Dave Belton for
State Representative
GA District 112
Your Subtitle text

Morgan County Schools

2013 Review

 

This year started very well, with very little of the complications that usually arise. Quite to our surprise, Asst. Superintendant Debra White unexpectedly left for family reasons and has been temporarily replaced by just-retired super-Principal Jean Triplett at half-pay. I can not discuss why Ms. White left, but can tell you she did it for the most noble of reasons and we all wish her well. Mr. Ty Snyder seems to be doing a great job as the new Principal at the Elementary School and has made a good impression of every teacher and parent I’ve talked to.

We just got back our CRCT scores (MCES and MCMS) and they were great. We had 5 year highs in “Exceeding Expectations” in nearly every Reading and Social Studies score, and that was after 5 year highs in most Language Arts and Science scores from last year. And I hope you will remember that MCES and MCPS had the BEST Common Core scores of ANY county in the state last year. Wow.

MCHS just got its AP Scores from May, and they’re the best we’ve ever had. We quadrupled our AP Scholars in 4 years and doubled our National AP Scholars. Overall, we had a 45% pass rate – up from 16% in 2007 – while quadrupling our participation from 34 to 128 students. Overall, 31% of MCHS students take AP tests compared to 17% in Georgia. We doubled Georgia’s participation, yet scored only slightly lower at 45% vs. 55% (our freshmen and sophomores are completing against their juniors and seniors). That is incredible, proving the success that ALL our schools are achieving.

How did we do compared to the Nation and the World? Digging through a lot of data I’ve found that only 6% of US students (compared to our 31%) participate, and they passed at a 20% rate (we passed at 45%). Worldwide, less than 1% participates, but those select few have a very high pass rate of 61%. Remember, your AP child is not only competing with 83,000 kids in Georgia, but also with the .9M AP students in the US and an additional 1.3M million AP students across the globe.

Our ACT scores just came in, and again we beat our scores from last year…and by an average of 10%, recording 5 year highs in every category! We also beat Georgia in every category, and Georgia rose to tie the Nation. The ACT is an alternative to the SAT that is used widely in the Midwest, and is a much better predictor of college success.

Our 86% graduation rate last year was 13th best in the state, putting us in the top 7% of GA yet again. A record 240 students graduated last year and we had a record 82% acceptance rate at UGA and GA Tech. We had a record 82% acceptance rate at UGA and GA Tech, and our IB and AP pass rate was up 50% and 33%, respectively. We had a record number of IB diploma winners, we tripled our number of AP scholars to a record 34, and we had our 1st ever National AP Scholar.

Our budget this year is 9% lower than 5 years ago. Our cost per child ratio has fallen from $9047 to $8171, well BELOW average PRIVATE school tuition in GA ($8549). Our teachers have suffered a 6% pay cut, and staff was slashed 10%. Another 25 teachers were lost this year, resulting in an additional 6% cut. And we returned the millage rate to the rollback rate 6 years in a row.

The Boys and Girls Club and the unique partnership they have with the Middle School is another success story. It’s very hard to believe, but none – and I mean zero – of the children who participate in the Club have ever come before a disciplinary tribunal! That is amazing. If you have the time or resources to help this organization, please do so. It really helps.

I’d also like to address the new Common Core curriculum. It is NOT a federal plan. Washington had NOTHING to do with it. Georgia and 45 other states created this curriculum, which intends to “prepare students for college and career for the 21st century workplace.” To this end, MCHS has created a Youth Apprenticeship program as well as 12 Career Academies that focus on “tech” (or “career”) as well as college. Common Core is designed to prepare students for either path. It is also much harder. For example, 3rd Graders are doing 5th Grade work, a trend that is necessary if our kids are going to compete in this new global market.

Finally, I’d like to address teacher morale. The Board is very aware of the financial and academic pressure we’ve put on them. So far, scores show the more we ask of these dedicated professionals, the better they perform. But as any leader knows, there is a breaking point. A professional, positive climate in all our schools is critical. A recent survey indicates we need to continue to develop and maintain such a climate. We’ll continue to seek feedback from our teachers about our schools and monitor the situation very carefully.

Teachers are paramount. They’re the ones who are actually doing what’s worth doing…teaching our children. Everything else is ancillary.

