AJC investigation: Dropouts in Georgia far higher than reported. Can we fix it?

In a front page Sunday investigation, the AJC shares its discovery – learned through open records requests — that 30,751 students in the Class of 2011 left high school without a diploma, nearly double the 15,590 initially reported.

The jarring difference owes to new federal requirements for counting dropouts, requirements that now put the onus on systems to track students who disappear.

I wonder whether schools have the staff to do what one principal described as intense detective work to hunt missing students.

“It’s going to be something where we all turn into Sherlock Holmes,” and we’re tracking every lead we can. It basically is a guilty-until-proven-innocent format,” Gabe Crerie, principal at Henry County’s Eagle’s Landing High School, said. He and his school’s grad coaches spent seven hours one day this summer, trying to track down 62 suspected dropouts. They found 33 at other schools, Crerie said.

The AJC story by reporters Nancy Badertscher and Kelly Guckian notes that Cherokee County officials considered the old formula suspect 10 years ago, when the state first adopted it. Superintendent Frank Petruzielo issued an edict that school officials document students said to be transferring from the district and to review their dropout data twice a year. That vigilance paid off: Among metro districts, Cherokee had one of the smaller increases in dropouts — 90 — and its grad rate moved 7.3 percentage points, from 82.1 percent to 74.8 percent.

I have to point out the obvious here: Georgia has one of the nation’s lowest graduation rates in part because it has one of the nation’s highest child poverty rates. After decades of writing about schools, I am convinced that we can’t deal with one without addressing the other.

Poor children are not a lost cause, but keeping them in school and on grade level requires an unwavering commitment of time, energy and money, and I sometimes wonder whether we have the will in Georgia to make such a commitment.

Please note that Georgia has never done well with low-income students. There is no golden era of education over which to wax nostalgic.  The state’s failure to graduate large numbers of high school students was not a problem a generation ago when mill and factory jobs awaited them. In fact, the promise of cheap, ready labor — along with cheap, ready land — was something that Georgia presented as a selling point to new industries.

Now, little awaits a high school dropout. Industry wants educated workers who are able to adapt and learn new skills quickly.

According to the main AJC story in the Sunday package:

The discrepancy came to light because this year the federal government made all states use a new, more rigorous method to calculate graduation rates. Under the new formula, the state’s graduation rate plunged from 80.9 percent to 67.4 percent, one of the nation’s lowest.

Part of the reason for the decline is that the new formula defines a graduate as someone who earns a diploma in four years, though thousands of students take five years or longer. But the AJC’s analysis shows — for the first time — how much of the discrepancy stemmed from a failure to accurately measure how many students drop out.

For years, inflated graduation rates helped state and local districts meet political pressures and claim success. But undercounting the number of dropouts did nothing for the kids who quit school unnoticed.

“They spent more time trying to fix the numbers, than they did trying to fix the problem,” said Cathy Henson, an advocate for education reform and former state Board of Education chair. “My frustration is that if you’re giving people phony data, then they don’t understand the magnitude, the urgency of the problem.”

The cost to the taxpayer can be high. Dropouts are more likely to spend time in prison and need public assistance at some time in their lives.

In Clayton County, parents were stunned when told local dropout numbers quadrupled under the new formula. “I’m just blown away by those figures,” said Melody Totten, parent of a Clayton County 10th grader and past president of the local PTA council. “The school board should hold the superintendent accountable, and the superintendent, in turn, should hold the schools, principals accountable.”

Education experts have long suspected that the state’s soaring graduation rate was artificially high, rooted in faulty data.

Under the state’s old formula, students who disappeared from a school’s rolls were often written off as transfers without evidence that they had landed in another school. In general, students were only counted as dropouts if they formally declared that they were quitting school, something researchers say they seldom do.

The new method takes the opposite tack, counting a student as a dropout unless the district can show that he or she enrolled elsewhere.

Former State School Superintendent Kathy Cox said some districts, under pressure to graduate more high schoolers, might have looked the other way when students left. “Some of this is catching people who were probably deliberately messing with the system, and some of this is catching what probably is just bad record-keeping,” Cox said.

Current schools chief John Barge is more circumspect. “I can’t say that a system was or wasn’t fudging the numbers,” Barge said in a recent interview. “Do I think there is large-scale people wanting to manipulate the system? I really don’t think so.”

Georgia officials announced in April that the state’s grad rate was 13.5 percent points lower under the new formula. They blamed the fall in part on the undercounting of dropouts but said they had no specifics.

In metro Atlanta, Clayton County Public Schools saw a huge swing, going from 392 dropouts to 1,584 and from an 80.2 percent to a 51.5 percent grad rate, according to the state’s data. Clayton officials had thought they were making headway. Their 2010 grad rate was 81.6 percent, better than the state’s 80.8 percent.

