for them when their pay is taken?

Gwinnett Educator

July 24th, 2009
12:11 pm

Do the math, I made another comment as to how we can improve..but for WHATEVER reason, it was lost..eaten up..or whatever. Guess I typed things I shouldn’t have. who knows?

Seen it all as well

July 24th, 2009
12:23 pm

Seen it all,

“So as it has been said before, it’s the teacher (and principals, etc), not the system.”

If you’re going to claim it’s the teacher, and not the system, you are figuratively slapping in the face every teacher who doesn’t work in a white middle/upper class school and implying that they don’t care about students.

Nothing could be further from the truth. How many truly caring, truly dedicated teachers have left the profession because they said they lacked support from the system? Way, way, too many, and there is plenty of evidence in exit surveys to even debate that fact.

Are you saying that when these teachers leave, it’s because they didn’t care?

If you’ve really seen it all, what about teachers who have been physically assaulted on the job, but the system, not the teacher, the system, violates state law and, in a systematic manner, refuses to hold tribunal hearings? Is that the teacher’s fault? Or is it the teacher’s fault for getting physically assaulted in the first place because they didn’t “care enough” for the students?

No doubt the attitudes you describe in some teachers are in play in some setting. But there is no doubt, none whatsoever, that the system has not supported teachers either in terms of discipline, in terms of giving them autonomy, in terms of job and legal protections against retaliation with PDP’s and the like to even think, much less begin, to give the system a free pass.

Teachers as a whole deserve better, even if some individuals don’t. The students they serve deserve teachers who are treated with respect, given the authority to do their job, and legitimate job protections against abuse by the system. To excuse the education system for what is wrong with the education system is, in a word, inexcusable.

Allen

July 24th, 2009
12:30 pm

More teaching less testing.
I just looked at the calendar for my kids’ school and it looks like something like 12-16 days out of 180 are given over to tests that as we all know tell us close to nothing (or in the CRCT case, less than nothing) about what kids are learning. Given the high stakes of these tests, plenty of class time that could be devoted to teaching is given over to test preparation.
In effect, probably more than 10% of the school year–which I think is a higher percentage than a student is allowed to be absent–is lost year after year to these idiotic tests.
Teach more, test less.

Sammi

July 24th, 2009
12:40 pm

JIMD…Closing and reopening as schools of choice sounds pretty good. However, that would have its own set of problems. If the school reopens with NO students and accepts on a first come basis, they will reach capacity and then what. The leftovers move on to the next school on their list, and so on . Using the current measurement [overall high test scores] to determine what a GOOD school is, you are still going to get “false positive and false negative” description in the end because its still going to depend on the students in the school.
NOW, if another measurement were used, say a measurement that indicates the progress each student has made in a year of instruction…..A Pretest before instruction and a Posttest after instruction, an entirely different picture would emerge. You may , and in my opinion probably would find, the schools with heavy populations of ESL students would show the most improvement and would be rated a GREAT school with GREAT teachers. PROGRESS depends on where a student is BEFORE instruction and where he is AFTER instruction. Typically, students who start at a lower point have lots of room for improvement and students who start already at a high level have less room to show improvement.

Sammi

July 24th, 2009
12:49 pm

For many years I taught reading, EnglishLanguage Arts in a so-called failing school with the demographics that one would expect for such a school.
However, I pretested each of my students and posttested each after instruction. EVen when a new student arrived I pretested him/her. No one cared about these results except me because it showed me whether or not my methods were successful.

NEVERMIND that their scores were not high at the end of instruction either….., a 7th grade student may have progressed from from a 3rd grade level to a 5th grade level, or from the 29th percentile to the 49th percentile…BUT THAT”S A LOT OF PROGRESS!!. And that happened all the time. Yet, our teachers were fired and replaced and we were labeled a failing school.

AP Teacher

July 24th, 2009
1:04 pm

do the math – I guess if this topic ran for 3 days, it would amass 500 comments as well!

In any event – we could make the schools better if students were appropriately retained when they didn’t meet the qualifications for promotion. By the time we get them in high school, the damage has already been done. Then, the parents, principal, etc. put undo pressure on the teachers to “just give him the 70″. It is ridiculous. Making AYP has created a monster.

Veteran teacher

July 24th, 2009
1:19 pm

The community should set the tone that education is important in the community. Teachers should teach. Support personnel should support teachers. Government should also set the tone that education is important. Government in Georgia has obviously set a different tone the past 20 years!

