Southwest DeKalb High does have math teachers. Just not enough.

DeKalb says it is adding two math support teachers this week at Southwest DeKalb High (AJC file)

DeKalb says it is adding two math support teachers this week at Southwest DeKalb High (AJC file)

I was puzzled when I saw the Twitter comment yesterday from a Southwest DeKalb High School mother that the school lacked math teachers, which sounded impossible. And, in fact, the high school has math teachers, 15 of them.

However, the school did not have the two math teachers needed for an elective class called math support. And that was what alarmed a mom who discovered her daughter was in PE rather than math.

(Two teachers are supposed to be starting this week, according to the county. I am now hearing from other teachers that their schools are also down math teachers and kids have been having long-term subs.  Isn’t this what was supposed to be resolved by the closer alliances between k-12 and the public colleges? Can’t Georgia Tech help with math teachers?)

The mother expressed shock that a high student would go a semester without any math, but that is not uncommon in block schedule schools that follow the model in which a yearlong course is compressed into a single semester.

Under block scheduling at my local high school, my son once did not have math courses in either the spring or fall semester, which meant he went a full year without sitting in a single math class.

When Southwest lost its two math support teachers, the school switched students into another elective,  said spokesman Jeff Dickerson.

But what I don’t get is how 55 Southwest DeKalb High students could have been enrolled in math support without being enrolled in a core math class at the same time.

The state Department of Education describes math support as “an elective class that should be taught concurrently with a student’s regular mathematics class.”

From the DOE site:

Purpose: The purpose of the Mathematics Support class is to address the needs of students who have traditionally struggled in mathematics by providing the additional time and attention they need in order to successfully complete their regular grade-level mathematics course without failing. Mathematics Support is an elective class that should be taught concurrently with a student’s regular mathematics class.

Who should teach this course? The course should be taught by a certified mathematics teacher, preferably one with experience in differentiating instruction to meet the needs of struggling students. The Mathematics Support teacher should work closely with the teacher(s) in the regular academic mathematics class to align content, instruction, and assessments.

What credit is earned for the Mathematics Support class? One unit of elective credit is earned for this course.

Dickerson says that the students enrolled in math support this semester were scheduled to take their regular math course next semester. Based on the DOE information about how math support is supposed to function, I am not sure about the advisability of splitting the math support and regular math classes.

Dickerson also said one of the students whose mother was upset is scheduled to take an AP math next semester. “Why do we have a student in math support class at all when she is taking AP Algebra next semester?” he said.

That ought to be a question directed to or the school counselor and the school, which I assume had to approve the student’s schedule. A reader pointed out that there is no AP Algebra so unsure what Dickerson meant. Perhaps, honors algebra?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

58 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
1:39 pm

Since when has there been an AP Algebra course?

Dunwoody Mom

September 18th, 2012
1:39 pm

And why is Jeff Dickerson blabbing about what courses this student signed up for?

Anonymous

September 18th, 2012
1:44 pm

First, there is no such thing as AP Algebra (see http://www.collegeboard.org). Mr. Dickerson should check such things out.

Second, many thanks to Maureen for making this public. DCSD should be ashamed for misusing a math course, especially for its neediest students (those who need extra support).

Further, this points out a deficiency with the block scheduling system. I would never allow my child to suffer through block scheduling. I’ve been told that block scheduling is popular with school systems due to lower staffing costs but I haven’t seen any data.

school_is_home

September 18th, 2012
1:48 pm

Pre AP Algebra? To my knowledge the AP math exams are Calculus (AB & BC) and Statistics. I’m unaware of an AP Algebra exam. Maybe the question ought to be why is the student going into AP-anything if they’re registered for math support.
When does the student take ownership of their future and the associated coursework?
I think it’s crazy that any student should go an entire week of school without a Reading/English/Language/Literature course or a Math course. Madness.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
1:57 pm

@Dunwoody, I think this whole story is bizarre. And I am puzzled by Jeff’s comments as I think that it’s the school’s responsibility to guide students to the correct courses.
Maureen

concernedmom30329

September 18th, 2012
1:59 pm

A good question to ask is why DCSS has been so slow to get the teachers the schools need. This is the 6th week of school. For students on the block, this is a third of the school year.
I know of several elementary schools that the principals can’t get the permission to hire the staff they need. We will be on week 8 before new classes are formed.
Are you kidding me?

