Savannah fires entire staff of failing high school. By the numbers, this school is in trouble.

Now, it is a high school in the Savannah-Chatham County district preparing to fire its entire staff after the school failed to move its dismal graduation rate.  Beach High School meets the definition of a failing school because it has been classified as needing improvement for the past seven years by the state.

According to the story in the AJC:

The 200 employees at Beach High School — including the principal — will work there through the end of the year but will not be rehired for that school, said Karla Redditte, spokeswoman for the Savannah-Chatham County school district.

The teachers can reapply for their jobs but only half can be rehired under federal education law, she said. Staff can also apply for other jobs in the school district.

“It is a sad day for us,” Redditte said by phone as she stood outside the 950-student school in south Georgia.

Experts estimate the mass-firing tactic is used to turn around 20 to 30 schools in the U.S. annually.

If a failing school in Georgia refuses to make any of those changes, the state places a special administrator in the school to focus on annual progress measures such as test scores and graduation rates. In Georgia this year, 45 schools have state administrators in them, including Beach High School, state Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said.

Beach has been on the state’s lowest performing list for seven years, he said.

Like the Rhode Island high school that President Obama cited as an example of a dramatic action needed to shake up education, Beach High is taking the option of last resort to improve its performance and prevent state  sanctions that could make it ineligible for federal for up to $6 million in federal money, officials said Thursday.

In a recent speech on school reform, Obama said, “We’ll not only challenge states to identify high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent, we’re going to invest another $900 million in strategies to get those graduation rates up.  Strategies like transforming schools from top to bottom by bringing in a new principal, and training teachers to use more effective techniques in the classroom.  Strategies like closing a school for a time and reopening it under new management, or even shutting it down entirely and sending its students to a better school. And strategies like replacing a school’s principal and at least half of its staff.  Now, replacing school staff should only be done as a last resort.”

Under the turnaround model that shoves every school employee from principal to custodian out the door, the new management of the school can hire back half the staff.

According to state data, Beach High has 1,000 students, 77 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced lunches.

In 2006, Beach had a graduation rate of 55.9 percent. (Two years earlier, the rate had been a shocking 37.1)

However, the school was showing signs of improvement. Last year, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the grad rate was 65.9 percent, compared to the school system rate of  72.2 percent rate

On the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, 22 percent of Beach students failed science; 28 percent failed social studies; 10 percent failed English; and 10 percent failed mathematics. However, when you look at the far worse End of Course test failure rates across all maths, you have to wonder why the state even bothers to give the Georgia High School Graduation test in math since it doesn’t seem to reflect any real competency.

(Please note: I updated these scores Friday morning with the 2008-2009 data. What is odd to me is that Beach improved dramatically on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests last year, but went down on the End of Course Tests overall. Can someone please explain that to me? Having sat through the original discussion of the EOCTs, I have more faith in them than I do the GHSGT, but still wonder how a school could improve its science passage on the high school graduation test by so much, yet do so poorly on the science and math EOCTs.)

While the nation’s average ACT scores was 21.1 and Georgia’s was 20.3, Beach’s average was 15.9

Here are the End of Course failure rates at Beach for 2008-2009:

Algebra, 90 percent

Geometry, 87 percent

Biology, 79  percent

US History, 86 percent

Physical Science, 69 percent

9th grade Literature, 52 percent

American Lit, 40 percent

Economics, 79 percent

99 comments Add your comment

Philosopher

March 25th, 2010
5:34 pm

This debacle did not begin in the highschool-hope someone is looking a whole lot further back!

old teacher

March 25th, 2010
5:38 pm

You are right philosopher.

V for Vendetta

March 25th, 2010
5:46 pm

I see this as a dangerous trend developing, one that could result in the firing of any and all staff working at a failing high school. I’ve never seen a company fire all of its employees at once, even when on the ropes.

Though I think we need some drastic changes in education, I wonder how much of this decision was made in regards to the well being of the students and how much of it was made with the hope of attracting some media attention and/or federal attention. It’s easy to fire everyone. What do they propose to do to FIX IT?

