Posts Tagged ‘Susan Andrews’

MCSD Superintendent Andrews and Board Chair Cathy Williams Anwser “”Among the Worst” Tag

July 27, 2011

 Here is a letter released by the Muscogee County School District Communications Department combatting the description that the district is “among the worst” Georgia school systems.

The headlines in last week’s paper announced that Muscogee County Schools were “among the worst.” On behalf of the district’s educators, I must respond.

Under No Child Left Behind, states must set annual goals for schools to meet. The students in each school are then divided into subgroups: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, students with disabilities, English-language learners, and economically disadvantaged. Each subgroup must meet the goal in order for the school to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If one subgroup of students fails to meet the goal, the whole school fails to make AYP. The overall goal is for all schools to have 100% of their students meet standards by 2014.

The Preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) data is clear. The percentage of schools in the Muscogee County School District which met the new AYP goals on the preliminary report is in line with those Districts having the lowest percentage of their schools meeting the goals. We know that several more of our schools will make AYP on the final determination. Some of them missed the goal by fewer than ten students on a single indicator and, after retests are considered and appeals have been determined, more of our schools will make AYP.

Unless you live in this world of AYP with us, you cannot imagine the heartbreak when teachers literally have counted students all year as they have met their formative goals and have mastered standards, only to find that on the test, their school missed the goal by a single student, in a single subgroup. Principals face huge disappointment upon finding out that they needed three more of the students who began ninth grade four years ago to have graduated this year, causing their school to miss the graduation rate goal by less than one percent. A perfect example of this is at Muscogee Elementary School. Muscogee Elementary would have made AYP by reducing the number of students who did not pass the math test by 0.23 percent. That is fewer than one student.

Since there is not enough space here to go through every school and discuss their scores, I want to focus on the data of a few from all over the district which did not make Adequate Yearly Progress in the preliminary determination.

At Midland Middle, 86.8 percent of all students met the standard in math; 93.2 percent of all students met the standard in English/Language Arts. This is not among the worst.

At North Columbus Elementary, 81.9 percent of all students met the standard in math; 93.2 percent of all students met the standard in English/Language Arts. This is not among the worst.

Shaw High School met the bar in percentage of students meeting the standard in math and 92 percent of all students met the standard in English/Language Arts. With laser focus, the teachers and students worked on this goal. This resulted in Shaw making AYP in Academic Achievement but missed AYP on Graduation Rate by 3.5 percent. That is not among the worst.

Veterans Memorial Middle School had 82.9 percent of all students meeting the goal in math; 94.2 percent in English/Language Arts. That is not among the worst.

Fort Middle School had 88.5 percent of all students meeting the standard in English/Language Arts. That is not among the worst.

Gentian Elementary had 89.8 percent of students meeting the goal in English/Language Arts. That is not among the worst.

Carver High School met the standard in math and had 84.8 percent of all students meeting the standard in English/Language Arts, missing AYP by one subgroup. This is not among the worst.

In our twelve middle schools, let’s review the scores. In sixth grade: nine schools increased percentage of students meeting standards in reading; six schools increased in science; eight schools increased in social studies. In seventh grade, nine out of the twelve schools increased scores in reading; five increased in language arts; nine increased in math; ten increased in science; and nine increased in social studies. In eighth grade, eight out of twelve schools increased in reading; five increased in language arts; eleven increased in math; six increased in science and five increased in social studies. Is this not adequate progress?

Spencer High School has gone from having only 50 percent of the students meeting the standards in math in 2009 to 69.7 ercent meeting the standards this year. Is that not adequate progress?

The graduation rate for students in the Muscogee County School District continues to improve. Last year we had 82.2 percent; this year we have 83.6 percent. The state average for this year is 79.5 percent. Is this not adequate progress?

Are there some schools in our district which need intensive care and improvement? Yes.

Do we have to review the data with renewed intensity and an increased sense of urgency? Yes.

Do we need to expand our efforts to assist students with disabilities in order to improve their academic achievement? Yes.

Do we have some schools which score significantly higher than others and we need to focus on replicating those promising practices throughout the district? Yes.

