Archive for October, 2009

The more the merrier: Atlanta joins charter lawsuit

The party’s getting bigger.

This week Atlanta joined Gwinnett, Bulloch, Candler and DeKalb schools in mounting a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, a state-created entity that can overrule local boards of education and approve charter schools.

The commission’s blessing also brings local dollars to charter school coffers. Commission charter schools receive a matching share of local funds carved from the state allocations of the districts its students leave behind. (The “carving” is a financial end-run that essentially gives charters local money.)

Prior to the change in the law, the state could approve charters but could not send the schools any local tax dollars. The schools had to limp by on state and federal dollars. In general, local taxes cover about 45 percent of school costs so the charters were operating with far fewer dollars than the traditional public school down the road when they relied only on state and federal …

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The death of Gerald Bracey is a loss for education

I talk to many education researchers, but none had the passion or conviction of Gerald Bracey, whose e-mails I occasionally shared with you here. He died suddenly in his sleep last week at age 69.

What I admired about Bracey is that he criticized people he once esteemed, including President Obama. His allegiance was not to any political party, but to what he saw as the truth of the matter.

Often, his e-mails to me were stern scoldings about buying the latest “garbage” from Arne Duncan or Kathy Cox. (There would have been a chastising e-mail today from him on my blog entry yesterday on Duncan’s speech here in Atlanta.)

Affable and smart, Bracey was always willing to chat with me and show me the error of my ways.

Here is a wonderful tribute to him in USA Today. The obituary notes Bracey’s take-no- prisoner style, perfected in his annual Rotten Apples in Education award:

In 2006, after then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings compared the No Child Left Behind education reform …

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How does rape become a spectator sport at homecoming dance?

Again, I have to ask: What is wrong with us?

How could teenagers at a high school homecoming dance stand by and watch the sexual assault of a young girl? We talked about this a few weeks ago after the school bus beating video, but  I still am baffled.

Are the teens fearful of repercussions if they protest?

Are bystanders too drunk themselves to realize what is happening?

Or have we shown our children so much violence in movies and TV that they are unfazed when they see it in person?

I understand more and more the reluctance of schools to host evening events.  As this story notes, there were seven adults monitoring this school dance, including four police officers. Yet, this crime occurred undetected outside the homecoming dance.

From the Associated Press:

Police believe as many as a dozen people watched a 15-year-old girl get beaten and gang-raped outside her high school homecoming dance without reporting it.

Two suspects were in custody Monday, but police said as many as …

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From death row to desk rows; a lawyer turns teacher to change lives and futures before it’s too late

I already linked to this great story on a Georgia death penalty attorney turned teacher when it first appeared in The New York Times, but the piece is now in the AJC as well.

Former death row attorney trade the courthouse for the schoolhouse.

Former death row attorney Tom Dunn traded the courthouse for the schoolhouse. (David Walter Banks/The New York Times)

Among the interesting points in the profile of Tom Dunn who switched to teaching after a brush with death convinced him that he needed a less stressful line of work:

On the common thread he saw in his clients who ended up on death row:

After decades of accumulating such stories, Dunn said, he recognized a common thread: the lack of a supportive authority figure like a teacher, of a helping hand that might have meant “the difference between a good life and a ruined life.”

On why he chose to become a special education teacher:

During his training, he focused on special education, recalling that he saw learning disabilities “in nearly every case” on death row. He now works mainly in …

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Arne Duncan in Atlanta: Perfect storm for reform

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan began his “Perfect Storm for Reform” speech to the National Black Child Development Institute Monday in Atlanta by recognizing his childhood tutor who was in the audience.

In Atlanta Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a new focus on early childhood education. (US DOE)

In Atlanta Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for a new focus on early childhood education. (US DOE)

Nine years older than Duncan, Kerrie L. Holley was one of the South Chicago kids who attended the after-school math and reading program run by Duncan’s no-nonsense mother, Sue.

In attending the center from age 7 to college, Holley said he came to see Sue Duncan as a second mother. Her approach included having older kids at the center tutor younger ones.