This is where Philosopher hit the nail on the head: They need to start looking at how they got into this mess in the first place.

lulu

March 25th, 2010
5:59 pm

Definitely, Philosopher! Most of the high school kids I tutor in math are perfectly capable of understanding the concepts of algebra and geometry, but fail in the execution because they don’t know the difference between dividing and subtracting or multiplying by 0 and 1, and heaven forbid any negative numbers are involved! There is NO way these kids in Savannah had failure rates in math like the ones above without being completely incompetent in the basics.

If they think the firings will help, though, they may as well go ahead and fire all of the elementary and middle school teachers as well. Not sure it’ll make a difference, though.

justbrowsing

March 25th, 2010
6:07 pm

I agree Philosopher that it did not begin in the school. Something has to change so teachers are empowered to hold students accountable. Failure to do this amounts to nothing more than unfair dismissal. The types of changes necessary for this school to reverse its entrenched rates of failure would need to be initiated from the top levels of leadership. At the same time, however, I feel that some accountability is necessary and the school could not continue down the same path it was on.

CB

March 25th, 2010
6:13 pm

This will be a story worth following long-term. When a new staff/administration is brought on board, I’ll be very anxious to see what kind of time frame is set for them to make the kind of positive change sought by the school district.

Lee

March 25th, 2010
6:27 pm

Beach HS is 95% black. Need I say more?

BTW, good luck on hiring and retaining any teachers going forward. This is akin to firing the jockey when he doesn’t win the Kentucky Derby while riding a Shetland Pony.

Also, before you politically correct pathogens start calling me racist, show me a school that is 95% White and 70% free/reduced lunch that has worse scores/failure rates and I promise I’ll never bring the subject up again.

Lumpkin Bumpkin

March 25th, 2010
6:28 pm

I am a high school math teacher. Every year my middle school sends me 25% to 30% of a freshman class who failed their CRCT test in math. By the time we get done with them, 90 plus percent graduate and pass all of the standardized tests. We also have over 50% free and reduced lunch students.

The problem is not the students.

Teaching in FL is worse

March 25th, 2010
6:37 pm

Generally, it seems like the education community (of which I am a part) tends to subconciously believe that if we at least look like we’re trying to reform, that’s good enough. Hence, the constant trends!

Fire everybody, hire most of them back. That’ll buy us a few more years. That way, we don’t need to look too deeply at the root causes.

retired teacher

March 25th, 2010
6:39 pm

I think people would find it very interesting to see college from which each of these teachers received their education degrees. You can be sure that there is a significant difference in the qualifications/competency of teachers from various in state colleges of education.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2010
6:49 pm

IIRC, one of the elementary schools in Savannah did the same thing a couple of years ago. Wonder if it was one of the feeder schools for Beach? It also seems that they’ve had several violent incidents at the school, including a shooting in the parking lot….

Come on

March 25th, 2010
6:58 pm

I’m sorry; but if a school is on the NI list for 8 YEARS and there is no improvement, we should look at the teaching!!! Those failure rates are ridiculous; there is obviously little to no learning taking place in that school. I am a teacher. I don’t want to be scared about losing my job either, but if you are not performing…In any other profession (or most anyway) you wouldn’t have a job. Why do we as teachers think differently?!?!?!?

Hey, It's Enrico Pallazzo

March 25th, 2010
7:01 pm

“The school system is saying that teachers asked for more money for changes like additional training and a longer school day.”

So the teachers are trying to find a solution by asking the district for more training (to make them better teachers, I am assuming) and longer work days (to better prepare for their students) for which they would like be compensated. But the district thinks a better idea is to fire them all, rehire some of them, and bring in new teachers who probably have no classroom experience. Sounds like a good plan. Did Sonny or Kathy Cox come up with that?

Sue Jenkins

March 25th, 2010
7:06 pm

Public schools will NEVER show improvement while the students are allowed to be in charge.
Refuse to allow cellphones in class and insist that students show respect to teachers.

the prof

March 25th, 2010
7:09 pm

Bring back the paddle!

catlady

March 25th, 2010
7:12 pm

There are some things I would like to know: what is the practice followed in this area on retention? How many of the kids are passed on from grade to grade without mastery of the GPS? How many failed the CRCT year after year and yet were sent on? How many years of experience do the teachers have? What are their degrees, and from where? What are the rates of ISS/OSS? (What behavior standards are the students held to?)

