DeKalb school board mess: Are we focusing on symptoms rather than real problem?

I am always delighted to receive a submission from Lawrence M. Schall, president of Oglethorpe University. Here is a column he wrote about the DeKalb County school board drama and its larger implications. (You can read his blog on Huffington Post.)

In relation to his comments on the pending lawsuit by the DeKalb board, I want to note that Schall earned doctoral degrees in law and education from the University of Pennsylvania and practiced civil rights law earlier in his career.

By Lawrence M. Schall
We will all soon learn of the decision of the federal district court regarding the constitutionality and/or legality of the governor’s decision to remove six of the nine sitting DeKalb County School Board members.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the decision being overturned. While the performance of the school board, and more importantly, the school district have been abysmal for far too long, the process used to throw some of the board members out of office just doesn’t pass the “due process” sniff test. Having the executive branch remove elected officials from office ought to require more hard evidence than what I have read in the AdvancED-SACS investigatory report.

I went to the AdvancED-SACS website this morning and here’s what they say about their purpose: “Accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance … designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards … (that) effectively drive student performance and continuous improvement.”

Just two thoughts here before I continue. First, regional accreditation is voluntary in name only. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but the reality is that every public school in our state must submit itself to SACS accreditation to function.

If DeKalb were to lose its accreditation, it would cease to exist, at least in its current form. And second, is there anyone out there who believes that public K-12 education across the state of Georgia is marked by student performance and continuous improvement? I am pretty certain even our own governor wouldn’t use those phrases.

There’s something horribly wrong here and it is not simply that fact that the DeKalb County school board is a disaster. In the last few years, three school districts, DeKalb, Clayton and APS, that serve the children of metro Atlanta have been on death’s doorstep.

With very few exceptions, the entire system in our state and in many other states is broken. Nationwide, half of the children born into low-income families drop out of school, at the rate of more than 1.2 million a year, and only one in 10 graduate from college. That is a national embarrassment of immense proportions.

Why should we care? Well, if your child is in one of those broken systems or broken schools, his or her chance of succeeding in life, of leading a better life than you were able to build for yourself, is diminished to a frightening extent. Even if you are fortunate enough to be able to send your child to a high-performing independent school or you happen to live in a district that performs far better than average, you ought to realize that the future of the country which your child will inherit will be bleak if the majority of its citizens lack a basic education. Every other developed country in the world gets this; it’s hard to imagine how we can be so short-sighted.

In my view, we (and I include the AJC here) have spent a huge amount of time and energy over the last few years focused on the symptoms and not the problem. Our schools are failing our children, each and every day. Every year that passes means we condemn hundreds of thousands of kids to a life of struggle.

We deprive them of the American dream in which we all purport to believe. There is no equal opportunity for these children. The state can appoint six new school board members in DeKalb for a year or so and we might see some marginal improvement in governance, but it will be temporary. And I can pretty much promise you we will not see a change in educational outcomes. We will not see, using SACS’ own terms, a system that drives student performance and lives by the mantra of continuous improvement.

My two older children are both middle school teachers inside the public school system. They are each at schools that work. The great shame of the entire situation is that we have examples of what works all around us, even here in Atlanta. There are national education reform organizations such as Stand for Children, StudentsFirst (started by Michelle Rhee), and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (led by Jeb Bush) that share a common agenda for change.

That agenda includes initiatives to 1.) elevate the teaching profession with appropriate teacher and principal evaluation systems and by creating paths for the recognition and reward of effective teachers, 2.) empower parents with real choice by providing them with easily accessible and understandable data and through the equitable funding of effective charter schools, 3.) implement rigorous academic curriculum with high expectations, with a special focus on early childhood education and K-3 reading readiness, and 4.) spend tax dollars more efficiently by promoting better governance structures.

Until we make fixing our schools our highest collective national priority, we and our children will continue to fail.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

150 comments Add your comment

Disgusted in Dekalb

March 4th, 2013
5:04 am

The big question is: What are we willing to do for our children?

And its not just about education. Its about health care and living conditions. Its about preventing Columbine and Sandy Hook. Its about focusing on the children. Its about listening instead of talking constantly. Its not about you, your opinion, your blog, your website, your tweet, its about the children.