We accept that we have much work to do; we accept that our AYP determination at this point puts us in poor company. We accept that we have some great challenges. We do not accept that we are “among the worst.”

We know how important public education is to this community, to this State, and to this Nation. We do not take that obligation lightly. We will face the brutal facts, we will rework our plans for moving forward, and we will continue to make progress. The community should continue to hold us accountable for the work that we do.

In closing, I must ask one more question. Do we have many schools in the Muscogee County School District that are “among the best?” The answer to that question is a resounding YES!

School begins on August 8. We invite you to visit a public school in Muscogee County. You will be pleased with what you see.

Sincerely,

Susan C. Andrews, Ed.D.,Superintendent of Education

 Cathy Williams, Chair and Member at Large,  Muscogee County Board of Education

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The Education Solution: Are More Local Control and Charter Schools Really Better?

February 7, 2011

Sen. Josh McKoon, (Rep) Georgia 29th District

There is a hue and cry by some for more “local control” in Georgia’s public school system.  Newly elected Georgia 29th District Senator Josh McKoon tells me he is going to introduce a bill to provide more local control.

In an email he said, “First and foremost is to make it easier for local school districts to elect charter system status. This status allows local school districts to reassert control over their district and frees them from one size fits all state mandates. Every education success story I’ve read about involves heightened local control. So I intend to propose legislation that will allow local boards of education to elect charter system status provided they are meeting or exceeding the state average on the CRCT test.”

There is already a law on the books that addresses charter schools, according to Muscogee County School District Superintendent Susan Andrews.  There is a big problem with it for Columbus, she says, because it rules out admission requirements for any school.  She emailed this to me: “By 2014 local school districts must decide to operate under what is described in Georgia Law as IE2 (I,E squared) or become a Charter System.  If systems decide not to select one of these umbrellas under which to operate the Board of Education and Superintendent must sign an affidavit that they will accept the “Status Quo.” Of course, who wants to do that with the negative connotations that brings with it? To operate as an IE2 district, the school district must develop a Strategic Plan which outlines the student achievement improvements which will be made in exchange for flexibility or exemption from State Board rules and/or State laws.  The district in its plan can request the specific rules and/or laws from which it wants to be exempt. 

“To become a charter system, all schools in the district operate under a district charter but there can be no admission requirements for any school in the district.  Currently, we have admission requirements for Columbus High, Britt David Elementary, Hardaway’s, Richards’, and Clubview’s International Baccalaureate Programs, Arnold’s Magnet Program.  Unless we are willing to dismantle those programs, we would not be eligible for Charter System Status. 

“I believe IE2 offers the most flexibility and that is the one we will most likely pursue.” 

Josh tells me that IE2 allows local school boards to apply for charter status.  He promises to give me a fuller  explanation. When he does, I’ll pass it along.  He also has some other interesting plans for public education in Georgia.  More on that, too, later.

Some think the charter school concept is the magic bullet in making schools better. Some think they are overrated.  I’ll deal more with that in my next  The Education Solution series.

The Education Solution: Race to the Top in Muscogee County

February 1, 2011

“MY GREATEST CONCERN IS THAT WE WILL SPEND, AS A STATE,  $400 MILLION IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS AND A TRUE TRANSFORMATION  WILL NOT HAVE TAKEN PLACE.”  

Muscogee County School District Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews agreed to answer some questions I have about education reform in America, Georgia, and Muscogee County. Yesterday she explained the effects of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.  Today, she explains the effects of President Obama’s Race to the Top. 

Race to the Top is a federal grant for school reform.  The purpose of this grant is to transform the nation’s lowest performing schools, to enhance teaching and learning, to ensure the implementation of the Common Core Standards, and to allow for teachers to use the most current data available to inform their instruction day to day, as well as providing them longitudinal data so they can see student progress over time.  Muscogee County will be receiving $11.6 million dollars over the next four years.  I am excited to be at the table as we begin these initiatives.  My greatest concern is that we will spend, as a state, $400 million dollars in the next four years and a true transformation will not have taken place.  We are going to work very hard in Muscogee County to use this money over the next four years to implement the reforms with integrity and make a difference in the achievement of all students.  A large portion of this money had to be set aside for year four of the grant to provide bonuses for teachers who reach a certain level on the Teacher Effectiveness Scale which will be developed at the State level.  The State told districts how much of the money to set aside for that purpose.  Another large portion of the money will be spent on building capacity among our teaching staff through targeted professional development.

