Monday, February 15, 2010

Impertinent Observations (education edition)

A quintet of interrelated education items for your reading pleasure:

I submitted this letter-to-the-editor of the Banner-Herald a while back and assumed that the powers that be over at Press Place had decided against running it. I guess they were short of letters for last Thursday’s edition, though, because there it was. The issue has to do with spending revenue from the Unified Government’s hoped-for continuation of SPLOST on “technology infrastructure” for the Clarke County School District. As readers can see, there are problems with that suggestion: the legalities governing a county/municipal SPLOST versus those of a school district ELOST, the fact that the CCSD is wallowing in money even without such funds, and the fact that the CCSD is hardly lacking in technology infrastructure.

Concerning the latter point, see this
article about the CCSD’s classroom technology that came out the day after the letter that prompted my response. As an aside, the picture in the article attracted the attention of the folks over at Nealz Nuze (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Also, the write-up of the recent “Seeing is Believing” tour of the CCSD sponsored by the Junior League of Athens and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce contained this quote from former Athens-Clarke County mayor and current Chamber or Commerce grand poobah Doc Eldridge:

“For the child that wants it and has the ability, they can get the finest education in the Clarke County School District as they can anywhere in the state. Period. End of sentence.”

Everyone knows that I am a vocal critic of the CCSD, but they should also recognize that I fully concur with Eldridge in this regard and, in fact, have made this very same point for years. The problem has never been with those few students – and just as importantly their parents – who have the good sense to make the most of the educational opportunities the CCSD offers. The problem has been, and remains, that the majority of the student population does not. The response of the Board of Education and the appointed bureaucrats to this situation, for a long time now, has been to increase expenditures – an approach that has manifestly failed. While I am not without a certain amount of sympathy for the CCSD in trying to score a few PR points, to my mind the annual Tour amounts to little more that a propaganda exercise. See here for another take on the Tour.

I support the Board of Education’s decision to close down the SOAR Academy and turn its mission over to a private contractor. From what I can gather, the CCSD’s punitive alternative school has not worked as hoped. If the CCSD can get better student performance, and do so at appreciably less cost, then so much the better. Even so, while I think this is a good thing, critics who note that the decision seems to have been made before the issue came up for public discussion just a couple of weeks ago do seem to have a legitimate point.

One of the CCSD’s middle schools is under suspicion after an audit found a higher percentage of erasures than expected on its students’ CRCT answer sheets. At this point, I’m not sure what, if anything, to make of this.

Finally, the CCSD’s web site still has as its per pupil expenditure the figure from Fiscal Year 2008; as reported here, the updated figure for Fiscal Year 2009 was posted by the Georgia Department of Education at the end of December. At least, though, the District is now using the correct source.

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Anonymous said...

The closure of SOAR is an admission by the BOE that they really don't know how to run an alternative school, and it's a little political plumb given to the many CCSD critics. As for your suggestion that students can get the best education in the state in the CCSD, I heartily disagree.
Between recent special education rules that blank-check those students and teachers, an extensive network of "spoils systems" jobs (graduation coaches), the overt racism of some blacks who see black dominance on the BOE as a signal that CCSD is a jobs program for blacks, and the concurrent playing of the race card in disciplinary issues, I think the best students in the CCSD are severely short-changed and face dumbed-down and rapped-up class-rooms where it's said experiencing "diversity" is yet another one of the wonders of the district. Additionally, between racist blacks, and liberal white parents who buy the "diversity" crap hook-line-and-sinker, tell their kids to 'get along' with thugs and thereby sacrifice their own kids in the name of some misguided liberal view of education, there is little to suggest that kids who want to learn are anything other than passive victims in this dysfunctional mess. In the end, with UGA nearby, these schools could have a top-flight math and science program -- and they do have many good teachers already -- that leads the state and nation. The expensive PR blitz and "diversity" awareness that IS another way of pushing up the public school monopoly into the high reaches of the liberal conscience is a road to nowhere. This district is without a compass and without a plan: The powers that be have forgotten what schools are supposed to be and are content to cling to the faint hope that maybe they've accomplished something that's not as bad as it was the year before. Despite the mixed bag, in the end, the best that can be said for the CCSD is that it could be worse.

james said...

Let me rephrase. The potential exists for a student to get a perfectly good education in the CCSD.

That said, your points about various non-academic shortcomings are well taken; if we could get the kids who do not want to learn out of the system (and yes, there are a bunch of them), those remaining students who do want to learn would be in a much better position to do so.

Anonymous said...

Generally, the CCSD will see an uptick in student performance due to the unique pressure wrought by the economy not the least of which is that kids will think more about their future. Teachers, too, are feeling the same pressure and administrators are asking that they work harder and they are saying "yes" rather than going out to find another job which probably doesn't exist.
This idea that motivated students can "apply" themselves if they wish, and get a good education, is not a new idea or unique to the CCSD. Without a doubt, the CCSD under serves this community and it's mainly due to the incompetence of the BOE. When they get things "right" it's always surprising, or driven by budgetary concerns, and the fact that some students do well is like saying some soldiers survived Viet Nam. The right view looks at the fact that the success stories are neither as numerous or as stellar as they could be given the resources monopolized by these schools.
GA, too, is not unique in its dumbed-down curriculum which is out-of-step with today's economy and far, far from something that might lead students into the most productive careers. Even the best students in the CCSD are very unlikely to be competitive with foreign students and they are easily displaced from the most demanding and productive schools of higher education. Sure, there are exceptions, but it should be the rule.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lanoue:
"Indeed, if you want your child to be in a school district where successes are measured not only by exceptional student accomplishments, but also by the quality and richness of an experience that embraces diversity, then the Clarke County School District is for you. When I say diversity, that includes racial and economic diversity, but that's not nearly all. I'm referring also to diversity of thought, belief, ideas and opinions, which is not something that can simply be found in a textbook. How wonderful it is that all our students don't come from the same background, and that they can learn from one another."

Remarkable. If having students of different economic and ethnic backgrounds in the same school is such an overwhelming indicator of an effective school, why not fire the teachers, import more foreign students and sit back and watch the amazing success as the students teach one another and begin to understand everything!

In reality, most parents send their kids to school to be taught not "street-smarts" or liberal notions like diversity and its mechanism du jour which demands fewer white faces and more black ones, but things that can improve their standard of living: In a nutshell, parents want their kids to do "better than they did."

Lanoue seems to "poo-poo" private education with an underhanded and inaccurate portrayal of their students as a group of homogenous, rich, white kids. And though he doesn't say it, one wonders if he's really saying its white culture and white people who are the real problem, after all. Certainly that'll win him kudos from some of his bosses and many in the media, and help stoke the soft-spoken but pervasive belief in white genocide carried out by and for those who think whites should not teach black kids; that white people hate blacks and that whites, today, have a racist plan to harm tender young black kids. All of these notions, too, conveniently allow the schools and other public institutions to carry out active discrimination against whites in hiring and employment and admissions, while buttressing the view that because the BOE is black controlled, then it should be a protected jobs program for blacks as a sort of reparations program for past discrimination. And finally, these notions fully undergird the hidden incompetence of the BOE that spends like drunken sailors, produces poor results, and somehow blames this same "diverse" environment for its long-standing poor performance.

Lanoue, too, rather than lending his immense talents to a needy district, in reality, simply took advantage of a bad situation (created by the BOE) to further enrich himself and his family.

How much did the schools district spend to put on its show and tell? The billboards? The failing SOAR Academy? The job hunt for Lanoe?