Archive for December, 2009

Gross, awful, but legal: Judge calls it in teacher sex case

I think both the judge and the school district made the right decisions in the sexual assault case against former Marietta High School teacher Christopher King. (See earlier post for more details. Read AJC breaking news story on the verdict.)

When the Marietta system found out that King was involved in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, it made him resign. Today, a judge in Cobb County ruled that while the 36-year-old King’s relationship with a student repelled him, it wasn’t a crime.

Former Marietta High School teacher, Christopher King , right, and prosecutor Maurice Brown, listen as defense attorney Scott Semrau gives opening arguments inhich the st case growing out of King's sexual relationship with a student. Brant Sanderlin bsanderlin@ajc.com

Former Marietta High School teacher Christopher King, right, and prosecutor Maurice Brown, listen as defense attorney Scott Semrau gives opening arguments in a case growing out of King's sexual relationship with a student. Brant Sanderlin bsanderlin@ajc.com

Judge Robert Flournoy issued a direct verdict Wednesday afternoon in the case. “It was gross, it’s awful, but it ain’t illegal,” he  said. “This was a consensual relationship.”

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in June that when …

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Unlocking a terrible secret of education: Isolation rooms and restraints

Today, U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)  introduced legislation limiting and regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

It is long overdue.

(The two U.S. members have co-written a powerful op-ed on the issue at CNN.com.)

 Jonathan King hanged himself at age 13 in November 2004 in a psycheducational school in Gainesville.

Jonathan King hanged himself at age 13 in November 2004 in a psycheducational school in Gainesville.

According to Miller’s office:

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last spring exposed hundreds of cases of schoolchildren being abused as a result of inappropriate uses of restraint and seclusion, often involving untrained staff. In some cases, children died. A disproportionate number of these victims were students with disabilities.

“Something is very wrong when our children are at risk in their own classrooms,” said Miller, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee who requested the GAO’s …

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Why kids don’t finish college: Work and family challenges

Here’s why most young adults who start college don’t finish as explained by one of them, 24-year-old Frankie Barria of New York:

When I started college, I was living on my own at age 19. It was just unbelievably hard to maintain my job and a good GPA. Having a roof over my head and food to eat became more  important to me

Barria was part of an hour-long conference call Wednesday on new report on why so many students start and never finish degrees, a problem that President Obama says jeopardizes America’s economic future.

Public Agenda surveyed more than 600 individuals aged 22 to 30  for its new report, “With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them.”

The study compared the views of students who started, but did not finish, their college education with those who received a degree or certificate. The national survey, which also included focus groups in five cities, was underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to Jean Johnson of Public Agenda,  six out 10 …

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Michelle Rhee: Evaluate teachers on student progress

The most interesting panelist at the teleconference today on how urban districts performed on the NAEP math test was Michelle Rhee, the take-no-prisoner chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington public schools, is introducing a new teacher evaluation that considers student performance

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington public schools, is introducing a new teacher evaluation that considers student performance

Founder of the New Teacher Project, which trains teachers for urban classrooms, the 39-year-old Rhee came to Washington with a clear message for its teachers and administrators: Get on board, work hard or go.

“If we have ineffective teachers in the classroom, the goal is to not have them in the classroom any longer,” she has said.

Her new evaluation program, IMPACT, requires that teachers be assessed on a measure of “value-added,”  meaning how much they improved student test scores and performance. The academic growth of their students will account for half of a teacher’s evaluation; most of the rest of the evaluation will hinge on detailed …

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NAEP releases math scores for urban districts with the proverbial “mixed” results

NAEP just released the math performance of students in urban districts, including Atlanta. Here is the AJC story.

Here are the official releases. I am on a conference call now with NAEP and will add to this later. In a nutshell, the highest performing urban districts are those with the fewest poor and minority kids.

Representative samples of between 1,800 and 4,300 fourth- and eighth-grade public school students from 18 urban districts participated in the 2009 assessment. Eleven of the districts also participated in the 2007 and 2005 assessments, and 10 participated in 2003. Results from the 2009 TUDA report in mathematics include:

* In comparison to 2007, scores improved in two districts at each grade in 2009. Scores did not change for the remaining nine districts that participated in 2007.

* Five districts at both grade 4 and grade 8 had higher scores than large cities nationally in 2009. Ten districts had scores lower than large cities at both grades.

* When compared to …

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Does more time in class produce higher achievement?