As a nation we’ve become so self-centered and me-focused, we’re losing subsequent generations.

Mr Schall gets it. Thanks to Maureen for publishing it.


March 4th, 2013
5:27 am

Same old solutions from conservatives: turn the screws tighter and tighter on both teachers and students. Didn’t work with No Child Left Behind” and won’t suddenly work now. Charter’s haven’t worked either and there’s plenty of empirical data to back that up even though ideologues won’t admit it and probably never will.

Listen carefully and you’ll hear the cultural “dog whistles” that turn us off against learning. Here’s one of many clues if one has the courage to look: over half of us don’t even believe in evolution. We choose to believe silly folk tales about an Earth only a few thousand years old. There are many such examples. We are the mass equivalent of a foolish oaf.

Of course we don’t value education. Our naïve stories leave us with a desire for making a buck with no time left to truly understand ourselves or the world around us. At best we become what we value and we as a society do not value education. Young people rightly sense the low value we place on education and they behave accordingly. If the broad cultural voices we all listen to told them an education was really worth something they would value education. Instead they see their elders thrashing around in the air like this article and shuffle on off to pursue the trivial pleasures adults seek.


March 4th, 2013
5:32 am

I really wonder what schools and society would be like if only people who wanted to have children and who had the financial means to raise children had children.

Better, more affordable access to birth control and abortion could work wonders down the road.

Fred in DeKalb

March 4th, 2013
5:39 am

It’s always good to read a different point of view. While I would prefer the DeKalb Board members resign for the good of the community, I agree with Schall in that the governor’s decision will be overturned. It’s good to see more people saying this now without concern of being chastised.

Like a referee in a sporting match, citizens really don’t notice Board members until things are going wrong. While I agree in principle with the reform recommendations, especially early childhood interventions, we undeniably have challenges based on the increase of low income children in our school districts. Many of these children come to public school less prepared than those from modest means. The lack of jobs is a contributing factor to this. Can we expect to change the schools unless changes are made to and within the communities some are in? Many of us know of the exceptional children that breaks through the barriers of poverty in spite of their circumstances however many more are left behind. I don’t want to imply that just spending more money is the answer however how the money is targeted and the results from it should be measured.

Without question, disciplined environments where teachers have the ability to remove consistent behavior problems from a classroom is a tool needed. There has to be balance (In years past I’ve seen some teachers misuse this) but this is a must.

Jack ®

March 4th, 2013
5:45 am

I think Schall said it somewhere in his treatise; I think he said the problem starts with the parents which ain’t no surprise. The parents of today’s children suffered the same handicap of having non-caring parents. Our children are going headlong into a commercial world that demands basic knowledge of the English language and math plus a desire to know what’s going on inside those handheld gadgets they now depend on for social acceptance. It may be a slight overstatement, but we will eventually have engineers and fry-cooks in about a 1 to 10 ratio or maybe 1 to 100. Boils down to: don’t have children unless you are willing and able to raise and educate them.

Matt Westclox

March 4th, 2013
5:54 am

So many complaints. So many experts. So many opinions. So many buzzwords. So much B…

When was public education successful? What changed?


March 4th, 2013
6:03 am

The important factors not mentioned, parents and limiting the demands on the schools. Somehow parents must become more involved and responsible for the education for the education of their child. Second, schools should be responsible for education only, not solving every other social issue in our society.


March 4th, 2013
6:06 am

Dr. Schall had me until he brought Michelle Rhee into this. The problem with the reform groups in the United States is that they bring everything back to one thing – standardized tests. Life isn’t about standardized tests. As a graduate of Oglethorpe University myself, I can say I was taught to think critically and ask questions while I was a student there. This is the type of education I would hope Dr. Schall would be wanting to see nationwide.

As far as what SACS is supposed to be concerned with, why aren’t they? Dr. Elgart seems to be more interested in having 9-0 votes than anything else. Forget seeing what our students can do (and forget if they can even do a multiple choice standardized test). Let’s just focus on can 9 adults agree on something that has nothing to do with outcomes in the classroom. I am not a fan of Dr. Trotter, but he is right on what SACS has become. Ms. Jester has stated the concern too. Children are being allowed to fall through the cracks in too many systems, but their boards of education get along just fine, so they are not bothered by SACS. I will say, however, I do wonder if SACS wasn’t located in Alpharetta, would they be so involved in DeKalb’s problems?