Having said all of that I must remind everyone that in America, we value every child and believe that every child should have the opportunity to be educated in our public schools.  We are educating more students, with more diversity, to higher levels than at any time in the history of our nation.  That is a story that doesn’t often get told.  Providing a quality education for all students is a civil right due to all American children.   

 

The Education Solution: NCLB and Race to the Top

January 31, 2011

International ranking of the world’s education systems has the United States lagging behind other developed nations.  When the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, President Eisenhower called for a crusade to improve American schools in math and science.  It worked. But it didn’t last. Now, other developed nation’s better school systems are threatening America’s place in global economies.

  So a new crusade is underway. President Bush started it with No Child Left Behind. President Obama is continuing it with Race to the Top.  I asked Dr. Susan Andrews, Superintendent of the Muscogee County School District, to explain how those two programs affect the District.   

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)is the generic name of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  (Note:  President Bush began calling this law NCLB and the name stuck.  President Obama and his administration want to get away from calling it NCLB and therefore, you will see it referred to by its appropriate name ESEA by the current  administration.) 

MCSD Superintedent Susan Andrews

   

 

This federal law is past due for reauthorization and we are hoping that the new Congress will address the fundamental flaws in the current NCLB act.  The positive about NCLB is that the mandates have forced school districts to look at the performance of subgroups of children by ethnicity, socioeconomic levels, and to look at the performance of students with disabilities.  In the past, districts could look at their average achievement levels and feel good about how students were achieving.  When you look at subgroups of children, however, you see that many children in public schools in America are performing well, but there is a great disparity in the achievement of white students and students of color and there is an even greater disparity when you look at middle class students (regardless of ethnicity) and economically disadvantaged students.  This has increased our awareness and our efforts to teach all children with increased rigor in order to close these gaps.

The negatives of NCLB are in the requirements in regard to students with disabilities and students who are English Language Learners (ELL).  NCLB is in direct conflict with another federal law, IDEA, which requires an individual education plan with individual goals for each student with a disability.  NCLB sets an academic bar for students with disabilities at each grade level that schools must obtain without regard to the individual disabilities of the student and requires the SWD students (except the most severely disabled) to take standardized tests on their age appropriate grade level regardless of their functioning level.  For example, a student with a disability who is ten years old and functions on a third grade level must take the fifth grade test because he is assigned to that grade.  His IEP, however, states that he is learning third grade objectives and is delayed due to his disability.  Educators around the nation are hoping that these issues will be addressed in the reauthorization and base school progress on the growth of students from year to year and not on whether or not students meet an artificially set standard.  Students who are ELL must take the test in English even when they are not yet proficient in the language.

In my next report, Dr. Andrews explains what Race to the Top will do for the Muscogee County School District. 

 

DRASTIC STATE BUDGET CUTS ROCK THE MUSCOGEE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

April 19, 2010

NOT SUPPORTING PUBLIC SCHOOLS PLACES OUR COUNTRY AT RISK

 As a retired state legislator recently told me, we are losing the globalization battle because we are not supporting public education the way we should. Other developed countries are getting better outcomes in their schools. This problem is really being accented with the news that the Muscogee County School system is facing budget cuts of almost $44 million over a three-year period. This is going to cause drastic cuts in programs and personnel.

The MCSD Board of Education now has to decide what cuts in programs and services will have to be made to implement the cuts handed down by the legislature. At Monday night’s MCSD Board work session, Superintendent Susan Andrews gave the board a list of proposed cuts, which include reductions in staff, and ten fewer school days for which teachers will not be paid. 

The upcoming statehouse elections should be very interesting indeed. School teachers can greatly influence elections. Ask former governor and candidate-for-the-job-again Roy Barnes.