Archive for October, 2009

As family income falls, college tuition climbs

I think colleges and universities are politically tone deaf. Given the economy, how can they continue to raise tuition?

The dream of attending a good college is getting costlier every year; a new report says both public and privates raised tuition last year. (Cox News photo)

The dream of attending a good college is getting costlier every year; a new report says both public and privates raised tuition last year. (Cox News photo)

According to a College Board report released this week, public colleges raised tuition and fees by an average of 6.5 percent last year,  while privates increased their costs by 4.4 percent.

Speaking to the NYT, Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said:

“Given the financial hardship of the country, it’s simply astonishing that colleges and universities would have this kind of increases. It tells you that higher education is still a seller’s market. The level of debt we’re asking people to undertake is unsustainable.

“A lot of people think we can solve the problem with more financial aid, but I think we have to have some cost containment. For all the …

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I’m with Kathy Cox on this: Slow down, people!

When you see this scene, stop. Nothing is so important to risk a child's life

When you see this scene, stop. Nothing is so urgent as to risk a child's life. (FRANK NIEMEIR/AJC)

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox wrote an op-ed for  National School Bus Safety Week. Her piece resonated with me because of all the dangerous driving I see around schools.

My work route takes me through Georgia State. I am always daydreaming about land torpedoes as I watch drivers harass and endanger students attempting to cross the streets between classes. My torpedo target the other day would have been a  woman making a left. In her haste, she almost ran down a student crossing the street. Rather than being ashamed of herself, the driver hit her horn in annoyance that somebody had the nerve to be in the crosswalk.

Here is what Cox wrote:

Slow down in school zones.  The speed limit is lower in these areas
because when near a school, students are moving on and off the bus, being dropped off by their parents, or walking to the school.

Slowing down in these zones gives …

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Shorter years, longer days, less learning? Fulton may tell us.

(Housekeeping first: I just returned to the office after spending the morning in the classroom of Gregory Ott, the north Fulton teacher who won the coveted 2009 Milken Educator award last week. I will write about him later this week. I sprang 28 of you from the filter. Sorry, I could not get you out earlier.)

While I was gone, Fulton drew nearer to reducing its school year by three days. According to the news story:

Fulton County school officials expect to approve a shortened school calendar Thursday, one that for the next two years at least will keep kids on campus for 177 days — three fewer days than the state’s standard 180-day school year.

The move will save Fulton $1.1 million, officials said. It will bring to at least three the number of Georgia systems cutting days out of the school year to help balance their books, and makes Georgia part of an emerging trend: Hawaii just cut 17 days from its school year for budget-cutting reasons, leaving it with a 163-day …

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Sorry parents like the balloon dad: Should kids pay price?

One of the first times I can recall hearing “sorry” used to mean “worthless” or “lame” in a public setting was at a meeting of the state’s former education reform commission. In a discussion about rampant truancy in some counties, then Gov. Roy Barnes talked about the challenges of “sorry parents” who don’t get their kids to school on time or at all.

Richard Heene may have made his young son an accomplice in a hoax. Do kids end up paying the price for sorry parents?

Richard Heene may have made his young son Falcon an accomplice in a hoax. Do kids end up paying the price for sorry parents? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The pungent Southern phrase stuck with me and, unfortunately, comes in handy all too often. For example, the parents of balloon boy seem pretty sorry to me, especially as evidence mounts that they made their young son an accomplice in their bid for reality TV fame.

But what can schools do about sorry parents?

And should children pay the price for their parents’ failings and inadequacies?

A friend of mine is an attorney who volunteered in a project working with chronic truants. …

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Aloha to three weeks of class as Hawaii copes with recession

Yikes.

To cope with budget cuts, Hawaii is cutting 17 days from the school year. Students will not attend classes on Friday for most of the rest of the school year, according to the Associated Press.

This appears to be the most drastic response to the severe budget crisis facing schools nationwide, and certainly makes Georgia’s furlough days seem slight in comparison.

At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing for more time in the classroom, his home state has created the nation’s shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar.

The deal whacks 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons and has education advocates incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement.