The problem with American education in general is that we tend to like quick snapshot answers rather than a full understanding of what is the true data behind those numbers. Sure, we have a 67% graduation rate. Oh gee, we’re doing an awful job….. but when you look more closely, you see that 67% represents the number of students who finish in the traditional 4 years. I had three students not pass my class last semester – several more shouldn’t have, but because of grading policies, they were able to squeak by. Should I have passed those additional three students so that they could have graduated on time or should I have allowed them to fail so that they could take the time to make sure that they learned the curriculum and make their diploma worth something? I think most readers here would agree with the latter option, but that would lower the graduation rate, and the school is failing the student then, right?

Maybe, just maybe, we should turn the reform movement on its head and go into the classrooms to ask the teachers what they would do to improve American education from the core. Take the Bill Gates and Michelle Rhees out of the conversation. Go to the teachers and ask – what can we do to create a high quality educational system – what kinds of assessments can we use to ensure that students are really learning? I bet we would be surprised at the outcomes if we allowed those types of reforms to move forward.

Fred in DeKalb

March 4th, 2013
6:11 am

**When was public education successful? What changed?**

The answer depends on how you measure success. Though we have better statistics now, it is still said we are graduating more students from high school now than since the mid 70’s. This despite the fact the US has lost much of its manufacturing base. We all know of people that did not or barely finished high school yet carved out a middle class living because they could get a job in manufacturing.

Unless the high school offers vo tech training, I believe it is a requirement to for at least two years of post high school training to find a good job. Good auto mechanics, electricians and plumbers are worth their weights in gold however I believe schooling beyond high school is important to get into these areas now. I see these as a key changes, shrinking number of entry level manufacturing jobs coupled with increased educational requirements for traditional blue collar jobs.

I know Dekalbite likes data so the below link is for them,

mountain man

March 4th, 2013
6:47 am

“I had three students not pass my class last semester – several more shouldn’t have, but because of grading policies, they were able to squeak by.”

In other words – diplomas were given to students who did not deserve them, thus devaluing EVERY diploma given in the State of Georgia.

mountain man

March 4th, 2013
6:49 am

“Though we have better statistics now, it is still said we are graduating more students from high school now than since the mid 70’s. This despite the fact the US has lost much of its manufacturing base.”

In the 70’s. it was possible to quit school and get a half decent job in a trade without a high school diploma. Now, just about ANY job, even the most menial – require a high school diploma. I know that change has been implemented at our worksite.


March 4th, 2013
6:53 am

No one ever addresses the elephant in the room. Our culture does not value education, and, in parts of DeKalb county, the majority of students are black. The teenage pregnancy rate is high (though I believe it is higher here in Athens Clarke County). These blacks kids value athletics way more than education. The sad truth is that very few humans are good athletes. If you are five foot two, you are most likely not going to be a stellar basketball player. Yet these teen age moms, high school dropouts themselves, fill these boys’ heads with pipe dreams. Learning is hard work, and they would rather play a game or figure out a get-rich-quick scheme than knuckle down and get an education. Because the people in these neighborhoods that know nothing but poverty and living off the dole, they actually denigrate education. They make fun of the boys and girls that excel at math, science, and proper English. To us watching the news at night, it seems that the black thugs kill the “good kids” off at an alarming rate. The young men they beat to death are always the star student. The little kids shot while sleeping in their beds are always the brightest ones, whose moms are trying against staggering odds to keep their children safe. I’m with Beck, who posted above, maybe we should start with contraception, sex education, and cheap abortions.

TiQuavious in Ellenwood

March 4th, 2013
7:01 am

Reinstatement equals loss of accreditation. This in the long run will be a good thing. We have to hit bottom, like a strung out junkie, before we can begin to build back up. What is surprising is the lack of involvement by the Feds. Dekalb County was under federal monitoring from the late 60’s until 1996. Rights are clearly being violated once again and yet the Feds are sitting on their hands, watching the lives of these children waste away.