I am willing to bet these facts would give us even more information than the 70% federal lunch.

catlady

March 25th, 2010
7:15 pm

BTW, the problems with this school start AT THE TOP. In this case, no lower than the superintendent’s office. Yet he will get rid of those who have been laboring under his leadership and policies.

justbrowsing

March 25th, 2010
7:18 pm

It is interesting that the teachers asked for additional money for training and a longer school day. Sounds like the same thing I read in an article on the teachers of Central Falls. Teachers are entitled to additional compensation for longer school days. The general public seems to feel that everything we do should be motivated for the greater good. Money matters also.

Hank Rearden

March 25th, 2010
7:23 pm

Swap that faculty with the one at Marist and the graduation rates at each school wouldn’t change a bit.

The community served by Beach is a disaster. At present, Beach is nothing but a stop before prison. And as long as the power of the purse is able to sell it’s ’small guv’ment’ snake oil, there’s no need for them to use the N-word.

Clever, eh?

cp

March 25th, 2010
7:24 pm

Ronald McNair Middle School in DeKalb County did the SAME THING about eight years ago. Do you think their scores improved at all? You haven’t heard any update about that in the media, ever. It was the teachers’ fault then, too. Not crackhead mothers, unknown fathers or Grandmas raising children. Of course, to hold back more than 10 percent of each class would be racist, so administrators made sure THAT never happened!

catlady

March 25th, 2010
7:29 pm

filter alert!

Norma Rae

March 25th, 2010
7:30 pm

It all starts with the HOME. Not one politician will ever have the guts to put the blame squarely where it belongs–on parents who are thugs themselves. Teachers can not be held accountable for that.

Coming to Clayton

March 25th, 2010
7:37 pm

Coming to the Clayton County Public School system soon! CCPS is on its 5th year of not making AYP! A state takeover looms and it is time for the citizens of Clayton to stand up and demand changes! Sorry test scores, administrators that don’t care, teachers unable to teach because of behavior issues, illegal class grouping and tracking, special education problems, and don’t forget about SACS! CCPS is next and that might be a good thing!

HS Teacher, Too

March 25th, 2010
7:51 pm

The problem is that many of us teachers know what it is like to have a 17-year-old 8th grader. (And I am talking about a kid without an IEP.) At some point, the problem can’t get fixed without having the impossible: one-on-one lessons with these kids. So they DO get passed on, because they HAVE to get passed on. But then they continue to do nothing, as they’ve always done. Whose fault is that? Home’s? The middle school’s? The elementary school’s? The high school teacher who receives them? It’s an impossible quandary.

Take this: I have a perfectly capable 16-year-old in my 8th grade PRE-ALGEBRA class right now. He is BRIGHT! He is white, for those of you for whom that matters. He is articulate and personable. And HE HAS A 14. Literally, his class average is a 14. Fourteen Percent. As a school, as a team, as an individual teacher, we have done every intervention known to mankind. The child refuses to do anything. We take him from electives to sit in the principal’s office to work on his assignments, and he writes “IDK” for every problem. We bring him in for tutoring and he won’t work anything, even when it’s just he and a teacher together at a table, even when the teacher works examples and asks for simple regurgitation. What more can we do?

So you get a school full of kids like this, throw in a few who not only won’t do, but can’t do … and you’ve got that failure rate. It’s not hard to imagine, unfortunately.
Sigh.
I don’t know the answers. Or, more correctly, I don’t know of any practical answers.

But we can’t say it’s the high school’s fault entirely. And if we close the school and ship the kids off to other schools, the majority of those kids won’t improve to match their environment. They’ll simply bring the scores of the new school down. Why can’t any politicians see this?!

ken

March 25th, 2010
7:56 pm

Norma Rae, straight on! Senator Eric Johnson, the Voucher Nazi, should try focusing his efforts on gettig parents off their hindsides and be responsible! Hey, send the Beach H.S. kids over to Dr. DOoLITTLE’s Go Fish pond in Perry. Maybe they can find work there! Oh, it will be nice to finally have a governor after an 8 year absence.

