Archive for January, 2010

Friendly debate: A single academic track or multiple tracks?

I had an interesting conversation today with John Konop, who is the CEO of a financial services company, a former candidate for Congress – he lost a GOP primary challenge to Tom Price in 2006 — and a frequent commenter on education issues.

Should a high school diploma mean different things for different students?

Should a high school diploma mean different things for different students?

A Cherokee resident, Konop was one of the early critics of the state’s new math curriculum. He sees the math reforms as a symptom of a larger problem: Forcing all students into an academic track that is not relevant to their dreams, may exceed their abilities and pushes them to drop out.

As a CEO who monitors job trends, he questions the mantra that high level math skills are essential to most future jobs. He advocates options outside college prep for students so they are not done in by early failure and give up on school.

He and I agree that the dropout rate in Georgia is a problem. However, we depart on the solution. He wants a non-college track, saying that a lot …

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Recess before lunch: Get out the wiggles and get down to work

There is an interesting New York Times piece on the positive changes associated with scheduling recess before lunch. Among the pluses: Kids actually ate their lunches and they were more focused in class. (The piece presumes recess as a fact of life in schools, which is not always the case in Georgia.)

I can vouch that my children and their classmates often sped through lunch because they were so anxious to get to the playground – their playground time used to follow lunch. I can also vouch for the massive waste of food.

I often see children pick through their lunch trays or their lunch boxes, eat the corn chips and throw away the turkey sandwich. Witnessing one boy toss out his sandwich and his apple not long ago, I told him that he was throwing away the best parts. “I am not hungry at lunch,” he told me. “But my mom makes me take a lunch anyway.”

According to the Times story on holding recess before lunch:

Schools that have tried it report that when children play before …

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Four day school week: A very bad idea, according to PAGE

Many systems have talked about cutting back school days to save money. Here is a statement from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators on the issue:

While we certainly are sympathetic to local systems that are looking for every possible avenue to cut costs during the current economic crisis, we believe that going to a four day school week has more downside than upside.

First of all, our students, particularly those who are struggling to succeed, need more – not less – time for their studies. We believe that all students can learn, but they do not all learn at the same pace. Reducing teaching and learning time for students is not the way to go in our view. Already our students have one of the shortest school years in the world and reducing it further cannot help but degrade the quality of their education.

Secondly, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that by adding marginally to the length of the other four days –a few minutes here or there – we are …

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Are teachers getting snowed by the snow days?

I am still trying to work this one out for myself. Is it fair if the snow/flood days turn out to be furlough days in Gwinnett or anywhere else?

Is it fair to apply recent snow days in metro Atlanta to furlough days?

Is it fair to apply recent snow days in metro Atlanta to furlough days?

This issue was first raised in an e-mail to me from a Gwinnett teacher.  I called and chatted with Gwinnett’s communications director Sloan Roach about this, and then Sloan followed up with an e-mail with more detail.

First, the teacher’s e-mail:

I am a teacher in the Gwinnett system, and I was wondering if there is any way you could do some research into Gwinnett’s plan for the furlough days the Governor has issued.  Our principal has told us that Gwinnett is proposing a plan where the three days that we had to cancel school (2 in September and 1 in January) would be considered our furlough days.  However, because the students still need to make those days up, we would have to work the make-up days.  The way I see it, that would mean that we would be …

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Do female teachers pass on their fear of math to young girls?

A story in the AJC on why girls fear math was especially relevant to me as my youngest daughter tested very high in math skills on the COGAT but doesn’t like math and perceives that she’s not good at it. Not surprisingly, it has become her most challenging subject.

A study suggests that female teachers who fear math pass the fear onto girls in their classes.

A study suggests that female teachers who fear math pass the fear onto girls in their classes.

I keep wondering why she struggles and whether somehow we communicated that math is hard. My youngest daughter’s teacher has offered to work with her in the morning before class, and I hope to make that happen as I think that math fluency is critical today.

