Archive for January, 2010

Teens and texting: A deadly combination on our roads

Dave Belton is a Morgan County school board member worried about teens texting while driving in the aftermath of the death of college student in his district. Texting is suspected in two recent accidents. (Read the AJC story on the accidents, one of which involved a death.)

Here is an op-ed piece that he wrote and that will appear in the AJC on the education page Monday:

By Dave Belton

He was driving down one of the gentle roads that meander through our sleepy pastures here in Morgan County.

Coming home for Christmas after a great freshman year at college, he couldn’t wait to tell his mama how many A’s he’d earned.

An athlete, a scholar — the kind of boy you hope your daughter brings home.
Things were going so well, he recently had called his grandmother and told her, “I’m the luckiest guy alive.”

A quick text to his beautiful girlfriend and …

The walls of the church groaned at the size of the funeral. The brave father told me, “I wish there was some way to …

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State superintendent: Our new math program will work and we will lead nation

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox provided a spirited defense of the state’s new math standards Friday in an address to the DeKalb Rotary.

In doing so, she talked more about Massachusetts than Georgia since our standards are based on a reforms introduced there a decade earlier. She had lots of data and tests results from the New England state generally recognized as an educational leader. Her goal: To overtake Massachusetts in math performance.

Cox has been widely criticized for the state’s new math standards, even though they are based on models used with success in other states and nations, including Finland and Japan. (While she used Massachusetts as her comparison, she also said Georgia drew ideas from California, North Carolina, Minnesota and Texas.)

Cox has even brought the former Massachusetts commissioner of education to Georgia to work with her staff on the standards and urge them to hold fast; improvement will come. David Driscoll said that he, too, was …

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Georgia DOE losing its charter school expert to Illinois

I was sorry to learn that Andrew Broy is leaving Georgia where he oversees charter schools for a similar job in Illinois. He is a smart guy and a strong advocate for the charter school movement.

Broy is leaving on a high note; the state just released its report card on charter school performance.

Among the report’s findings:

  • 64,949 charter students statewide
  • 4% of Georgia public school students attend charter schools
  • 85% of charter schools made adequate yearly progress
  • 61% of  charter schools exceeded the comparable student performance of their two closest schools
  • 81% of charter school high school students graduate
  • Charter schools are more likely to have a smaller achievement gap between students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and those that do not (see attached scatterplot diagrams)
  • Reflecting a trend that began in 2001, Georgia charter schools continue to serve a student population that is more likely to be economically disadvantaged and more likely to be racial …

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Movie with a message: “Providence Effect” depicts powerful school and leader

A documentary on one man’s commitment to transform the education and expectations of inner city children is playing at the theater at North DeKalb Mall.

The documentary “The Providence Effect” focuses on the larger-than-life founder Paul Smith III, who created the heralded not-for-profit private Providence St, Mel school on Chicago ’s West Side in 1978. (If you can’t see the movie this weekend – it is playing through at least Thursday at the theater on Lawrenceville Highway – read some of the stories about the school on the site.)

The filmmakers are clearly in awe of Smith, who is charismatic, charming and charged with the mission of seeing all his students go on to college. As a result, the documentary fails to ask any tough questions, opting instead for straight-on declarations from many people about how Adams and the school have changed their lives.

Still, the movie is wonderful testimony to the power of education to change lives and the power of one man to change …

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The choice: Higher taxes or lower expectations for schools

Is a time for a tax increase to keep our schools afloat?

Last night, parents crammed a DeKalb meeting protesting an end to magnet programs and theme schools. (I arrived for the end, but the place had been full of unhappy parents.)

Also, Cobb school superintendent Fred Sanderson told the school board Thursday night that teachers would need to take three furlough days this semester; Sanderson targeted Feb. 15 – there are no classes on that day — and wants to also apply the snow day earlier this month and the flood day in September. He said Cobb will not be able to turn to reserves to prevent furloughs this semester as it did in the fall. See the AJC story.