Fred ™

September 18th, 2012
2:04 pm

Stay on it Maureen. You’ll get to the bottom of it. You always do. Thanks.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
2:06 pm

@concerned, This is a failure of leadership. Plain and simple. This is too long for students to be without teachers. I don’t get it as there are teachers looking for work.
Can someone explain?
Maureen

retired teacher now

September 18th, 2012
2:20 pm

I know someone who’s certified for math and interviewed for a position in south dekalb a couple of weeks ago. He never heard back from them so went onto another job……

Flabberghastedforsure

September 18th, 2012
2:37 pm

Maureen, you are right – it is a failure of leadership. DCSS has Kendra March over this area and calls all the shots. Maybe she could explain how we are in this mess. There are schools throughout DeKalb still needing teachers. Some have been given permission to hire and others still need additional staff but don’t have permission. Schedules are still being changed yet the 4.5 week progress reports went home yesterday. Classes don’t have textbooks or desks. Classes are still
over the maximum class size.

As for Mr. Dickerson, his PR skills are lacking – his uninformed statements over the past two weeks have done more harm than good.

As for the math at Southwest DeKalb – it also goes back to leadership: the expertise of the AP in charge of master scheduling, his/her principal, the student’s counselor, the regional superintendent who oversees the school. And don’t forget the challenge of block schedule – a student has to take 32 course opportunities- if they aren’t failing courses, then they have to come up with an extra 8 classes beyond the 24 credits required…so maybe they get fluff classes like “math support”, “office
volunteer”, etc.

Math Support

September 18th, 2012
2:38 pm

Is this a math support class for Coordinate Algebra, GPS Geometry, Math II, Math III, or is it Math III Core Support? Math III Core Support can be taken WITHOUT a core math class. It is to prepare the student for the Math III class and the math portion of the GHSGT.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
3:03 pm

@math, One of the things that I told Dr. Atkinson is that a school system spokesperson has to know the system and the schools. I think contractual PR folks are hardpressed — given their other clients — to put in the time to do so. I hope DeKalb hires a spokesperson who can visit all the schools and learn the issues. I am getting answers that are baffling to me because I don’t think the communications folks even get what I am asking. She needs a well versed expert on DeKalb schools in that job or at least someone who has the time to develop an expertise.
Maureen

Mike Honcho

September 18th, 2012
3:11 pm

It could have been Advanced Algebra Support which (like Math III Core support) is taken prior to Advanced Algebra or Math III respectively. Of course, the students could be in Coordinate Algebra support, but that course should be taken along with Coordinate Algebra. The students could be in Math I support which should be taken along with Math I. There is a Math II support class to go along with Math II as well as a GPS Geometry support course to go along with GPS Geometry. The is no support class that is taught along with Math III or Advanced Algebra. There is no AP Algebra course and their is definitely no support class for this imaginary course. You see, here in Georgia we have found multple ways of screwing up math education. Thanks Kathy!

catlady

September 18th, 2012
3:19 pm

Anonymous: Block scheduling is MORE expensive, as most teachers teach only 75% of the day, as opposed to 83% of a six period day or 86% of a 7 period day. Now, if you are a coach, you probably only teach 2 blocks instead of 3.

My younger daughtes did fine on block, but she was super focused and super motivated. My son would have struggled, I am sure, and my elder daughter would have probably been okay.

All in all, I don’t think block is developmentally appropriate for underclassmen, unless they are unsually motivated.

catlady

September 18th, 2012
3:21 pm

BTW, who is on first in Dekalb?

Seems like too few know what is going on, or even care!

ka

September 18th, 2012
4:21 pm

There are several types of block scheduling. Alternate day block, Rotating block and the 4 x 4 block. The 4 x 4 block is the worst one of all. Of course this option was the one that Georgia schools adopted. I currently teach on an alternating block where I see students 85 minutes every other day. I LOVE it. Most teachers at my school do not teach then let the children do homework. We use the time to provide meaningful activities that bring more depth.

There is and will always be a shortage of math teachers. This is nothing new.

