Archive for January, 2010

Cobb grand jury: School board limits debate of school policy

Parents who contend that the Cobb school board isn’t listening to them were vindicated by the Cobb grand jury, which released a report criticizing the board for  “operating in a manner that severely limits the open and public debate of school policy decisions prior to vote and implementation.”

A story in the Marietta Daily Journal today reports:,

The grand jurors also recommended a stern followup measure for the board, saying it should be formally reviewed by future grand juries “no less than 4 times per year.”

On Dec. 1, a subcommittee of the grand jury heard from Dr. John Abraham, who was then chairman of the school board; current Chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle; Superintendent Fred Sanderson; and Glenn Brock, the board’s attorney.

According to the presentments, the discussions focused in part on the new balanced calendar that starts school on the first Monday of August. Board members approved the three-year calendar just weeks earlier, on Nov. 12, after dozens of parents …

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Merit pay rewards good test scores, not good teachers

There has been a lot of discussion and comment here over the last few days on merit pay. Here is piece by teacher Jordan Kohanim of Centennial HS. (Kohanim had many Website sources in her piece, but I have embedded them to make it easier to read the piece without all the long Urls.

Merit pay does not reward good teachers; it rewards good test scores.

Let’s first examine the background of this debate. “A Nation at Risk” came to the conclusion that American education was failing upcoming populations of students. The report claimed students were graduating without the ability to read. According to the report, a need arose to gauge how students were advancing out of schools without basic literacy. With that out there, let me first state there is some debate as to just HOW MANY people were graduating with low literacy levels and just what kind of crisis our schools were in.

In fact, many say this flawed report is “dead wrong. Some argue that it was a biased political …

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Baby slapping saga ends with year in slammer. Fine with me.

This news story sent Get Schooled posters into overdrive back in August. Now, the Wal-Mart baby slapper will spend a year in jail. (He gets credit for the time he’s already been behind bars, according to the AJC story.)

To refresh your memories, at the time we had been having several debates over corporal punishment in schools on the blog. I posted the breaking news story about a shopper so unhappy with a baby’s crying in a Stone Mountain store that he slapped the toddler across her face several times. I made the point that people should never physically discipline anyone else’s child, including teachers and principals. It seems a mistake in every way to me.

A surprising number of the thousand-plus posters to the blog applauded the guy – making me wonder about the safety of taking a baby out in public.

Anyway, the story is over for the Wal-Mart slapper. But the issue of corporal punishment remains in our schools.

Continue reading Baby slapping saga ends with year in slammer. Fine with me. »

A young teacher speaks: I don’t know any other way to do this job

This is the teacher op-ed that I mentioned yesterday. Enjoy:

By Joel Kadish

I don’t know how to do this job any other way.

Everyone told me my first year of teaching would be the hardest.

Yet, I am finding the second year far more frustrating.

Last year, I would spend 12 hours a day at school during the week, sneak into the building on Saturdays, and lesson plan through my Sundays.

I was so focused with simply surviving my first year and “what I was going to teach tomorrow” that I remained oblivious to the reality of Georgia’s budget crisis in education.

Now that the velocity of teaching has somewhat slowed, I am beginning to realize the true crisis of underfunding education in Georgia.

Budget shortfalls have increased the teacher-to-student ratio in my classroom.

Rather than averaging 25 students a class last year, my rosters swelled to 32 this past August.

In my year and a half of teaching, I realized my most effective means of motivating students is building meaningful …

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Collusion of problems frays relations in DeKalb

AJC reporter Kristina Torres has a good big picture account of flaring tempers and frayed relations in DeKalb schools.

As to why DeKalb has so much discontent, Torres writes:

The recession, stagnant wages and increased workloads have teachers and staff on edge. Operational changes and reports of wrongdoing, including test cheating and a state probe into the school system’s construction program, have caught community attention. And frustration still lingers over the introduction this year of new programs that include a student data system that lurched into use in August by unintentionally dropping students from class rolls, scrambling schedules and scuttling teachers’ grade books.

And more bad news is coming: System officials next week will unveil budget proposals for next year that include millions more in cuts.