Clayton officials believe that at least some of the newly-reported dropouts could have been legitimate transfers, district spokesman Doug Hendrix said. But they also are taking a hard look at strategies to help students graduate. Those include counselors serving as mentors to every child and parent coordinators out in the community, Hendrix said. “It’s obvious to us there is some work to be done,” he said.

As early as 2009, the AJC reported that some districts were suspected of over-reporting transfers and under-reporting dropouts — two measures that boost graduation rates. In 2010 and 2011, the newspaper reported that thousands of Atlanta Public Schools high school students were taken off the rolls without documentation of where they went, at the same time the district was boasting huge jumps in its grad rate.

The new data shows APS’s dropouts increased from 798 6 to 1,544 and its grad rate went from 69.5 percent to 52 percent with the switch to the new formula. APS spokesman Keith Bromery said more accurate numbers put “us in a better position to know what the reality of the situation is for the district.” The district is creating an early-warning system that will alert teachers and administrations to signs that a student could be on the path to dropping out, Bromery said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

191 comments Add your comment

Todd

August 19th, 2012
9:41 am

Why not just pay the schools based on the numbers that graduate ?

living in an outdated ed system

August 19th, 2012
9:46 am

A symptom of an increasingly failing public education system. Lets add a few stats to this equation:

1. A high school student in our country drops out EVERY 26 seconds.
2. Each dropout costs the nation about $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity
over a lifetime
3. Each dropout class costs the nation $325 billion in lost contributions, which is equal to
the combined GDP of Kansas, Utah, Nebraska, and Alaska every year

We spend more on incarceration than we do on education. Who cares whether a few figures are “fudged?” The problem is crystal clear. Instead of fighting the winds of education reform, it is time we started embracing them!

DAWG POUND

August 19th, 2012
9:52 am

When are we going to stop using poverty as an excuse for dropouts? It isn’t poverty that is the culprit here… Rather, it is the culture among many people who happen to be poor!!!

At the end of the Civil War, 17% of African Americans with young children in the household were without a father. By World War II the percentage had increased to 19%. By the Civil Rights era, it climed to 22%. Today, the number of African American children without a father in the house now satnds at a WHOPPING 71.5%!!!

That is the MAJORITY of the problem here folks!!!

The answer is WHY???

One reason is that African American women receive more compensation vis-a-vi welfare if a father isn’t present in the home!

What sort of system would reward a father not being present in the home???

A system that is horribly broken and further detrimental to young people getting an education.

sloboffthestreet

August 19th, 2012
9:54 am

“It’s going to be something where we all turn into Sherlock Holmes,” and we’re tracking every lead we can. It basically is a guilty-until-proven-innocent format,” Gabe Crerie, principal at Henry County’s Eagle’s Landing High School, said. He and his school’s grad coaches spent seven hours one day this summer, trying to track down 62 suspected dropouts. They found 33 at other schools, Crerie said.

I wonder what they did for the other seven hours they worked this summer? The poor dears appear to be overworked and underpaid once again!

Lynne Reese

August 19th, 2012
9:59 am

Maureen, You need to come visit Floyd County Education Center and Performance Learning Center where we offer out-of-the-ordinary programs for our students to enable them to succeed and graduate with a SACS-accredited diploma! We even have grants that pay for online courses and tutors….and a program and staff that put the student first as well as customize their education to make it a positive experience.

inthetrenches

August 19th, 2012
10:07 am

Currently, students are required to have 23 credits to graduate. On the semester system, if a student doesn’t fail any classes, they will have 24 credits at graduation. With the reporting system described in the article, low-income students who fail one class are MUCH more likely to be considered “dropouts”, because they are less likely to be able to afford summer school to get back on track.

I would love to see some credit given to schools who invest the extra time to get a student to graduation, even if it takes 4 1/2 or 5 years.

Pride and Joy

August 19th, 2012
10:08 am

sloboffthestreet is dead on accurate.
It took ONLY seven hours to find 62 students. That’s ONLY SEVEN minutes per kid.
Actually LESS than seven minutes per kid, which means, they made a phone call.
Hardly being a Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t you agree?
But that shows where Georgia’s education head is at.
GA’s kids aren’t worth a seven minute phone call. I guarantee you if the kid could play football, these poor little overworked souls would spend SEVEN DAYS recruiting a football playing illiterate.
There are priorities and then there are Georgia’s priorities.

