We have watched, with some trepidation, the upheaval in DeKalb County, and we’re still not sure whether we know what to think. I worked on one of the “Blue Ribbon Committees” with one of the School Board members and found that after each meeting, I wondered how she kept being re-elected.
I went to many School Board meetings over the past sixteen years
—both my kids graduated from Druid Hills High and spent time in both private and public schools throughout their elementary and middle school years. My daughter went to an Atlanta Public School for a couple years and to a private school for a couple of years. My son went to Fernbank for two years and to Kingfisher for four years. Both of them did well and my son, especially, grew into a self-directed learner after leaving Kingfisher.
I’m not sure what I believe about the future of schooling in DeKalb.
We have had kids come into Kingfisher after very difficult times at a DeKalb school and do quite well. We have also had many kids come in below grade level and make huge improvements, just due to the small, individualized learning setting. I am hoping for improvement in DeKalb’s system. No one wants to see a system that large become fragmented and for most kids, the public system is all they have to depend on. Last year, AJC ran a series of editorials on the gifted programs and funding in Georgia and the blog comments were surprising. Parents are angry that their bright kids don’t seem to be held to any standard and that the goals are always for the lower end of the spectrum, while expecting kids on the upper end to “take care of themselves”.
Maybe it’s asking too much to expect every 4th grader in the 5th month of the school year to read, write, and do arithmetic on a 4th grade, 5th month level.
Realistically, we have children here that are 7, reading on a fourth grade level, doing math on a 3rd grade level and working in science somewhere around the middle of 3rd grade. Every student grows at his or her own pace and every student has times when he/she is ahead of or behind the pack. The CRCT testing was asking for a kind of leveling of the pack that doesn’t really speak to the diversity of talent and experience that children bring to school. You can be a moderate reader, but a fine athlete and a great leader. You can be a math whiz, but not much of a reader and also be extremely talented in beginning engineering skills. You can be a natural science genius, a great reader, and a mediocre math student. Some kids are creative, graceful, funny, good joke tellers, and excellent cooks. People are complex and so are children.
A much larger discussion about education is taking place all over Georgia.
There are new jobs coming and those jobs might call for a kind of skill we don’t even know about, yet. Something a police officer (one of our former parents) told me really made me think—he said that some of the gang leaders in Atlanta’s most transient neighborhoods were incredibly gifted at leading their people and not just through intimidation, but also by reminding the young men that they would always have a place in their gang. Maybe schools need to be reminding students that there is a place for them in the wider world and we need to help them figure it out. Maybe not college, but maybe health care workers. Maybe not Georgia Tech, but Gwinnett Tech with an air conditioning/heater certificate. I always remind my son that garage mechanics can make up to $75/hour in Atlanta. Nothing wrong with making a decent living and building a happy, productive life.