Monday, July 28, 2008

This Is Embarrassing

The latest AYP results are out and the numbers for the Clarke County School District are absolutely abysmal. For 2007-2008, only 3 of the District’s 19 schools achieved AYP goals (the Classic City Performance Learning Center is not counted in the statistics because it has too few students). This means that a mere 15.8% of the District’s schools met AYP standards. Continuing a longstanding trend, it is at the elementary level that the news is the least bad, as 3 of 13 elementary schools met AYP; 0 of 4 middle schools and 0 of 2 high schools met AYP.

Compare the local results with those of our neighboring school districts:

Jackson County - 11 of 12 schools met AYP (91.7%)

Oconee County - 9 of 9 schools met AYP (100.0%)

Oglethorpe County - 4 of 4 schools met AYP (100.0%)

Madison County - 4 of 7 schools met AYP (57.1%)

Taken collectively, those other four school districts had 28 of 32 schools meet AYP (87.5%). Statewide, 1481 of 2153 schools met AYP (68.8%).

So what is the problem here?

The usual excuses will be trotted out – that the tests used to measure academic achievement are no good (and the related notion that NCLB measures the wrong things), and that the schools suffer from a lack of funding.

Regarding the former, there may well be problems with the CRCT. However, if the dismal showing of the Clarke County School District is a function of these shortcomings, why do not our neighboring school districts reflect the same results? The fact remains that they are succeeding where we are not, even if the tests are bad.

Regarding the latter, I have pointed out ad nauseam how our neighboring school districts have achieved superior results year after year while spending far less money per pupil. Of course, the argument is that the state has shortchanged school districts on QBE funds. That argument does not work, as the state funds the CCSD to the same extent that it does all of the other school districts in the state. If QBE funds were the problem, there would not be such a disparity between the CCSD and our surrounding school districts - a disparity that exists not just in AYP, but in graduation rates and test scores as well (and you do know that the real cuts to QBE funding ended with FY 2004; since then, QBE funding to the Clarke County School District has increased dramatically - even with "austerity reductions," the amount of QBE funding continues to increase).

I do not enjoy beating up on the CCSD. I know that there are dedicated people in our local schools who are doing the best that they can. I also know the students (and parents) who value education can get a perfectly good one here.

At some point, however, we need to admit that the way we’ve been doing things is not working and that simply throwing more money at the schools will not affect positive change.

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chris said...

Heres my take from a graduate of Clarke County Shools now sending 3 kids to Oconee County Schools. By the way, 2 of my best friends from my Athens childhood live on my same street now and send their kids to Oconee County Schools as well.
Back in the day, (graduated in 89), the student makeup of CCSD was much different than that of today. Call it like it is, there were fewer low income kids, more middle class kids. You can also translate that to more white kids and fewer black kids although that is not the problem. The problem is a lack of parents who have the time, the resources or even the willingness to be involved in their children's education. These parents are not able to provide a stable, positive or nurturing home life. Why cant they? Lots of reasons.
The simple fact is that many of these kids grow up in crummy situations with no guidance and extremely dangerous role models. Can the self motivated, pull themselves up by the bootstraps kid become an exception and beat the house? Sure, they have the same rights as the rest of us but most of them have no idea how to do it. I liken it to a middle class white kid rasing themselves with no parenting. I wouldnt have turned out very well.
Want to see it for yourself? Go to any classroom or function at Oconee, Jackson or even Madison County Schools. You'll see a huge level of parent participation. Parents involved in their childrens lives. Children who respect authority, do their homework with their parents, and most importantly are loved and given guidance by those who know how to give it.
As soon as someone will step up and call it like it is, CCSD can improve. Will it ruffle some feathers? By the boatload! But as long as funding, bad tests, and leadership are blamed CCSD will achieve nothing but the mastery of finger pointing.

james said...

Though some may interpret this as a racial comment (or worst yet, a racist one), it is not.

The largest group of students in the Clarke County School District is black, at about 60% of the student population. Hispanic and white students each account for about 20% of the student population (there are a handful of Asian students, but not enough to affect the numbers). That makeup is changing, however, as the proportion of Hispanics relative to whites is increasing every year.

The problem is that what will soon be the two largest student groups (if they are not already), making up more than 80% of the student population, are the two that traditionally have the lowest levels of academic achievement.

As Chris noted above, the problem is not racial, but cultural - and I fear that it will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's either racial or cultural. It's about class, as are, at root, most things in America. When you're working 2 or 3 low wage jobs just to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table, you don't have much spare time or energy to get involved in the PTA and/ or help your kid with their homework, especially if you own educational achievement is pretty low (itself the result of your class position).