Archive for August, 2009

Was Atlanta school cheating accidental? Strange stuff

This should be interesting: According to the AJC, an outside investigator looking into allegations of CRCT cheating at Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy said “irregularities were the result of negligence and record keeping, lack of energy and diligence in following the rules rather than deliberate attempts to alter test answers.”

What the heck does that mean?

The report was up on the APS Web site and then down. It is now up again. Read it here. The attorney hired by APS, Penn Payne, concludes that the evidence is not strong enough to justify the charge of deliberate cheating. (The state will surely disagree.)

She notes that five APS schools sent their kids to Deerwood for summer school remediation in math. Only the Deerwood students had the much higher pass rate, but Payne cites several explanations other than cheating for that discrepancy.

1. Deerwood students were in summer classes staffed with four Teach for America teachers, plus a veteran teacher, receiving what Payne …

Continue reading Was Atlanta school cheating accidental? Strange stuff »

Who wears short-shorts? Apparently, not teachers or First Ladies

This silly flap over Michelle Obama wearing shorts on her vacation brings up a question for me.  A neighbor came home a few years ago from her public school upset over a new dress code that forbid her from wearing Teva sandals and casual slacks. She taught pre-k, and it was important for her to be able to get on the floor quickly. She also did a lot running and physical stuff with her class of 4-year-olds.

Her principal was seeking a “Dress for Success” effect, but she felt that his standards did not take into consideration what was appropriate in a classroom of young children.

I’ve even noticed on field days that teachers are far more formally dressed than the parent volunteers. I have  very seldom seen teachers in shorts on the field, even when it was 85 degrees and humid. (Just the typical spring day in Atlanta.)

Another neighbor teaches at a private school, and she can wear almost anything to her school, as can the students. (Adding a short note here after having lunch …

Continue reading Who wears short-shorts? Apparently, not teachers or First Ladies »

Dear Arne, Stop the testing mania. It’s not working.

The bumps in the road for the Obama administration are not only in health care. With the emphasis on testing in their “Race to the Top” initiative, the White House and Ed Secretary Arne Duncan are taking their lumps.

The latest critic is author Herbert Kohl, whose book, “36 Children,” has been cited by Duncan as a major influence in his life.

Now, Kohl has published an open letter to Duncan in which he says, “I’m worried about the direction you’re taking education policy. In a recent interview with NEA Today, you said you read my book ‘36 Children’ in high school and wrote an essay about it in college. The book had a big impact on me,” you said, adding that it gave you ‘tremendous hope’ to address the ‘challenges that teachers in tough communities face.’ “But I’m afraid your emphasis on testing is only going to increase those challenges, especially in tough communities.”

If you have time, read Kohl’s letter, in which he concludes, “It is hard for me to understand how …

Continue reading Dear Arne, Stop the testing mania. It’s not working. »

New report on who goes to college and where in Georgia

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement just released a report on how many of Georgia’s public high school graduates go to college and where they enroll. See the AJC story.

“This analysis provides much needed information to education stakeholders across Georgia,” said GOSA executive director Kathleen Mathers in a statement.  “For the first time, we know not only how many students went to a technical college or university system institution in Georgia, but we also know how many students went to schools like Auburn, Emory, Notre Dame, and Benedict College.”

Among the key findings: 64.7 percent of the state’s 2008 high school graduates enrolled in a postsecondary institution. While 77 percent enrolled in a public college or university in Georgia, nearly a quarter of the  2008 graduates chose a private institution in Georgia or left the state for school.

The University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State University landed among the 10 most popular …

Continue reading New report on who goes to college and where in Georgia »

What’s worth more: A UGA or Tech degree?

The U.S. News & World Report college ratings are out today, and Georgia schools retained their rankings from last year for the most part.

I think the rankings influence where students go to college. (I also think many students are influenced by the “Colleges that Change Lives” franchise.)

Many people dismiss college status as a factor, but there’s evidence that where you go to school impacts how much you earn.

PayScale Inc., which compiles compensation data, says the median starting salary for Ivy League graduates is about 30 percent higher than that of liberal-arts college graduates. However, the study doesn’t address whether that pay differential is the result of a better education, or simply because the Ivies attract higher-achieving students in the first place. (I would also ask whether the Ivies attract better connected kids; it’s easier to end up at Goldman Sachs if your mother worked there.)

In its 2009 report, PayScale says the median starting salary for a University …

Continue reading What’s worth more: A UGA or Tech degree? »

College student tried to sell his future for $10,000 on eBay

Grad student Terrance Wyatt is selling stock in his future.

