The AJC picked up on DeKalb School District’s board member’s article earlier this week.
Not sure if DeKalb’s teacher vacancy failures are related to millions spent on no bid contracts to a recruiting firm
Metro Schools Have Teacher Vacancies
By: Rose French at the AJC
Thousands of metro Atlanta students are starting the school year with substitutes instead of permanent teachers as education leaders struggle to fill vacancies brought on by a shortage of teachers.
It was a different picture a few years ago during the recession when districts were making significant cuts in teaching positions amid budget constraints. Now many school systems are scrambling to fill teaching vacancies because fewer people are going into the profession, due in part to weak salaries and increased stress associated with the job amid more rigorous achievement standards.
Fulton County, for example, had about 40-50 vacancies at the start of school five years ago. Last year at this time the district had 65 teaching vacancies; as of the start of school this week it had 105, and the shrinking teacher supply increases competition to fill those slots.
It’s a scenario thousands of school districts are grappling with across the country, and the result can be hugely disruptive to classroom learning, with students in some instances getting substitutes who are not certified or don’t have adequate experience in subjects or grades they’re teaching. The largest number of vacancies are in math, science, special education and foreign languages.
“If we are placing people in classrooms, who are either not knowledgeable in their subject area and/or not prepared pedagogically to listen to and interact with kids, we’re going to do harm,” said Barbara Stengel, associate chairwoman for teacher education at Vanderbilt University.
“Everybody in their right mind knows what happens when you bring in substitute teachers. There’s chaos and it’s not just for the kids in that classroom for that period. It’s chaos that ripples through a team. It disrupts the day for everybody.”
Metro school district officials say the vast majority of their teaching and support personnel positions are filled by the start of school, but do acknowledge having the substitutes is not ideal. The five largest metro districts say they’re working to fill all the vacancies but don’t know exactly when that might happen.
“Right now we’re 98 percent staffed,” said Tekshia Ward-Smith, chief human resources officer for DeKalb schools. “While not ideal, it is certainly the best option to ensure our children receive the instruction they deserve.”
Ward-Smith says DeKalb has a roster of 550 certified retired substitute teachers. In addition to those, it also has about 500 substitutes who are non-certified, she said.
To address the teacher shortage, DeKalb education leaders say they plan to beef up recruitment efforts, forming close partnerships with teaching colleges that prepare future teachers. The district, which recently gave teachers up to a 4 percent salary increase, wants to also give teachers another pay boost in the next year or two to stay competitive with other metro districts, Ward-Smith said.
Other metro Atlanta school systems also gave teachers pay raises up to 8 percent or more beginning this fall, the biggest jump in years for many educators following furloughs, stagnant pay and increasing class sizes.
“Everybody is certainly out there trying to recruit the top talent, and we want to be right in the market,” Ward-Smith said.
“As we work diligently to fill vacancies, we have trained substitute personnel in the classrooms, and for long-term substitute assignments we require a college degree and often look to retired teachers for those assignments,” said Fulton schools spokeswoman Susan Hale in an emailed statement.
Like other districts, Fulton is giving teachers raises starting this fall. The district is also trying to recruit new and experienced teachers by using hiring bonuses and incentives to teach at harder-to-staff schools. Additionally, the student population continues to grow, which means the district needs more teachers each year, Hale said.
In Cobb, district leaders had planned to hire 100 new teachers for this coming fall as part of an effort to decrease class sizes, which had risen amid budget cuts and furloughs.
When asked for statewide teacher vacancy figures, Georgia education department officials said they do not track the information, which is left to individual districts to compile.
Fewer people are becoming teachers in Georgia and many other states, with large urban districts seeing the most vacancies.
With state funding and local property tax revenue on the rise in Georgia, school systems are choosing to put the extra money toward teachers’ and other employees’ pay. The raises are welcome news after nearly a decade of cuts from the state, though education leaders say the pay bumps are still not enough considering the pressure teachers face with increased accountability standards tied to standardized tests and responsibilities in the classroom.
“There’s been a systematic disrespecting of teachers over the last 10 years, since the implementation of No Child Left Behind,” Stengel said. “As we’ve focused more on test scores … teachers feel like they’re being told what to do rather than exerting professional judgment.”
