The Georgia Department of Education’s Samuel Taylor shows the Dougherty County School Board a PowerPoint presentation Monday illustrating problems the DOE found with math programs at Dougherty and Monroe high schools during a recent “learning walk” through the two schools’ math classrooms.
ALBANY, Ga. — Samuel Taylor, the Georgia Department of Education’s Program Manager for District Effectiveness School Improvement Division, did not mince words Monday in giving the Dougherty County School Board an assessment of math programs at Dougherty and Monroe high schools.
“Dougherty and Monroe high schools’ math programs are among 5 percent of the lowest performing Title I schools in the state of Georgia,” Taylor said. “The board is going to have to make some hard decisions very soon in regard to math achievement and teacher effectiveness. But we are not in the business of giving jobs. We are in the business of educating children.”
The assessments, or “learning walks,” were conducted last month after the two schools turned in abysmal end-of-course test scores in math.
In 2012, 69 percent of Dougherty’s students did not meet Math I expectations set by the state. Math II numbers were worse, with 85 percent not meeting expectations. Monroe’s results were similar with 61 percent failing to meet expectations in Math I and 74 percent in Math II.
“The Department of Education decided to conduct learning walks through the classrooms at Dougherty and Monroe and observe teacher practices,” Taylor said. “We wanted to see what was going on in those classrooms.”
The state set up three teams of four people from the district, the school and the DOE. Each math teacher in the schools was observed by at least one team for a minimum of 30 minutes.
The teams were looking at two specific areas: instructional strategies and positive learning environments. The teachers were graded with four possible results: exemplary, proficient, needs development and ineffective.
Neither school scored in the exemplary range, and nearly 70 percent of Dougherty’s teachers fell into the lower two categories. Monroe’s results were similar.
Among the teams’ findings were:
“Teachers lectured extensively with little or no involvement of the students,” and “questions and assignments were generally low-depth.”
“We are only here to recommend, and it is the superintendent’s job to bring the best possible people forward,” Taylor said. “We have to have accountability; students have got to own their learning. Our neediest students should have the best teachers and administrators, and that’s the bottom line.
“There are also scheduling issues at the schools. Both have math support classes, but we saw only five to seven kids in these classes.”
Taylor then told the board that all is not lost.
“These schools can be turned around. It all depends on if we have the will and commitment to do it,” he said.
A somber interim Superintendent Butch Mosely said “there are no quick fixes in this business, but there are strategies we can, and we will, put into place.”
Board Chair Carol Tharin agreed.
“Very soon the board is going to have to step up and do things that won’t be popular for the betterment of Dougherty County’s students,” she said.