I have seen many novel ways to fund a college education. But Terrance Wyatt, 23, a Clark Atlanta grad student, is offering a slice of his future on eBay for $10,000. He is selling stock in himself. (Ebay pulled the listing as of Thursday afternoon.)

I called the 23-year-old after reading his eBay item on Wednesday. Eighteen credits short of graduating, Wyatt says he has a 3.0 average. The eBay ad reflected his desperation, he says. Grad students don’t get much financial aid, and Clark Atlanta is not exactly flush with extra cash. (Here is a sobering WSJ article on the evaporation of college aid this year.)

“It’s one of those last option things. I have tapped all my resources. I have been through financial aid through the last six years of college. This is pretty much it…this is my last chance to do something.”

As for the disappearance of the ad Thursday, Wyatt said, “Yes, someone from eBay gave me a call today and …

Continue reading College student tried to sell his future for $10,000 on eBay »

Best ACT scores at Chattahoochee and Walton high schools

Check out how students in your local high schools fared on the 2009 ACT in which the perfect score is 36 and the state average  is 20.6  (The national average this year is 21.1) Fulton’s Chattahoochee led the metro area with an average composite score of 25.2, followed right behind by Cobb’s Walton.

Our tech folks have posted statewide results.

Here are the top scoring high schools in local districts:

Atlanta city: Grady scored 20.2

Cherokee: Sequoyah scored 22.7

Clayton: Jonesboro scored 18.1

Coweta: East Coweta scored 21.1

Cobb: Walton scored 25.1

DeKalb: Chamblee scored 23.3

Decatur: DHS scored 21.7

Fayette: McIntosh scored 23.7

Fulton: Chattahoochee scored 25.2

Gwinnett: Parkview scored 24

Continue reading Best ACT scores at Chattahoochee and Walton high schools »

Georgia ACT scores may be flat, but emotions still run high.

I’ve been amazed at the angst students and parents experience over the SAT and now the ACT. Long the standard in the Midwest, the ACT is gaining traction in the South. An AJC story today reports that while 70 percent of college-bound students in Georgia take the SAT, 40 percent take the ACT.

Unfortunately, the 2009 ACT scores for Georgia are flat, and the state ranks 40th. (National scores were also flat this year.)

While the national average score on the ACT – in which the top score is a 36 — is 21.1, the state average is 20.6. This was the first year since 2005 that Georgia scores did not rise.

As a student, my own preparation for the SAT consisted of sharpening a No. 2 pencil. But now, the tests have become an industry, with kids signing up for $500 prep classes, paying coaches to help them perfect their essays and taking multiple stabs at the test to inch up their scores.

As much as we insist the scores don’t matter, the annual release even commands the attention …

Continue reading Georgia ACT scores may be flat, but emotions still run high. »

What would with fifth graders do with Kathy Cox’s million?

Anyone who watched Kathy Cox on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” understood the state school chief was there as a representative of the state Department of Education. It was her status as state school superintendent that led to the invitation to play the quiz show, which Cox won easily.

Shouldn’t the million dollars go to the three state schools that educate blind and deaf children, as Cox pledged on the air? The AJC reports the issue is still in the courts, Three months after Cox’ won the money she and her husband, John Cox, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Creditors now want the million in winnings to be treated as an asset, while the state contends the money should go to the schools.

I bet a jury of fifth graders would vote: Give the money to the children as Cox promised and do not make it part of Cox’s and her husband’s bankruptcy. (Her husband is a builder and has seen his fortunes sink in this recession.)

There is probably a legal argument to be made, but …

Continue reading What would with fifth graders do with Kathy Cox’s million? »

The state of Atlanta schools and Dr. Hall

Dr. Beverly Hall gave her state of the system address this morning, which also marked her 10th year with the Atlanta system. When Dr. Hall first arrived, she talked about the need to wait at least five to 10 years to judge the results of any reforms, a statement supported by the research on effective reforms.

Outside agencies and foundations laud the improvements that Dr, Hall has made, especially the rise in test scores and graduation rates. Granted, Atlanta is not the equal yet of a high-achieving suburban system, but it has made remarkable strides and is often cited by researchers around the country.

But Dr. Hall’s tenure has been marked by some serious problems, including criminal abuses of the technology program that led to arrests of high ranking people in the department. At that time, she was criticized for failing to monitor the program – including by the editorial board of this paper – but I wonder whether a superintendent can be superhuman and keep her eye on all …

Continue reading The state of Atlanta schools and Dr. Hall »