Archive for September, 2009

Jesus in the bleachers: Why sis-boom-bah and the Bible don’t mix at football games

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Tuesday's rally in Catoosa County for the Bible-verse carrrying cheerleaders drew 500 supporters. AP Photo/The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry

Why does the church-state issue continue to crop up in public schools?

The latest flare-up is here in Catoosa County where the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleaders turned to God when nothing else seemed to be helping their football team.

The cheerleaders created banners with Bible verses to change the fortunes of the team and displayed them during the football games. The banners are the sort that the players crash through as they enter the field and include such biblical verses as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone’s throat,” said youth minister Brad Scott to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “The cheerleaders are just using scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the …

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No sex tonight. My roommate is trying to study

I have to say that I have had some experience with college roommates “entertaining” dates while I was in the room.

So, I am not opposed to Tuft University’s new policy saying no sex in dorm rooms while your roommate is in the room.

But it does seem like something roommates could work out together without a policy, as several students comment in the story.

Now, if only colleges would do something about roommates borrowing your clothes without asking.

(I am interviewing an author next week on a related topic, adjusting to college and to roommates. I will post his comments after I talk with him.)

With two kids in college, I have not heard any wild roommate stories. Both of my children have had great roommates, but I know it is a dice roll. The typical complaints that I hear are that roommates leave the room a mess, use stuff without asking and stay up too late.

However, I know of kids dealing with roommates with serious depression. And I know at least one student whose roommate …

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Suspending kids: Smart discipline or academic disaster?

Catlady has made my morning chores easier by already addressing the interesting story in today’s AJC about the number of suspensions in Georgia schools and whether all this time spent out of the classroom impacts learning and ultimately hurts rather than helps.

Gracie Bonds Staples reports:

According to state Department of Education figures, more than 370,000 students were placed in in-school and out-of-school suspension last year.

In all, Georgia students lost more than 1.8 million days of instruction last year due to suspensions.

As a parent, I will tell you that the threat of suspension catches my attention. In his senior year of high school, my oldest son began to slack off on getting to school on time. Based on his late slips, he never was more than three or four minutes late but his first period teacher was rightfully indignant. When we received the letter that he was nearing the point of suspension, we went bonkers and introduced a Marine-style regimen to his …

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Kids are getting poorer. Are they also getting harder to teach?

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute issued a report today on the rising poverty in the state. As I read the figures — one out of every five children was poor in 2008 — I wondered about the implication for schools.

The state’s job losses have stung every economic strata, so I am sure that all schools, urban, suburban and rural, are feeling the impact. It ranges from flagging fund raisers – some schools are reporting anemic wrapping paper sales this year — to students losing their homes.

Are these family stresses spilling into classrooms? I know many families in which one or two parents are jobless, and it’s changed what they can do with and for their children. Fewer summer camps, no more travel soccer.

Are you seeing a change in students? Is there more acting out in school as students react to troubles at home? Are parents less involved? Are calls for donations and field trip fees going unheeded?

According to the policy center report:

-Georgia ’s 2008 median household …

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Odd Couple or Salt-N-Pepa? Gingrich and Sharpton pair up

Unfortunately, the Newt and Al show is not doing an Atlanta swing any time soon. This I would like to see.

According to an AJC story, Al Sharpton, a liberal Democrat, and Newt Gingrich, a conservative Georgia Republican, joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the first stop of a “listening and learning” tour Tuesday in Philadelphia to find out which school strategies are working and why.

The odd couple of Gingrich and Sharpton found common ground in the concept that education is the new frontier on civil rights. President Barack Obama has a goal of turning around 5,000 failing schools across the U.S. in the next five years.

After visiting two poor urban schools that are also high achieving, Gingrich said he had a sense of great hope.  “If we have absolute proof it can be done, why aren’t we doing it?” Gingrich said. “You are literally risking the lives of these kids.”

I am not a big fan of these publicity tours as I am not sure why we need Gingrich or Sharpton to tell us …

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DOE applauds schools for improvement and achievement. Is your school on the list anywhere?

I’m hesitant to post this link to top achieving schools based on test scores — given all the skepticism here about the validity of state testing.

But DOE has issued a list of schools making notable achievement and progress in the CRCT, the EOCT, the state writing test and the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

Here is the DOE release and here is a link to the winners, many of which are in metro Atlanta.

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox today announced the winners of the second annual Superintendent’s Distinguished Achievement Awards.

These awards honor schools for high achievement and the greatest improvement on state curriculum tests. A certificate is being sent to the winning schools acknowledging their achievement.

“We are honoring schools that showed the greatest improvement and highest achievement on our state tests,” said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. “These awards are just a small way of saying “thank you” for the hard work put in by our …

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Violence at school and beyond: Why did Derrion Albert have to die?

Warning: This topic has drawn a few troubling responses. In the past, I have deleted comments only to be told by many of you that you would rather see the ugly stuff and address it.  You can object to comments by reporting them. Feel free, Maureen

I don’t know the answer to the teen violence that took the life of a Chicago honor student last week as he was leaving school and walking to his school bus. (Here is another AJC story on the killing.)

Before anybody here at Get Schooled  launches into the predictable comments that this is a black problem,  please recall that every mass school shooter in recent times here in the U.S.  has been a white assailant, many of whom were from two-parent families. (I was thinking of k-12 shootings, but a poster points out that the VA Tech shooter was not white. He was Asian American.)

And this is not only a  school problem, although it is magnified when it happens at or near a school. Schools can’t solve this alone with more school resource …

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If flexibility works for charter schools, why not for all schools?

The cries of protest grow louder as two more school districts join Gwinnett in suing the  state for taking money away from their “traditional” public schools to fund charter schools in the districts.

As we talked about here earlier, those charter schools are public schools and serve children from the community. However, the charters are being approved over the heads of the local school boards.

Believing that the local boards were treating charter school applicants as unwashed and unwelcome kin, the state created a commission that could override the objections of local boards and not only approve charters, but, with a bureaucratic  sleight of hand, also ensure those schools received local dollars.

I think there is a valid constitutional argument over whether the state law undermines the role of local boards of education. Court cases in other states have gone both ways.  I have no idea what our courts will do, but the case will be interesting.

According to the AJC news story, a …

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National Board Certified teachers: Pay raises were promised

Is it fair?

The state is cutting the legislated bonuses awarded to teachers who earn a national board certified teacher endorsement.

In 1999 at the urging of Gov. Roy Barnes, the Georgia Legislature passed a law giving a 10 percent raise to teachers who earn national certification. The national board certification program is run by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and offers a certification that one local teacher once called “the Oscars of teaching.”

From the start, critics said the raises were too generous. The pay boost inspired many teachers to seek the coveted designation. Now, more than 2,500 Georgia teachers get a 10 percent salary bonus from the state because they became board certified.

This costs  about $12 million a year but the state is now slashing the bonuses, which will lead to pay drops of at least $3,000 to $4,000 this year for the teachers. The decision has angered the teachers who feel misled.

Among the comments from affected teachers …

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Obama and Duncan push for longer school days

In calling for a longer school day, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cite the lagging US performance in international tests.  “Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom,” said President Obama

The president wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.  (I once attended a conference highlighting cities that decided it was idiotic to keep school buildings closed for the summers, holidays and on weekends. They use the schools as community centers when classes are not in session. )

“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

The AP notes that while it is …

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