Start-of-school teaching vacancies
Cobb nearly 40
Atlanta Public Schools 9
Fewer aspiring to teach
SLOs – Georgia eases teacher testing rules, for now
Georgia public school students won’t have to take as many tests in the upcoming school year, the state Department of Education announced Monday.
Specifically, schools won’t have to administer as many so-called “Student Learning Objectives” tests, or SLOs, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced.
“I have always believed that we test our students too much,” Woods said in a statement. “Eliminating some of the Student Learn
ing Objectives is a step toward reducing the overall number of tests given to students, which will give our teachers more time for instruction and help our students focus on learning instead of testing. This change is another step toward a more responsible accountability model.”
The SLOs, first implemented during the 2014-15 school year, are part of a new regime for grading teachers mandated by the General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal. They’re supposed to measure how much progress students make during the course of a school year, and according to state law count for half of a teacher’s job performance assessment,
In basic courses such as reading and math, so-called student growth is to be measured with new standardized tests called Georgia Milestones, which are the same for students across the state.
Students take Milestones tests at the end of the year in elementary and middle grades, or at the end of eight specified courses such as algebra and U.S. history in high school. But in most courses — art, physical education and foreign languages, for example — the state left it up to individual school district to develop or adopt their own SLO tests. The purpose is to grade teachers, and scores can’t be compared from school district to school district.
Last year’s rules required some teachers to administer up to six SLOs to their students, depending on how many subjects they were teaching.
But under the optional new program, teachers won’t have to administer as many. Teachers in school districts that received grants under the federal Race to the Top education program won’t have to administer more than two tests.
Teachers in school districts not part of Race to the Top, such as Clarke County, won’t have to administer more than one.
The effect the change will have varies from school district to school district, judging from initial assessments from two area school districts.
In Clarke County, the rule change could reduce the number of SLOs high school students take by 25 percent and possibly more, said Tim Jarboe, director of assessment and accountability for the Clarke County School District. In earlier grades, the optional new requirement won’t make much difference, he said.
But in Madison County, it may not reduce the number of SLO tests significantly, said superintendent Allen McCannon.
“It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not really helping us,” he said.
One reason it won’t make a lot of difference in Madison County is that in many courses, the SLO test also counts as a final test for the course itself, said Cathy Gruetter, Madison county’s testing coordinator and elementary curriculum director.
Things might change again next year, however.
Under the state’s planned testing regime for 2015-2016, all teachers must have two so-called “growth measures,” including districts like Clarke County in which teachers are now only required to have one, Jarboe explained.
“My concern is next year,” he said.
Does School Choice Increase Inequality?
Education Savings Accounts will make access to quality education less equal than it is today. Why do I say it will do that? Because it allows families to add to their education savings account to buy a more expensive education. Most parents want what’s best for their children, so those who can afford it will do just that. Those who can’t will not. And the education market will stratify by income, far more than it already does. In a decade, it will look like the markets for houses, cars and other private goods, with huge disparities based on wealth.
Indeed, America’s public education system already looks like the market for housing because, to a great extent, it is the market for housing. Students are assigned to district schools based on the location of their home, so the quality of the local district school is a major consideration for those who can afford it. Educational choice laws like ESAs break the link between education and housing—and low-income families have the most to gain.
Breaking the Link Between Education and Housing
America’s district schools are already highly stratified by income. According to a 2012 report by the Brookings Institution, “the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams.”
Wealthier families can afford homes in communities with better performing district schools. The Brookings report found that in “the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.” In other words, parents pay the equivalent of tuition at many private schools to live in districts with higher-performing public schools.
By empowering all parents to pay for education directly, ESAs and other educational choice programs cut housing out of the equation. Parents no longer have to be able to afford a house in an expensive community to afford the best educational environment for their children. In Nevada, the state will provide $5,100 in most ESAs and $5,700 for low-income families or students with special needs.
However, Osborne worries that the current level of ESA funding in Nevada won’t cover more than “a cut-rate job.” The average private school tuition. he notes, is between $8,000 and $10,000 while district schools spend about $8,300 per pupil annually on instruction (and more than $9,400 per pupil in total).
