Archive for April, 2009

Is the SAT on its way out?

New York University announced Monday they would no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT. Students still must submit standardized test scores but instead of using the two popular exams they can use Advanced Placement results or the SAT subject tests.

About 20 percent of all colleges have made standardized testing optional, including highly-regarded institutions like Wake Forest University. Some ask students to submit an essay or conduct in-person interviews instead.

The move away from the SAT has grown over the past decade.

It accelerated last year when the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a report saying while some standardized testing is needed, the SAT may not be the right exam.

Is it time to abandon the SAT?

Should the exam be replaced with a new test or must colleges find a different way to judge applicants?

Continue reading Is the SAT on its way out? »

10 years after Columbine

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the Columbine massacre.

The students who were trapped in Columbine High School when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris began shooting are now adults and many have been sharing their experiences in books and interviews with the media.

When the shootings first occurred Dylan and Eric were portrayed as depressed and goth-loving. But time has revealed that both were bright with lots of friends.

The questions asked 10 years ago remain true today: How did this happen? What drove these two teens to kill?

The questions we need to ask today are: What have we learned? Have our schools and teens changed for the better?

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Teaching children with autism

Two events focusing on children with autism are being held in Atlanta.

Autism is a severe developmental disability that affects brain functions in several areas, such as communication skills. It is a spectrum disorder meaning the severity of the disease varies widely among children.

For years, parents and school officials have clashed over the best way to teach these children. Many are bright but have difficulty interacting with other students. As a result, some schools separate autistic students from classmates. Their parents and other advocates say this deprives autistic children of a quality education.

Some say these parents are just fighting for their kids. Others say they are putting unreasonable demands on schools.

While many might not like to admit it publicly, a lot of parents don’t want autistic students in the same classroom as their kids. They say teachers spend so much time with the special needs students that it takes away from the rest of the class.

Who is doing …

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What role should the Feds have in schools?

Later this year Congress will rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind Act and there’s been a lot of discussion about placing stricter rules on teacher quality and academic standards.

President Obama campaigned on these issues and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has mentioned them during telephone conferences with education writers.

Many of you on this blog have said we need higher quality academic standards for students. Some also have said teacher quality must be improved so that the weak are pushed out and the strong are rewarded.

But are these issues the federal government should control?

No Child Left Behind increased the federal government’s role in education. Obama’s stimulus package extended it and it looks like this administration isn’t stopping.

Here in Georgia we see the Legislature passing bills every year that usurp local control over education.

When did education stop being an issue handled locally? Has this change improved or weakened education?

Continue reading What role should the Feds have in schools? »

Schools, city fight over TAD

Atlanta schools want its money back.

School officials are meeting this week with the Atlanta Development Authority to take back some of the $18 million in school property tax money slated to fund community redevelopment projects.

School board members say they need to renegotiate the term of the tax allocation district (TAD) because of cuts in state funding and lower property revenue. If the two don’t reach an agreement, the school board said it will keep all $18 million.

TADs redirect future increases in property tax collections to help pay for projects within a set area. (School taxes make up most of all property tax revenue.)

Opponents of the program say money raised for schools should remain for education.

Proponents say the program revitalizes communities and that the money pays off in the end because of increased taxes on higher-end development.

The Georgia Supreme Court last year banned cities and counties from using public school taxes for the subsidies. A bill passed …

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Where are the jobs for teachers

Teaching often becomes a hot profession during recessions. There’s this misconception that schools are always hiring and some people who have lost their jobs like the idea of “giving back” by working as a teacher.

But this recession is different.

We know that school districts around Georgia are laying off employees and increasing class sizes so they don’t need to hire as many teachers.

I’ve heard some teachers are putting off retirement because they’re worried about the economy or they’ve lost too much money in their investments and can’t afford not to work.

And then we have the fact that Georgia’s public school enrollment isn’t growing at the rate it once was.

How is this job market for teachers? Are you having trouble finding a position or are you postponing retirement because of the economy?

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Do you trust the CRCT?

Welcome back from Spring Break. I hope you all had a restful week and a happy holiday.

It’s test season in metro Atlanta. Some kids will start taking the CRCT tomorrow, while other districts will begin giving the test over the next two weeks.

The controversial test became more so last spring after early results showed about 70 percent of the sixth- and seventh-graders failed the social studies exams and about 40 percent of eighth-graders failed the math.

Parents and teachers were outraged, with many accusing the state of developing faulty tests.

State schools Superintendent Kathy Cox ultimately threw out the social studies results, citing a breakdown between the test questions, the new curriculum and what teachers taught. But she let the math results stand.

Since then the state developed new social studies standards and new exams. Teachers across the state received training on the new curriculum. Also, in math, the state and local school district provided teachers with more …

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Another shot for Clayton schools

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will return to Clayton County next week to judge the district’s attempts to win back accreditation.

The 49,000-student school district was stripped of its accreditation in September.

SACS has said the district can win it back in time for seniors to graduate with accredited diplomas provided the system meets nine improvement mandates:

1. Conduct audit of attendance records.
2. Implement comprehensive policy review.
3. Remove influence of outside disruptive groups.
4. Appoint a permanent superintendent and establish proper conditions for effectiveness.
5. Conduct a forensic audit of finances.
6. Hire outside consultants in conflict resolution, governance and organizational effectiveness.
7. Enact and commit to ethics policies.
8. Ensure board members live in their district.
9. Establish a governing board capable of fulfilling its roles and responsibilities.

Will Clayton rise like a phoenix or is it destined to fail again?

If the …

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Where does student motivation come from?

Many of you have said it before: not all students want to learn.

That may or may not be true, but some students are so motivated to succeed they overcome obstacles too difficult for us to imagine.

Take Telisha Tanner, who John Hollis wrote about.

Her parents are drug addicts. She lived with a grandmother who passed away last August. Now the teenager moves around, living with different friends because none of her relatives could take her in.

It would have been so easy for Telisha to give up. But she hasn’t.

She persevered and plans to attend Georgia State University next year. She wants to be a doctor.

Why are some students motivated and others are not? What can we do to develop this motivation?

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Paying for college

Earlier this week I sat down with a girl I mentor to read over her essays for college scholarships.

She got into some great schools (Tufts and Georgetown), but the financial aid hasn’t poured in the way she hoped. She got into UGA and is eligible for the HOPE scholarship. She wanted to leave Georgia and experience another part of the country, but she’s afraid of graduating with a ton of debt.

Her parents can’t help as much as they’d like. Her dad got laid off about two months ago. Her mom works but said the family will have little to nothing left after they pay the mortgage, other bills and expenses for her two younger siblings

Now she’s looking into grants, college loans and every scholarship she can find on FastWeb and other sites. She’s called some local businesses near her top college choices to see if they’ll have jobs.

This is the time of year when college acceptance letters come pouring in and tough decisions must be made.

Are you saying no to some colleges out-of-state …

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