March 4th, 2013
7:03 am

The desire to improve graduation rates leads to a reduction in standards for graduation. Efforts to empower the underclass cause flight by anybody of whatever class and race who values an effective education for their kids.

When the City of Atlanta artfully did away with the big housing projects, Perry Homes, East Lake Meadows, Capitol Homes and the like it improved the city, but those people have to live somewhere, and their kids have to attend school somewhere, and we’ll never solve our problems until we deal with our basic economic and social problem, what we have a large number of people who, regardless of their individual personalities have very little chance for a life that doesn’t involve prison time and the creation of little underclass babies.

Forget the racial garbage. It’s not a race issue. Look around you. If your kid is in a decent school there will be a significant number of black kids in that school whose intelligence, values, and performance are equal to or better than your kids’ It’s not just “white flight;” it’s the flight of the middle and upper class, along with members of the underclass who really have the intelligence and motivation to get out of the ‘hood. Get out of the city and the underclass includes more and more white kids in the same social predicament. What sort of useful employment are these kids suited for? Realistically where do they fit into the picture?

How do we deal with this?


March 4th, 2013
7:04 am

I would respectfully differ from Mr. Schall. We do NOT have to be accredited by SACS, or any other regional accreditation agency. Until 10-15 years ago, it was rare to have a system SACS accredited. High schools, yes, but entire systems, no. And we have continually since then given ever-more credence to what the powers that be at SACS think is in their purview.

It would be nice, given the sentiment in Georgia to be master of oneself, to give SACS a big old raspberry and tell it to keep moving, to put its nose in someone else’s business.


March 4th, 2013
7:30 am

Here’s a thought… There is more to the state of education in GA than Dekalb County. How about a new evaluation passed by the house, a real analysis of school system spending ( for other districts other than Dekalb and APS)- where is only spent, follow-up on state of testing cheating, what are districts doing to innovate, the trend away from textbooks, what systems stand out as doing it right?

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:30 am

I get the feeling the main ting Schall is is impressed with is himself.

this is the second time recently he has posted a pantload. having some experience with Ogelthorpe and him, I’m frankly not impressed. he uses alot of the correct buzzwords and burns a lot of the correct strawmen, but in the end….

1-life ain’t fair. everyone does have the same opportunity from birth-to make the best of oneself they can. everyone does not have the same challenges, worth ethic, and parental dedication. but with the exception of those who are truly damaged from birth, we all get the same chance. what we do with it,,,?

2-Michelle Rhee? really? would I love to be seen dating her? hell yes, she’s pretty. do I want her anywhere near a classroom? God no.

3-very few kids are compelled to drop out. the vast, vast, vast majority choose to do so.

4-I get very annoyed when self important publicity hounds like Schall start lecturing me, or anyone else, on what they should believe, or how the should act. take a lesson from Mother Teresa. do, not talk.


March 4th, 2013
7:31 am

@mountain man – I thinnk you made my point. If it were up to me, those extra students would have repeated the course and really earned that passing grade, but then I would be the proverbial “bad teacher” for not giving every opportunity to redo, redo, redo (and pretend that in the real world, these kids will see anything like that opportunity).

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:32 am

hopefully the one good thing which might come of this disaster is a serious discussion on SACS, what they do, don’t do, and if we should even bother continuing with them.

IMO SACS is a once good idea gone horribly wrong

Mountain Man

March 4th, 2013
7:34 am

“When was public education successful? What changed?”

OMG! You HAD to ask that question, did you? How old are you, Matt?

I went to school in the sixties and seventies and I judge that public education was pretty effective then. Yes, I am sure people would say there were problems then also, but nothing like today.

Back then, we spent one-fourth what we spend now per student (adjusted for inflation) and EVERY student went to school in a brick and mortar schoolhouse (NO trailers).

Back then, discipline was the watchword. If you misbehaved, the teacher would punish you. The most severe punishment was a paddling. When you got paddled, you kept it a secret from your parents because you knew they would paddle you AGAIN if you were paddled at school. If you were REALLY bad, you got sent to the office and your parents were called. Then you REALLY got punished by your parents at home.