Tired of it

August 19th, 2012
10:08 am

It is time to put an end to this madness. Having a student graduate is the responsibility of the parents and the student! NO ONE ELSE. “Early warning system” to let everyone know a student is in danger of dropping out? We call that a report card. Income is not a barrier to education in Georgia. Schools manage to graduate the majority of their students, regardless of income. Therefore, they are doing something right and DO NOT NEED TO MAKE MASSIVE CHANGES OR HIRE NEW SPECIALISTS. We shouldn’t be hunting for students; they should be looking for us! If we as a society can’t convince students (and parents) that education is essential for success in the first 5-8 years of school, they will just have to learn from the school of hard knocks. All students watch TV, read on some level, and observe their peers. The information is out there. Students need to “buy in” because teachers can’t sell it any harder. Teachers lead all “horses” to water, but some of them just refuse to drink. Eventually, they will want to. If anything, we need to have a better program in place for young adult learners who have decided that education is important. Please don’t put any more responsibility on the backs of educators. It is time for all students to take responsibility for their own success.

GCAE President

August 19th, 2012
10:14 am

Maureen your comment “I have to point out the obvious here: Georgia has one of the nation’s lowest graduation rates in part because it has one of the nation’s highest child poverty rates. After decades of writing about schools, I am convinced that we can’t deal with one without addressing the other.

Poor children are not a lost cause, but keeping them in school and on grade level requires an unwavering commitment of time, energy and money, and I sometimes wonder whether we have the will in Georgia to make such a commitment.”

Thank you for noticing this very profound reality. Obviously, our present Governor and General Assembly are more interested in lining the pockets of corporations than the current economic situations of families across this state. Teachers are committed and are putting in the time and energy but when the education budget keeps being slashed, there is nothing else we can do.

With students dropping out, the formulas of the past and present are faulty. The premise is that all students should graduate in 4 years. With transiency, hunger, abandonment, homelessness and so many other situations that face many of our students, 4 years is not enough. And even if they take an additional summer, 6 or 12 more months, why should that punish the system or the student.

Until our society finds the worth in all persons, this issue will persist. Statistics is a funny math. It depends on how you want to use the results and the original thesis you started with. And since there are so many variables in educating children, I can only wonder if they use these statistics and formulas for their issues and not for helping students, teachers and public education.

South GA Teacher

August 19th, 2012
10:18 am

Graduation Coaches are the worst case of money spent on salaries in Georgia. All they have to do is free up some Guidance Counselors to actually do their real jobs and we would not need the graduation coaches. Counselors are nothing more than glorified secretaries in the high schools and rarely get to interact with the students. They use to come in an do guidance lessons and help teachers identify at risk kids for failure, now we just have to hope and pray the students do not become welfare rats. We have a huge bloated education bureaucracy in Georgia K-12. We need to gut the whole thing and start over and let the teachers teach. But no, they stupid politicians want to add more layers of public education with Charters thinking that is going to be the end-all-be-all to our issues. All that will do is create defacto segregation in our school system. And the beat goes on.

Lee

August 19th, 2012
10:19 am

Once a student withdraws from a school, I dont see where it is the schools responsibility to track them down.

Dropping out of school and going on public assistance is just as much a reflection of our failed welfare policies as anything. Drop out of school, live in government housing, draw a welfare check, sell a little dope, go out and steal from those who are working sounds like a viable life style for some people. How can we improve that situation? Oh yeah, allow tens of millions of more low IQ, low skilled, third world invaders to waltz across our Southern border.

HappyTru

August 19th, 2012
10:29 am

Maybe we can start by having adequate attendance rules. How can a student remain on grade level when they are absent for most of the semester? When I was in school (in Michigan) I was absent 10 days, all school related, and still had to meet with the principal and explain my absences (if not I would have to had repeat the semester). As a teacher in Georgia I had students absent 30, 40, 50 days, never meet the principal, the student is allowed to “make up” any work missed, pushed to pass them, even though we know they will not have an understanding of the content. Have this happen a few semesters, by the time they are 16, they are behind and they drop out.

Oh and High school is not college, unless they are in the MID/MOD program, they shouldn’t be there more than 4 years.

Hall county native

August 19th, 2012
10:33 am

“Current schools chief John Barge is more circumspect. “I can’t say that a system was or wasn’t fudging the numbers,” Barge said in a recent interview. “Do I think there is large-scale people wanting to manipulate the system? I really don’t think so.” ”

Well John, the AJC and Channel 2 news proved Hall County Schools were fudging the numbers.

You did exactly nothing to hold them accountable for it ( I guess since you used to be a principal in the system?)

Really don’t think you have room to talk there.

Pride and Joy

August 19th, 2012
10:35 am

Lee, you wrote “Once a student withdraws from a school, I dont see where it is the schools responsibility to track them down.”
The school doesn’t have to track them down at all. They can correclty count them as a dropout.
The school only has to track them down if they want an opportunity to correclty count them as a transfer…and let’s get real here. It took less than seven minutes per student to “track them down.”