It is my experience that the community gets what it expects out of the schools. In my area, they expect a lot, and we are pleased to give a lot! Before anyone says otherwise, we have significant minority and free lunch!

Nikole

July 24th, 2009
1:37 pm

@ Do the Math—-I have been reading this blog since my first year of teaching, the 2004/2005 school year. I stopped commenting regularly, but have peeked back in on occasion in the time since. Same stuff, different day. These topics have been hashed out over and over, but the ones with the most comments deal with some big, local news story. Don’t be offended if I don’t respond to these topics. The past 5 years has shown me that I am better off doing some actual work at my school rather than blogging about it. I do find commenting here a release of stress though, which is why I continue to come back sometimes.

Gwinnett Teacher

July 24th, 2009
1:43 pm

The charter idea that Old School described earlier should be the model for the entire state. Not all children want to go to a four year college. We need to provide them with an education that they are interested in and one that provides them with the skills to enter an entry level job in their chosen career.

School choice is not the answer. Program choice is.

Gwinnett Teacher

July 24th, 2009
1:49 pm

I apologize if this appears more than once. The site seems to be having problems.

The charter idea that Old School described earlier should be the model for the entire state. Not all children want to go to a four year college. We need to provide them with an education that they are interested in and one that provides them with the skills to enter an entry level job in their chosen career.

School choice is not the answer. Program choice is.

DrinkSlinger

July 24th, 2009
2:05 pm

How do you improve a school? Well, in the state of Georgia, instead of cutting teachers saleries and adding 5 more kids to their classroom, you legalize alcohol sales on Sunday and put that tax revenue towards education. I can’t believe ol’ Sonny would rather put his religious idealologies in front of our childrens education, which ranks close to last in nation. Thanks Sonny!

[...] Continued here: How do you improve a school? | Get Schooled [...]

Reality 2

July 24th, 2009
3:08 pm

It appears that the draft of common math and English standards have been released – maybe not by the group, but… There is an article in Ed Week but you have to be a subscriber to see the article: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/07/23/37standards.h28.html

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

July 24th, 2009
3:26 pm

Follow around, watch and listen to Dr. Wayne Frazier, the new principal at Glenn Hills High School in Augusta, if you REALLY want to know how to improve a public school. Dr. Frazier (fraziwa@boe.richmond.k12.ga.us) has a history of turning around troubled schools among Richmond County Public Schools.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

July 24th, 2009
3:29 pm

Nikole is correct: our Education problems require ACTION. No amount of verbiage will substitute for it.

DrinkSlinger

July 24th, 2009
3:51 pm

Even though I am not against corporal punishment in schools, if that is what you are talking about, no study shows that our kids were smarter when it happened.

One way to fix our school systems is to change the idea of a teacher. Teaching jobs should rank up there with Doctors and Lawyers. They should make the same pay and be required to have the same amount of education. I know that it is not feasible now, with the way we spend our money, but if everything could be reworked it would work. If you knoew you could go to school for 8 years and come out making $75k as a teacher you would do it. And it would weed out those who fall into teaching because there is nothing else.

Also, we should model ourselves after some European countries, which we are starting to do with vouchers. If the government attached an amount of money to a child when he/she was born for educational purposes and schools had to fight over who got the money to teach the child everyone would win. Competition improves the product. Our public school system has no competition, especially for lower or middle class students.

Although you do have bad teachers, just like in every other industry, the system is to blame here. That’s one of the problems with us as Americans. Rather than admit what we tried was wrong and we need to try something else, we always push forward trying to fix the thing that is broken. We cannot admit failure. This is a situation where we need to swallow our pride and admit that the education system we have set up is, in great percentages, a failure. It is important to do so now… Our kids and gradkids educations depend on it, not to mention our fate as a nation.

Example… We spend billions of dollars on the “war on drugs” every year, yet we have made no progress. Doesn’t it seem logical to try something else? Yes… But our government cannot admit that it is a failure.

PS… We’ll leave the “dumbing down of america” for another day.

Courtney

July 24th, 2009
4:06 pm

We should do what the Founding Fathers suggested. (Everything Obama is not). We should give the schools complete freedom. Then find the ones that did the best job and then make the others follow that model. We should have a Federal style government but the National government is causing all sorts of paper work and problems at education expense.

