Archive for June, 2009

Study questions charter schools’ success

The average charter school doesn’t do any better educating kids than the typical traditional public school, according to a new study released Wednesday. In some cases, charter schools do worse.

The report from the Center of Research on Education Outcomes compared the reading and math test scores of charters and traditional public schools that shared traits.

The study concluded that 37 percent of charter schools posted math gains that were significantly below what students would have earned at local traditional public schools.

The report wasn’t all negative. Researchers found charter school students do better the longer they’re in charter schools. While students’ learning declines the first year, they post huge gains during their second and third years.

What makes this study so important is that the group reviewed about 70 percent of the nation’s charter schools.

Expect advocates on both sides of the charter debate to cite this study as leaders debate new rules over charters …

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Should schools punish students for off-campus behavior?

Cobb County students can be suspended from sports teams and school clubs for breaking school rules – even if the infractions occurred off-campus.

School board members approved rules last week to guarantee students are disciplined uniformly when caught drinking, smoking or doing drugs. The punishments are harsh. Students face a 25-day suspension from activities on their first offense.

How are they going to catch students? Students could be setting themselves up by posting pictures on Facebook and other sites, a district spokesman said.

Obviously students should be punished for breaking school rules on campus or at school-related events like field trips.

But is it right for school officials to discipline students for something they do on the weekend or during the summer?

A common complaint is that schools are expected to do parents’ work. Should schools take on off-campus behavior?

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UPDATED 6/17: Criminal charges for cheating on the CRCT?

UPDATE 6/17: The DeKalb District Attorney’s Office is looking into allegations of cheating on the CRCT.

Officials say the probe could lead to criminal charges because state law makes it a felony to tamper with state documents. Officials also said the investigation may include more schools than just Atherton Elementary, which was cited in a state audit for extraordinary and suspicious gains.

Search district-by-district 2009 CRCT scores here. We’ll get school-level results in a couple of weeks.

The chairman of Georgia’s Senate education committee is calling for a new law to punish teachers and others who change students’ answers on the CRCT and other standardized tests.

The idea floated by Sen. Dan Weber comes a few days after a state audit showed answers had been changed on last summer’s fifth-grade CRCT retest at four elementary schools.

The principal at Atherton Elementary in DeKalb, one of the accused schools, has resigned and district officials reassigned the assistant …

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Get ready for national reading, math standards

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Sunday the government will spend up to $350 million to develop national standards in reading and math.

Duncan has long said learning expectations vary too widely from one state to another. What is considered passing in Georgia, may be failing in another state.

The idea is to develop uniform learning benchmarks and to spend up to $350 million developing tests to assess the new standards. The money comes from some of the stimulus funds designed to reward states that implement innovations backed by the administration.

Duncan spoke at the National Governors Association education symposium. Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office sent out a release Friday saying he would be at the event.

Georgia is among the states that have committed to the concept of national standards. (Alaska, Missouri, Texas and South Carolina have not.)

Getting states to agree to the concept is one thing. Getting them to agree on what the national standards should look like will …

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What happens when you pay a teacher $125,000?

A new charter school opening this September in New York City will pay each teacher $125,000 a year.

The Equity Project is banking on the argument that quality teachers are the key ingredient to improving student achievement. If you want the best, you have to pay them big bucks.

How do you determine if a teacher is great?

School officials conducted a nationwide search. Often teachers are hired based on their resumes and what previous employers have to say. The Equity Project visited classrooms to see teacher applicants in action.

The school is focusing its budget on paying these quality teachers.

Class sizes will be bigger – about 30 in each class. School leaders don’t plan to spend a lot of money on the latest technology or education fads. The school won’t have assistant principals, substitute teachers or academic coaches.

Teachers must do all duties and they’re expected to work longer hours and more days than traditional public school teachers.

Is teacher quality the key to a …

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Fight brewing over money for Georgia charter schools

Three Georgia charter schools are closer to getting thousands more in student funding.

The State Board of Education approved a plan that would allow three state-chartered schools to become commission-chartered schools.

What’s the difference? State-chartered schools were approved by the State Board of Education after local school boards denied them. These schools get state money, but no local funding.

Commission-chartered schools are approved by the new Georgia Charter Schools Commission. This group, created by the Legislature last year, has the power to approve charter schools and give them local and state money. Schools would get local money even if the local school board denied their applications

The three charter schools seeking the change are: Ivy Preparatory Academy in Norcross, the Scholars Academy State Elementary in Riverdale and Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology in Statesboro. The commission could vote on the three schools June 18.

Expect public …

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Schools investigated for CRCT cheating

UPDATE 3:40: Atherton Elementary Principal James Berry has resigned. He and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander face accusations of cheating from system officials. The school is one of four implicated by the state in a possible test cheating probe.

Georgia officials said yesterday they are investigating whether teachers, administrators or other adults changed answers on the summer CRCT exam at four elementary schools, the Associated Press has reported.

The changes made scores improve so significantly that the schools were able to meet the testing goals of No Child Left Behind, according to officials with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. Schools that fail to meet the federal law’s rules face increasingly severe sanctions.

The four schools are: Atherton Elementary in DeKalb County, Deerwood Academy in Atlanta, Parklane Elementary in Fulton County and Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County.

An article that ran in the AJC in December raised questions about …

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Georgia parents fight the state (and win)

Parents of wheelchair-using student athletes are a little bit more relaxed today after learning state officials will restore funding to a Georgia association that organizes competitive team sports for students with disabilities.

About two weeks ago the Georgia Department of Education told the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs that it would lose about $700,000 in state funding because of massive budget cuts forced by the recession.

Parents, students and the association protested. The state money is about 85 percent of the group’s budget. The group didn’t know how they would operate without it.

Association directors still plan to cancel two sports programs – powerchair soccer and baseball for the visually impaired.

About 4,700 Georgia students participate in the group’s programs. Family members say the children’s disabilities prevent them from participating on their school teams.

So often parents fight to get funding restored and they fail. When you consider the …

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Atlanta takes back millions

Atlanta school board members voted Monday night to keep most of the $18 million raised through tax allocation districts, but agreed to let the Atlanta Development Authority keep $6 million and repay it later.

The agreement capped off months of discussions over what would happen to the money.

The money was raised through tax allocation districts (TADS) which use a portion of school tax money to pay for development projects. State lawmakers passed a bill this year that lets school boards keep the money.

The ADA planned to use that money on various projects such as the Beltline, which would create businesses, affordable housing, and parks and recreation along a 22-mile loop in the city. City officials and developers say the money could fuel economic redevelopment in Atlanta and ultimately help the school district by increasing tax revenue down the road.

But school officials say they need the money because of state budget cuts and reductions in property tax revenue because of the …

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Cobb, Fulton schools top grad test results

As expected, academic powerhouse Walton High in Cobb County posted the highest passing rates in the metro area on the Georgia High School Graduation Test, with 98.4 percent passing all sections on the first try.

Crim High in Atlanta, which serves students who are at risk of dropping out, scored the lowest in the metro area with 24.2 percent passing.

In all, six schools in Cobb and Fulton counties were among the metro area’s top 10 performers.

Want to know how your high school did? Go here and check out the AJC database.

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