Hall County native

August 19th, 2012
10:53 am

That mess in Hall County should have been just as much of a national level scandal and wake up call as the APS mess.

It wasn’t because of the political connections plain and simple. Shame on people like Barge, Cox and Henson for turning a blind eye to those kids and letting that level of manipulation go on so long and so blatantly. No one held accountable.

Mandella1099

August 19th, 2012
10:57 am

Kathy Cox’s comment that there was no way to keep track of students under her tenure is without merit. The GTID as well as the student’s FTE number, both of which can be used to track students, were in place, and she could have moved to the cohort calculation if she wanted to do so; however, its so much easier for her to find blame and believe that all systems are somehow fudging the numbers. If that was the case, why weren’t they fudging them upwards of 90-95%? How about 99%? The answer is because they weren’t fudging the numbers. They were using the calculation methods adopted and amended under the single statewide accountability system that Cox put in place when AYP started kicking into high gear.

There’s nothing like a politician that can do such a masterful job of deflecting the blame as Cox has shown us all…..

exaps teacher

August 19th, 2012
11:00 am

Sure the problem can be fixed ! They (politicians, educrats and Chamber of Commerce) will find a new way to game the system, claim success and the rest is history!
If that does not work, they will blame the teachers for all the problems

should be "GCAE President" whatever that is...

August 19th, 2012
11:02 am

Spending per student in the Atlanta school district proves that there is enough money once the student shows up at school. the cold fact is in the saying ” I can teach it to you, but I can’t learn it for you.” If someone doesn’t want to learn there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We need to find a way to show this generation of students that not having an education has consequences. They can be the first in their family to learn from their parents mistakes, and make something of themselves. This state is loaded with Asian and Mexican immigrants that overcame more obstacles than African-Americans ever will. Let’s quit coddling them and making excuses already!

Good ole Boys at the Gold Dome

August 19th, 2012
11:13 am

I have a daughter that is a high teacher in S.W. Georgia and she stated the same view of our education system that the GCAE President stated in his comment. I have lived in Georgia for 60 years and we have always had a poor education system.50% of the problem is politics and the other 50% is poverty levels in our state.The sad overview of this is it will not get better and a greater chance that is will get alot of TALK during this election year.

Digger

August 19th, 2012
11:17 am

So you’re saying all those folks with mug shots in the AJC everyday didn’t graduate??

Representative Edward Lindsey

August 19th, 2012
11:18 am

Maureen’s point is right on target. We have a state with challenging student demographics. However, to borrow a great phrase, demographics should not determine destiny. In the 21st century, we cannot afford to double down on our previous mistakes and continue to lose half of each generation because of their lack of skills to compete and prosper in our society.

This blog is heavy with education experts. You are the ones on the front line. So how do we untie this knot?

Ron F.

August 19th, 2012
11:29 am

The problem with this formula is tracking supposed dropouts and transfers. In the economy we have now, families are moving often, sometimes without properly withdrawing a child from school so that there is a trail to follow. It should be a simple matter of tracking the child’s ID#, which is supposed to be trackable throughout the state. The issue is those that move out of state. A national database, which shouldn’t be hard to set up, would help with that. As to dropouts, there is still no reliable way to know if a kid drops out or goes to homeschool, as some do. We have kids listed as dropouts who are actually going to Faith Academy and finishing credits to earn a GED. We don’t get confirmation of them finishing, so they end up being dropouts.

The real elephant in the room here is the need for our entire society to stress the importance of education. We spend our time bashing the system, paying high priced “experts” to bring in big promise programs, we increase course loads, we belittle teachers, and all we get is lower numbers. Part of the solution is reforming schools, but what about the attitude in society at large? We have problems in society that schools can’t fix. We can’t teach them read, write, and do math if they have no home, are in gangs, live in extreme poverty, have parents who spend no time with them, and on and on. I’m not blaming parents as a whole, but as a whole society we have failed. Our schools are a reflection of the larger society, and I’m about done trying to fix it all. It’s like trying to run a marathon when half your body is numb. We, as teachers, can’t do it alone, and until we get a larger portion of our society to stress the importance of education, the numbers won’t change much.

sloboffthestreet

August 19th, 2012
11:36 am

GCAE President

With the average “Child Poverty %” in the United States being @ 22% and Georgia @ 25% I wonder if you think the chicken came before the egg? We have seen 6 states experience a large increase in childhood poverty in the country last year and Georgia was not on the list.