Arabia Mtn. Mom

September 18th, 2012
4:43 pm

I have never heard of a Math Support class. How about getting a tutor and keep it moving?!?!? I doubt very seriously that this fabricated class would offer credit towards a Core class. It appears to me that Counselors are needed as well.

Claudia Stucke

September 18th, 2012
4:53 pm

When the high school I recently left made AYP, we got more students. When we didn’t make AYP the following year, the county took away teachers and put them in other schools (higher-performing and lower-performing); but our enrollment did not go down. We’ve been understaffed ever since, and I left when I had 35-40 students in all but one of my classes. I understand that class sizes are even larger for many teachers in DeKalb, especially with school closings and other economy measures. Principals may beg the county for teachers, but apparently it takes public intervention to remedy the staffing problem.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 18th, 2012
5:10 pm

Does SWDHS have enough football coaches? Or, on a more philosophical plane, can a GS HS ever have enough football coaches?

Beverly Fraud

September 18th, 2012
5:22 pm

“She needs a well versed expert on DeKalb schools in that job or at least someone who has the time to develop an expertise.”

You didn’t have a resume in your hand while you were telling her this did you? LOL

Flabberghasted4sure

September 18th, 2012
6:00 pm

They are all about their marching band. Do they have enough band directors?

taco taco

September 18th, 2012
6:14 pm

Advanced Algebra Support? really? does anything seem weird about that title?

d

September 18th, 2012
6:31 pm

I just like how many of you who are not affiliated with SWD are speaking, for lack of a Bette term, on SWD’s behalf. Math support @2:38pm said it best…. Students in Math III support, or whatever it is called now, are students who barely scraped by in Math I, Math II and need the extra support before ey take the Grad test in March.

d

September 18th, 2012
6:32 pm

Better term not Bette term obviously :)

anita johnson

September 18th, 2012
6:53 pm

Maureen, I’m the mother you are talking about and let me tell you this: Dekalb County did not have any Math classes going on before I talked with Channel 2 I have proof because I have an email from the Math Chair confirming that.

mark

September 18th, 2012
7:52 pm

Show me the money!! PE instead of Math support! Math support is for students who scored low on their math CRCT or math 1 eoct or math two eoct. It is to ment to provide a tutor like assistance for students struggling in math. I wonder where they found a math teacher? If you want math and science positions filled prior to the 1st day, you need to attract. If Georgia’s continues to gut, public education, with amendments and charter/voucher schools, it will be hard to retain the ones you have.

Mike Honcho

September 18th, 2012
8:02 pm

Affiliation with the named school is a requirement for posting? I apologize. Where I teach, Advanced Algebra Support is intended just as d has said. Students take it their 3rd year and then take Advanced Algebra as their 4th math course. Of course, the state didn’t provide a curriculum or course outline for AA Support, so teachers developed their own.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
8:17 pm

Ms. Johnson, You mean they didn’t even have geometry or algebra or calculus? Not a single math class or just the math support classes?
Maureen

gsmith

September 18th, 2012
8:28 pm

i find this story hard to believe.. i cant believe this would happen in Dekalb County and at a great school like Southwest Dekalb High?? very puzzling

d

September 18th, 2012
9:07 pm

@Maureen…SWD is indeed teaching math classes this semester.

RCB

September 18th, 2012
9:25 pm

I guess none of the “Friends and Family” are certified to teach math, so the jobs go unfilled.

d

September 18th, 2012
9:30 pm

For what it’s worth @gsmith, SWD was one of few hig schools in DeKalb that made AYP in the last year that that was a measure. SWD has constantly had among the highest if not highest number of students certified work ready using ACT’s Work Keys assessment, students come out of SWD with millions in athletic and academic scholarships every year. SWD was recognized by the College Board for having the largest number of minority students who scored 3 or higher on the AP US History and AP Macroeconomics tests in the nation. Yeah, there are some issues at the school now, but to hint that SWD is a problem in DeKalb is just showing ignorance.

Really amazed

September 18th, 2012
9:30 pm

Everyone will tell you that their child is taking ap math or ap english even in middle school. Parents don’t realize that it’s not ap it’s a little more than average called advanced math or accel. They do no realize that ap classes don’t start until high school with an ap exam. Once again parents being blinded by what they are told by the gov’t schools. The parent and student feel better if it is called ap.