Nevada should do more to make funding more equitable, but $5,700 could still go a long way. For many families, it could make the difference between enrolling their child in a school that meets their needs or keeping them in a school that doesn’t. Moreover, looking at the average alone obscures the tuition that families actually face. As Glenn Cook of the Las Vegas Review-Journal explained recently, $5,700 is more than enough to cover the full tuition at several inner-city private schools and just shy of the posted tuition at several more—even before factoring in the schools’ tuition aid. The ESA might even encourage new high-quality, low-cost schools—like Acton Academies. which often charge as little as $4,000 in tuition—to enter the market.
Very soon, the Friedman Foundation will release a new report from its School Survey Series called Exploring Nevada’s Private Education Sector, which will shed more light on the issue of private school supply in Nevada. The report will not only include the number of open private school seats, but also the percentage of Nevada private schools that offer additional tuition assistance to low-income families.
Low-Income Families Benefit the Most
Research shows that low-income families have the most to gain from expanded choice. In 2013, Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute and I conducted a survey of Arizona families using ESAs in the first year of the program. Due to the program’s eligibility requirements at the time, all of the ESA families had students with special needs who had previously attended their assigned district schools. As shown in the table below, low-income families reported the highest levels of dissatisfaction with their district schools. Two-thirds of
families in the lowest income quintile reported being dissatisfied, including 56 percent who were very dissatisfied while only 22 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied.
In stark contrast, survey respondents reported unanimous satisfaction with the ESA program. Moreover, families with the lowest income were the most enthusiastic with nearly nine in 10 reporting that they were very satisfied.
Osborne, however, is skeptical that the high degree of parental satisfaction is actually related to their kids getting a quality education:
[I]nformation about schools’ academic quality will be sparse, and many parents will be ill equipped to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Experience in the charter school sector has proven that if a school is safe, warm and nurturing, many parents will stick with it, even if test scores show that students are falling behind. The same will be true in Nevada’s private schools, so many kids will get a lousy education.
Fortunately, numerous studies have explored the impact of choice programs on student outcomes. Eleven of 12 random-assignment studies—the gold standard of social science research—have found that school choice programs improve the outcomes of participating students, leading to higher test scores, higher rates of graduation, and higher rates of college enrollment. One study found no visible impact and none found any harm.
Moreover, parents have more access to information about schools than Osborne gives credit. For example, GreatSchools provides parents with ratings of private schools based on student performance data and reviews from parents. A recent American Enterprise Institute report found that parents give considerable weight to the experiences of other parents—and for good reason. As Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education noted recently, parents are often tougher graders than state accountability systems.
Osborne also frets about the impact of school choice policies on the students “left” behind at their assigned district schools, but the research literature shows that they benefit as well. In 22 of 23 empirical studies, the academic performance of students who chose to stay in district schools improved as a result of the competitive effects of school choice. No study, even those conducted by anti-school choice organizations, has found private school choice programs harm the academic performance of students who remain in district schools.
Freedom and Equality
As Milton Friedman observed, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” Osborne himself argued that a “core value of public education…is equality of opportunity,” knowing full well that America’s current ZIP Code-assignment education system is highly stratified by income. Access to a quality education is too often determined by parents’ ability to afford a home in an expensive neighborhood. Without school choice options, the current system is not the bastion of equal opportunity it is often imagined to be.
If we want a high degree of equality, more states should consider following Friedman’s advice and focus efforts on expanding educational freedom and choice. Such policies empower families to choose what’s best for their kids without going through a real estate agent—and the best evidence shows that students are better off as a result. If more states adopted universal educational choice programs like Nevada’s, all children—especially low-income children—will benefit.
Georgia releases list of schools with greatest needs
The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released its list of schools that exhibit the greatest need for additional support as part of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver.
The GaDOE lists “Priority Schools,” which are among the lowest five percent of Title I schools in terms of academic achievement and “Focus Schools,” which are among the lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in terms of the achievement gap – both the size of the gap between the school’s bottom quartile of students and the state average, and the degree to which that gap is closing.
According to the GaDOE, under Georgia’s renewed ESEA flexibility waiver, the criteria for Priority and Focus Schools are now aligned with the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), allowing for a more transparent measure with which districts and schools are already familiar
Priority Schools are identified by:
- A three-year average of performance on the Content Mastery category of the CCRPI is calculated for all schools (this category is based on performance on statewide assessments).
