Archive for September, 2009

Poythress challenges Barnes to ed debate: Let the games begin

I would love to see more political debates focused on education. In most debates, education gets one or two questions, and most of the answers are the stock responses about raising the bar and improving teacher quality. There is no time for candidates to spell out how they would accomplish those goals.

Here is a release from David Poythress challenging Roy Barnes to an education debate.  For quick background on the recent spat between the two candidates that preceded this press release,  check out Political Insider

“Today, General David Poythress, Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia, challenged former Governor Roy Barnes to debate on education in Georgia.

“I called Barnes on the carpet for disrespecting the Democratic Party to a group of mostly Republicans, and his response was to accuse me of ‘ignoring the real issues,’” says Poythress.  “Well, I’ve been talking about the critical issues facing Georgia since I entered the race last year.”

“While …

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Why we can’t count dropouts or much else in Georgia

This in-depth news story on the long and tortured road to a student information system is depressing. Like many of you, I have been waiting for a fully functioning student tracking system for a long time in Georgia.

Estimates vary on how much money the state has wasted on false starts and wrong turns in its efforts, but I think we could have given top teachers bonuses with the money –. and bought every one of them a Lexus.

This story has more officials promising that the end is in sight and that the right people are finally on the job.

I don’t know. We’ve heard it before and many million later, the system is still not 100 percent.

According to reporter Heather Vogell:

Good student data systems help educators spot trends and help schools identify potential dropouts in time to reach them. Georgia has a limited ability to do either, and is instead consumed with more basic tasks of collecting and managing the data.

“We are drowning in data and starved for information,” …

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The color line still crosses the classroom and the school yard

I went to a GSU lecture Thursday by Amy Stuart Wells, director of the Center for Understanding Race and Education at Columbia University.  She spoke about her research on school resegregation – which she is expanding now to include Atlanta — and her recent book “Both Sides Now,” in which she interviewed students in six towns who experienced school desegregation.

It turns out that black and Latino families in search of more affordable housing and backyard decks are flocking to the suburbs. White families in quest of crown molding and vintage claw-foot tubs are relocating to the cities. A national snapshot of metro migration shows that the moving vans of white and minority families are heading in different directions.

So are their children.

As America’s metropolitan areas embrace new residential patterns, one variable isn’t changing: Racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools. While the South once led the nation in integrating its schools, it now has become the …

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Were Georgia teachers trained to teach the new math?

I appreciate the thoughtful responses on math instruction in Georgia.

The divergent responses bring up an ongoing quandary for those of us who write about  standards:  When are problems the results of teaching – too little or poor training on the new stuff, reluctance to adapt to new material,  personal beliefs that the standards miss the mark – and when are the problems embedded in the actual standards?

For example, on the GPS in math:  When the state adopted them, I talked to several college math professors, some  with children in the public schools. They had no problems with the new standards and did not understand the fuss.

When I pointed out that some of the criticisms were coming from parents who were also trained in math, they shrugged and said some of their colleagues simply don’t like to see math delivered in ways different than what they experienced. They saw this as a real non-issue. (I recently went back to two math professors with kids who have gone all the …

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Why are so many people in Georgia mad about math?

mikeOf all the curriculum debates, the ongoing sparring over Georgia’s new math standards is the most vigorous. A while back, I ran two related articles on Monday AJC education pages. I am rerunning them here in response to the comments Wednesday about the math standards. Warning, these are long essays so they may only interest those concerned about math.

The first is from parent Kim Learnard and the second is from Laurence  Peterson, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Kennesaw State University, and Arlinda Eaton, dean of the KSU College of Education.

Kim Learnard said:

The long-awaited 2008 SAT scores and national rankings have been released. Six years after state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox took the helm, Georgia students have advanced from 47th in the nation to — drumroll, please — 47th in the nation. And Georgia students scored 22 points lower than the national average in math. Clearly, it is time for a change.

But going from bad to worse isn’t the answer. …

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Trash talk leads UGA to boost tailgating clean-up efforts

UGA campus after recent tailgating.

UGA campus after recent tailgating. Photo courtesy of Tom Ritch

For all of you who posted last week that the trashing of the UGA campus during football tailgating  was partly due to a lack of trash receptacles, you have been heard.

On Wednesday, UGA officials said they will add more garbage bins, distribute more trash bags and increase the number of portable bathrooms to prevent a repeat of the destruction that followed the Sept. 12 game against South Carolina. Tailgaters dumped about 70 tons of garbage and left mounds of tents, grills, coolers, chairs and bottles across the North Campus. They urinated on public buildings and defecated outside, UGA President Michael Adams said.

The new measures will be put to the test  Saturday when UGA goes against Arizona State at home. Workers will distribute 12,000 trash bags in parking lots and around campus.

Now, a smart reader sent us this note, proving that someone at UGA learned math:

“You have now published two articles …

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National education standards: Socialism or good sense?

I posted an entry Tuesday  on the first draft of common academic standards for our nation’s k-12 schools. I was surprised at the criticisms of such standards, believing that it makes sense for students to learn to the highest possible standards and that those standards ought to be the same whether in Dalton or Dallas or Atlanta or Annapolis.

Not so, said several posters. National standards represent socialism. They will weaken rigor rather than reinforce it.

There were several compelling posts and I am highlighting two of them here. My thanks to Tony and Dr. Pohl  for such thoughtful posts:

Tony’s comment:

The purpose of the development of so-called national standards is so we can institute a national test. Testing does not improve student achievement. Testing will not solve the problems that cause schools to have low achievement. Testing will not make kids smarter.

Some have referenced “a level playing field.” Do you know how a field is leveled? Dirt is moved from …

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AJC wants to talk to Clarkdale Elementary parents


Clarkdale Elementary in Austell, under water. AJC/Phil Skinner

From this shocking photo, it looks unlikely that the 450 students at Clarkdale Elementary in Austell will be back in their school any time soon.

The newspaper would love to talk to any Clarkdale parents.

If you are a parent from Clarkdale, please call AJC reporter Aileen Dodd at 770-263-3860 or AJC reporter Gracie Bond Staples at 770-263-3621. Or you can also e-mail them at or

Here is an AJC update on the school and the plan to divide up students between two other Cobb schools.


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Is this deep water a chance for deeper learning?

I am curious whether any teachers have enough flexibility to tap into the flooding for a science lesson once school resumes tomorrow. (At least I hope it resumes Wednesday.)

The heavy flooding would be an ideal way to teach about precipitation and soil types. (And also about  why two feet of water can float a car and 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock you off your feet.)

In researching with my own kids,  I was surprised to learn that flash floods are the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S.  And nearly 80 percent of flash flood deaths are auto related.

It seems like a great teaching moment, as they say.

Are the days  so tightly scripted that you won’t be able to use the rain and floods as a topic? (I realize that there will be today’s missed lessons to make up.)

Or are you already planning to discuss?

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Sexting: Kids are atwitter about it, but it’s dangerous

The earlier blog entry on “Porn and Pizza”  led to several comments about the problems in schools of “sexting.”  Here is  information released today about the growing practice from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Two years ago, the word “sexting” did not even exist in the English language.  Today it is a term that is much discussed and debated by parents, students, educators, law enforcement leaders and policymakers.  “Sexting” refers to youth sending sexually explicit messages or sexually explicit photos of themselves or others to their peers.  Today, many teens are using cell phones, computers, web cams, digital cameras, and/or certain video game systems to take and distribute sexually explicit photographs of themselves or others.

Is “sexting” merely an example of “kids being kids,” or is it a more serious societal concern that in some cases requires criminal sanctions?  In an effort to provide a better framework for policy …

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