Archive for October, 2009

Educational whiplash: We’re ahead. We’re behind.

This is why parents get confused.

The release of NAEP math results yesterday prompted some applause here in Georgia over the state’s new performance standards. Georgia eighth-graders scored an average of 278, out of a possible 500 on NAEP’s test of math skills. That’s four points off the national average of 282, but higher than the 2007 average state score of 275.

“This is the first evidence we have that the GPS is helping our students be more competitive at the national level,” said Superintendent Kathy Cox.

But then a national education advocacy group sends out a statement saying that NAEP scores should be seen as an alarm bell.

Here is one such lament from the Center for Education Reform:

WASHINGTON, DC – American students are not being properly prepared to succeed in the global workforce and demonstrate slower progress than ever before in math proficiency, according to an evaluation of test scores under the Nation’s Report Card released Wednesday.

“It is a national …

Continue reading Educational whiplash: We’re ahead. We’re behind. »

Real Housewives: No real money for Ivy Prep

I sit next to AJC blogger Rodney Ho, who seems to be in daily conversation with the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Based on his many interviews with them –”Are you still with Big Papa?” “Are you banned from the restaurant?” — I never thought there would be an education angle.

But alas, the Real Housewives seem to be everywhere. This time, however, the ratings weren’t as good.

Former Real Housewife DeShawn Snow was involved in a fundraiser for Ivy Prep that fizzled.

Former Real Housewife DeShawn Snow was involved in a fund raiser for Ivy Prep that fizzled. Elissa Eubanks/AJC

D. Aileen Dodd reports that former Real Atlanta Housewife DeShawn Snow, who struggled to host a successful charity event on reality TV, held a failed fund raiser in August for Ivy Preparatory Academy, the Gwinnett charter school that is the subject of a lawsuit by the county.

Dodd reports: Weak ticket sales and sponsorship bailouts dimmed the light on Snow’s “Night of A Thousand Stars Gala 2009” in August in the swank ballroom of Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station. The special event, which …

Continue reading Real Housewives: No real money for Ivy Prep »

The Bible belt: A stranglehold on schoolchildren?

I still don’t get why there are so many issues with the church-state divide in Georgia schools. A few weeks ago, we had the Jesus in the bleachers issue with the north Georgia cheerleaders carrying billboard-sized Bible verses onto the football field.

Now, we have Bibles being handed out at an Oglethorpe County elementary school. A parent complained that fifth-grade students were told at the end of the school day they could pick up the pocket-sized Bibles from a table set up by two members of an evangelical group.

The parent called  it “an egregious thing of crossing the line of church and state.”School principal Kim Lord said the Bible giveaway was Ok, saying it was  “as if they were picking up a pamphlet for parks and rec or any other activity.”

Debra Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia, told the Associated Press that the school was not doing anything illegal unless it denied the same privilege to other religious groups.

I still …

Continue reading The Bible belt: A stranglehold on schoolchildren? »

For the teachers and parents of musicians, celebrate

A friend of mine told me this weekend that his bright son – in the honors program at UGA – wanted to make his life in music. What kind of life would that be, his dad wondered.

Then on Sunday in Chattanooga, I heard Dr. Don E. Saliers,  the retired William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship at Emory and father of Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, talk about the central role of music in worship and religion.

All this came together for me today when a friend sent me this wonderful speech. Some of you may know it already. For those of you who love and teach music, enjoy. (And for any parents worried about their child’s dreams of a music career, print this out and reread it now and then. One of mine is considering it, and I have already printed a copy and tucked it in a drawer.)

Welcome Address by Karl Paulnack, Director of the Music Division of the Boston Conservatory, to the incoming freshman class, September 1, 2004

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, …

Continue reading For the teachers and parents of musicians, celebrate »

To raise NAEP math scores, raise math skills in teachers

According to The Nation’s Report Card, Georgia still earns about a C in math. While our 8th grade math scores rose slightly on the 2009 NAEP test, we still trail the national average. Our score was 278,  the national was 282.

Here’s the troubling part: NAEP ranks kids basic, proficient or advanced. More than two-thirds of our 8th graders scored at basic. Only 5 percent scored at advanced.

(Please note that you will get a much sunnier view of these scores by reading the entry below, which contains the full release from the state DOE and Kathy Cox. DOE rightfully says we are progressing, but I am still concerned about how many of our students are stuck at basic.)