While many school districts have laid off or furloughed teachers, reduced pay and planning days and …

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Forty percent of teachers say they are “disheartened”

I doubt this headline will surprise too many teachers: Forty Percent of America’s K-12 Teachers Appear Disheartened

The Oct. 21 Education Week will publish research showing that two out of five American K-12 teachers appear disheartened and disappointed about their jobs. The research was collected by Public Agenda, a New York City-based research organization, and Learning Point Associates, a Chicago-based education research and consulting organization. The findings are part of a nationwide study, “Teaching for a Living: How Teachers See the Profession Today.”

Teachers fall into three broad categories which researchers designated the “Disheartened,” the “Contented” and the “Idealists.”

According to the release:

Disheartened teachers account for 40 percent of those surveyed and are twice as likely as other teachers to strongly agree with the view that teaching is “so demanding, it’s a wonder that more people don’t burn out.” More than half teach in low-income schools and 61 …

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Dr. Hall must address APS test score disparities

In response to an AJC query into miraculous gains in her school’s scores on state tests, Capitol View Elementary principal Arlene Snowden had a great answer:

“We accept no excuses from our children.”

The Atlanta community shouldn’t accept any excuses from Superintendent Beverly Hall, either.

APS Superintendent Beverly Hall has a national reputation as a visionary and a data-driven reformer. But she needs to take another look at the test data that experts say may be too good to be true. AJC Photo

APS Superintendent Beverly Hall has a national reputation as a visionary and a data-driven reformer. But she needs to take another look at the test data that experts say may be too good to be true. AJC Photo

But that’s what Atlantans have been getting since an AJC investigation last year on cheating on the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests led to state sanction of four schools, including one in Atlanta.

Now, a follow-up AJC investigation raises fresh questions about other APS test scores.

AJC reporters Heather Vogell and data analyst John Perry dug deeper into the data and identified 19 schools statewide that experienced dramatic drops and gains in test scores between spring last …

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You will never use this math again

One of my favorite e-mail pals is local math teacher Ken Sprague, Sr.

Here is a piece that he wrote for the education page in Monday’s AJC.

Enjoy and let’s discuss.

“Will I ever use this stuff?”

An honest answer for the vast majority of high school math students is “You probably won’t.”

That question and answer highlights the dilemma of secondary math education: connecting real-world social and economic benefit to the increasingly rigorous math curriculum taught in the high school classroom.

I teach high school math. My teaching career began as a social commitment after building a successful business.

I can’t remember one time during my business career that I used what I now teach to average high school students.
Imaginary numbers, conic sections, and rational functions aren’t the stuff of financial statements, contract negotiations, cash-flow and marketing.

Employer surveys suggest that my experience is commonplace. Robert Lerman, an economics professor and Urban Institute …

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Why the South looks stupid to the rest of America

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, La., is one of the reasons that people elsewhere in the country think the South is home to nincompoops and Neanderthals.

I cannot tell you how many highly educated people have told me over the years that they hesitated to take jobs in Georgia or South Carolina or Mississippi because of concern over the quality of education. The first question I get from people considering a move here is, “What are the schools like in Georgia?”

And idiots like Bardwell contribute to the myth that we are all wearing plastic bags on our feet and eating red clay. In reading the story about Bardwell denying a marriage license to an interracial couple for concern over any future children they may have, I turned to my co-workers and asked, “Why do all these lunatics have to come from the South?”

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press. “I have piles and piles of black friends. …

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Do clothes make the Morehouse man? No more pumps on campus.

A men’s clothing store used to advertise using the slogan that the “suit makes the man.”

Apparently, that thinking shaped the new dress code policy for Morehouse men.

Is there something about a well dressed man? Morehouse thinks so. In April, then Morehouse senior Tristan Allen, (left) an economics major from Pretoria, South Africa, greeted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, on campus to deliver a lecture. Kimberly Smith / ksmith@ajc.com

Is there something about a well dressed man? Morehouse thinks so. In April, then Morehouse senior Tristan Allen, (left) an economics major from Pretoria, South Africa, greeted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, on campus to deliver a lecture. AJC Photo/Kim Smith

The prestigious historically black men’s college has a new, more rigid dress code, outlined in this AJC story. In explaining it, Dr. William Bynum, vice president of the Office of Student Services, said,

“We expect our young men to be Renaissance men. When people go about campus we want them to represent the college in an appropriate manner.”

“This is necessary, this is needed according to the students,” he said. “We know the challenges that young African-American men face. We know that how a student dresses has nothing to do with what is in their …

Continue reading Do clothes make the Morehouse man? No more pumps on campus. »