Update – DeKalb School Board Meeting 5/15

2:00 PMeboard link icon Work Session Agenda
5:30 PM – Public Budget Input Hearing
5:45 PM – Public Comment
7:00 PMeboard link icon Business Meeting Agenda
DeKalb Schools fy2018 proposed budget
.pdf link icon  FY2018 DCSD Proposed Budget
eboard link icon Tentative Budget\Revenue Projections FY2018
The proposed budget has increased over 20% in the last two years to $1.01 billion ($1.7 billion including capital outlay). DeKalb Schools for another year will not meet the required 65%  expenditures in the classroom as mandated by the state and will continue to exercise its SWSS waivers.
Over the course of this past year, DeKalb Schools has given school house employees a 5% raise and added 400 school house employees across the district. Governor Deal will increase QBE funding this coming year with the expectation that teachers will get a 2% raise. However, most of that is going to the state mandated Teacher Retirement System (TRS) increase and it doesn’t look like teachers will receive a raise this year.
Since the orginal FY2017 budget passed in July 2016, the FY2018 budget includes these increases to Curriculum and Instruction

  • $10 million – Past January raise for school based employees of 2%
  • $14 million – Mandated TRS increase
  • $2 million – State health increase
  • $5 million – Textbook increase
  • $8 million – Special Ed (General Fund) increase

eboard link icon  Human Capital Report
DeKalb Schools is actively hiring teachers for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. Over 350 posted teacher positions will need to be filled before the first day of school, Aug 7 2017.
eboard link icon  Illuminate Assessment Platform
In March, DeKalb Schools rolled out Phase I of their new curriculum. For $675,000 the school district would like to purchase the Illuminate Education Assessment Platform to administer standardized tests before and after each unit. In theory, the central office would like to more readily identify under performing students and teachers. I would like to see less testing. The board also expressed the desire for more insight into the over arching plan for academic services. This agenda item was tabled until the July meeting pending further discussion.
eboard link icon  Lead Higher Initiative
$270,000 will be spent across 11 schools in a partnership with Lead Higher – Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) to convince more students to take AP courses or enroll in the IB program. The recent trend in education is to reward districts that have increases in AP test takers. I’m concerned about the quality of many of these AP courses. There is an EPIC FAILURE in South DeKalb where 6 high schools have a less than 10% pass rate on their AP exams.
eboard link icon  Five-Year Local Facilities Plan
In accordance with Georgia law (20-2-260), in order for a local school district to be eligible to participate in Georgia’s Capital Outlay Program, the District is required to develop and maintain a five-year local facilities plan.  The board approved the DCSD Five-Year Local Facility Plan. It is noteworthy that the Guideline for Educational Facility Construction indicates that the Ga DOE doesn’t expect school districts to follow their 5 year plan.

37 responses to “Update – DeKalb School Board Meeting 5/15

  1. My question is about the Illuminate Assessment Platform. I have glanced over the links you had for that and the new curriculum. Will this new curriculum replace Common Core? Or, is it just restating and shifting objectives? And, I think that assessment should align with what is taught and expected, but do we really have to have more mandated, standardized, online tests? It doesn’t appear, from what I read, that it would replace MAP, but simply be added on top of it. I assume it also wouldn’t replace Milestones. While I’m thankful that Cogat and ITBS are a thing of the past, it still seems like the same number of days, or more, are spent on MAP, since it is administered 3 times a year. And, add Milestones to that and you have effectively shortened the number of actual learning days in the school year by a ton! Not to mention that, at least at my school, the library is closed for all of the above testing because students must test in there. And, if your child isn’t even in a grade taking the Milestones, their instruction is interrupted because they have to be quiet all day so as not to interrupt those that are testing. If this new assessment is brought on board, would we be losing more instructional time and closing the library more just so children can be tested more?

  2. I totally agree with you that we need less testing. We need more instructional time and creative teaching strategies that make learning fun. Sitting in front of a computer doing more testing is not fun and does not increase knowledge!

