Archive for March, 2009

“Shocking” punishment puts principal under fire

The principal at Beaver Ridge Elementary in Gwinnett is accused of ordering a student to shock himself with a toy the boy brought to class.

When the boy was sent to the office for bringing the low current pen to school, Principal Esther Adames-Jimenez made the boy shock himself with the toy, according to school officials.

District leaders learned of the incident after the school staff reported it.

Supposedly the principal wanted to teach the student a lesson. Do you think she went too far?

The story explains this isn’t the first time the principal used questionable judgment. Gwinnett human resources officials investigated her last school year over concerns she mishandled exams.

She was placed on paid administrative leave from another system in 1999 over allegation that she disciplined a 4-year-old who bit classmates by holding that student down so his victims could bite him back. The principal called the allegations false.

The principal won’t be back next year but she will be …

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Who’s watching charter schools?

The Georgia Department of Education has failed to comply with a 1998 state law requiring an independent review of whether charter schools are financially viable and meeting academic goals, according to a state audit.

The report from the state Department of Audits and Accounts also says the Education Department has been lax in monitoring Georgia’s 113 charter schools and fails to make sure local school boards are keeping tabs on the charters in their systems.

In a written response, state Education Department officials agreed more ovesight is needed to make sure charters are following the terms of their approved contracts.

Associate Superintendent Andrew Broy, who oversees charter schools, said the audit will be used to improve how state staff works with and monitors charter schools, especially in the areas of academics and finances.

He pointed out that the state holds charters accountable by denying some contracts when they come up for renewal. The state also meets with local …

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Salary boost for math, science teachers

A bill to give math and science teachers higher pay moves on to Gov. Perdue.

The House approved HB 280 today. The House had to approve a Senate amendment to the bill, which made it clear that higher pay would happen only if the Legislature decides to pay for it in any given year.

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Is Gwinnett still great?

When you drive into Gwinnett County off I-85 you see two water towers declaring, “Gwinnett is Great” and “Success Lives Here.” But a story from Sunday questions whether those statements are still true.

The article looked at the large enrollment gains in Gwinnett – the state’s largest school district – and concerns from many that the district is too big and will be unable to maintain above average academics.

I found it interesting that Gwinnett officials predict the system will grow by about 1,700 students next year.

It seems Gwinnett’s great growth is finally slowing down. When I first came to the paper the district was growing by about 7,000 a year and when I covered the system the average increase was between 4,000 to 7,000 kids a year.

The story asks whether a district can be too big for its own good. Would you prefer a big or small system? Why?

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Homework as punishment

Yesterday an Atlanta high school principal told me about a teacher who recently had a group of students misbehaving for a few days. Frustrated, that teacher assigned the entire class 188 questions to answer as they reviewed for an upcoming test.

One of the students complained to the principal, who spoke with the teacher. The teacher admitted wanting to teach the kids a lesson. She also said there would only be 25 questions on the exam.

The principal made the teacher trim down the assignment to 50 questions that best reviewed the information she wanted students to know.

“I understand when a teacher gets upset but assigning more work doesn’t teach kids a lesson,” the principal said. “We need to discipline the kids who act up, but we don’t punish the entire class for that. And I don’t like the idea of using teaching or homework to punish students.”

How often do teachers give students homework as punishment? What do you think of the principal’s decision to force the teacher to …

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When should principals call the police?

A Clayton County principal who waited 11 days before reporting a child sex abuse allegation to the police did not violate the law, according to a judge.

On Jan. 9, a 14-year-old girl reported that teacher and basketball coach Antonio Mahone summoned her to his classroom to give her some candy. He then hugged her and squeezed her buttocks, she told police.

Kendrick Middle School Principal Steve Hughes launched an investigation that same day. He turned in a report to the district on Jan. 15 saying the system’s lawyer should be notified, but added he could not substantiate that the incident occurred.

Hughes called the police on Jan. 20, after he after learned another teacher saw the girl upset after her encounter with Mahone.

The principal’s attorney said his client did what he was supposed to do.

But police and the county solicitor say the principal should have contacted the police immediately and let detectives investigate the situation.

Georgia law says school officials must …

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Fewer tests to $ave money

Here’s a cost-cutting strategy many students will love: Marietta school leaders are considering giving fewer tests.
School leaders say they can save $42,000 next year if they cut back on how many grades take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Now all students take the standardized test, but the district proposes giving it in just grades two, four and seven.
This isn’t the only cut the district is considering. They’re planning to slash jobs, freeze salaries and possibly furlough employees to make up an anticipated shortfall of at least $4 million.
(Who will get furloughed is still being determined. The superintendent says she wants to avoid taking days away from teachers.)
What do you think of schools cutting back on testing to save money? Which tests could they get rid of?

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A public military school

DeKalb school officials are opening a military-style public school even though the involvement of the U.S. Marines has upset many parents and other community activists.
Opponents say the school is a ploy to help the Marines recruit students.
But school officials insist the school is not a military training center. Superintendent Crawford Lewis said the magnet school provides parents with another option.
The school, which is planned to open in August, will have a principal to oversee academics, including a focus on math and science. The district also hired a commandant to oversee a military-style regimen. The Marines and the district would share the costs of running the school.
The military already has permission to visit high schools and recruit students. Many high schools offer JROTC programs, which teach leadership, discipline and communication skills while exposing students to opportunities available in the military.
Is DeKalb showing innovation with this school? Or are …

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When does discipline cross the line?

Some parents from a south Fulton charter school withdrew their kids after accusing teachers of “excessive punishment.”
The parents say teachers at KIPP South Fulton Academy were wrong to separate their kids from other students during class and lunch. They said students were made to sit on the floor and one girl urinated on herself because she was not allowed to use the restroom immediately.
School leaders dispute parents’ version of the story. They said no students were mistreated and that the students were disciplined after disrupting class for several days.
Leaders from the middle school in East Point said they should have told parents their kids were in trouble, but refused to remove the teachers involved. The principal said the school should have done a better job explaining expectations for student conduct.
Without knowing all the details, it’s hard to tell if teachers or parents overreacted to the situation.
But it does raise some interesting questions. At what point …

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Get ready for another test

The Georgia Senate passed HB 229, which requires students taking gym complete a physical fitness test once a year. The bill, which already passed the state House, now goes to Gov. Perdue for his signature.
The bill aims to combat the problem of childhood obesity. Also, parents will get annual reports on their child’s fitness. (Although one has to wonder if parents really need a school to tell them if their child is healthy.)
The question, however, is how schools will “test” physical fitness? Some say schools could use the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, which includes running, push-ups and sit-ups.
Of course, the state could develop a new test for schools to use.
What type of test should schools use? How do you feel about schools measuring kids’ fitness – is this something educators should even be charged with doing?

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