Note back then, I used parents in the plural form. That is becasue in those days the norm was to have a mother and a father at home raising the kids. Nothing like today when the percentage of kids raised by (usually) a single mother is huge.

Back then, if your mastery of the subject matter was lacking, you received the grade you deserved from your teacher. The principal would NEVER think about changing a teacher’s grade. If you failed, you failed. If you failed a class, you had to go to “summer school” to retake the material. If you diod not do this, or you failed again, you were retained in your old grade level. NEVER were you “socially promoted”.

Back then, if you were absent from school, you were expected to bring a note from home detailing why. Too many absences and your parents received a visit from the Truancy Officer.

What else? Back, then, you chose around the eight grade if you were going for a college-prep curriculum or a technology curriculum. Both got high school diplomas, but the college prep required much more academic subjects. But even the vo-tech diploma gauranteed you could read and write and know your multiplication tables (ask a recent graduate now what 7 time 8 is and see if they have to pull out their cell phone).

Back then, teachers were the authority and they were respected, and they knew their subjects, and the administration backed them up and stood behiond their decisions. Helicopter parents were unknown.

I could probably go on all day – I haven’t even started on SPED students. But I will give it a rest for now.

Maureen – it would be an interesting article to compare and contrast schools of the sixties and schools of today.

Ed Johnson

March 4th, 2013
7:37 am

“Dr. Schall had me until he brought Michelle Rhee into this.”
–@d 6:06 am


“Take the Bill Gates and Michelle Rhees out of the conversation. Go to the teachers and ask – what can we do to create a high quality educational system – what kinds of assessments can we use to ensure that students are really learning?”
–@d 6:06 am

And let’s go farther. Let’s go to the teachers with two questions:

1. What do you need that you are not getting?
2. What are you getting that you don’t need?

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:38 am

I can damn well guarantee you we won’t see a chance in these stats until the US as a whole starts putting a value on education.

hell, we’re in the middle of a self inflicted cultural revolution here. the anti education, anti achievement mentality which exists in this nation is staggering.

Mountain Man

March 4th, 2013
7:42 am

What I have always proposed is a “back to the basics” approach. When Dekalb county spends all this money (How much money spent for Success for All?), how does that “latest and greatest” program deal with kids who don’t attend school? How can you teach an empty desk? Does that multi-million dollar program say?

Does it address discipline? Does it address social promotion?

Get those down, and I believe you will see an immediate jump in performance.

Fred in DeKalb

March 4th, 2013
7:42 am

Might, the data you are requesting would be interesting to see. At the same time, nothing gets more attention than a blog on DeKalb County. I’ve heard friends from other counties complain about the fact that their concerns about their school systems get little to no attention. There is more to the state of education in GA than Dekalb County. I guess you have to give the people what they want.


March 4th, 2013
7:43 am

MM, If it is the fault of conservatives why are the systems run by liberals that are failing ? The author of the article listed a couple of programs he felt are positive “There are national education reform organizations such as Stand for Children, StudentsFirst (started by Michelle Rhee), and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (led by Jeb Bush) that share a common agenda for change.”
Notice that Michelle Rhee was fired from her position in DC and those schools are in the tank and now run by liberals again. The second program, Foundation for Exellence, is an idea of another conservative. Lets face MM, you can bash conservatives all you want but the problem is kids without parents that care.

Mountain Man

March 4th, 2013
7:47 am

“the problem is kids without parents that care.”

That is a TRUE statement, Bob!


March 4th, 2013
7:48 am

Mountain Man,
You might add that teachers and parents were on the same page, working together for what was good for the child. Mutual respect was the norm, not the exception. Teachers did not see parents as an enemy to be kept away and parents saw teachers as important and respected professionals, essential to the education of their children.

Character was more important than grades.

Families thought generationally. Parents were willing to sacrifice for what might be possible for their children and grandchildren in twenty five or fifty years.

The school community was made up of parents who had common aspirations for their children and roughly congruent standards for acceptable behavior. Violating common aspirations and standards had consequences.

Education spending was focused on the class room, not on the back office.

It is possible to go on and on.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:51 am

@ MM

you and I come from the same dark ages. I am a product of DCSS (when it was a national leader).
the differences I see between DCSS then and now make me amazed its the same geographic system.