  3. Stan Jester

    Will this new curriculum replace Common Core?
    Common Core is a standard. Generally speaking, standards are the what and curriculum is the how. The curriculum is public information and should be published online, but it currently isn’t. I’m giving the administration leeway for a couple months so they can control the rollout. They also talked about copyright protecting it as well, which I’m not sure they can do.
    It doesn’t appear to replace [anything]. Do we really have to have more mandated, standardized, online tests?
    Correct, this would be in addition to the MAP testing we take 3 times a year and the annual Milestones. The administration claims these tests would do a good job of identifying low performing teachers and students falling behind.
    I’m not against the school district putting together possible questions for the teachers to use as they see fit. But this takes the artistic flexibility currently afforded our teachers. I would expect teachers teaching to the test for every unit.
    Is there any way it can be only mandated for the under-performing schools?
    I’m fighting with the centralization and “Equitable Access” to everything. I hear all the time from the board and senior administrators, “if everybody can’t do it then nobody can do it”. In the process of solving a problem for some group of people, the solution is forced on everybody. The solutions are usually designed for the lowest common denominator.
    Standardized tests are a perfect example of this. They are a low bar that most students don’t need to take, and tell most teachers and parents something they already know.
    Graduation ceremonies are another example. Some schools lacked the capacity and funds to adequately find a place to hold graduation ceremonies. So, the district is holding them at the World Congress Center. Generally speaking for the Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Dunwoody residents, they liked it where it was and this solution solves nothing for them and creates all kinds of issues.

  4. More testing makes no sense. The amount of time spent on testing now is overshadowing g any real learning experiences that teachers would like their student to have. Milestone testing began after spring break and some schools did not finish MAPS testing until this week. That means teaching and learning has been reduced for an entire month. That does not include all the time spent on MAPS testing two other times this school year for every student.
    We do not need to spend more on AP/IB incentives. We do not need mega additions on schools that sit inside neighborhoods where there is no room to build.
    Spend the money moving teachers up on the experience pay scale so they do not have to leave DCSD to get credit for their years of experience and allow us to retain good teachers. . Spend more on teacher pay raises so we can attract more good teachers. Spend money on additional teachers and reducing class sizes. Fernbank Elementary has 30 and 31 students in every 5th grade homeroom, but the district data shows they have 20-21. I am sure this not the only school that has large classes in grades 4 and 5. Misinformation leads to divisiveness.

  5. Lauren McQuade

    sent via Facebook
    Common formative assessments every 9 weeks are fairly common in most districts. They serve as unit tests and let teachers know what they need to reteach prior to continuing with the curriculum. It also helps promote consistent, fair grading practices and produces data that can be cross analyzed. To the students, it should be like any other class test, not something like Milestones or COGAT.

  6. Stan Jester

    Lauren, Doesn’t this tamp down some of the flexibility and creativity teachers have and encourage them to teach to the test? Does it tell you anything you didn’t already know?

  7. Julie O'Neil

    sent via Facebook
    I would certainly vote against it as an educator and as a parent. Teachers already administer tests appropriate for the end of units. They know their students best and having the tests be standardized across the district takes away any flexibility. There are already plenty of mandatory tests in the MAP and Milestones.

  8. S Williams

    Would these pre and post assessments be for every subject and every grade? If it’s to be administered to K-2 would it be accessible on an iPad? Many young students don’t have the dexterity to manipulate the mouse or use drop down menus, etc.

  9. Stan Jester

    It would be for every student in every subject (for the most part). I believe the district is moving to touchscreen Chromebooks.

  10. Lauren McQuade

    It does not bother me. It’s not the ONLY assessment we can give, and it does not dictate HOW we deliver instruction or other ways we may choose to check for understanding.
    When working in DeKalb, I often had to create my own tests or buy them off of teacherspayteachers.com. Often, each third grade class would take a different test over the exact same standards. The tests had significant differences in rigor and certainly led to some teachers being “easier” or “harder.” There was not an effective way to collaboratively talk about progress or planning when everyone was doing something totally different.
    Having easy access to an online common formative assessment bank (fancy name for unit tests) as part of our SIS has been something I have really enjoyed this year. It’s nice to have unit tests created by curriculum and instructional professionals that have spent time & expertise making high quality tests over the standards because they produce meaningful data that informs what we teach next. While it’s not all there is to our job, we should be constantly aware of which students can/can’t meet the standards, and this really helps.
    Every teacher in CCSD is required to meet with their content area PLC group to discuss the results of pre and post common formative assessments. After pre, we pin point weakest areas. Then we all share and plan the unit together. After post tests, we pin point which teaching practices were/were not successful. We also make reteaching and acceleration plans based on this data analysis prior to moving on to the next unit. I have found it very effective. Additionally, c&i employees at the county office have access to the data. They can inquire about how we went about getting the kids to match the standards, and share our feedback from school to school. They are also constantly aware of district achievement trends because of this.
    I would much rather use a CFA bank and cut out the junk like SLO’s, MAP, etc.