To Do the Math

July 24th, 2009
4:11 pm

The reason you have over 500 posts is because about 50% of them were bashing teachers – and 25% were teachers trying to explain to “tired of whining teachers” how to properly calculate teacher pay. Anytime you give the folks around here a chance to jump on the teacher-bashing bandwagon, they do, and in droves. Race is the only other topic that seems to generate as many comments.

PR is definitely an issue for teachers.

As far as improving schools, my number one suggestion would be to quit trying to be “one sits fits all” – as any one who has gone clothes shopping knows, it’s really “one size fits most, and not that well.”

We need also need to stop trying to be everything to everyone – there are lots of comments on these blogs about how much public education costs have risen while results have not – that’s in large part because we spend so much on items that aren’t technically the “three Rs” – we’ve expanded our mission, and now we are stretched too thin.

LSfromLawrenceville is correct – parent involvement is key, however, so is parent education level. jim d mentioned choice – what he didn’t mention is that studies of choice programs have shown that students who parents elect choice do better whether or not they get into their school of choice – it’s more about parent expectations than the school , it would seem. However, students who had more choice – choice of vocational tracks, in particular – would likely be more successful. Allen is right about more teaching and less testing – ‘data driven instruction” is a nice concept, but we are drowning in data, and it’s costing us. Test effectively, but test less – then work with the data as needed.Smiley and Old School ae correct – we need to “differentiate” (to use an educational buzzword) our programs – we need more HS-to-work programs – not everyone wants or needs a college a diploma – and I recently read and article about how going into debt to get a college diploma is actually setting some students back. Employers want a trained and educated workforce – not every job requires a college diploma, but they all require skills – let’s teach those skills! Gwinnett Educator is correct about work environments – I’ve heard too many horror stories about vindictive administrators making life he!! for teachers – if a school has too much teacher turnover, someone should be asking why? That ties into the numerous comments about discipline – we are doing these kids no favor by not expecting proper behavior for learning. This also ties in slightly with See It All’s comments – challenging schools get lesser quality teachers because they are challenging schools! Turnover is high, so there is constant staff rotation – many who are hired are fresh out of college or alternatively trained – need to get a warm body. They usually transfer out to a better school at the first opportunity. Those that are left can be excellent teachers called to working with tough kids, but unfortunately there are those that aren’t very good, but stay because little is demanded of them. Teachers need to have better training – it’s one of the few jobs where a new hire is given the same responsibilities and is expected to do the same job as a 20 year veteran – can you imagine if we had the training and support similar to medical interns? Other countries give their teachers time to collaborate – can you imagine doing that here? The bashers would complain about that as well.

Off my soapbox – hope this posts!

To Do the Math

July 24th, 2009
4:12 pm

Didn’t post the first time – I’m trying again – if it posts twice, blame technology :-)

The reason you have over 500 posts is because about 50% of them were bashing teachers – and 25% were teachers trying to explain to “tired of whining teachers” how to properly calculate teacher pay. Anytime you give the folks around here a chance to jump on the teacher-bashing bandwagon, they do, and in droves. Race is the only other topic that seems to generate as many comments.

PR is definitely an issue for teachers.

As far as improving schools, my number one suggestion would be to quit trying to be “one sits fits all” – as any one who has gone clothes shopping knows, it’s really “one size fits most, and not that well.”

We need also need to stop trying to be everything to everyone – there are lots of comments on these blogs about how much public education costs have risen while results have not – that’s in large part because we spend so much on items that aren’t technically the “three Rs” – we’ve expanded our mission, and now we are stretched too thin.

LSfromLawrenceville is correct – parent involvement is key, however, so is parent education level. jim d mentioned choice – what he didn’t mention is that studies of choice programs have shown that students who parents elect choice do better whether or not they get into their school of choice – it’s more about parent expectations than the school , it would seem. However, students who had more choice – choice of vocational tracks, in particular – would likely be more successful. Allen is right about more teaching and less testing – ‘data driven instruction” is a nice concept, but we are drowning in data, and it’s costing us. Test effectively, but test less – then work with the data as needed.Smiley and Old School ae correct – we need to “differentiate” (to use an educational buzzword) our programs – we need more HS-to-work programs – not everyone wants or needs a college a diploma – and I recently read and article about how going into debt to get a college diploma is actually setting some students back. Employers want a trained and educated workforce – not every job requires a college diploma, but they all require skills – let’s teach those skills! Gwinnett Educator is correct about work environments – I’ve heard too many horror stories about vindictive administrators making life he!! for teachers – if a school has too much teacher turnover, someone should be asking why? That ties into the numerous comments about discipline – we are doing these kids no favor by not expecting proper behavior for learning. This also ties in slightly with See It All’s comments – challenging schools get lesser quality teachers because they are challenging schools! Turnover is high, so there is constant staff rotation – many who are hired are fresh out of college or alternatively trained – need to get a warm body. They usually transfer out to a better school at the first opportunity. Those that are left can be excellent teachers called to working with tough kids, but unfortunately there are those that aren’t very good, but stay because little is demanded of them. Teachers need to have better training – it’s one of the few jobs where a new hire is given the same responsibilities and is expected to do the same job as a 20 year veteran – can you imagine if we had the training and support similar to medical interns? Other countries give their teachers time to collaborate – can you imagine doing that here? The bashers would complain about that as well.