Does more time on task matter in student achievement?

A new study suggests it may for middle and high school students.  In state math and language art exams, students in schools that have extended time scored three to eight points higher than their counterparts ts in middle grades and in 10th grade. (The study only looked at 10th grade in high school.)

Would spending more time in these classroom chairs enable students to perform at higher levels? A new study looks at that question.

Would spending more time in class enable students to perform at higher levels? A new study looks at that question.

However, the study also looked at grades 3, 4 and 5 and did not see any rise in test scores  compared to peers in schools with traditional schedules.  With the exception of 4th grade English/language arts, students in those earlier grades scored slightly below their peers.

The National Center on Time & Learning - which supports expanded learning time — has assembled a database of schools that have increased time on task. The schools on average offer about 25 percent more time than the national norm, mostly by …

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Are there heroes out there who don’t bite?

The news of the last few days offers another reminder that teachers ought to be careful when they ask students to write about their heroes. Our heroes tend to have feet of clay.

Perhaps, the only safe heroes are the ones who chase cats rather than cocktail waitresses

Perhaps, the only safe heroes are the ones who chase cats rather than cocktail waitresses

Heroes have fallen from their pedestals this week in the world of politics, and even the perfect Tiger Woods seems to have blemishes.

The only safe bet may be non-human heroes.

Like Lassie.

Man’s best friend would not sell 300 racy text messages to a tabloid, as one of Woods’ self-proclaimed paramours apparently did.

Or threaten to beat up an ex-wife, as House Speaker Glenn Richardson allegedly did.

If, as Bill Clinton demonstrated, we can’t even look to the White House for virtue and fealty, we may have to look to the doghouse for loyalty and trust.

A former colleague-turned-professor once invited me to speak to his journalism class. His students were working on profiles of prominent Atlantans, and he …

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The “Twilight” of teenage hookups: A love story?

The “Twilight” craze has passed me by as my oldest daughter is beyond the books and the popular series is too sophisticated for my youngest.

Here is an interesting op-ed on by an NYU professor why the books and the movies are such a hit with adolescent females: (The piece ran today on the education page in the AJC that I put together each week.  Send submissions  to mdowney@ajc.com.)

By Jonathan Zimmerman

Hey, do you want to hook up?

The appeal of "Twilight" to young girls may be the depth of the romance between the lead characters.

The appeal of "Twilight" to young girls may be the depth of the romance between the lead characters.

If you’re like lots of American high school and college students, the answer is clearly “yes.”
But when you look at the reasons, you’ll find an enormous gender divide. Girls have sex in order to score a boyfriend, and boys simply want to score.

And the boys are winning.

That explains the overwhelming success of Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” teenage books, as well as the most recent film adaptation, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” …

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Is there a magic number for school board members?

Thanks to Ernest for this information about plans by the DeKalb County School Board to discuss a resolution to reduce the number of board members from 9 to 7 at its Monday session.

From the online agenda:

Rationale: There are 180 school systems in the State of Georgia. Of these systems, there are approximately ten (10) school systems which have nine (9) member Boards. The vast majority of the school systems have seven (7) or fewer member Boards. The reduction in members will increase the efficiency of Board Operations and will reduce costs.

Details: The DeKalb Board of Education (“the Board”) is the third largest school system in the State of Georgia. Since 2002, the Board has operated with a nine (9) member Board. Prior to this time, the Board consisted of seven (7) members. Of the State’s largest school systems, the following are the number of members of each Board:

System

FY 2008-2009 Enrollment

Board Size

Gwinnett

155,000

5

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Spanking a student for wrong test answers? It’s nuts.

By now, you all know that I oppose corporal punishment in schools in any shape, form or situation.  Most research shows that it is counterproductive, dangerous and unnecessary.

This story from from ABC 33/40 News in Alabama about a teacher striking a 9-year-old for wrong test answers demonstrates in stark terms why we need to ban physical discipline from all schools.

According to the story:

A Birmingham child was allegedly beaten for giving the wrong answers on a test.

Sarah Blackmon claims the teacher used a belt on her son after he missed six questions.  The beating reportedly broke the skin.

His mother says her son Tony is traumatized by what happened and she is livid.  Her son’s disability is learning, not behavioral.  She says if she had hit her own child, someone would have reported her to the Department of Human Resources so it is unacceptable for a teacher to ever do so.

Sarah Blackmon told the TV station that she called the teacher to ask what happened: “She …

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