Archive for April, 2009

Study finds some success with vouchers

Students using vouchers in Washington D.C. have made small gains in reading, but no real improvements in math, according to a new study from the U.S. Department of Education.

The biggest gains were among students who left schools that were not failing under No Child Left Behind. Students who used vouchers and left the district’s worst schools did not have any significant gains, according to the study.

As expected, voucher opponents dismissed the findings while supporters tout the study as proof that vouchers work.

It’s too soon to tell what impact the study will have on the national debate. But I expect this report will be cited when another voucher bill is filed in January with the Georgia Legislature.

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Were there any winners this session?

Another session of the Georgia Legislature has ended, but because of the tight budget it’s hard to find many winners.

Many of you will be happy to know that money for school nurses remained, but it’s only $29.1 million, because it was subject to the same 3 percent cuts in funding as other education programs.

The approved budget took the $49 million set aside for graduation coaches and moved it to the overall school funding formula. School systems could still use this money on the coaches who help at-risk students graduate or local leaders could spend it on other programs.

Money also was included to give 10 percent bonuses to teachers who currently have National Board Certification, but no new graduates of the program will get the extra money.

As for the bills, there was a lot of action during the last few hours of the session.

For example, SB 84, the controversial school governance bill that aimed to prevent another school district from losing its accreditation like Clayton …

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More details on military high school

Today’s Q&A reveals some more information about a controversial plan for DeKalb schools to open a new school in August run jointly with the U.S. Marines.

Some say the school’s campus is too small, while others oppose the military’s involvement and fear students will be heavily recruited.

William McHenry, national director for the Marine Corps’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps said there’s no military commitment for students who attend the free magnet school.

The program will allow students to take 15 college credit hours during their senior year of high school, he said.

We’ve blogged about this school before, but what do you think of the program now that we have more information?

Following yesterday’s post, would this be considered an innovative school?

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Can schools be innovative?

I covered Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting and listened to different presentations about how schools in Georgia are trying to be “innovative.”

Forsyth County school leaders talked about why they want the flexibility promised through IE2, which exempts districts from many state rules so they can try new methods to boost student achievement. Forsyth discussed how the program will let them decide how to spend money and where to assign teachers and how much time kids should spend in class — regardless of what state rules exist in these areas.

Different charter school applicants talked about plans to offer smaller class sizes, focus on different careers and have students attend school year-round.

All of these are interesting concepts and will help some students do better in school. But are these ideas really innovative? There are other schools in Georgia and across the nation experimenting in these areas.

What type of innovation would you like to see in …

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College rejections and waitlists

A senior from Walton High in Marietta sent me an email saying the high-achieving school made it harder for her to get into college.

The girl said guidance counselors pressured her to take 11 AP classes and she earned mainly Bs and Cs. She says she would have earned As in easier classes.

She thought the tougher classes would give her a better shot of getting into college. But she was rejected from Georgia Tech and waitlisted at UGA even though she has a 3.6 GPA and SAT score of 1900.

(The girl wrote that she’s president of one student club, vice president of another and a minority. I take it she thought these things would boost her shot at admission.)

College admission officers have told me they look at coursework and grades when reviewing applications, so it would seem like the guidance counselors gave the girl good advice.

But the recession has led to an increase in applications at state colleges across the nation, making this an especially competitive admissions year.

Was …

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