Off my soapbox – hope this posts!

To Do the Math

July 24th, 2009
4:13 pm

Third times a charm? And I know all three will probably show up at some point, so I apologize in advance.

The reason you have over 500 posts is because about 50% of them were bashing teachers – and 25% were teachers trying to explain to “tired of whining teachers” how to properly calculate teacher pay. Anytime you give the folks around here a chance to jump on the teacher-bashing bandwagon, they do, and in droves. Race is the only other topic that seems to generate as many comments.

PR is definitely an issue for teachers.

As far as improving schools, my number one suggestion would be to quit trying to be “one sits fits all” – as any one who has gone clothes shopping knows, it’s really “one size fits most, and not that well.”

We need also need to stop trying to be everything to everyone – there are lots of comments on these blogs about how much public education costs have risen while results have not – that’s in large part because we spend so much on items that aren’t technically the “three Rs” – we’ve expanded our mission, and now we are stretched too thin.

LSfromLawrenceville is correct – parent involvement is key, however, so is parent education level. jim d mentioned choice – what he didn’t mention is that studies of choice programs have shown that students who parents elect choice do better whether or not they get into their school of choice – it’s more about parent expectations than the school , it would seem. However, students who had more choice – choice of vocational tracks, in particular – would likely be more successful. Allen is right about more teaching and less testing – ‘data driven instruction” is a nice concept, but we are drowning in data, and it’s costing us. Test effectively, but test less – then work with the data as needed.Smiley and Old School ae correct – we need to “differentiate” (to use an educational buzzword) our programs – we need more HS-to-work programs – not everyone wants or needs a college a diploma – and I recently read and article about how going into debt to get a college diploma is actually setting some students back. Employers want a trained and educated workforce – not every job requires a college diploma, but they all require skills – let’s teach those skills! Gwinnett Educator is correct about work environments – I’ve heard too many horror stories about vindictive administrators making life he!! for teachers – if a school has too much teacher turnover, someone should be asking why? That ties into the numerous comments about discipline – we are doing these kids no favor by not expecting proper behavior for learning. This also ties in slightly with See It All’s comments – challenging schools get lesser quality teachers because they are challenging schools! Turnover is high, so there is constant staff rotation – many who are hired are fresh out of college or alternatively trained – need to get a warm body. They usually transfer out to a better school at the first opportunity. Those that are left can be excellent teachers called to working with tough kids, but unfortunately there are those that aren’t very good, but stay because little is demanded of them. Teachers need to have better training – it’s one of the few jobs where a new hire is given the same responsibilities and is expected to do the same job as a 20 year veteran – can you imagine if we had the training and support similar to medical interns? Other countries give their teachers time to collaborate – can you imagine doing that here? The bashers would complain about that as well.

Off my soapbox – hope this posts!

Nikole

July 24th, 2009
4:33 pm

@ Courtney—I take issue with “making the others follow that model” Schools should not all be the same. What works in one school may not work for another population of students. Some students need more time in school while others require less. Some students need a college prep schedule while others don’t. And the list goes on.