Ole Guy

March 25th, 2010
8:26 pm

What’s that ole saying about throwing out the baby with the bath water…that school district, or for that matter, any district adopting similar practices, will be hard-pressed to find any but the most-desperate teachers.

Hats off to The Prof…re-introducing that marvel of discipline control, the paddle, would, over time, accomplish much in terms of re-acquiring an educational system which serves as far more than a babysitting service for apathetic parents while, at the same time, introducing a little discipline, and maybe a little direction, in today’s youth. I’m quite certain The Prof (and perhaps some of the readers) will agree that, distasteful as the paddle may seem, there simply are no other effective means of “straightening out” wayward kids. If someone could come up with an alternate plan THAT WORKS, I am sure interest would be universal.

Left to the current methodology of “educational reform”, we are definetely on a slippery slope, recovery from which, in the not-too-distant future, will be impossible.

Race to the top? Was Epic Failure already trademarked?

March 25th, 2010
8:28 pm

Sometimes even the minutest of details can tell the whole story; in this case a story of complete and totally intellectual dishonesty, otherwise known as Obama’s Education Plan.

Go to the local bookstore and find Education Week’s Obama’s Education Plan. Look in the index. Find the word discipline; how many pages are devoted to it?

Yes, that’s a trick question, BECAUSE YOU WON’T EVEN FIND THE WORD “DISCIPLINE” IN THE INDEX!!!!!!!!

How absolutely intellectually dishonest is it to have a “plan” for schools, especially failing ones, and you CAN’T FIND A SINGLE REFERENCE to the word discipline?

Not that Bush’s “plan” before him was any more honest about dealing with discipline, because it wasn’t. But you would think the current administration was aiming a little higher than “equally pathetic, and just as intellectually dishonest” when it came to education.

ScienceTeacher671

March 25th, 2010
8:41 pm

The football team and the basketball team at Beach usually do very well. That’s what is important, right?

Tom

March 25th, 2010
8:42 pm

Did anyone else realize the major discrepancy here? Approximately 15% of the students at Beach failed the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation test. Yet 80-85% of the students failed the end-of-course tests in Math. Teachers have been complaining about the new Math Curriculum ever since it came out. This year’s senior class, taught all of their math before the new curriculum had a passing rate of 85%. The students under the new math program have a failing rate of 85%. Can’t people understand how Kathy Cox and her State Department are ruining math students all across the state of Georgia?

Hey, It's Enrico Pallazzo

March 25th, 2010
8:48 pm

@ScienceTeacher671 Let’s just hope they didn’t fire the coaches!

HStchr

March 25th, 2010
8:53 pm

Graduation test scores are the ones used for AYP counts. When you have a school with a whopping 70% living at or below poverty level, the solution goes far beyond the staff. You’re dealing with a poorly educated community where kids who can pass the GHSGT in language arts are far beyond most of the community. Poverty and generations of lack of education cannot be solved by clearing out a faculty. The problem then becomes filling those vacancies. They’ll rehire some, but many new faces, most of whom will have no teaching experience, let alone experience teaching kids from poverty, will come in and the scores will be the same or worse. The graduation rate rose dramatically in a few years, signalling that the school was improving. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this goes.

Bottom line: it’s all about the money. The state and local leaders see this as a way to get money and that’s it. How long will the gravy train last? What happens if the school doesn’t see significant gains next year? This is solely for money, and that’s all.

booklover

March 25th, 2010
9:00 pm

Who is going to want to go work at a school like this? How many of the new teachers are going to be highly qualified? How many are even going to last the school year?

I suspect some of the commenters on this board have never worked in or visited an inner-city high school. It truly takes a special soul to teach at a school like Beach.