I am one of those English majors who could not wait to satisfy the math requirements in college and retire my protractor and calculator. Now, I wish I had taken more college-level math, especially statistics.

According to the AP story:

WASHINGTON — Little girls may learn to fear math from the women who are their earliest teachers.

Despite gains in recent years, women …

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More on boys: Why they lag in performance and college

After posting my interview yesterday with Dr. Anthony Rao about the pathologizing of what had once been considered normal boys’ development phases, I received this release from the University of Alaska.

New studies highlight needs of boys in K-12, higher education

Fairbanks, Alaska–Boys face high rates of a variety of mental health issues, in addition to lagging behind girls in academic performance and college attendance, according to two new papers by University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Judith Kleinfeld.

The studies, recently published in the journal Gender Issues, note that boys have higher rates of suicide, conduct disorders, emotional disturbance, premature death and juvenile delinquency than their female peers, as well as lower grades, test scores and college attendance rates.

The first paper, “The State of American Boyhood,” offers a status report on the academic, mental and social health of boys in the United States. Her conclusion: There is neither a “girl …

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Speaking of timely: Study says teachers left out of policy debates

I received this release Monday, minutes after posting the Teacher Survey that was done by the governor’s office and that many of you find full of holes.

Given that backdrop,I thought you would get a kick out of these findings from a new study by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates:

Educational reformers of all stripes have focused tremendous energy on thinking of ways to identify effective teachers and in turn recruit, retain, compensate, and support them. But what do teachers think of their ideas? The Retaining Teacher Talent study, a nationwide study conducted by Learning Point Associates and Public Agenda suggests that what teachers think are good indicators of effectiveness — and what they think will make them more effective — are not always aligned with current priorities in education policy.

This third release of data from the Retaining Teacher Talent study, Convergence and Contradictions in Teachers’ Perceptions of Policy Reform Ideas, seeks to …

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Read it and weep: New report on state’s proposed education budget

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute just released four reports on the implications of the Perdue budget in various key areas, including education.

I know that some of you dismiss the institute as liberal, but I have never found it to fudge the numbers. (What folks may disagree with are the institute’s recommendations about how to deal with this economic crisis, which include raising taxes.)

Check out the report, but here are some excerpts:

The governor proposes spending $6.96 billion in state funds and $343 million in federal Recovery Act stabilization funds to educate 1.6 million K-12 students in FY 2011. This equals a 10.9 percent cut from the original FY 2009 budget, which itself included austerity cuts to the education funding formula.

The majority of the cut can be found in the state’s funding formula — Quality Basic Education (QBE). The governor’s proposed budget adjusts the QBE base to reflect the amended FY 2010 budget by adding $121 million to account for the …

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If you’re done reading Georgia’s, here is Louisiana’s RTTT application

I posted the link last week to Georgia’s 200-page Race to the Top application. If that wasn’t enough for you, here is Lousiana’s application.

Louisiana is quite proud of its application, and has sent out a press notice:

Last Tuesday, Louisiana submitted its application for President Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition. Today, the state is posting its application online so that anyone interested can take a look at the ambitious reforms being put into place in Louisiana’s schools. Over the course of the application process Louisiana emerged as a best case scenario for the President’s plan to incent reform in the states.  First, Louisiana had made reform programs underway which they expanded state-wide and worked hard on the ground to gain the support of teachers unions, principals and the local communities.

Many of Louisiana’s local school districts elected to participate in the state’s application for federal funding. The application represents 28 …

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Here is the Governor’s Teacher Survey results, per your requests

Much thanks to my AJC colleague Jim Galloway – read his Political Insider blog – who helped me with a PDF that Bert Brantley of the Governor’s Office sent me in response to your requests for the teacher survey results that the state says suggest support for performance pay. (And thanks to Bert to sending it so quickly.)

Here is the message from Bert with the link to the survey.

Maureen, I promised you the results of the Teacher Survey, both with the questions, results and some idea of where the respondents came from.

Let us know if you have questions.

Bert

Bert Brantley, Director of Communications, Office of Governor Sonny Perdue

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