Earl

July 24th, 2009
6:50 pm

To Do The Math: All three posts look the same. Just kidding. It’s happened with me too a few times. Just try to be patient. Laura is good at fixing the situation when it occurs. Take care, Earl.

just browsing

July 24th, 2009
8:17 pm

Discipline with student and parent accountability are major issues. I have actually seen principals work through students to set a teacher up with the assistance of parents. There are obviously so many misplaced priorities at the top of the list in many schools, that it is who’s guess where to start patching leaks. The educational culture in Georgia is absoulutely outrageous and just plain old terrible. Is it any wonder that students behave, and achieve at the levels that they do? If parents knew what really occurred in schools, they would have a totally different view of the educative process in its entirety. It goes so much more farther than they are able to see, and it all impacts the learning of their child.

lol

July 24th, 2009
8:39 pm

lol – thanks, Earl! From “to do the math”

ScienceTeacher671

July 24th, 2009
10:24 pm

How to improve schools? Here are some of the things our state “leaders” seem to think will help:
1. Set abysmally low standards.
2. Create loopholes so that schools aren’t required to hold anyone to those standards.
3. Remove limits on class sizes, so that already overcrowded classrooms are more crowded.
4. Add special needs students to overcrowded classrooms, without supports for the student or training for the teachers.
5. Give teachers reams of RTI paperwork to fill out on students in overcrowded classrooms.
6. Take away pre-planning days a week before school begins, along with approximately 20% of the first month’s paycheck.
There are other things, but you get the idea…

Janelle

July 25th, 2009
4:54 am

You can’t improve a school if your administration is nothing but a bunch back stabbing yellow back cowards who allow certain students and their parents to get away with any and everything. Also make stupid decisions to try and make themselves look good in the process. Fulton County is quickly becoming another Dekalb. Remove the so-called leadership mess and then guest what there is a school.

ScienceTeacher671

July 25th, 2009
8:27 am

I suppose my post will show up Monday morning when Laura gets back to work….maybe.

Improve this blog

July 25th, 2009
8:34 am

I think AJC needs to be thinking about how to improve this blog…

InAtlanta

July 25th, 2009
9:09 am

Dr. Trotter is right, discipline is the key to improvement. THe younger generation in the schools want no part of discipline. Look at the money Gwinnett citizens pay in taxes. ALvin and his staff make too much money for what they do, the gov. thinks all of Atlanta needs water from Lanier when its really only Gwinnett. More homes buildt in Gwinnett, equals less development in Dekalb, equals no tax base for renovating Cross Keys. If it were not for the parents in Gwinnett, Alvins schools system would do no better than Dekalb’s. I worked for ALvin, He will promote an uneducated friend over someone educated with more experience and more seniority on the job. I know of one principal who sent a 2nd grade girl with a fractured arm onto class. THe child had been struck by a school bus and fell, a police report was made but still the principal did not do their job. Teachers are not too blame.
(Does anyone in Gwinnett realize they’ve stuck Ga. citizens with paying $12,000 per month for ALvins retirement?)

William Casey

July 25th, 2009
11:01 am

This is a WOW moment. School systems are political entities. My son graduated in May from Northview High where the median family income is $100 K +. His mom and I both have Master’s degrees +. Beau scored a “5″ on the Advanced Placement BC calculus exam. That’s “first team all-America” status. How can any low-economic-status-single-parent school compete with that? It’s time to get REAL.

Chris

July 25th, 2009
11:23 am

Hello,

Ask these questions:
Is this the worst it can get?
If it is the worst, accept it for what it is.
Now what are we going to do about it?
The difficult part will be the third question: What will you do about it.

To students – Do you have all your supplies for class , paper, pencil, and book, at each and every class. Do you complete your assignments each day? How many hours of study time are you going to devote to your education at home versus your gaming system? Do you come into a classroom with a positive attitude, follow instructions, and are ready to listen and learn? Do you follow procedures the teacher has set up in their classroom, or not? Do you cooperate with everyone in the classroom, or do you take all the teacher’s time having to get you to follow directions?

To parents – Do you talk to the educators of your children? Do you find out the other side of the story? Do you make an appointment to talk to the educator of your child, so all of the stakeholders in the education of your child on are the same page? Do you volunteer any of your free time to help with support programs for kids in the schools, whether being a parent volunteer, a parent organization, or just helping chaperon on a trip? Do you have a regular time for your kids to do their homework and studies each day?

Teachers – Do you prepare the best lesson you can give every day, no matter the instructional objective you are having to teach and deliver the lesson with passion? Do you evaluate who is able to do what you have taught, and who has not? Do you have a strategy to help those students who have not understood it yet?

I begin my planning for the coming year the first week of August. 37.5% of my “planning” time is in preparing my room and curriculum for the year. 62.5% of my “planning” time will be spent in meetings with administration. I can see the first thing that I would change.

Harsh reality

July 25th, 2009
11:27 am

If you look at the elementary schools and middle schools that didn’t make AYP, I bet they didn’t make it because of students with disabilities.