-when I was in school, I was often paddled – yes paddled- for being a discipline problem. my parents response – toss him into detention as well. no hysterical threats to sue or get someone fired.

-I had to go to summer school to keep up. three times. I failed classes and was NOT promoted until I made them up.

-people were required to dress better. anyone who even remotely looked like a gang member or showing too much skin (or underwear) was sent home. and it was socially humiliating to be sent home.

-no mainstreaming. keep up or get left behind. if you were handicapped back then schools were not required to make unrealistic arrangements.

-crossing certain behaviors got you bounced out – no discussion. then you either went to work, joined the army, or found yourself in jail. when I very, very narrowly avoided this myself, I learned first hand there were real life consequences to my misdeeds.

-society valued education for its ownself, not as a vehicle for social change and experimentation.

Mountain Man

March 4th, 2013
7:52 am

People here are always bashing SACS, but they are just the messenger. Are you telling me that you don’t CARE that there is rampant nepotism, with money diverted from educating your kids to paying salaries for imaginary jobs for relatives of Board members? You don’t CARE that your school taxes are at the upper end of what is constitutionally allowed and yet your school system runs a $14 million deficit and your performance scores are STILL in the basement? You don’t CARE that Board members interfere to get certain things for certain people and leave YOUR kids out in the cold?

If you don’t care, then I don’t care. Tell SACS to go to h*ll, that you don’t need them. Just don’t be accredited.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:54 am

Michelle Rhee was fired due to serious Beverly Hall type misdeeds. beware of anything, I mean anything, which turns around so quickly. its smoke and mirrors.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
7:57 am

@ mountain

in my experience, SACS and the issues you list are badly interrelated and self supporting.

think of public ed like an addicted person. you gotta clean out the system AND dismantle the enablers to really get well.

Mountain Man

March 4th, 2013
8:01 am

“no mainstreaming. keep up or get left behind. if you were handicapped back then schools were not required to make unrealistic arrangements.”

Thank you, bootney, for that added comment. Yes, I believe you and I got excellent educations back then. So “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – where did that go? They were too involved into fixing imaginary problems, while destroying the educational system while doing it. Paddling is wrong – can’t you tell – all those school shootings and mass murderers coming out of our school systems in the sixties – all because of paddling, so let’s get rid of it. We are “warehousing” our mentally deficient students, sure they only have an IQ of 50, but they should have a RIGHT to know how it feels to be in an advanced algebra class (never mind you have to have a full-time parapro there trying to teach them how to tie their shoes). Get rid of the social stigma of “retaining” students, go ahead promote students over and over until you let them graduate without being able to read, write or do simple arithmetic. You have high school graduates with a diploma and when their cash register goes down, they cannot count back change. And then you wonder why businesses are now requiring college degrees for more and more job descriptions.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
8:10 am

ultimately, the issue is, and remains, we no longer value education in this nation.

-we rail against achievement
-we don’t reward discipline and effort
-we make excuses for instead of dealing with actions
-we are more concerned with our racial/social/group identity than we are our children.
-we look for quick fixes instead of long term solutions
-we idolize Alan Iverson and ignore Neil Tyson
-we want someone else to do the work for us – frankly, we’re lazy
-we reward bad behavior
-we punish good behavior
-violence, sex, drug use is accepted and promoted, not condemned
-we regard pregnant teens as just another day at the office, not a symptom of a much larger issue
-its ALWAYS someone elses fault

and none of these real genuine issues Dr Schall works so hard to avoid.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
8:17 am

lets “keep it real” for a moment.

every time I was paddled (yes, it happened alot), every time I found myself in detention, suspension, or having to go to summer school


my parents -yup, two of the, living in the same house and everything- did all they could, so did my preacher, my extended family, girlfriends, ect. ultimately they gave me the best gift of all.

when it was obvious I was refusing all help and making my own bed…..they let me lie in it.

bootney farnsworth

March 4th, 2013
8:21 am

“Efforts to empower the underclass cause flight by anybody of whatever class and race who values an effective education for their kids”

what the hell does this mean? lots of fancy words which may sound good, but mean nothing at all


March 4th, 2013
8:26 am

I think your view of education in the 60s and 70s is biased by nostalgia. It was the baby boom. There were a lot more trailers unless you lived in a declining area. Schools for poor African Americans were dismal with no resources. I guarantee the math skills of kids today are a lot better than the 60s and 70s (it was hard to find someone who could properly make change in those part-time jobs filled by HS kids). SPED kids were allowed to fail and become wards of the state.