A few desperate districts outside of Metro are joining Peach County and adopting four-day work weeks. Others are dropping back to 160 days of longer classes.

In the last week, I have attended three hearings about education budgets. I don’t believe we can ask schools to sustain or improve quality of instruction at the same time …

Continue reading The choice: Higher taxes or lower expectations for schools »

Georgia State: A national model in graduating minority students

Congratulations to Georgia State University. In a release today, Education Trust announced that GSU boosted its minority graduation rate by 18.4 percentage points.

In 2002, only 32.3 percent of minority students graduated in six years. By 2007, that rate had increased to 50.7 percent—which exceeds the school’s non-minority graduation rate of 45.5 percent. The university ranks fifth nationwide in the number of bachelor’s degrees granted to African-American students, according to Diverse magazine.

According to the release:

At Georgia State, for example, minority students now graduate at rates higher than their nonminority classmates, putting them atop the list of best improvers in each of the two Ed Trust briefs. According to Ron Henry, the school’s former provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, these gains came first and foremost by focusing on data. Henry and his colleagues used data to identify various potholes on the path to a bachelor’s …

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Could we save any money by eliminating the state DOE?

Just came back from the House Education Committee meeting where one of the money saving suggestions was to eliminate the state Department of Education. It was suggested that such a move could save the state $95 million, minus the federal funds that go to the agency.

The suggestion was made in jest, although it was mentioned twice. (I wished someone would have asked what the savings would be if we eliminated the entire Legislature.)

Education meetings are great fun because the committee chair, Gwinnett Republican Brooks Coleman, and vice-chairman, Dunwoody GOP Rep. Fran Millar, are both plain-speaking and prone to passionate outbursts. (By the way, kudos to Coleman for giving audience members time to speak. His fellow committee chairs who adjourn meetings without hearing from citizens who traveled  from Savannah or Dalton ought to follow his example.)

Two bills were discussed, the governor’s school board reform bill, which was proposed last session when we only had one school …

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Obama: One of best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education.

Here is what President Obama said about education in his State of the Union address:

This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform – reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all fifty states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate …

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Historic vote in Oregon to raise taxes rather than cut education

It is likely that Georgia will move to shorter weeks or a shorter school year before it raises taxes.

Not every state feels the same way, as this story today from the Register-Guard in Oregon shows: (I am only reprinting a short piece of the story. But do read the entire thing.)

By David Steves

Oregon voters delivered historic approval Tuesday for a pair of tax increases after a campaign that assured Oregonians they could protect schools and other programs by requiring wealthy individuals and big corporations to pay more.

With 91 percent of the votes counted, Measures 66 and 67 each were passing with 54 percent and 53 percent approval.

Measure 66 raises income taxes on the top 3 percent of filers and Measure 67 boosts business taxes. Both tax increases were approved by the 2009 Legislature but forced to the ballot by opponents’ signature drive.

Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt called the results “a win for Oregon kids,” whose schools will not face the 5 percent cut in …

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Refusal of lawmakers to take furlough days insults state employees who had no choice

One of the arguments offered by lawmakers asking state employees — including teachers — to accept unpaid furlough days is that everyone is sharing the pain.

Well, that argument just went down in flames with the refusal of two House members to accept the pay cut on the “principle” that they signed on for a certain salary and they want their full pay

In an AJC exclusive, the paper reports that seven legislators did not the prescribed furlough days last year, most out of so-called “confusion,” but two others out of “principle.” (As to that confusion defense, more than 200 other lawmakers weren’t confused about the process. Why were these few so foggy on the details?)

Here is what the story says:

Four of the five senators who skipped the furloughs in 2009 said they were confused by the process governing the way lawmakers take such days, and the two House members said they had no intention of taking them. All seven are Democrats.

Rep. David Lucas of Macon and Rep. Earnest …

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