Archive for February, 2010

Finalists for teacher of the year: Anyone you know?

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox announced today the finalists for 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year.

According to the DOE:

The 10 finalists were chosen from a pool of 148 applicants who were selected as the Teacher of the Year in their school districts. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners and finalists, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses.

“I am confident that any of these 10 outstanding educators would make a terrific 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year,” said Superintendent Cox. “Congratulations to the finalists and to all those who applied for consideration. I know it was very difficult to choose just 10 finalists from this strong group of applications.”

Over the next several weeks, a panel of judges will observe and interview each of the finalists at their schools. The finalists will also give a speech on …

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Teachers balk at reforms and longer hours. They’re fired.

You are a reform-minded superintendent under state edict to improve a chronically low-performing high school. The teachers refuse all six conditions that you deem essential to change the school. Next option? Fire them all.

That was the dramatic response last week of a Rhode Island superintendent. Frances Gallo of the Central Falls district was under state mandate to improve Central Falls High, where only 3 percent of 11th graders scored proficient in math in 2008 and 7 percent in 2009. Half the students are failing every subject.

According to the Providence Journal:

Gallo wanted the union to sign off on six conditions that required teachers to spend more time helping students and with colleagues in professional training sessions. Gallo said she could only afford to pay teachers $30 per hour for some of the extra responsibilities — $1,800 for two weeks of training in the summer, and potentially $1,620 for weekly 90-minute afterschool sessions, if she could secure grant …

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Not so fast. National advocate says don’t rush to judgment of APS in CRCT probe

I admire education advocate Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, because she doesn’t mince words. Her responses to the state’s CRCT investigation and her defense of Atlanta Public Schools are examples of her willingness to speak out and battle against the tide.

President of the Education Trust, Kati Haycock urges caution before deeming cheating occurred in APS schools based on unusual erasurse

President of the Education Trust, Kati Haycock urges caution before deeming cheating occurred in APS schools based on unusual test erasures

The Education Trust is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that works to close the achievement gap.

Here is Haycock’s response to the CRCT investigation,

By Kati Haycock

I hate cheating. I detest it when students do it. But my blood absolutely boils when educators themselves are the ones fudging the numbers.

Few things are more serious violations of the sacred public trust that we educators hold. Those guilty of cheating should lose their licenses, period. The idea that “No Child Left Behind made them do it” is exactly what it seems:  an excuse, and …

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The White House: Raise math and reading standards in poor schools

When President Obama meets today with the nation’s governors, he is expected to set out a plan for higher math and reading standards as a qualifier for Title 1 funds that go to schools with large numbers of low-income students. His statement will boost the national effort, led by the nation’s governors, including Gov. Sonny Perdue, for common core standards in the U.S. that meet the bar of international comparisons.

Clearer academic targets is a goal of the White House in overhauling the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which has been criticized for imposing vague standards and allowing states too much leeway in determining how to meet them. The complaint has been that the law became a race to the bottom rather than to the top because states could set their own standards.

In a statement, the White House said, “Because economic progress and educational achievement go hand in hand, educating every American student to graduate prepared for college and success in a new work …

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Merit pay can work for state and for teachers

Here is a teacher writing in favor of merit pay. This piece runs Monday on the AJC education page.

By Warren Buck

As a public school teacher, I’ve been encouraged by the spirited debate among Georgia educators and policy makers around performance compensation (or “merit pay”) for K-12 public school teachers. I am excited about the opportunity we have as teachers to re-energize our profession and find new and creative ways to drive student achievement.

What makes me hopeful is my own teaching experience. I taught in Gwinnett County public schools before becoming a founding teacher at KIPP STRIVE, an open-enrollment charter middle school in West Atlanta. While we don’t currently have merit pay at KIPP STRIVE, we try to foster a school culture that emphasizes accountability for parents, students, and teachers and also prepares young people for college and life.  Everything we do is designed to maximize student learning and a culture of achievement through collaboration. …

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Here’s your school laptop. Now smile for the hidden camera.