  11. sent via Facebook
    MAP tests need to GO! We didn’t have a Media center or science lab for most of 2nd semester as MAP testing took place on these rooms. Right after Milestone came another MAP test ridiculous. It would also be nice if they educated everyone on who to analyze these tests. I don’t blame the teachers. Poor implementation by the county.

  12. sent via Facebook
    I get the need for criterion based tests, but, the constant testing leaves students stressed and does little to promote actual learning. There is “teaching to the test.” Little beyond that because of all the time testing takes. And, for some kids, formalized testing is very difficult to do successfully and is therefore not an adequate means to assess what they have learned. Instead, those students live in fear such tests as the Milestones or EOC tests will result in retention or summer school. (one anecdote- my best friend, in the 1970’s did so poorly on the SATs that she only got into her “Safety” schools. However, she easily outperformed the students at that school and landed up at Cornell. Obviously, formalized testing was not indicative of ability. I could give you several other illustrations.

  13. I may be lucky to have children unaffected by testing stress, but I find it useful.

  14. Kelly Livingston

    sent via Facebook
    The map test scores allowed our school (BIA) to guide individualized learning I believe for online software (compass) and small group learning – at least it seemed that way for my son in K. He took the test 3 times this year.
    We had a curriculum night first semester where the principal went over how to interpret scores – I believe the nwea website has information too
    Then again I’m not a teacher, and testing in K does seem silly to me

  15. Ingrid Gero

    sent via Facebook
    At some point, I think the powers that be need to have faith that teachers actually know what they are doing. I gave my own pre-tests and post-tests for each social studies unit because I know the standards like the back of my hand… and I SHOULD. That is my JOB. The MAP test were nothing but a disruption this year. Of course, if we get one-to-one technology, a lot of that scheduling stress goes away. I will say that all of the testing took an inordinate amount of time away from my ability to teach… especially when children had to be called out of class for days on end to make up tests.
    Standardized testing should be a tool, not an end all, be all… and that is what it is turning into.

  16. Alexandra Tunstall

    sent via Facebook
    Please no more. My oldest is completely stressed out by testing and it alters their schedule drastically–sometimes forcing them to have recess in their classroom so they don’t walk through the halls while others are testing. It is certainly harming my child more than helping him.

  17. Stan Jester

    I’ve talked to a number of teachers that don’t mind pre-test to help guide instruction. I like Ms Gero’s self made pre-tests. I’m not sure about the locked in and mandatory pre/post-tests the administration is recommending.

  18. Way too much testing as it is in Dekalb. Teachers teach to the test. A horrible system.

  19. Lauren McQuade

    How about pay a committee of teachers to work with c&i employees to design a CFA bank accessible to teachers in the district? It doesn’t HAVE to be mandatory…but I think you would find this type of data much more useful than what you get from some of the tests DeKalb currently uses. With out common assessments, you’re still stuck with varying levels of rigor and lack of collaboration when each teacher shuts his or her door and does their own thing. It would also be important to remind teachers that this is only ONE data point, not the whole of assessment and learning. I should also mention CFA banks are not just “tests.” They include performance tasks and rubrics.

  20. Whitney Blackmore

    sent via Facebook
    The amount of standardized testing is one of the main reasons I left the public school system and now teach in a private school. I used to teach 5th grade in Dekalb and I calculated that I spent around 5 weeks of the school year “assessing” my students. That combined with having to have the curriculum taught by the week after spring break due to the CRCT or Georgia Milestones, I had to teach an entire year’s worth of curriculum in basically one semester. Data is great, but teachers have no time to do anything with it, so it’s really not for the students, it’s more for evaluating the teachers. I have often said that this will be the first generation of students that we know absolutely everything that’s wrong, but have no time to do anything about it. Teachers are assessing their students, both formally and informally, all the time by just being around and being their teacher. We don’t need one more test, that someone else created, to give us “more data” to analyze and not have any time to do anything with because we wasted precious instructional time administering it. At my new school, we give the ITBS & CogAT……and that’s it. The rest of the time is actually spent instructing students. I am actually teaching worthwhile lessons through the last week of school, and our students are actually doing quite well because I get to spend time teaching instead of testing.

  21. @Lauren. The county did do that under Dr. Beasley and RTTT funds. I sat in a committe for two years working on exactly what you are proposing. My question is what happened to all of that hard work that was done by the teachers in DCSD?

  22. Stan Jester

    Lauren, We have common assessments with the Milestones which are once a year. DeKalb also does MAP tests 3 times a year. Now they are talking about mandatory common assessments before and after every unit. I think everybody feels over tested. This is “equitable access” gone awry again … forcing this solution on everybody just to fix a few schools.