Of course, those unlucky new graduates have to teach somewhere… I pity them. Good thing Savannah has a few military bases nearby…Beach can trap some of those Army wife teachers who are new to the area and don’t know any better.

Todd

March 25th, 2010
9:06 pm

Why don’t we fire the parents?

Old Physics Teacher

March 25th, 2010
9:11 pm

We have done this to ourselves! We let 20-somethings go directly into graduate schools from undergrad status – they do research using statistical formulas that were developed for entirely different processes that have nothing to do with the worthless data they’ve gathered; we promote incompetent teachers into administration, and we accept conclusions these incompetent people draw from erroneous data. We have been told a simple fact time and time again: the greatest effect on student learning is THEIR PARENTS. Teacher effects rank below peer effects, and we blame teachers as the cause of poor student learning. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy,and it is us!”

lynn

March 25th, 2010
9:21 pm

In fairness, if you look at their most recent report card, their graduation rate is up to 65.9 percent as compared to their school system’s 72.2 percent rate. The science failure rate on GHSGT improved to a 78 percent passage rate.

Here is the most current report card — based on last year’s data.
http://reportcard2009.gaosa.org/(S(y42gtf55yurtn0bdk4bham55))/k12/reports.aspx?ID=625:2052&TestKey=hs&TestType=qcc&CompareType=Parent

Todd

March 25th, 2010
9:22 pm

Kathy Cox can’t even balance her checkbook!

lynn

March 25th, 2010
9:24 pm

It isn’t going to take simply hiring new teachers. Someone has to change the culture of the school. The community needs to take ownership and care. Students have to want to be successful.

doh

March 25th, 2010
9:27 pm

I teach in Chat. county. Beach is a disaster, the entire neighborhood is a disaster. A few years ago the major elementary feeder school to Beach, Spencer elementary did the same exact thing and fired everyone. The problem isn’t the teachers, nor the curriculum, or the administration, the problem is the community. Drive around that area of Savannah and you can see why the school is the way it is.

The problem in savannah is that the kids start losing it around 4th grade, in 5th it gets worse and by middle school you can tell who is going to make it and who won’t. I teach 8th grade and the skills of my kids are at the level of 3rd graders, why? Because they do not study at home, practice at home, and parents don’t push them at home.

The district is reorganizing the schools this year and opening up a new K-8 building, so teachers at Beach will be hired back and then shuffled to another school in the district. My concern is that I may be assigned to this hell hole of a school.

Just an onlooker

March 25th, 2010
9:36 pm

A high school cannot compensate for the education received in elementary and middle school. It sounds like the community needs to get involved and parents need to start doing their part in making education a priority. The failure rate on the EOCTs is unacceptable because they are so hightly curved by the state. Students should be able to randomly “Christmas Tree” these tests and score higher. There seems to be more issues than just the teachers in this school system. It takes a village to raise your children, and teachers alone do not make a village!!

Beach is NOT Central Falls

March 25th, 2010
9:41 pm

Maureen – the Beach faculty and staff did not ask for more money and a longer school day. That was part of the contract negotiations between the Central Falls faculty and their superintendent. Beach’s situation was totally predicated on the repeated failure to meet AYP. Thanks.

nitastink

March 25th, 2010
10:05 pm

to all of those who gave sensible feedback, kudos. to all of those who have never lived in poverty or been are raised in an area where hopelessness is the norm shut up and don’t judge people. The color of a child has nothing to do with this. the Appalachian area of US has some of the same grim statistics but you don’t see anybody say that it’s because they are white. I’ve lived in Georgia all my life and I am sick of the bigots who are always looking at skin color when responding to blogs. If you are not a part of the solution then shut up. How about we, “christians ” figure out how to lend a helping hand instead of resorting to being ugly. Did any of you consider the fact that maybe one generation of illiterate people begat another generation of the same. Until something is done to find out what is going on with the parents, be they young, old, single or married the problem will not go away. Consider how demeaning and embarrassing it is for a parent when they aren’t smart enough to help their children with their homework. Consider that they can’t get decent jobs because of their lack of a basic education, ie high school diploma. Did anyone consider how embarrassing it is to talk to a teacher who makes you feel dumb and yes it happens, although not necessarily intentional. i did a research paper on illiteracy and these are some of the issues that these parents probably face. How about not judging and being empathetic to those who through their own mistakes or not, messed up royally and don’t know where or how to change things. I would love the opportunity to help bring about a change in this community. Looks like the city of Savannah and the state has let these kids down. It isn’t just a reflection on the beach community it is a reflection on the city and the State. what happened to simple compassion.
@lee, your hood has reared it’s ugly head and no it would not happen in a white school because white politicians would make sure the school had the funding it needs to fix the problem. chew on that idiot

