Archive for August, 2009

Another one bites the dust. North Oconee principal canned

Would a superintendent fire a perfectly good high school principal — who was raising student achievement — because he complained to a newspaper about his school’s athletic facilities?

That appears to be the case in Oconee County where Superintendent John Jackson fired North Oconee High School Principal John Osborne Friday for insubordination and willful neglect of his duties because he complained in the Athens Banner-Herald about his school’s lack of athletic facilities.

In an interview, Osborne commented to the newspaper that the sports facilities at his school were not up to those at rival Oconee County High. The principal may have been impolitic. His public griping may have even been a attempt to strong arm the school board into pumping more money into his facilities, but does his transgression merit dismissal?

The firing has set off a firestorm and a “Bring Mr. Osborne Back” Facebook page with 1,263 members as of Monday evening.

I don’t get the sense that good principals …

Continue reading Another one bites the dust. North Oconee principal canned »

If Tech students can build rockets, can’t they figure out coupons?

On a lighter note; I received this press release and had to read it twice to be sure it was Georgia Tech students. My first thought was that students learning to analyze gene sequences, design the next-generation of MRI systems and produce nanoparticles can probably figure out how to use a 50-cents-off Tide coupon. But my desk mate – blogger extraordinaire Jamie Gumbrecht who graduated college in this century — says she would have grabbed the free ride to Target.

Georgia Tech Students Bussed to Atlanta Target Store Saturday, Sept. 12

WHAT:  Hundreds of college students at Georgia Tech will board buses on campus and ride the 1.4 miles to an off-campus Target Store to purchase toiletries, cleaning supplies and other items they need. Procter & Gamble’s Ready U College Program is sponsoring the bus trips for students at Georgia Tech and other specially-selected schools across the U.S. Many of the students will be shopping independently and using coupons for the first time. Local …

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Put an income cap on who qualifies for HOPE Scholarships

Again, the state is warning that the cherished HOPE Scholarship – which puts thousands of middle-class students through college, including one of mine — is running low. See Laura Diamond’s story today.

I see an immediate solution, and not too many folks are going to like it. In fact, if most of you were in my newsroom now, you’d break off the chair legs and chase me down Marietta Street.

But here goes: Put an income cap on who gets HOPE. (That’s how it started, by the way.)

Early on, a study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University found that HOPE fuels the college hopes of kids who never lacked for it in the first place. Only 4 percent of the money spent on HOPE went to students who might not otherwise have gone to college, according to the Harvard study.

Is this the best focus of the HOPE millions – increasing college choice for middle-class and affluent students who were university-bound from the womb? Or would the money be better used  to increase college …

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APS cheating questions fall on Superintendent Beverly Hall

AJC investigative reporter Heather Vogell’s story in the weekend AJC raises troubling questions about the response of Atlanta Public Schools to CRCT cheating complaints. Vogell compares Atlanta’s responses and protocols to those of other districts.

APS does not fare well in the comparison.

For instance, Atlanta logged 20 internal complaints of testing misconduct over the past three school years.

Compared to other metro systems, Atlanta sometimes left allegations unresolved, turning up fresh questions about suspected irregularities but never scrutinizing them, according to Vogell’s report.

The district was more likely to mark complaints unsubstantiated. Fewer teachers stepped forward to help investigators and more complaints were anonymous, making eyewitnesses harder to find.

Over three years, Vogell found that the district began termination proceedings against just two teachers after cheating was found. Departures were more common in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb.

In Cobb County, …

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She blew the whistle; Public college blew the response.

When I read a story like this, my faith in college administrators diminishes.

According to the AJC story by Alexis Stevens, Sara Castle was thrown out of nursing school at Appalachian Technical College In Jasper  in August 2007,  just 13 weeks before graduating. Castle alleged that her expulsion came after she reported a slack instructor who was dismissing students from their clinic training early on a regular basis.

Appalachian Technical College fired the instructor, but Castle, 55, says she was then expelled for blowing the whistle.