It’s never been harder to be a teacher than right now. There is way more scrutiny than ever before. Our teachers are NOT union, make far less money than they did before, yet their responsibilities constantly increase and the state just tripled their workload by changing curriculum 3 times over the past 4 years. Like the private sector, OUR teachers are doing more with less – and they are doing it with superlative results. Please don’t confuse them with what is going on in Atlanta.

Any objective analysis shows that our poor, rural-county schools far exceed expectations. Morgan County should be proud of our better-than-expected schools and should expect a huge portion of future businesses to locate here. The economic benefits should be obvious.

Dave Belton

Morgan County BOE, 5th District 

  

Life got harder.

 

I’m not sure when it happened – probably around the time I was flying helicopters over the Pyramids on the Nile or airplanes into Sarajevo. Sometime around then - after the Wall fell down - the challenge for America changed from the epic confrontation of the Cold War to the subtle struggle of Globalization.

 

Globalization is a funny word. It summons many different connotations – both good and bad. Whether or not you’re a fan of Globalization, however, one thing is abundantly clear: our children will have to be much smarter than you and I. India and China – even folks in Latin America – these people want we have and are aggressively competing for this planet’s dwindling resources.

 

Well, that was a pretty “pie-in-the-sky” sort of statement – and it wasn’t even very clever. Turn on your television to any business program and they’ll tell you the same. But what does that really mean to you?

 

It means that the days of cruising through High School and getting a good, stable job are over. It means that your children will have to compete for things you and I took for granted.

 

Now please don’t paint me as an Isolationist. I’m not saying America’s finest days are over, and I’m not saying we can’t compete.

 

What I am saying is that your children MUST compete – they’ll have to fight for the same financial and economic security that you and I enjoy.

 

And for those who have made their fortune and will soon be retiring – please remember that these are the same workers who’ll be fueling our economy, funding your social security, and keeping the stock markets alive and vibrant. Those who think they needn’t worry about a well-educated work force need to think again.

 

Which leads me to my salient point. Believe it or not, your children – from the wee little ones in the Primary School to those oh, so unflappable teens – are scoring better than they’ve ever had before. The reason they’ve done so - in my opinion - is because Morgan County teachers have “raised the bar” on their own expectations and increased the rigor of our schools.

 

Now, rigor isn’t a funny word. It reminds me of sweat and toil, and that Marine Corps Gunny Sergeant who, in less than flowering terms, informed me what a maggot I was for not climbing up that wall as fast as he wanted. Rigor means more difficult, more engaged. It means harder.

 

All our schools have increased their rigor – and they’re all showing positive results. But perhaps the most visible change has been at the High School with their new IB (International Baccalaureate) program.

 

Believe it or not, one third of the students at MCHS are taking college-level courses. That is an amazing feat, and something we should be very proud of.

 

But college-level means more work – it means more rigor – it means harder.

 

Harder is not a beloved word in today’s lexicon. With today’s cornucopia of cool technology - GPS direction finders, ipods, cell phones, satellite radio and the internet - it’s obvious we desperately want things to be easier - not harder.

 

But harder is a vital necessity in the education of today’s teens – at least if they want to prosper in a world of Globalization.

 

That’s why I like the philosophy of our IB teachers. They talk of challenging students with ever increasing difficulty - all while offering a “scaffolding” or “bridge” of support. In other words, the teachers are personally invested in every teen. If a teen starts to slip under the weight of the more rigorous work, the teacher can “catch” him with the underlying support that only a local high school can provide.

 

This “scaffolding of support” will not be present at college. Anyone who has been to the halls of higher learning knows that no one is going to hold your hand – no one cares whether you graduate or not. In fact, nation-wide, only one fourth of students who start college ever graduate from anywhere! That is a sobering and daunting fact.

 

That’s why I’m so supportive of the AP and IB programs we have at MCHS: because they allow our teens to challenge themselves in an environment where teachers are there to actually support them.

 

But there’s not much point offering college-level courses to students who will only do high school level work. Our school system has done an amazing job offering high-level courses that you and I could have only dreamed about when we were teens. But teachers can’t make kids study – they can’t make them work hard. That is a job for us parents, and of course, for the students themselves.

 

Parents – do your kids a favor and convince them study. Encourage them to “raise the bar” on their own expectations - and work even harder to achieve them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website Builder