Maureen Downey

September 18th, 2012
9:30 pm

@d, I have received emails from SWD teachers and parents saying that math classes are under way. Not sure what the mom meant in her statement earlier here.
Maureen

Really amazed

September 18th, 2012
9:32 pm

Then again who knows what they might be calling it this year!!!! In Georgia the math is always changing. So very sad for students. Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what your gonna get!!!

dekalb Teacher

September 18th, 2012
10:30 pm

I think that one of the largest problems at SWD was the change of administration. The API is new to the job and does not know how to do it. Other adminstrators are just there to get their check. Also, the county office will not let the principal hire teachers that are needed, ie math teachers. Why would the county office lay off or move teachers without having an accurate account of the enrollment at the school? Business as usual in DCSS. Several classes still have more than 38 students. The morale is very low when we are faced with issues like this. To restate the AP issue, the only AP math courses are Calculus and Statistics. SWD has a strong AP program and can out preform any school on the south side of the county if we can give the resources to do so.

Go Figure

September 18th, 2012
10:33 pm

So this is how we achieve “Victory in Every Classroom.” This situation has me wondering how many other schools have this same problem and does it occur with the other core subjects? I think the only certainty is that this school system goes above and beyond to cover their dirt. It’s shameful that two teachers were placed at the SWD the day after Channel 2 showed up with a camera. That just goes to show that two teachers could have been assigned there (most likely) at any time. For some reason it was decided that this school and those students did not need/merit teachers until a parent asked questions and the news crew arrived. What AdvanceED standard (if any) does this violate?

Dekalbite

September 18th, 2012
10:42 pm

One of the SWD APs has a suspension for Ethics violation listed on the Georgia Certification website.
https://www.gapsc.com/Certification/Lookup/look_up.aspx

Dekalbite

September 18th, 2012
11:00 pm

From the wsbtv report:
“So she sent an email to the school last week. The chairman of the math department emailed back saying: “You are correct in that these children, not just 11th grade, but 9th and 10th as well have been without a teacher. We are in need of math teachers.”
http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/lack-teachers-leaves-students-without-math/nSDMm/

Loving Life!

September 18th, 2012
11:27 pm

@Maureen Downey “This is a failure of leadership. Plain and simple.”

Absolutely! This story is baffling because SWD HS has just received a new principal, Ms. Carolyn D. Williams, former administrator of Stone Mountain HS and I was under the assumption that she was one of the best high school administrators in DeKalb. I can make only one point to defend Ms. Williams however, since she is a new principal (at the site but has previous experience) she might have dismissed former teachers who did not meet her standards and could find replacements in enough time. That being said, PE is no replacement for a remediation math course! Ms. Williams should have temporarily reassigned administrators (with math backgrounds) to pick up the classes or higher long-term subs until a permanent replacement was found. These are students who need additional support in the subject area and the school is failing to provide it for them.

I have been an assistant principal and if this were to happen at my former middle school, the administrator would be demoted to the lowest pay-scale possible at the worst school in the county – and I have seen it happen many times.

DeKalb country is thinking very backwards when it comes to high school reform. You do not need 4 assistant principals at a school where their is only 1,000 students, reduce that number to 2 and you can hire 4.5 new teachers at starting salary. The 4×4 block schedule has been proven obsolete time and time again. Logic tells you a teacher can only teach 75 students (if the class cap is 25) on a block schedule however, on a 7 period schedule the instructor can teach up to 150 students creating more sections for students and smaller class sizes.

SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM:
SWD HS has 1,471 students (using last year’s March 1, 2012 headcount). Maureen reported 15 math teachers, each teaches 3 classes totaling in 45 sections; therefore the average math class size has to be 36.7 students (very high). If the school were to switch to a 7 period schedule its 15 math teachers could teach 90 sections reducing the average math class size to 16.3 students (reasonable). Doesn’t that make more sense? And you didn’t even have to cut any of your assistant principals or hire any additional staff!

The major problem with education is we have vision-less administrators who make decisions that are clearly negative on a child’s development and they don’t give a damn.

MannyT

September 19th, 2012
12:15 am

Seems like Dekalb needs to make nice with Georgia State.