A jury agreed Thursday and awarded her $450,000 in damages. Castle said she and other students would arrive for clinical training early in the morning. By 8 a.m., the instructor would dismiss students even though 740 hours of hands-on training are required for the degree.

It took the jury less than a hour to find for Castle and against the college. That means Georgia taxpayers are stuck paying the bill. (Even if there is insurance, the costs …

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DeKalb: Jaheem’s death not ‘a simplistic case of bullying.’

In issuing its final report on the suicide of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera, DeKalb County cited domestic violence in the home — documenting allegations of abuse against the boy’s mother by her live-in boyfriend – as a possible contributor in the child’s fatal actions.

After Jaheem hanged himself at home in April, his mother Masika Bermudez said he killed himself after being constantly bullied at school. But the report says his death could not be attributed solely to “a simplistic case of bullying.”

Indeed, the report reveals a complex and stressful life, including the family’s frequent upheavals; Jaheem had attended four schools in as many years, including in Gwinnett County and  St. Croix. He enrolled at DeKalb’s Dunaire Elementary in August 2008 after his family moved to an extended-stay motel nearby.

“The investigation reveals a multitude of complex and significant factors impacting” his life, the report said, including “serious domestic abuse” between Jaheem’s mother and her …

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Arne Duncan: ‘Tinkering around the edges is not sufficient.’

In speaking to reporters on a 25-minute conference call Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the No Child Left Behind Act failed to produce the radical changes necessary to improve the nation’s lowest-performing schools. He intends to change that with an aggressive $3.5 billion school improvement aid plan that demands striking changes.

Duncan said the federal government was determined to raise  the “bottom on the bottom,” the 5,000 lowest performing schools in the nation, half of which were urban, 30 percent were rural and 20 percent were suburban.

“In those schools, tinkering around the edges is not sufficient,” Duncan said. “Those children are being poorly served in chronically underachieving schools and marginal incremental change is not the answer.”

Under his plan, systems must discard scalpels and take chainsaws to  failing schools. Systems can close them, restaff them and reopen them under new leadership or as charters. They can shutter the schools and …

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Despite millions, “The low achievers are still low achievers”

“Joy in Teaching” posted a provocative comment on my entry on the new White House plan to direct millions of dollars to the “bottom of the bottom” schools. (I just completed a press conference call with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the plan and will post a summary later.)

Of the new plan,  “Joy” said: “I think it is more of the same garbage. Schools have been tossing money with both hands at the low achievers for years while basically ignoring the average kids and the gifted. And guess what? The low achievers are STILL low achievers while the average kids and the gifted kids are largely left to their own devices. With a little bit of extra attention, there are many average children who would blossom and there is no telling what the gifted could accomplish given the opportunities.

“At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, I think that it is time that schools start to nurture those who have the desire and capability of being educated. The rest of the world focuses on …

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White House: Restructure failing schools, close them or restart them.

From the US DOE: Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced draft requirements for $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants to turn around the nation’s lowest performing schools.

“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized in chronically low-achieving schools,” said Duncan. “States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, and particularly for children who most need good teaching in order to catch up.”

The Obama administration’s strategy includes: identifying and serving the lowest-achieving
Title I schools in each state; supporting only the most rigorous interventions that hold the promise of producing rapid improvements in student …

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Show your true colors with Bud Light? Is it green?

The AP is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev is dropping its “Fan Cans” promotions from communities around the country where colleges have complained that the new campaign — which sells cans of Bud Light in school colors — promotes underage drinking and infringes on trademarks.

With college drinking a major controversy on campuses, colleges criticized the Fan Cans as promoting the worst instincts in college kids. Rolling out with the new football season, Fan Cans were clearly aimed at mixing students’ affection for their home teams with their fondness for beer.

The beer company refuted that claim, contending that its 27 school-colored beer products targeted legal drinkers. However, it pledged to stop the campaigns in those areas where the schools complained, as apparently many have.
The Wall Street Journal says that the marketing theme was “Show your true colors with Bud Light,” and “This year, only Bud Light is delivering superior drinkability in 12-ounce cans that were made …

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