Archive for July, 2009

Should more people go to college?

President Obama announced a $12 billion community college proposal to increase the number of associate degree graduates by 5 million by 2020.

The boost to two-year and technical colleges, he said, will stimulate the economy and prepare students for a workplace that is demanding more highly educated employees.

Here’s how the $12 billion breaks down:

* $9 billion in competitive grants so colleges can try new programs, expand training and improve counseling.

* $2.5 billion for campus construction. This would serve as seed money for capital campaigns.

* $500 million to develop online courses.

How will we pay for this? Obama said the money would be paid out over 10 years and would come from no longer subsidizing banks and private lenders that provide student loans. (A bill changing federal student loans is before Congress.)

What’s interesting about this plan is the focus it places on community colleges. While these institutions enroll about half of all the students attending …

Continue reading Should more people go to college? »

How do you know if a school is good?

On Tuesday the state released which Georgia public schools met the adequate yearly progress testing goals required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A few weeks before that came the release of how elementary and middle schools performed on the state’s CRCT exams.

State and national leaders say both sets of results can be used to measure a school. But on the blog we’ve found too many problems with AYP and CRCT.

Many say the standards are too low. Others say too many people cheat. Some say administrators have figured out ways around the rules to make their schools look better than they really are.

If that’s the case, how do we know if a school is any good?

I know some parents go by what they feel. If teachers and the principal seem nice, it’s a good school. If they return phone calls, it’s a good school. If their child gets A’s, it’s a good school.

Of course, we know kids can get high marks and not have a good grasp of basic skills.

Some like using ITBS scores, SAT …

Continue reading How do you know if a school is good? »

Does the CRCT cheating scandal taint AYP?

Three elementary schools accused of cheating on last summer’s CRCT retest are among the 1,717 Georgia public schools that made federal testing goals this year.

Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy, DeKalb County’s Atherton Elementary, Fulton County’s Parklane Elementary made adequate yearly progress, also known as AYP. Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County did not and is a needs improvement school.

Adults at the four schools are accused of changing students’ answers on last summer’s fifth-grade CRCT math retest. The score were used last year to determine if schools made the goals mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The improved scores allowed the schools to reach the goal, but the State Board of Education threw out those results last week.

The state has not made any allegations against the four schools regarding this year’s exams.

Still, the scandal has tainted this year’s AYP report for some. The state uses CRCT results to determine if elementary and middle schools …

Continue reading Does the CRCT cheating scandal taint AYP? »

Did your school make AYP?

AYP is here!

The Georgia Department of Education released the annual report showing whether schools made the testing goals required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. See the state’s report here. Check out the AJC database here.

We’re still reviewing the results but it appears to be a mixed bag.

Less than half of the high schools – just 47 percent – made AYP this year.

State officials say part of the reason is because the graduation rate requirement increased to 75 percent this year from 70 percent last year.

Still, why do high schools continue to be such a problem?

Another problem is that the number of schools classified as “needs improvement” remained about the same. Georgia has 334 needs improvement schools this year, compared to 340 last year.

The number remained about the same even though 58 schools improved enough to shed this label. That means nearly as many schools stumbled and got on the list. Why aren’t we seeing more improvement? Are weak schools getting …

Continue reading Did your school make AYP? »

Do students need to take health?

There’s been a lot of buzz on education Web sites, blogs and listservs over a new rule saying Texas high school students will no longer be required to take health.

The Texas education commissioner said the requirement was dropped because of a new law increasing the number of electives high school students must take, according to the Associated Press. Instead of taking 3 1/2 electives, students will be required to take 6.

Texas officials said local school districts can still require health classes. Still, opponents say many students will no longer receive lessons about nutrition, sex education and other topics.

(As an aside, the state kept requirements for arts, PE and foreign languages.)

Georgia’s graduation rules, updated in 2007, require students take 1 unit of health/physical education to earn a diploma.

Should high school students be required to take health education?

NOTE: The Georgia Department of Education may release the annual AYP report today. I’ll post something …

Continue reading Do students need to take health? »

Some CRCT charts

Claudia Koerner, a data guru here at the AJC, assembled some interesting charts showing how metro Atlanta school systems performed on the CRCT.

Test scores fall into three categories: did not meet, meet or exceeded. The charts look at where each district’s average score fell on the spectrum between meet and exceeded.

Here’s the information for grades three, five and eight.

Anything surprise you?

Continue reading Some CRCT charts »

When school boards vote in secret

Cobb County school board members have bought property, approved leases and taken other actions during executive session meetings that are closed to the public.

Georgia law allows elected boards to discuss personnel, legal matters and real estate purchases during executive sessions, but the State Attorney General’s Office has said elected officials are not allowed to vote during closed meetings. The votes must be done during public meetings.

After the AJC brought the issue to the Cobb school board, leaders said they would no longer vote in secret.

Cobb County wasn’t the only school system to vote in secret.

The Gwinnett County school board routinely approves land purchases during executive sessions. They have continued to do so even though several reporters – including Aileen Dodd and myself – have written about it.

Gwinnett school board members and their attorneys have said they disagree with the state attorney general’s interpretation of the open meetings law. Board members …

Continue reading When school boards vote in secret »

Who did Perdue call out on the CRCT cheating scandal?

Gov. Sonny Perdue accused Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall of ignoring evidence that one of the district’s elementary schools cheated on last summer’s CRCT retest.

Perdue made his comments after the state Board of Education threw out fifth-grade math retest scores from four elementary school accused of cheating.

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

The state education board learned about the cheating from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The office conducted an investigation after the schools posted unusually large gains on the retests.

Since the report’s release last month, the principal of Atherton resigned and an assistant principal was reassigned. Both were arrested and face felony charges.

Glynn County has asked the state education ethics commission to consider disciplining four individuals. Investigations are going on …

Continue reading Who did Perdue call out on the CRCT cheating scandal? »

Will flex schedules work for Georgia’s schools?

Georgia’s public schools will be able to keep students in class longer each day in exchange for a shorter school year.

The State Board of Education is considering new rules that frees schools from offering a traditional 180-day school year, provided students still get the same amount of class time. Basically students would attend school for a longer period of time each day to make up for a shorter school year.

The rule changes come through a HB 193 the Legislature approved this year.

The Murray County School System in Chatsworth plans to switch to a 160-school year. Students will be in school for one hour longer each day, but they won’t return to class until after Labor Day.

I know many of you have wished students didn’t return to school until after Labor Day. Would you want your district to follow a calendar like the one in Murray County?

What if schools instead made each day longer so that the school week only lasted four days? That may cut back on some transportation and …

Continue reading Will flex schedules work for Georgia’s schools? »

Does the CRCT cheating scandal hurt students?

The Georgia Board of Education is expected to vote today to throw out the CRCT scores earned by four schools accused of cheating.

Adults at the schools are accused of changing students’ answers on last summer’s fifth-grade math CRCT retest, a move that boosted each school’s overall scores and allowed them to meet federal testing standards.

The four accused schools are — Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy, DeKalb County’s Atherton Elementary School, Fulton County’s Parklane Elementary School and Glynn County’s Burroughs-Molette Elementary.

Two administrators from Atherton Elementary have been arrested and investigations are going on in the other school systems and communities. State officials say Atlanta school officials have refused to acknowledge that the results are tainted.

Questions remain over whether this scandal has hurt students.

What was the fallout for these kids since passing the exam meant they were promoted to sixth-grade, where the lessons are harder and the …

Continue reading Does the CRCT cheating scandal hurt students? »