09/09/2013 – Bridge Initiative

Interim Superintendent
How do we look at the resources we have now appropriated in a way that provides the greatest positive impact for the families and the children we are attempting to serve. I’ve been working with Dr. Morcease Beasley and Stacey Stepney. What we’ve been working on over the last 6 months, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to come and to serve in this position. What can we do?

We hear a lot about achievement gaps and performance gaps. One of the first things I began to understand is that we need to refocus from the gaps that exist, and then begin to start thinking about how do we build bridges for children and their families to move from under performance to higher achievement.

Slide # 2
When I was a middle school student, and that’s the Bridge Initiative. And it speaks to what we are talking about. By the way, some of the gaps aren’t just academic. Just from the conversation we had today, some are cultural, some are racial, some are economic, there are all types of gaps that I think negatively impact outcomes for children, not just in DeKalb County, but in Georgia and all across America. What we’re proposing, is not to really build any more walls or focus on the gaps, but how do we build the bridges that young people can cross.

One of my favorite poems, The Bridge Builder. Some of y’all may have been asked or required to memorize this poem. I did when I was an 8th grader in Athens Georgia. The poem is about “An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening cold and gray To a chasm vast and deep and wide Through which was flowing a swollen tide.” I made an ‘A’ on that by the way, cause I still remember it. It’s about … and he crossed. The interesting thing is, Dr. Johnson, that he crossed …

… we talked about this in Senior Staff. Talks about this poem for 5 minutes …

DeKalb County has to be in the business of building bridges. We spent decades trying to separate, delineate, and build walls. But, what this strategy proposes to do is to take those same boulders we used to build walls and build a bridge.

Slide #3
What is the problem? Some have suggested that some students don’t achieve for various reasons: parents, community, media. Some have even suggested it’s genetics. But we looked at it. We’ve come to the conclusion, it might strike some as interesting, and this is it. DeKalb County School District’s failure, and that’s interesting. Not the child’s failure, not the parent’s failure, but this school district’s failure, to implement a comprehensive strategy to designed to bridge growth ad achievement gaps has negatively
impacted college and career readiness of students from low income families.

It’s not them, it’s us. One of the key things in talking with Stacey and Dr. Beasley, we didn’t call them low income students. They are students from low income families. I don’t know any high income students. All students are low income because they are supported by their parents. If they have jobs, they’re part time jobs, minimum wage jobs. That’s important.

Slide #5
Stacey Stepney
The exciting part about defining our problem is looking at the data. The Harvard team had the opportunity to study what we call the coherence model. If you go to the DOE website, you will see data and the data looks like this pictorial display here. What the public sees are red, green and yellow flags. They are further described at the top….

That was the elementary school snap shot. Let’s look at the Middle schools. The same thing exists on the CRCT for our middle school students. When you look at the high school data, it looks a little different. There are so many tests our high school students have to take. Our economically disadvantaged students are performing below the subgroup or state targets.

Slide #8
What does the data reveal? There are a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged students are not meeting or exceeding the minimum standards defined by the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCPRI).

Interim Superintendent
One thing you may have missed is that she said economically disadvantaged students, not black, white, Hispanic. Upper income African American students do extremely well, as does White, Hispanic, Asian. The dividing line is economically disadvantaged. We couch basically all of our thinking, our talk and our narrative because we are in America in a racial context. But, that’s very misleading as it relates to student performance. White economically disadvantaged students struggle in relation to non-economically disadvantaged white students.

Slide #9
Stacey Stepney
What is the vision? What do we hope to accomplish with this initiative? Help students, parents/families and educators bridge the gap between under-­-performance and academic and career success.

Slide #10
Mr. Thurmond has already highlighted that the Bridge Initiative is aligned to the 90 day plan. I would like to draw your attention to these 3 actions in particular.
Goal 3, Action 7 – Evaluate academic achievement
Goal 2, Action 4 – Realign resources
Goal 2, Action 7 – Revise and redeploy Title I and Title II, RT3 and other grants. Invest in parent, adult guardian and mentor involvement.

Slide #11
The Bridge Initiative Strategy. Strategy designed to bridge the cultural, socio-­-economic and historical divides that undermine student performance and achievement.

Interim Superintendent
This is important because it goes back to the organization. When you talk about highly integrated, bureaucracies in general, are basically defined by bureaucratic silos that rarely communicate or cooperate with each other. There is little or no communication or cooperation between grant streams.

Slide #12
Dr. Morcease Beasley
The goals have been identified
1. Identify the high, marginal and low performing students
2. Enhance the effectiveness of leaders and teachers
3. Build capacities

Interim Superintendent – Gifted low socio economic students are under recognized.

Morcease Beasley – They are under recognized, under served and quite frequently do not grow at the expected rate.

Slide #13
Interim Superintendent – It’s news to many people that Pre-K is a part of our district.

Beasley – We have rolled out new Pre-K standards. All Pre-K teachers were trained on these standards. Purchased IPads for all Pre-K teachers so they can assess students to those standards.

Interim Superintendent – We have aligned Pre-K curriculum with Common Core. This is extremely important going forward.

Stepney – Dr Beasley and I have gone to Pre-K classes. You can pick out immediately who has gone to Pre-K before based on where they were and how they performed in the classroom. Very few actually go to a public Pre-K.

Beasley – Dual Emersion: Pre-K students who are learning content areas in German or French half of the day and English the other half of the day. Mid semester, they will swap the languages in which the content areas are changed.

Slide #14
Goal I – Reinstate middle and high school graduation coaches in our lowest achieving schools. Coaches were very instrumental, prior to the recalculation of the graduation rate. Coaches improved graduation rate so much that many students attributed their success to those coaches. Career academy, ROTC, …

Slide #15
Goal II – Improve professional development. We are going to work on increasing the effectiveness of all of our district leaders, school leaders and teachers. We want them to inspire, teach and train. As you well know, Race To The Top requires that we we work on teacher and leader effectiveness. We have been working with the new evaluation instrument for now one full year. We’re in our second year of implementation. Our data tells us that most of our teachers are proficient. We had about 26 who were ineffective and we had about 83 who were exemplary. All others are proficient. We have identified what it takes for a proficient teacher to become exemplary and gave it to all the teachers in writing. Improve the disciplinary process for students to eliminate the school to prison pipeline. Going to implement re implement a research, assessment and accountability team to evaluate every initiative.

Interim Superintendent
Under achieving students many times are a teacher quality issue. Professional development has suffered over the recent years.

Beasley – This is the first time in years we’ve been able to meet with teachers.

Slide #16
Goal III – Build the capacity of our parents.

… 7 more slides …