Tony

March 25th, 2010
10:11 pm

Schools with failure rates like this can not simply blame the school staff. This is a community problem. There has to be an underlying disregard for learning among the students and the parents. Else, the outcomes of the tests would be much better.

It is a very sad day that an entire faculty takes the fall for a sorry community.

Dar

March 25th, 2010
10:15 pm

I have read all of the comments and see now just how bad the public schools are getting. The problem is that we leave teachers no choice but to teach to the lowest common denominator — the students who can’t or won’t learn. All of this in the name of equal access. What about the kids who can learn and who want to learn? Don’t they deserve better? I live in a wealthy suburb with good schools. My son, a 6th grader, had some problems with math, so I enrolled him in a commercial program for almost a year and now I pay a teacher at his school $80 to tutor him for 2 hours per week. Just the other day the boy down the street received multiple detentions and an ISS (all in one day) and I don’t have to guess what that does to the classroom environment. The boy’s mother has never even bothered to go in and get the access number for his online grades – I know because he told me that, and other things, before saying that his mom doesn’t care about his schooling. The kid is practically crying for help — I do all that I can, but I cannot do it all. I feel for the teachers and the other students, the ones who want to learn. Screw all of this feel-good equal access stuff. We need a few special schools in the area in which to place these troubled kids with hard-nosed educators who have a free hand to really teach them.

RJ

March 25th, 2010
10:17 pm

“Beach HS is 95% black. Need I say more?”

@Lee, so what? Perhaps you would like a one way ticket to Costa Rica with Rush…

I agree with many posts above, this started years before.

Beach High Teacher

March 25th, 2010
10:18 pm

I teach at Beach…… HS Teacher Too…imagine 5 or 6 of those in a class of 25. If it’s a repeater class, its 22 or 23 out of 25. The OSS rate is not too bad, but ISS is mostly at capacity. The school district says lower the out of school suspension rate…so ISS stays full. Nevermind getting tough on chronic behavior problems like windsor did. These kids cant remember basic supplies or how to wear the uniform properly. It’s a level of carelessness most couldnt begin to imagine. The parents have disconnected home phones, but the kid has a cell phone in class instead of paying attention. They need an alternative school for this campus….near the campus. The 30-40% that dont come to learn need to be kept away from the rest that do. Get the bad apples out and the rest of the bunch will know you mean business.

Dar

March 25th, 2010
10:19 pm

p.s. one more year of public school and then I am moving my son to Riverside Military Academy where he can get a quality education among other students who truly want to learn. I hate to do it. I am a product of public schools all the way through grad school….but I finally have to admit that public schools just don’t cut it anymore, not even out here in the “land of the gilded cages.”

high school teacher

March 25th, 2010
10:28 pm

Please don’t judge all of public education with reports of one school. We haven’t completely gone to the dogs just yet.

Will Teach For Food

March 25th, 2010
10:40 pm

Maureen – Can we get some information on the long term results of situations like this? Sounds like a great story.

Sade

March 25th, 2010
10:53 pm

This might seem drastice but sometimes drastic measures need to be taken. If the parents won’t parent, remove the children from the home and permanently place the them in a group home or orphanage. Cease all gov’t funding of non-parenting parents and give it to the group home where these children will live and the learn the value of an education along with a large dose of ethics amd morals. Stop the never-ending cycle of bad parenting with a good quality education in this blighted area and then you will see a change for the better.

Sade

March 25th, 2010
10:55 pm

typo s/b drastic