Admittedly, NAEP sets its standards far higher than most states set the bar in their own tests. (A few New England states have aligned their tests with NAEP, and, not surprisingly, those states do well on every math measure.)

Our fourth grade scores stayed the same since NAEP was  administered in 2007,  a flattening …

Continue reading To raise NAEP math scores, raise math skills in teachers »

NAEP just released math scores; Georgia 8th graders on rise, 4th grade scores flat

I am now on a conference call with the NAEP folks and will post more shortly. In general, national scores show no change in 4th grade, but rose across the board for 8th graders. Georgia follows suit.

Here is what the DOE has to say:

Georgia is one of just 15 states to show
significant improvement in eighth-grade mathematics, according to national
test results released today.
The results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) are the first national results that show the impact of Georgia’s
new mathematics curriculum. Nearly all the grade 8 students who took the
NAEP last school year had been taught using the Georgia Performance
Standards (GPS) in mathematics for three years.
“This is the first evidence we have that the GPS is helping our
students be more competitive at the national level,” Superintendent Cox
said. “I am confident this is just the beginning of the gains our students
will show on national tests as our new curriculum takes hold.”
“These …

Continue reading NAEP just released math scores; Georgia 8th graders on rise, 4th grade scores flat »

When zero tolerance equals zero sense: A first grader in Delaware avoids reform school

I am not sure why common sense doesn’t under gird all the  zero tolerance policies in school systems.

If common sense were a bit more common, we’d never read another story like this one from the Associated Press.

Can someone explain to me why schools get into these messes?  They end badly for everyone, but most of all for the reputations of the systems.

Please see update on this story:  The child who was facing 45 days in an alternative school as punishment for taking his favorite camping utensil to school can return to class after the school board made a hasty change granting him a reprieve.

Del. 1st grader faces reform school for camp tool

NEWARK, Del. — A Delaware first-grader who wanted to eat lunch at school with his favorite camping utensil, a combination of folding fork, knife and spoon, now faces 45 days in reform school.

Hundreds of people were expected to attend a school board meeting Tuesday evening to object to the suspension of 6-year-old Zachary Christie …

Continue reading When zero tolerance equals zero sense: A first grader in Delaware avoids reform school »

DeKalb construction probe: Is the pace increasing?

Remember our discussion a few days ago about the sluggish pace of the DeKalb DA’s probe into possible school construction misdeeds?

Perhaps, the pace is about to pick up. See AJC story.

Continue reading DeKalb construction probe: Is the pace increasing? »

Fulton teacher wins “Oscar” and $25,000

Just in from the state DOE: (Update: Then best thing about this entry are the posts from former students about just how great Gregg Ott was as a teacher.  Some of the posters had him years ago and still consider him the best teacher they ever encountered.)

A Fulton County middle school teacher won the “Oscar of Teaching” Tuesday, which includes a $25,000 prize he can spend however he wishes. Greg Ott, a Language Arts teacher at Northwestern Middle School in Milton, is one of 54 educators nationwide to be named a Milken Family Foundation Educator of the Year.

Neither Ott, his colleagues, nor his students knew he had been nominated for the award, until it was announced at an assembly this morning. State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox made the surprise announcement with Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation.

“Greg Ott represents the very best in our teaching profession,” Superintendent Cox said. “He engages his students by being creative, …

Continue reading Fulton teacher wins “Oscar” and $25,000 »

Our children are under siege from guns and no one cares

I am heartsick every time I read another story about a young person being shot. In today’s news, we learn that a Morehouse student was shot en route to his dorm from the library Monday.  Fortunately, he survived the shooting.

A Spelman student did not.  Last month, Jasmine Lynn died after being struck by a stray bullet while walking across Clark Atlanta’s campus.

And today Decatur High is commemorating a sophomore shot to death over the weekend leaving a teen club in DeKalb County.

Here’s a question: Who dies in greater numbers from firearms, police in the line of duty or preschoolers? The answer — contained in a 2008 report by the Children’s Defense Fund — is surprising and disturbing. In 2005,  guns killed 69 preschoolers, compared with 53 law enforcement officers.

Among the facts in the Washington-based child advocacy group’s “Protect Children, Not Guns” report.

> Since 1979, gun violence has taken the lives of 104,419 children and teens.

> A black male has a …

Continue reading Our children are under siege from guns and no one cares »