Holley, a math whiz, said the bright, young Arne didn’t need tutoring.”That was a bit of an overstatement,” said Holley after the speech. “I was tutoring him in algebra when he was in the sixth grade.”

Both Holley and Duncan went onto big things from Sue Duncan’s program, which she began in 1961 and still …

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Report: Use student performance to rate teachers

A new report says teacher evaluations should include objective measures of student achievement; drive additional support for teachers; and be used to make hiring, retention and tenure decisions.

Policy 2.0: Using Open Innovation to Reform Teacher Evaluation Systems” spells out new criteria for teacher evaluations in the k-12 . The report was developed by the Hope Street Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in collaboration with a team of 22 educators, six private sector professionals, and eight participants from the civil society sector.

The report has a lengthy list of student achievement measures:

Value-added data from standardized tests (where available);
Student work, including performance criteria and evidence of student growth;
Teacher-generated information about student goals and growth;
Formative assessments;
Objective performance-based assessments;
Assessments of affective engagement and self-efficacy

Among the comments from teachers involved in …

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Georgia Milken winner: I teach kids, not curriculum

Greg Ott was making bets which of his colleagues was in line for Milken Prize. It was him.

Greg Ott was making bets which of his colleagues at Northwestern Middle School in Milton was in line for the $25,000 Milken Prize. It was him. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

Teacher Greg Ott figured that state school Superintendent Kathy Cox was at Northwestern Middle School to announce that one of his colleagues had won the prestigious Milken Educator Award. He began to offer wagers on who it might be.

Ott lost the bet, but won the award, becoming one of 16 teachers nationwide to receive the top honor and $25,000 this year.

That's a pretend check. The real one comes in May and is already spoken for by Ott's wife who is thinking kitchen. AJC/phot

That's a pretend check. The real one comes in May and is already spoken for by Ott's wife who is thinking kitchen. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

I visited Ott in his Milton classroom on Wednesday. (There is a Q&A with Ott in my Monday Learning Curve column. )

I did not see any pyrotechnics or sleights of hand. I saw a smart man who understood adolescents and expected a lot of them.

His class is organized, fast-paced and focused. He checks in with students as they …

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School boards: Benefit or burden to education?

A spirited school board race is under way in my community. I am always amazed at the quality candidates who want these difficult jobs.

The jobs are thankless and stressful and lack the perceived status of the state Senate or the state House. Yet, people not only want to serve on school boards, once elected they never want to leave.

On Thursday, I watched Education Week’s online chat on whether school boards were obsolete. Among the participants was Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools. Her independent community group advocates for improvement in public education in Pittsburgh.

Harris stressed the need for community scrutiny of school boards:

“I  can’t  ensure that a program like Board Watch will be a success in your community. But I think that public pressure and engagement  can be  a powerful force for improvement. Things that have contributed to our success are that we have been as transparent, honest, and deliberate as we’ve asked the school board to be. …

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Are you a screamer? (In the classroom.)

My own mother is a legendary and unrepentant screamer. I don’t recall a single instance of her ever hitting any of her four children, but she sure did yell – a lot and loudly. She blames her Italian background, but most of her siblings are  soft-spoken so I don’t think we can blame genetics or the Mediterranean. (Time has not lowered my mother’s volume. When she comes for a visit, the cats hide.)

A New York Times story calls screaming the new “spanking.” In essence, the story says that while today’s parents don’t spank as much, they yell a lot more. While the research on spanking and hitting suggests that it can have lasting and negative effects, we don’t know as much about the impact of screaming on children.

According to the story:

Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and …

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Dr. Hall does the right thing: Outside review of scores coming

The announcement by APS Superintendent Beverly Hall that she will bring in outside experts to examine contested CRCT scores at 12 of her elementary schools is the exact right response.

Hall understands that the integrity of results is critical to her mission to turn around the city schools, a mission that she has worked hard at for more than a decade.

The invitations have only just been issued for the review panel, so we have no names yet. But it is likely that Hall, a national figure herself, will bring in reputable people.

Many of you who posted the other day in response to my entry on the need for Dr. Hall to address the wide swing in testing proficiency identified by an AJC investigation expressed doubts about the system’s willingness to delve deeper.

Are you reassured now?

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