The so called lining of corporate pockets that you speak of brings us back to the chicken & egg discussion. Will attracting better paying jobs reduce the number of poor children or will an education system that produces a properly educated student automatically attract an influx of jobs because of the quality of the applicants available for work? It appears the “Field of Dreams” philosophy of “Build It And They Will Come” only works with imaginary baseball teams today.

Our children’s school 5th grade this year experienced a 28% failure rate for CRCT math. Average household income for our county, $57,000. Average teacher salary at this school not counting administration is $52,000 plus benefits. Watching these children counting on their fingers and being moved to the 6th grade, one has to wonder if we are getting what we are paying for? And math was their best scoring subject. Things that make you go HHHMMMMM? So much for money buying an education.

You also wrote,
“Thank you for noticing this very profound reality.” referring to Maureen posting this article. It happened to be Front Page News this morning. Perhaps the thanks should go to the authors of the article? Nancy Badertscher and Kelly Guckian.

A quote from the article states,

“Georgia officials announced in April that the state’s grad rate was 13.5 percent points lower under the new formula. They blamed the fall in part on the undercounting of dropouts but said they had no specifics.”

I wonder what the other part was????? I feel a Neil Young song coming on,,,,,,,

mountain man

August 19th, 2012
11:36 am

I don’t see what a SCHOOL or the education system can do to keep a child in school. What use is telling a kid to get an education when they tell you they don’t epect to be alive to see their 21st birthday? You don’t need a high school diploma to deal drugs or do carjackings.

What MIGHT be somewhat effective – people without high school diplomas are refused any welfare, food stamps, etc. Their children are automatically taken from them if they can’t support them without aid. That might be effective on half the population anyway.

I am more worried about the ones who graduate with diplomas but can’t read or write, than those who have CHOSEN not to get an education.

mountain man

August 19th, 2012
11:40 am

I see a lot about poverty. I read MaryElizabeth’s article where it all comes down to poverty. I would like to remind everyone that there is nothing a school can do to raise a family out of poverty (nor should it be their responsibility). I cannot understand why people WANT to be uneducated when it is clear that an education is how to break the cycle of poverty. My only guess is that they LIKE the life they have. At least they don’t have to referred to as “acting too white”.

jd

August 19th, 2012
11:40 am

Ron F is correct — this is OUR problem. We, the people, need to pay attention, get involved, and stop letting all these political consultants dictate our life principles via bumper stickers. The Dems failed, and the Republicans have shown that they only understand how to hide and manipulate numbers.

It’s time to ‘rock the boat” people!

living in an outdated ed system

August 19th, 2012
11:41 am

Rep Lindsey – I believe part of the solution is a tight choreography between community revitalization and education reform. Investing in after-school programs such as the Atlanta Music Project will help students with their social and emotional learning development which will then allow academic development.

We need to make our schools intrinsically motivating environments and incorporate digital learning and other tools that will motivate children and increase their time on task.

After school programs have been woefully under-invested in our nation, and they have demonstrated to be powerful and effective aids to keep kids engaged and safe.

We see far too many images of students falling asleep in classrooms, or simply unmotivated. Schools alone cannot solve this problem, but they can be a powerful catalyst if we made them immersive learning environments.

Ron F.

August 19th, 2012
11:44 am

Mr. Lindsey: we start by stabilizing education funding so that schools districts can do the same. We can’t continue this year to year struggle to figure out how many teachers we have to let go in order to balance. We’ve spent TEN YEARS watching you and your colleagues twist and subvert funding formulas. You were cutting funding long before the recession hit. I’m tired of hearing about APS and Dekalb. Deal with them directly, and help the rest of us who are trying and doing our best keep enough teachers to have manageable class sizes and materials to use. My pay has gone down steadily, and yet I have to spend more and more of my own money just to have simple things like paper for the copier and toner cartridges for my printer. I can’t even get a dry erase marker for my board, yet I must have my instructional framework posted every day. I have to pay for simple office supplies that I have to have to meet the requirements of my administration. That’s getting old.

Also, how about some verbal support from up in Atlanta? How about we hear our legislators consistently speak about successes we know are out there. How about you and yours come home once in a while and visit schools? I guarantee you, if you spent a few days in the schools in your district, unannounced and unplanned, you’d see a lot of good and you’d see a lot of needs.

Third, be honest with us about what you plan to do to education funding. “Austerity” is getting old, and we need to know what you plan to do and where the bottom is. I spend my day teaching struggling learners in a rural high school. I LOVE my kids and the challenges they present. I’ve been to their homes to get them to come back to school. I bought and installed an air conditioner for a child who had medical issues and his family couldn’t afford an a/c he needed. I’ve paid for their lunches, I’ve begged and borrowed to help them get glasses, and I’ve collected money to buy shoes and clothes. This isn’t a job for me, it’s a lifestyle. But I wonder how much longer I can keep that dedication when the support from our duly elected legislators is eroding as fast as the education budget. How about you stand before your colleagues and demand we find a way to stabilize education funding and quit wasting time and money on what we all know is Georgia’s attempt to be like Louisiana in coming years.