Torres notes the system experienced a perfect storm of problems;

Last summer, a state audit found evidence that some 2008 test papers from four Georgia schools — …

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If he visited his namesake schools, MLK would see how far we are from an integrated America

Martin Luther King would be disappointed how segregated his namesake schools remain

The Rev. Martin Luther King would be disappointed in how segregated his namesake schools are today. AJC/Cumming

Only 7.8 percent of the Negro students in the South are attending integrated schools this year, a hundred years after our emancipation from slavery. At this pace it will take 92 more years to integrate the public schools of the South.” — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1960.

If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. could visit his namesake schools, he would extend his estimate of how long it will take to achieve full integration.

Almost 90 percent of the students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in College Park are black. More than nine of 10 students at King Middle School in Atlanta are African-American. All the students at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Lithonia are black.

As neighborhoods have resegregated over the last 40 year, so have schools. Black parents once saw a value in rousing their children at 5 a.m. to travel to higher-performing, …

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Should we return to ability grouping in our schools?

A recent poster and an e-mailer both called for a return to ability grouping. (See post and e-mail below.)

I attended an all-girl Catholic high school with clear ability tracking. Our classes were identified with grading language. Students who scored high on entry IQ tests were in the A/B section, mid-range kids were in the C/D classes and the lowest scorers and those who were not planning to go to college were in D/E/F. We essentially took the same classes, and I am not sure how different the rigor was from category to category.

However, I can tell you that some of the most accomplished women in my class were in the lower tracks, including folks who are doctors today. I recently visited the classroom of an award-winning teacher in the suburbs. I saw very little difference in ability between his advanced class and his regular class aside from the difference in class size. He had 17 advanced students and 24 regular.

I asked him if there was a marked difference in performance …

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While DOE is on furlough today, the budget ax comes down

I think I know now why this is a furlough day for the state Department of Education -  the governor released his proposed state budget this afternoon and there are lots of questions about the cuts to education. (I am only kidding – the DOE furlough day was planned before the governor decided to release his budget today.)

In a nutshell, k-12 takes an additional 3 percent cut in the current fiscal 2010 budget and teachers must take three furlough days before June 30.

The Quality Basic Education funding formula shows a $450 million reduction the rest of 2010 and $527 million in cuts for 2011.

We’ll look at the budget in-depth over the next weeks.

In the meantime, here is the release from the governor’s office on the budget:

ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue today released his Amended Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011 budgets today, delivering functionally balanced budgets that also continue to invest in Georgia’s future.

“We have actively managed the budget in a step-down …

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All-star roster marks MLK birthday at Ebenezer

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Al Sharpton were among the speakers today at an MLK celebration at Ebeneezer Baptist Church. AJC/

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Al Sharpton were among the speakers today at an MLK celebration at Ebenezer Baptist Church. AJC/Vino Wong

On what would have been his 81st birthday Friday, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been delighted with the people speaking from his former pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church and what their presence signified about the success of his civil rights movement.

Fiery civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton spoke, as did U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who brought regards from America’s first African-American president Barack Obama.

The roster featured Atlanta’s black mayor, Kasim Reed, and black school superintendent, Beverly Hall. Also on hand was Alisha Morgan, the first black representative elected to the Statehouse from Cobb and the youngest woman in the House.

If King had surveyed the diverse crowd of 2,000 gathered to honor his achievements, he would have known his sacrifice and effort were not for naught.

However, had …

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Questions continue on Perdue’s pay for performance

In his last year in office, Sonny Perdue says he wants to see a pay for performance plan for teachers

In his last year in office, Sonny Perdue says he wants to see a pay for performance plan for teachers

On the pay for performance plan from Gov. Sonny Perdue:  A wary reader sent me a note that led to a e-mail exchange that I thought you would enjoy:

First the note from the reader:

I wonder if you can find out who comprised the 20K survey respondents of which supposedly 80% supported performance-based pay. I would also like to see a copy of the survey instrument to see how the questions were worded. I just find it hard to believe that’s true. I am wondering if there was bias in the wording of the questions or if the sample is not truly representative of the entire state.

I took those questions to the governor’s spokesman Bert Brantley, who sent me this response:

I’ll get the survey data to you. The responses did come from all over the state; we sent every superintendent and principal an email with a link to the survey and asked them to forward it to their teachers. It’s …

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