- Schools are ranked based on their three-year average in the CCRPI Content Mastery category.
- The lowest five percent of Title I schools in the state, based on the three-year average in the CCRPI Content Mastery category, is identified.
- High schools with a four-year cohort graduation rate less than 60 percent in 2013 and 2014, which are not already captured in the lowest five percent, are identified.
- Schools identified as Priority Schools in 2012, which do not meet the criteria for exiting that list, are re-identified as Priority Schools.
2015 Priority Schools:
- Connally Elementary School
- Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Academy High School
- Douglass High School
- Dunbar Elementary School
- Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. High School
- Mays High School
- School of Health Sciences and Research at Carver
- School of Technology at Carver
- South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science
- The Best Academy at Benjamin S. Carson High School
- The School of the Arts at Carver
- Therrell School of Engineering, Math, and Science
- Therrell School of Health and Science
- Therrell School of Law, Government and Public Policy
- Thomasville Heights Elementary School
- Berrien Academy Performance Learning Center
- Bruce Elementary School
- Burghard Elementary School (Southfield Elementary School)
- Hartley Elementary School
- King – Danforth Elementary School (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School)
- Northeast High School
- Riley Elementary School
- Southwest High School
- Westside High School
- Williams Elementary School
- The School of Liberal Studies at Savannah High
- Charles R. Drew High School
- Forest Park High School
- North Clayton High School
- Osborne High School
- Morris Innovative High School
- Clarkston High School
- Columbia High School
- Cross Keys High School
- Destiny Achievers Academy of Excellence
- Knollwood Elementary School
- Margaret Harris Comprehensive School
- McNair High School
- Redan High School
- Toney Elementary School
- Towers High School
- Dooly County High School
- Albany High School
- Dougherty Comprehensive High School
- Monroe High School
- Moore Street School
- Banneker High School
- Hapeville Charter Career Academy
- Tri-Cities High School
- Wood’s Mill Non-Traditional School
- Greene County High School
- Berkmar High School
- Meadowcreek High School
- Hancock Central High School
- Johnson County High School
- Macon County High School
- Greenville High School
- Jordan Vocational High School
- Spencer High School
- Peach County High School
- Quitman County High School
- Randolph Clay High School
- Butler High School
- Glenn Hills High School
- Jenkins-White Elementary Charter School
- Josey High School
- Laney High School
- W.S. Hornsby K-8 School
- Georgia Connections Academy
- Mountain Education Center School
- Provost Academy Georgia
- Atlanta Area School for the Deaf
- Georgia Academy for the Blind
- Georgia School for the Deaf
- Americus Sumter County High North
- Americus Sumter County High South
- Central Elementary/High School
- Taliaferro County School
- Twiggs County High School
- Woody Gap High/Elementary School
- Wilcox County High School
Focus Schools are identified by:
- A three-year average of the CCRPI Achievement Gap score is calculated for all schools
- Schools are ranked based on their three-year average of the CCRPI Achievement Gap score
- The lowest 10 percent of Title I schools in the state, based on the three-year average CCRPI Achievement Gap score, is identified
- Schools identified as Focus Schools in 2012, which do not meet the criteria for exiting that list, are re-identified as Focus Schools.