  23. Debbie Montgomery

    sent via Facebook
    I’m glad I home schooled my kids as long as I was able to. Some of the stuff we learned in those 4 to 6 years are no longer taught in public schools. SAD!

  24. The problem with pre-tests is that they don’t actually lead to individualized instruction. Instead, the kids who demonstrate they have already mastered the standards simply have to sit through it again, and again, and again…. If there’s a faster way to make bright kids begin to hate school, I can’t think of it. The entire school year becomes a routine of testing, boring review, repeat.

  25. Lauren McQuade

    Stan, milestones are not considered to be a part of the practice of common formative assessments because they are summative and don’t happen until after all instruction has occurred. Totally different. Common assessments should be used to plan ongoing instruction. I definitely felt over tested in DeKalb, but I don’t think you should rule out effective testing practices because ineffective testing practices are already in place. Get rid of the bad stuff. I think if you observed how this is implemented in other districts, your perspective would change!

  26. No more tests.

  27. Pamela Jurgensen

    sent via Facebook
    More testing = less instruction time. Please, our Dekalb children deserve more instruction time. Consider cutting standardized assessments.

  28. Stan,
    There were some rumors floating around that supplemental pay (band directors, athletic coaches, sponsors) would be increased this year to bring compensation more in line with other metro districts. Is there any truth to this? Many band directors and coaches have left Dekalb over the last several years because the supplemental pay lags so far behind other counties. Dekalb is also one of the few counties that doesn’t post the pay schedule for supplements where it can be easily found. I suspect that part of the reason why is because Dekalb supplemental pay lags behind other counties in a big way.

  29. Stan Jester

    I’m not aware of raises for any DeKalb Schools employees in the upcoming school year.

  30. Rebecca Burnett

    They spent weeks on Milestone then Mapp testing. Ridiculous. Teachers aren’t giving finals out of mercy. Testing interrupts instruction. Why doesn’t anyone listen to the real experts in the classroom?

  31. Make the class sizes smaller. That way, teachers can get a more one on one understanding of their student. A five-minute conversation with a student one on one each week can open so many more doors than going through testing data on the same child.

  32. Rebecca Burnett

    Amen. I was never surprised by data. Classroom interaction reveals a lot. The money spent on resources for testing is not money well spent. The media center at Henderson was renovated and now it gets shut down for testing most of the time. Teachers and students don’t even bother going anymore.

  33. I would suggest everyone read “Classroom Management” by Michael Linsin. So many great suggestions and that do not revolve around a test score. The suggestions are all surrounded by knowing your student and building a relationship with that student.

  34. Debbie Montgomery

    As a homeschool mom, I did not need to test my kids, I knew their strengths and weakness- I hated putting them in the public system- Schools had NO idea what do with them because they NO test scores. They ended up in some pretty bad classes as a result. The teachers knew they did not belong in the classes- They really cared about my kids, but they had NO power to have them moved to a proper class based on their evaluation- it was all dependent on how they would perform on a test

  35. I don’t have a problem with testing until it interferes with instruction, which should be the school system’s top priority. Ask our most experienced and successful teachers about how the mandated testing protocols impact their instruction and their students’ learning. They will have plenty to say.

  36. Dear Stan,
    I appreciate the time and effort you take to provide information. I know that the budget process is very important.
    I understand that at this point it does not look like there will be a raise for teachers. Will there be any raises for para professionals, food services workers, custodians or bus drivers? These are some of the lowest paid individuals in many school systems. These jobs are essential to the operation of the schools.
    As part of the budget process, are the number of jobs in various categories discussed?
    Is there any limit on the number of county level administrative positions? I know that every school system needs administrative positions. This year there seems to have been new administrative jobs created. Also 3 jobs were changed from Director to Executive Director, which also required a salary increase. And aren’t their still job openings for the HCM Chief Officer, Region I Superintendent, Region I Coordinator and the Head of Police?
    Since we are planning for a new school year, will individuals be hired for these jobs? In light of the decision to remove principals at certain schools, it seems like putting permanent people in place in the Region Offices would be an important step in supporting our principals.

  37. Rouchelle Longley

    Dear DeKalb County Schools,
    I just don’t understand. Two of my children took 2 MAPS tests today (43 questions each), my other child took one with about 53 questions. They are also now required to take a pretest and a post test for each unit taught. But wait, that’s not all; we also have testing on ScootPad for homework assessment! Dare I ask: “When are my children’s teachers allowed to teach??”