EdDawg

August 19th, 2012
11:48 am

teacher&mom

August 19th, 2012
11:54 am

Rep. Lindsey,
Ideas for improvement:

Start with is an extended school year for struggling students where they are taught at their own, unique instructional level…not necessarily their grade level.

Smaller class sizes, daily (not once a week) physical education, and the fine arts for every elementary and middle school student.

More diagnostic testing that is quick and does not require weeks of red tape. For whatever reason, more and more students are showing up with ADHD, processing disorders, etc.

Separate english/grammar and reading at the middle school level. The consolidation of LARTS has had detrimental effects on middle school students’ reading abilities.

Offer more choice at the high school level. Allow high schools to offer different tracks and even different credit requirements. Perhaps consider the idea that after the 10th grade, students can chose two routes: Technical/Skilled training or University.

Encourage local businesses and industry to participate in a vibrant internship program.

Fund field trips….cultural field trips, trips to visit industry and secondary education institutions.

Many of the ideas I have posted above have been successfully under various grants. Unfortunately, once the grant money has expired, the programs are rarely funded. I realize the idea of “throwing money” toward public education is unpopular with many voters. However, if we really want to turn around our graduation rate, it will cost money.

The Deal

August 19th, 2012
11:59 am

The problem in Georgia is not poverty; it is that the state of Georgia, in general, does not value education. Students of all socieconomic, academic, and age levels are getting an inadequate education in the public system. If Georgia dedicated itself to education, everyone’s educational experience would be elevated, not just the poor. Unfortunately, Georgia, as a whole, does not seem to have the commitment or desire to do this. The pockets of success are skewing how bad it really is. I am not surprised to see this report at all. Data is all about context.

mountain man

August 19th, 2012
12:00 pm

Ron F. – I think it is pretty clear that education spending has absolutely no effect of graduation rate. The rate of spending per pupil has skyrocketed , and the graduation rate has gone down. The dropout rate is highest where the spending per pupil is the highest (APS).

We need to realize that schools have no way to keep students from graduating, legislators, maybe, but not schools. Schools should focus on that things they CAN change. Maybe they willl then save some who are dragged down by their dropout peers.

mountain man

August 19th, 2012
12:02 pm

“For whatever reason, more and more students are showing up with ADHD, processing disorders, etc.”

I don’t think kids have changed, I think we are just increasing our diagnoses of these “ailments”. In the past, these kids would have gone to regular classes and been taught just the same as other kids and they would have made it just fine.

Ron F.

August 19th, 2012
12:03 pm

Rep. Lindsey: Please accept my apologies if my words to you seem a bit testy today. I just balanced my checkbook, and there’s not enough left to buy groceries and gas to get to school until payday, let alone pay for my children’s lunches. In spite of careful management, I’m living in a house that is now worth 20k less than what I owe, and after paying bills for basic needs and student loan payments for the master’s I earned in order to better work with my struggling readers, there’s never enough to make it to payday. My savings account is empty, and I’ve cut every corner I can just to get by from month to month. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude and continue loving my career, but I’m trying. I’m a single parent with two sons who are great students and I can’t imagine being anything but a teacher. Even if I could possibly make more money doing something else, leaving teaching would be unthinkable. If you want us to improve, help us by giving us some hope that we might not have to endure unknown years of financial sacrifice. We have to quit throwing good money after bad, and we have to deal with those systems that are guilty. Just please quit punishing us all for the sins of the few…please.

Ron F.

August 19th, 2012
12:09 pm

“Schools should focus on that things they CAN change. Maybe they willl then save some who are dragged down by their dropout peers.”

I totally agree with your ideas about APS. I can’t speak for other systems, but I know in my own we are trying to do just that. We’re getting much better at really using data and identifying the kids in danger of dropping out. I can’t imagine even trying to address they myriad issues in APS, Dekalb, etc. right now. I’m in a small system where our schools aren’t bound by dictates from a regime that is so far removed from the schools. We offer tons more support for needy kids, but perhaps it is our size that makes that possible. I’d love to see the larger systems with problems like APS broken up and reorganized. I think we could do a lot more to fix their problems if we deal with them directly rather than keep looking at statewide “reforms” that in the end make it harder for successful districts to function. No easy answers, to say the least.

teacher&mom

August 19th, 2012
12:12 pm

@mountain man: You’ve obviously not darkened the door of a classroom in few years. Is ADHD new? Probably not. But more and more are showing up with learning issues. Autism is just one example.

