Archive for March, 2010

Defense attorney: Dirty dancing occurs all the time at high school

Representing a DeKalb chorus teacher who allegedly allowed male students to strip in front of their classmates and engage in sexual dance moves, the defense attorney offered a startling rationale: “That is customary and usual activity at Southwest DeKalb. This is what the kids do daily, weekly, monthly at Southwest DeKalb.”

chippendales (Medium)

Former DeKalb chorus teacher Nathan Grigsby is on trial today for allowing the students to perform a “Chippendales style” revue in class.

Former chorus teacher Nathan Grigsby is on trial today for allowing the students to perform a “Chippendales style” revue in class.

The students removed their shirts and pants and performed lap dances and pulled female students by the ankles and then simulated sex acts, according to DeKalb Solicitor Robert James.

Grigsby is charged with five counts of contributing to the deprivation of a minor. Each count is punishable with up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

I’ll be curious to hear when, where and how such …

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Gov. Perdue: Georgia will reapply for Race to the Top and win next time

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue says Georgia will reapply for a federal Race to the Top Grant in the next round in June.

In a statement, Perdue said:

We were hoping to be among the Final Four in the Race to the Top competition, but unfortunately this time only two winners were chosen. I spoke with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this morning and he complimented Georgia on our strong application and commitment to education reform. I promised him Georgia will reapply in June and we will be tough to beat in the second round of awards that will be announced this fall. The Department will provide us valuable feedback on our application, and I am confident that we are a top seed heading into round two. I want to especially thank the 23 systems that have joined with Georgia for this competition, and we look forward to celebrating with them later this year.

State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox issued her own statement:

It is unfortunate that Georgia was not named a …

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Only two winners for Race to the Top, and we’re not one of them. But wait. We were third. Round 2, here we come.

Ok, we didn’t win, but apparently we were in third place, which, as the governor’s office just told me in an e-mail,  “…puts us in great position to win in Round 2.”

Only Delaware and Tennessee won Race to the Top grants, meaning that not only Georgia was shut out, but the presumed favorite, Florida.

This is a blow to the governor and school Superintendent Kathy Cox, both of whom were confident that Georgia had the goods to nab one of the lucrative grants. But the governor’s spokesman says we are in a great position to win in the next round when the remaining $3 billion is doled out to states.

I wonder if size mattered in that smaller states and enrollments seemed easier to manage. Delaware only has 127,000 students in 204 schools, including 30 high schools, six vo-tech schools, 39 middle schools, 96 elementary schools, 14 kindergarten and early childhood facilities and 16 special schools.

I am surprised at the choices as neither Tennessee or Delaware has been held up as a …

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Are teachers under too much pressure from “war rooms” and constant scrutiny?

Many teachers have commented on the increased push in their schools to raise test scores, saying that unrelenting and often unreasonable expectations were causing them to reconsider the profession.

AJC reporter Heather Vogell talked to teachers about the pressure, including “war rooms” where student scores are posted as a constant prod to teachers. (I would like to personally thank the teachers from this blog who talked to Heather for her story.)

According to the story:

In a room in Atlanta’s East Lake Elementary, students’ testing stats are on display like baseball players’ batting averages. The “data room, ” or “war room, ” lays out district goals for the school. Staff can see at a glance how many students can fail state tests — and how many must score in the top tier — to make the numbers. Other Atlanta schools use variations of the setup.

The displays are a product of the data-driven approach pushed by Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall. But for teachers such as Julie …

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In Race to the Top horserace, national school choice group deems Georgia a long shot

On the eve of the US DOE announcement of which 16 finalists win Race to the Top grants, a national education organization deems Georgia a long shot.

Playing off a racing form and using racing parlance, the Center for Education Reform gives Georgia 10 to 1 odds of winning one of the coveted federal grants. Keep in mind that the center promotes education choice and vouchers,  so it sees education issues through that lens and likely sees Georgia falling short in those areas.

CER’s Racing Form handicaps the 15 states and the District of Columbia in the final round, giving its nod to four with strong charter school law and a commitment to alternative teacher certification.

“If the federal government wants to bet money on states that will likely use extra funding to spur innovation and implement reforms that help kids learn — only four of the 16 should be at the head of the pack,” said Jeanne Allen, Center for Education Reform president.

So who does the center see in the …

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Need-based HOPE legislation flies through Senate

The state Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 496, which adds a need-based component to the HOPE Scholarship. The bill was approved in a 45 to 4 vote.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration. I have to admit passage surprised me as the concept seems to have little public support. I also thought the Senate would figure there were too many major issues this year to tackle something as controversial as awarding HOPE Scholarships, albeit smaller ones of $600 or $700, based on need rather than academic achievement. Even UGA President Michael Adams said that he didn’t endorse the idea because he felt it would reduce overall support for the HOPE program.

Here is the release from  the Georgia state Senate:

SB 496, The HOPE College Opportunity Grant, passed the Senate today with an overwhelming majority. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), the bill’s author, went to bat for need based students throughout Georgia by proposing the grant which will be based solely on …

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DeKalb nixes tax increase. Will cut staff, schools.

From the AJC breaking news desk:

The DeKalb County school board will vote on a budget with at least 427 layoffs, seven teacher furlough days and at least four school closings.

On Friday morning, the board’s four-member budget committee adopted a tentative budget with $115.8 million in cuts and no tax hike.

Board members H. Paul Womack, Don McChesney and Jay Cunningham voted in support of the budget. Board member Eugene Walker voted against the proposal, saying he wants to raise taxes.

The budget includes laying off 200 paraprofessionals, 150 central office employees, 59 media clerks and 18 technical specialists.

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Monday is the day: Race to the Top grants announced at 1 p.m.

I received this update today from Erin Hames of the Governor’s Office:

I also wanted to let you know that we found out yesterday afternoon after you and I talked on the phone that the Race to the Top phase one winners will be announced on Monday, March 29 at 1:00.

Check back Monday on this as I will post the second we get the news.

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Cobb: Deficit worse than expected. Larger classes. Fewer teachers.

More news today on cuts to schools, with Cobb predicting  a worse deficit than originally expected.

According to the AJC story this morning, Cobb schools chief Fred Sanderson told the seven-member board that the system’s budget shortfall will likely be $137.7 million next year because of declining revenues. A week ago the working shortfall figure was about $100 million.

What I think is interesting – and bound to be a point of contention — is Cobb school board member David Morgan’s comment that if teachers have to lose their jobs, he doesn’t want the decision based on seniority. “My big concern would be human capital and making sure we keep the best and the brightest,” Morgan said. “If we are raising class size we have to make sure we have the best and the brightest in front of those pupils.”

Here are some details from the Cobb story:

Sanderson said has recommended cuts to reduce that shortfall, including six furlough days for all school district staff, which he …

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Savannah fires entire staff of failing high school. By the numbers, this school is in trouble.

Now, it is a high school in the Savannah-Chatham County district preparing to fire its entire staff after the school failed to move its dismal graduation rate.  Beach High School meets the definition of a failing school because it has been classified as needing improvement for the past seven years by the state.

According to the story in the AJC:

The 200 employees at Beach High School — including the principal — will work there through the end of the year but will not be rehired for that school, said Karla Redditte, spokeswoman for the Savannah-Chatham County school district.

The teachers can reapply for their jobs but only half can be rehired under federal education law, she said. Staff can also apply for other jobs in the school district.

“It is a sad day for us,” Redditte said by phone as she stood outside the 950-student school in south Georgia.

Experts estimate the mass-firing tactic is used to turn around 20 to 30 schools in the U.S. annually.

If a failing school in …

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