Some of your points are on the mark like discipline, pushing everyone on a college prep track, and the challenges for single parent families. But there were definitely issues.


March 4th, 2013
8:32 am

Another comment by an “expert” who hasn’t been in a classroom within the last decade.


March 4th, 2013
8:35 am

As far as Dekalb, I don’t think SACS would be doing anything if we didn’t have such a dysfunctional board. Are they on probation in Macon? Bibb County has a disproportinate number of the absolute worst schools in the state.

We’re focusing on the board problem instead of the more important problems.

I’d be interested in why Mr. Schall’s daughters think the middle schools they teach at are functioning well in view of the issues that Mountain Man brings up.

Maureen Downey

March 4th, 2013
8:46 am

@bu2, I agree with you. Fifty years ago, school failures were not a factor because there weren’t dire economic consequences. Dropouts could find jobs in mills and factories. I have to dig it up but the statistic on the number of kids who didn’t even go on to high school then in rural areas was striking. This is something that Phil Schlechty often discusses:

The press and a lot of people talk about the schools as if they are bad. Now I’m 70 years old, and I remember the ‘good ol’ days.’ And we didn’t have a drop-out problem when I started teaching school, because drop-outs were a solution. In 1950, half of the kids in America didn’t drop out of high school because they hadn’t dropped in.
In 1950, literally, 50% of all Americans above the age of 25 had not entered high school. So they couldn’t have dropped out. So we talk about a 50% drop-out rate being a problem, that’s really based on an assumption that there was no problem in the ‘good ol’ days.’ We didn’t have a drop out problem then because dropping out was all right.

Now dropping out is not all right. Our schools are much better today than they’ve ever been at doing what they used to do. The problem is we want our schools to do something different from that. And so we’ve got to get over the notion.

It’s like the Model T Ford. There was nothing wrong with the Model T Ford in 1910.

The problem is that the Model T Ford won’t work on these interstate highways. Well that’s the same thing we’ve got with our schools. There’s nothing wrong with our schools that we have in 1950. If we had schools as good as we got now in 1950 we would have had wonderful schools. But we didn’t have them.

Now if we get good 1950 schools (And that’s where I think a lot of the reform is headed) it tries to make the schools good enough for 1950. But we’ve got to talk about the year 2050.

There are some things I don’t always agree with Bill Gates about, but one of the things I do agree with is the high schools we have today, if you made them as good as you could make them, couldn’t satisfy the conditions. There’s no way to reform the present schools, improve the present schools, enough to make them good enough. They are based upon the wrong assumptions. We’ve got to have an entirely different form of school – a different system of schooling. And people don’t seem to understand that, they keep trying to make the high schools better. Well, you can only make them so much better. The internal combustion engine can only get you so far, but it’s not going to get you to the moon. If we want all children to be educated at high levels for the 21st century, the present high school system can’t do that. So we’ve got to create a different system of education. And that’s pretty dramatic.



March 4th, 2013
8:49 am

Deborahinathens and Ed Johnson’s questions summed it up for me, and I have been teaching in southern DeKalb for going on 20 years.


March 4th, 2013
8:52 am

i think the best solution to the public education mess is to get rid of public education all together.


March 4th, 2013
8:54 am

bootney – 7:51

In today’s America, a student like you would be a trial lawyer’s dream.


March 4th, 2013
9:00 am

On the “college prep” issue, I wonder if we are asking kids to do more than they are developmentally ready for. Kids are doing genetics in elementary school. Many things my children are doing in elementary, we did in middle or high school.
6th graders are put into a middle school setting that many aren’t ready for. And of course, everyone doesn’t need calculus. Hardly anyone really needs calculus, even in college, let alone high school.


March 4th, 2013
9:04 am

@d – you stole my line… “Dr. Schall had me until he brought Michelle Rhee into this.”