I didn’t quite believe this story out of Philadelphia when I read it Thursday: A school spied on a student at his home via his school-issued laptop. But it has been getting a lot of discussion so I will put it out there for debate.

First of all, do you buy it?

Second, if it is shown to be true, is the school system nuts? This seems a clear violation of the student’s rights.

Update Sunday night: Apparently, now the FBI is investigating since the school officials admitted that they had remotely activated Webcams on school-issued laptops 42 times in the past 14 months to find missing computers. They said they never did so to spy on students.

Here is what the Philadelphia Inquirier reported:

A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, the family said the …

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Charter school lottery a win for families, but how about for systems?

At the same time that I was covering a lottery for 140 spots in a new charter school in DeKalb Friday, the system’s superintendent was announcing plans to shut down four schools with enrollments under 300 students to cope with the $88 million deficit. I thought that this would puzzle DeKalb taxpayers who would read that the system was closing four elementary schools because they were too small, while elsewhere in the county plans were marching forward for a school of only 140 kids. I asked the state’s overseer of charter schools about it and the DOE’s Andrew Broy sent me this reply

I suppose it depends on how one views the two situations. The revenue shortage is caused mainly by a decrease in qbe funds at the state level, which in turn was caused by a decrease in sales tax revenue and payroll tax collections. The desire for charter school options in South DeKalb County was caused, apparently, by members of the community feeling that the local public school options were not …

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Move over valedictorians. Obama wants to speak at graduation

He wouldn’t be boring. How about Barack Obama as your high school graduation speaker this spring?

High schools can compete to have President Obama as their graduation speaker this spring.

High schools can compete to have President Obama as their graduation speaker this spring.

Normally, I would think that schools would be thrilled at the thought of having the president of the United States rather than the president of the local Ford dealership speak at commencement, but recall what happened the last time Obama wanted to speak to students.

Some schools either opted out of showing the September speech that Obama gave to encourage kids to stay in school  or sent out permission forms in reaction to parents who were concerned that the speech would advance a political agenda.

According to the White House, Obama and the Education Department are giving public high schools the opportunity to compete to have the president speak at their commencement ceremony this spring.

According to the official release:

The White House and the Department of Education have announced a …

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DeKalb to close four schools and lose 15 bigwigs. Gwinnett sets furlough days.

The budget axe is falling on four schools and  the central office staff in DeKalb County where Superintendent Crawford Lewis announced Friday, “We can no longer afford to operate schools which are at half capacity.” Lewis said he will pare his cabinet back from 27 administrators to about 12, a move that should placate critics who contend that the central office is full of people who don’t have a real impact on student learning in the county.

The financially struggling DeKalb school system – the deficit is now at $88 million from state cuts and falling revenue — will name the four elementary schools that will close next week, choosing from among 29 schools with enrollments of less than 300 students.

According to the AJC story on DeKalb:

District officials are eyeing schools in south DeKalb now that Dunwoody has become the fastest-growing area of the county, Lewis said.

The Citizens Planning Task Force, a group of 20 residents appointed by school board members, will work with …

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CRCT investigation: Could Atlanta students erase more than the rest of the state?

At a school board meeting Thursday, 21 speakers defended APS  against suspicions raised by the CRCT investigation that grew out of a state audit of unusual erasures on 2009 answer sheets. The CRCT is a high-stakes state test that determines whether schools meet benchmarks, staff get bonuses and, in some cases, principals keep jobs.

APS takes the test very seriously, too seriously according to teachers who complain that they have to drop everything and double up on test prep when practice exams show students aren’t doing well.

I would like to believe that there was some unique trait that led to two-thirds of Atlanta elementary and middle schools being tagged by the state for erasures that exceeded the state average. But is that plausible?

Are Atlanta students that different than students in Gwinnett where there wasn’t a single school on the severe list? Are they that different than thousands of others in the state whose school systems have no flagged schools?

To me, that is …

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