Teacher Residency Program (special education, math, or science): Net-Q
While enrolled in an 18 month initial certification program at Georgia State, teacher residents are placed with a mentor teacher in a high-needs school and receive a $25,000 living stipend. The residencies are in special education (elementary/middle/or high school), mathematics or science (middle or high school) Successful completion ensures a job with the school district where the Teacher Residency Program is completed.
http://education.gsu.edu/oaa/pathways.htm

Tiffany

September 19th, 2012
12:16 am

Was the principal not provided a listing of staff needed for the school year? Did the principal not meet with the Assistant Principal for Instruction? This is really weak!! Could two retired certified teachers not sub for one month to provide these students with Math classes? The Director of Human Resources should be terminated along with many others.
The arrogant Arabia Mountain parent had a comment. Arabia Mountain is not what it used to be when it opened in 2009. In fact, Arabia Mountain has had a high Math teacher turnover rate. I’m also an Arabia Mountain parent. We have had some of the worse Math teachers!!!

concernedmom30329

September 19th, 2012
6:24 am

In these tough economic times, many school systems are careful not to overstaff. But they are far quicker to respond to needs than DeKalb has been this year.. I fear that Atkinson isn’t being informed by her staff where the holes are and how long ago the senior staff was notified that these needs exist.

I hear that some of her senior staff can’t handle parental complaints and doesn’t understand the environment they walked into. Involved parents don’t know which way to turn when things re going wrong in the schools — it seems as principals and their direct supervisors are just being told to placate and not work for any real solution.

Mountain Man

September 19th, 2012
7:19 am

“I know someone who’s certified for math and interviewed for a position in south dekalb a couple of weeks ago. He never heard back from them so went onto another job……”

Maybe he was the wrong race.

Mountain Man

September 19th, 2012
7:25 am

“SWD has a strong AP program and can out preform any school on the south side of the county ”

Damning with slight praise.

How do they compare, say, to East Cobb Schools – Walton perhaps?

John Konop

September 19th, 2012
7:50 am

I agree with you Maureen about using resources like high level math students in college. This is why we must coordinate administration with colleges and 9 – 12 th grade. This is a classic example of a simple solution if everyone was working together. We have the resources in many cases, just a lack of coordination.

Neal C White

September 19th, 2012
10:38 am

There is no excuse for a lack of teachers and the Principal should be held accountable. If they just could not find someone qualified to teach by mid August there should be alternatives. I noticed several alternatives mentioned in the comments. One I did not notice is online math course. There are
Plenty of good online math courses, as well as complete K-12 curriculum (certified). There is a reluctance by the Educational field to use this tool and instead permit this kind of thing to take place. I am presently completing a free college course on the Constitution 201 – taught by Conisutional Scholars. What better teaching could one have. It is a made up of 10 45 minute video Lectures,additional reading assignment, test an FAQ if desired. I am also taking a free Computer 101 courses online – programing, etc. That course is taught by a professor at Southern California. Why not these options when no teachers appear to be available. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I am 77 years of age and might not qualify as a student.

Joke on us

September 19th, 2012
11:37 am

i have to say: If I have an engineering or math degree from GT I will not be teaching any math classes. lets see, no coffee breaks, you can’t even go to the rest room when you need to. everyday you have to be “on”. some prinicpals are bullys. why would anyone want to put up with the BS?

Pride and Joy

September 19th, 2012
2:24 pm

There is a real shortage of math teachers. I’ve talked to two education degreed teachers who siad thet were afraid to teach middle school math because they coyuldn’t do it themselves. This points out the worth of an education degree. Every teacher should be able to teach any high school math class. If they cannot, they din’t deserve a college degree.
We need teachers with real educations not people with a piece od paper drom a diploma mill.

Dekalbite@Neal

September 19th, 2012
2:28 pm

“There is no excuse for a lack of teachers and the Principal should be held accountable. If they just could not find someone qualified to teach by mid August there should be alternatives.”

That’s not the way it works in DeKalb. Principals can only ask. HR decides. There is a strict chain of command in DeKalb. Principals and the schoolhouse are not very far up that chain of command. It’s rigidly enforced. Principals are to do what they are told to do even if it conflicts with what is best for the school and ultimately the students. Principals who want to stay in that position or rise in the county hierarchy know where their loyalties and priorities must lie.