This woman is a charlatan. She’s getting paid (a LOT of money) to shill for “education reform” that is built around one thing – testing. When the test is the only important thing (and let’s not mince words, folks: ever since NCLB became law, testing has been the driving force behind everything), then teachers have no choice but to follow the prescribed curriculum and teach to the test. That is, they have no choice if they expect to keep their jobs.

Michelle Rhee’s results in Washington, DC, were achieved as a result of cheating. If she was such hot stuff, she’d still be in charge in that city, or even (gasp) Secretary of Education by now. She’s a fraud, a fake, and a charlatan … and any school system, local or state, that listens to her is a fool.

Clutch Cargo

March 4th, 2013
9:07 am

MM has it spot on. Conservative people are NOT entitled to their beliefs.People of faith SHOULD be suppressed (and even jailed) for teaching their kids ANYTHING except approved curricula.The problem that we have in this country right now (as MM so deftly points out) is that a LOT of misguided “parents” expect their children to “behave” and go to school to learn.This should be stopped and all children and their parents that agree with the idea of proletarian solidarity should march together toward a shining path of education and enlightenment. This is only just.

The only “accreditation” agency should henceforth be the NEA. All other regional agencies should be abolished forthwith.Only the reactionary,unjust agencies like SACS can prevent “Success For Everyone” and would not be allowed to exist if this plan is adopted.We must re-educate ourselves on this matter.

Now this may sound controversial,but hear me out: Charter Schools might teach their students things that are…Well, they might teach things that are not in keeping with “contemporary” or “informed” thought and opinion.Surely you can see the dangers in this.We must protect our students from revisionist teachings,writings and indoctrination.Parents will understand (and support) this plan when we explain that its for THEIR students safety and well being. It pretty much goes without saying that most (if not all) parents (especially the ones that pull their kids out of our enlightened schools) don’t have their childrens best interests at heart.

I think that MM should be the next superintendent of DeKalb,Clayton and indeed,all of Georgia.


March 4th, 2013
9:09 am

Until the problem becomes “our” children, we will never fix the problem. As long as “our” children are able to run to private schools, we will just talk about the problem. This problem has always existed in the state of Georgia for quiet some time. Until that problem or any other problem reach “our” neighborhood. Then it is what it is.

Private Citizen

March 4th, 2013
9:16 am

He left out textbooks and supplies. What a guy.

Let’s apply his reasoning to designing and building a good car:
1.) elevate the car building industry with evaluation systems
2.) empower car buyers with real choice
3.) implement rigorous car performance with high expectations, with a special focus on driver training
4.) promote system of governance

I guess I missed the part on how to build the car. Mr. Schall, I look forward to your follow-up essay addressing choice and internet and the current communist system of one internet provider for most of Georgia at a rate of $50. per month ($600./yr.) for every home address in Georgia, for basic internet service, this moneys going to one company and the customer having no choice, none, zero. Go buy $50. of groceries and see what you get, how many bags and pounds of rice, vegetables, milk and meat, and toothpaste. And the Georgia law that supports this no-access for competition. Looking forward this essay, too. -Not like internet has anything to do with school assignments.


March 4th, 2013
9:16 am

Clutch – 9:07

Charter schools in Georgia, with the full approval of fundamentalist parents, will definitely teach the following:

1. The Earth is 6,000 years old.
2. The Earth is the center of the Universe.
3. Men and dinosaurs walked together.
4. Evolution and Astronomy are liberal lies from the gates of hell.
5. The New Testament is the proven word of God.
6. We’re only strangers here, heaven is our home.

DeKalb Inside Out

March 4th, 2013
9:19 am

SACS isn’t just a ‘messenger’. They are highly paid to assure a quality education, but they are doing a pathetic job. The Ga DOE is impotent as well. Thanks for nothing !

Private Citizen

March 4th, 2013
9:20 am

“3.) rigorous academic curriculum”

That’s already in place. Curriculum for days for each subject area. What is missing is support materials to go with it. You can hand out menus all day long and jump in the car and drive off, leaving people with empty place settings and no steak and potatoes. And then return to “evaluate” and make customer satisfaction surveys aimed at the cooks and servers.