Your statement, “In the past, these kids would have gone to regular classes and been taught just the same as other kids and they would have made it just fine.” is only partly true. They were taught the same. They were not fine. Most dropped out by the 8th/9th grade.

I know several adults who “stalled” out in the 9th grade until they turned 16. They quit school. Most of them are relatively successful adults. Once you get to know them, you’ll find they struggle with certain learning issues or take medication to help with their ADHD. In the past, because everyone was treated the same, they fell through the cracks and were labeled lazy.

While the graduation rate is atrocious, it is certainly better than in the past. Part of the reason is the increase in diagnoses of learning problems.

Representative Edward Lindsey

August 19th, 2012
12:23 pm

Ron:

Let’s get a few stats in place. Between 2003 and 2008, state spending per K-12 child on education increased by approximately $750 per child. Since the Great Recession began there have been state cuts in education — just as there have been cuts by every other state. However, education cuts have been among the lowest — along with public safety — in the state. The only alternative to these cuts was to raise taxes and we saw how popular that idea was on the T -SLOST vote. Even with these cuts, our teachers are still the highest paid in the southeast and we rank second in the region in overall per pupil spending.

Now, I am not saying we should be satisfied with our education spending level. I believe that as state revenues improve we should prioritize increases to place education at the front of the line. However, we need to be concerned not only with how much we spend but how we spend what we have available.

The reason I am on this blog is that I want to hear from you on how we make sure our focus is in the right place. What existing programs are most helpful to you as a teacher? Which ones are clearly a waste of time? What can be done to improve leadership in your school? Is your central office lean and focused on your classroom or is it bloated and self absorbed? How much do you roll your eyes when you hear from the state? And, most important, how do we reach that hardest to reach student and keep him from being a dropout statistic?

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:29 pm

this is not an educational problem, but once again society comes looking to us to fix something it created. while at the same time telling us how useless we are.

it is our job to educate the ones who are willing, not compel them to stay or punish their parents if
they don’t attend. we’re educators, not prison guards. many of us here have often called for the ability to remove disruptive students. now we’re demanding they stay?

I like the approach society allows the Amish of opting out after the sixth grade.

if society really wants to deal with this, then it needs to decide to have an open and honest discussion on why so many parts of society have developed an anti-achievement mindset.

but to do that we have to be allowing and willing to confront the sacred cows of religion, race, and football.

dc

August 19th, 2012
12:40 pm

another reason to give those students who actually want to learn, the chance to move to a school where they will be around others that want to learn. We MUST quit allowing the few who actually desire an education to be dragged down by the many who don’t….which simply ends in them all failing.

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:40 pm

@ Rep Ed

now wait a minute…..
the ONLY option you had?

that’s not exactly true. not by half.

-you had the option of not throwing money into boondoggles like Sonny fish camp.
-you had the option of requiring caps on income of lottery managers, and rules on how said monies could be spent.
-you continue to have the option of making educational funding more equitable by requiring every Georgian, not just home owners pay into the funding pool
-you have the option to quit forcing the mainstreaming of students who are not ready/willing/capable of regular participation
-you have the option to quit paying for the education of illegal immigrants
-you have the option to stop giving UGA everything it wants whenever they want it.
-you have the option to put the screws to places like DeKalb where they are so profoundly unnecessarily administratively overweight.
-you have the option to allow casino gambling with the stipulation these profits go to education
-you have the option of requiring charter schools to have a corporate partner to defer costs
-you have the option to raise user taxes on things like tobacco

Rep Ed, you guys have options coming out of your ears. perhaps that’s why so many of you have problems actually listening to us.

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:45 pm

@ Rep Ed

full and honest disclosure requires me to state you and Mr. Millar have a massive credibility gap in my eyes in matters concerning education.

if you are actually sincere in this matter, I’m more than happy to honestly dialogue with you. but in this particular instance I’m from Missouri. talk is cheap….

Jen Falk

August 19th, 2012
12:48 pm

Are you interested in grad rates by subgroups for your school under this new formula? Visit http://votejenfalk.com/district-iii-resource-center/

* data compiled by the Georgia Department of Education Open Records

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:50 pm

“Is your central office lean and focused on your classroom or is it bloated and self absorbed”

OMG – are you serious?

lets take two classic examples: DeKalb and GPC. both are fiscal distress. both worked like hell to avoid making any real substantive cuts, opting for cosmetic and score settling. GPC tossed out over 282 people, next to none above the Asst. Director level.

administrative, bureaucratic bloat (the brotherhood of management) is killing education faster than all other issues combined.

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:51 pm

“How much do you roll your eyes when you hear from the state? ”

1000%, plus. frankly put, as a whole we don’t trust you.

