Archive for April, 2009

Tweets from schools

Aileen Dodd wrote that more Georgia school systems are using Twitter to tell parents and others about what’s happening in schools.

Teachers and principals are sending tweets about homework, student achievement and school events and meetings. People sign up to get the messages from school districts, with each message limited to 140 characters.

Are you following tweets from your schools?

Twitter would be a quick and easy way to tell people about important events. But I don’t know whether it can replace the direct contact parents and teachers need to have with one another.

What kind of news would you like to see schools share through Twitter?

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Clayton learns fate Friday

Megan Matteucci writes that Clayton schools will learn Friday whether the system will get back its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The group revoked the district’s accreditation in August, citing a string of problems, including a dysfunctional board.

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When students misbehave

It’s not hard to imagine this scenario: A student acts out in class – it could be hitting another student, disrupting lessons or taking something.

The teacher reaches out to the child’s parents, who can react in a couple of ways.

There’s the parent who denies that their child did anything wrong and demands to know why the school is picking on their kid.

There’s the parent who is skeptical of their child’s involvement but agrees to speak with him or her.

And there’s the parent who readily admits their kid did something wrong and basically turns in the child.

Which situation is more likely to occur?

How should parents and schools handle situations when they know a child has done something wrong?

NOTE: A colleague is working on a story about these types of situations. If you’d like to participate in the story please email: jgumbrecht@ajc.com

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Stimulus money is here!

Georgia’s public schools are getting their first batch of stimulus money.

The State Board of Education approved doling out about $660 million for IDEA (special education) and Title I, programs to support students from low-income homes.

While the state has provided suggestions on how to spend the money, the decision rests with local leaders.

Some have said they want to provide more training for teachers, offer classes on Saturday for struggling students and purchase some equipment.

How do you think schools should spend this money?

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A new test – this one in gym

Gov. Sonny Perdue will sign a bill today requiring all Georgia public school students to take an annual fitness test.

The backers of HB 229 say the new state law will combat childhood obesity.

School systems will conduct an annual fitness test on students beginning with the 2011-12 school year. Students who meet “fitness benchmarks” will get rewarded, but kids who miss the mark won’t get punished.

Similar bills have been introduced to the Legislature these past few years before backers finally succeeded with this one.

Do you think this test will actually help curb obesity in kids?

If not, why are schools being asked to solve this problem? Schools can change their menus and offer kids healthier meals while they’re on campus. But is it a school’s job to teach healthy living?

Continue reading A new test – this one in gym »

School safety alerts

Police continue to search for a UGA professor accused of killing his ex-wife and two men Saturday.

Shortly after the shooting, the university sent a text alert to students saying that a professor was a suspect in the off-campus shooting.

The UGA Alerts are used to let students know quickly when there are dangerous situations. The alerts began after the Virginia Tech kills in 2007 and are used by other colleges as well.

In the K-12 world, public and private schools post messages on their Web sites or rely on the old-fashioned phone trees to let people know about emergencies.

Should public schools learn from colleges and adopt these same text alerts?

What other kinds of messages could schools send?

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Do school rankings matter?

The newspaper wrote stories this week about three different reports that ranked education programs.

Atlanta Public Schools came in at No. 45 among the nation’s 50 largest cities for its graduation rate. According to the student from the America’s Promise Alliance only 44 percent of Atlanta’s students graduated on time in 2005, compared to the national average of 71 percent.

A study from the National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Georgia’s universal pre-K program as No. 3 in the nation, behind Florida and Oklahoma.

On Thursday U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of graduate school programs and Emory, Georgia State, Tech and UGA were well represented.

The lists won’t end there.

Over the summer we’ll have ones showing who has the highest SAT scores, the best CRCT results and the highest percentage of schools meeting federal testing goals.

A lot of time goes into making these lists, but that doesn’t make them useful.

How do you use these rankings? …

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Georgia’s pre-K gets high marks

The National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Georgia as No. 3 in the country for access to quality preschool education. (Oklahoma and Florida ranked higher.)

Georgia has long received high marks for its universal pre-K, which uses lottery money to provide free education to more than half of the state’s 4-year-olds.

But that doesn’t mean the program is perfect.

Parents have long complained that the state doesn’t provide enough money to keep up with growing interest in the program. Many families say they can’t get into the classes in their neighborhoods or near where they work.

The state agency over pre-K, Bright from the Start, has said that while some programs have waitlists others have space for additional children. The agency says all programs use the same standards and curriculum.

I’ve heard other parents worry that not enough of the teachers hold bachelor’s degrees, a criticism mentioned in the national report.

What do you think of the state’s universal …

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Fight brews over school bullies

The family of an 11-year-old who committed suicide because of what they described as incessant bullying has hired an attorney.

Jaheem Herrera was taunted by classmates who called him “gay” and “snitch,” his sister said.

The boy’s mother says school officials didn’t do enough, even though she complained several times. She said Jaheem was once choked in the boy’s bathroom.

School officials say they’ve taken steps to eliminate bullying, including using a program that integrates anti-bullying and anti-harassment lessons into the regular school curriculum.

We’ve been down this bullying road before. Lots of allegations are thrown back and forth but few changes are seen in schools.

How much can schools do to control bullies?

This isn’t something schools can do alone. Where are the parents in all this? What responsibility rests with parents whose kids are bullied and parents whose kids are the bullies?

Continue reading Fight brews over school bullies »

Should teachers stop bullies?

An 11-year-old boy committed suicide and his family says it was because of relentless bullying at a DeKalb Elementary School.

Regardless of whether bullying led to Jaheem Herrera’s tragic death, his suicide is making a lot of people talk about bullying in schools.

We’ve blogged about this before – but this time I want to know how teachers handle bullying in their classrooms.

Have principals or districts provided any training or guidelines over how to handle bullies?

We know bullying is commonplace in schools, but it can become excessive. When do you step in and when have you decided not to intervene? How do you make the decision?

Continue reading Should teachers stop bullies? »