2015 Focus Schools:
- Appling County Elementary School
- Benteen Elementary School
- Bethune Elementary School
- Boyd Elementary School
- Brown Middle School
- Centennial Place Elementary School
- Cleveland Elementary School
- Continental Colony Elementary School
- D. H. Stanton Elementary School
- Dobbs Elementary School
- Fain Elementary School
- Fickett Elementary School
- Gideons Elementary School
- Grove Park Intermediate School
- Humphries Elementary School
- Miles Intermediate School
- Parkside Elementary School
- Peyton Forest Elementary School
- Slater Elementary School
- The John Hope-Charles Walter Hill Elementary Schools
- Toomer Elementary School
- Towns Elementary School
- Young Middle School
- Creekside Elementary School
- Eagle Ridge Elementary School
- Midway Elementary School
- Kennedy Elementary School
- Ballard Hudson Middle School
- Brookdale Elementary School
- Lane Elementary School
- Bryan County Middle School
- Langston Chapel Elementary School
- Mattie Lively Elementary School
- William James Middle School
- Bowdon Middle School
- Butler Elementary School
- Haven Elementary School
- Hodge Elementary School
- Shuman Elementary School
- Thunderbolt Elementary School
- West Chatham Middle School
- Windsor Forest Elementary School
- Canton Elementary
- William G. Hasty, Sr. Elementary School
- Cedar Shoals High School
- Gaines Elementary School
- Howard B. Stroud Elementary School
- Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School
- Whit Davis Road Elementary School
- Clay County Elementary
- Edmonds Elementary School
- Mundy’s Mill High School
- Northcutt Elementary School
- Birney Elementary School
- Clarkdale Elementary School
- Milford Elementary School
- Odom Elementary School
- Okapilco Elementary School
- Sunset Elementary School
- Grovetown Elementary School
- Cook Elementary School
- Eastside Elementary School
- Ruth Hill Elementary School
- Western Elementary School
- Crisp County Elementary School
- Bainbridge High School
- Allgood Elementary School
- Bob Mathis Elementary School
- Browns Mill Elementary School
- Canby Lane Elementary School
- Clifton Elementary School
- Columbia Middle School
- Eldridge L. Miller Elementary School
- Freedom Middle School
- Kelley Lake Elementary School
- Lithonia Middle School
- Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School
- Meadowview Elementary School
- Montclair Elementary School
- Princeton Elementary School
- Ronald E McNair Discover Learning Academy Elementary School
- Smoke Rise Elementary School
- Snapfinger Elementary School
- Stoneview Elementary School
- Dodge County High School
- Dodge County Middle School
- Radium Springs Elementary School
- Radium Springs Middle School
- Dublin Middle School
- Susie Dasher Elementary
- Claxton Elementary School
- Bethune Elementary School
- Gullatt Elementary School
- Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary
- Hapeville Charter Middle School
- High Point Elementary School
- Jackson Elementary School
- Lake Forest Elementary
- Lee Elementary School
- Mount Olive Elementary School
- Nolan Elementary School
- Sandtown Middle School
- Woodland Middle School
- Centennial Arts Academy
- Swain Elementary School
- Greensboro Elementary
- Rockbridge Elementary School
- Lyman Hall Elementary School
- White Sulphur Elementary School
- Hancock Central Middle School
- Huntington Middle School
- Miller Elementary School
- Pearl Stephens Elementary School
- Washington Park Elementary School
- Jeff Davis Elementary School
- Carver Elementary School
- Louisville Academy
- Jenkins County Elementary School
- Wells Primary School
- Lanier County Elementary School
- Long County Middle School
- Macon County Elementary School
- Macon County Middle School
- Marietta High School
- Manchester Middle School
- Unity Elementary School
- North Mitchell County Elementary School
- Montgomery County Middle School
- New Montgomery County Elementary School
- Baker Middle School
- Davis Elementary School
- Georgetown Elementary School
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School
- Rigdon Road Elementary School
- Flint Hill Elementary
- Fort Valley Middle School
- Pelham Elementary School
- Westside Elementary School
- Youngs Grove Elementary School
- Randolph County Elementary School
- Bayvale Elementary School
- Copeland Elementary School
- Glenn Hills Middle School
- Lamar – Milledge Elementary School
- Morgan Road Middle School
- Murphey Middle Charter School
- Tutt Middle School
- Wheeless Road Elementary School
- Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School
- Hightower Trail Elementary School
- Sims Elementary School
- Rome High School
- Seminole County Middle/High School
- Cowan Road Middle School
- Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy School
- Carver Elementary School
- Terrell Middle School
- Upson-Lee High School
- Annie Belle Clark Primary School
- Len Lastinger Primary School
- J. R. Trippe Middle School
- Rossville Elementary School
- Bacon Elementary School
- Beaverdale Elementary School
- Wilkinson County Elementary School
Top 15 Findings from the 2015 Schooling in America Survey
With the close of another school year and a boom of expansive school choice programs in 2015 comes curiosity about the progress of K–12 education in the United States.
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s recently released 2015 Schooling in America Survey aims to tap public opinion to answer those questions and more. Check out the top 15 key findings from the full report here!