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
12:57 pm

“What can be done to improve leadership in your school?”

-no academic administrator can hold any position in any permanent form without years of actual classroom experience.

vice principals – min of six years in the classroom
principals – min of 10 years in the classroom.

both with a requirement they teach one class every three years.

in college:
no academic VP of any level without 10 years college level instruction
no president without 15 years.

in short, educators need to be leading educators. not people with degrees in ed administration with little to no classroom experience

displaced

August 19th, 2012
1:05 pm

“Current schools chief John Barge is more circumspect. “I can’t say that a system was or wasn’t fudging the numbers,” Barge said in a recent interview. “Do I think there is large-scale people wanting to manipulate the system? I really don’t think so.””

who does he think he’s fooling? this state has fired how many teachers and principals because of test cheating? went after the former Atlanta superintendent because of her lying and pressuring the teachers into cheating. But then didn’t want to manipulate the numbers? is he crazy or just stupid? How long has this clown had his head in his …. Why does Atlanta hire these people? who’s …. are they kissing?

Heather H

August 19th, 2012
1:06 pm

What do expect when you continue to increase class sizes and decrease teachers?

dc

August 19th, 2012
1:12 pm

Maureen….interesting article in NYTIMES at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/opinion/sunday/bruni-teachers-on-the-defensive.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all The comment posted there, and cut/pasted below, tells the story about how good teachers are driven out of our schools better than anything I’ve ever read before. Fortunately GA doesn’t have the same entrenched union system as NY, but the fact that good teachers are not rewarded and supported is uniform throughout.

“I spent eight years as a public middle school teacher in a Title I school. It never seemed like the union was doing the kids any favors. I loved my students, but I was surrounded by incompetence and mismanagement. Most of my colleagues were angry, bitter women who didn’t like children. They should not have been teachers, but they could not be fired. At any given time, we had three to four teachers out on administrative leave, which means that they did something worthy of being fired but were protected by the union. For all but a handful of fellow dedicated professionals, I prayed that at least these disinterested adults weren’t doing the kids any harm.

It all finally ground me down, and I left two years ago to teach at a private school. I now work with colleagues who are uniformly stimulating, motivated, creative, and hard-working people. Did I mention that we work HARD? At my unionized public school, the most common thing I heard in the teachers’ lounge was complaining. Now I can’t get away from teachers running lesson plan ideas past me and inviting me to work on interdisciplinary projects with them. I make about $5000 more at this school, and still probably don’t make enough money for the amount of work I do, but I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else. At my private school, teachers can be fired for incompetence, and we actually have performance reviews and receive helpful feedback from administration.”

bootney farnsworth

August 19th, 2012
1:12 pm

Rep Ed

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression about beatings continuing until morale improves. its time you guys stop practicing this particular form of persuasion on us.

the single best thing you could do to start convincing us to trust you (legislators et al) is to give us a seat at the table. stop lecturing us, and talking with us.

-one of the most constant complaints about merit pay is you guys were determined to establish what merit was without talking to us as part of the process.

-stop the incessant whining about our non existent unions. frankly it makes you all look stupid. it may be effective red meat for constituents (yes, Fran, I mean you in particular) but has no basis in reality.

-checks and balances: if it was a good idea for the founders, it works for us today. when we have issues of waste, abuse, misconduct, ect we have nowhere to turn. if you make an ethics complaint against the system, the system investigates itself. the snitch lines (common use term, another is the suicide line) are well know for being the best way possible to put yourself in the direct eye of HR, which means the management you wish to report.

create a independent watchdog group which we can use to report concerns to without fear of career suicide

these three steps alone will go a long way to making the gold dome credible in our eyes.

Parent Teacher

August 19th, 2012
1:14 pm

Mr. Lindsey,

The state has continued to transfer the expense from the state to the local level. The state has reduced its responsibility. I like Ron don’t trust what you are saying about funding. Education cuts began under Roy Barnes and have continued through ole Sonny and now our new pal Nathan. Lets be honest. Education was recieving much less State money than before. Just because local and federal funds have made up the difference does not excuse the states lack of responsiblilty in maintaining funding.

As for how to fix the problem, we need a birth to graduation policy. One of the major problems with many students is they begin already five years behind. Parents need resources and support from the day a child is born. Most middle income families and higher have these resources from family and by understanding what is expected. Low income families often don’t know what is neccesary nor do they have the resources. We need community programs to assist in this. It is not something that can be easily legislated it is a long term consistant effort that requires money, patience and assistance from the community.

It also does not help when the legislature does not value or support the work that teachers are doing. I am with some other posters here, deal with APS and Dekalb seperately and stop lumping them in with the rest of georgia.