Archive for March, 2010

UGA frat suspended for rest of year for paddling

Posts about fraternity hazings require more monitoring that I am willing to provide as they tend to quickly turn ugly, but I feel compelled to acknowledge this news story about the UGA paddling incident we discussed earlier this month.

In brief,  activities at the University of Georgia’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity are suspended through next January as part of several hazing-related sanctions handed down from the Office of Judicial Programs. Here’s the story for those interested.

I don’t want to revisit this silly topic, but hitting pledges is stupid, irresponsible and a tradition that ought to go away.

If you disagree, please don’t tell us about it. After the prom entry I just posted, I am feeling that Georgia might be on the path to enlightenment and don’t want to be dragged back to reality this soon.

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A gay prom date won’t be last dance in Georgia county, but now there is trouble at home

I am delighted that Georgia will be spared the legal wrangling, the news show debates and the national hoopla occurring in Mississippi because a school system there canceled its senior prom rather than allow a female student to wear a tux and bring another girl as her date.

Update Wednesday: The Macon Telegraph is reporting that the publicity surrounding Bleckley County High School senior Derrick Martin has sparked support from across the country, but trouble at home. Because of the media attention to his school’s decision to allow Derrick to escort another boy to the prom, his parents have kicked him out of the house, according to the Macon paper.

The Itawamba County school board’s decision has landed the system in court, the student on “The Early Show” and the senior class in despair. Had the district just allowed the same-sex couple to attend, Itawamba would have peace and a prom.

According to the AJC:

An 18-year-old senior at Bleckley County High School has won approval to …

Continue reading A gay prom date won’t be last dance in Georgia county, but now there is trouble at home »

PSC head: Little return from teachers’ advanced degrees

I was impressed with the candor at the Professional Association of Georgia Educators session at the Capitol today, most notably from Kelly Henson, the former Floyd County superintendent who now heads the Professional Standards Commission. Henson told 100 teachers in a legislative hearing room this morning that the state is not getting a reasonable return on the bonuses it pays them for advanced degrees.

Given that many members of his audience held master’s degrees, Henson was remarkably straightforward. (You would be surprised how rare that is in the Legislature.) But before I get to Henson’s comments on paying by degrees, I have to share his comment on vouchers.

“Any politician in these times who mentions vouchers should not be allowed in the Capitol,” he said. “It is absurd to talk about public funds going to private schools now. Private schools serve a wonderful purpose, but that wonderful purpose should not be funded with public dollars.”

Now back to degrees, Henson said …

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At Tech, all hope is not lost when you lose HOPE

A grateful Tech graduate created a scholarship for students who lose HOPE

A grateful Tech graduate created a scholarship for students who lose HOPE

In reference to my blog entry on students losing HOPE, especially students in tough majors, someone sent me a note about the scholarship that Ken Faulkner established at his beloved Georgia Tech for students who lost HOPE.

I went to the Tech scholarship list and there it was:Mary and Kenneth Faulkner: Awards to undergraduate students who lost the HOPE scholarship due to their grade point average.

I found a short piece about Mr. Faulkner who graduated Tech in 1950 and died in 2005. When he bestowed the scholarship, he dubbed it a scholarship for HOPE-less students. In 2007, the initial year of the scholarship, eight students received it.

Mr. Faulkner probably knew how tough his alma mater was. So, he did a very kind thing for the students following behind him.

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Forty percent of women in science say they were discouraged from entering field

In a new survey, 40 percent of women in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — report that they were discouraged from their career choices, typically in college and often by their professors.

Here is the news release:

Significant numbers of today’s women and underrepresented minority chemists and chemical engineers (40 percent) say they were discouraged from pursuing a STEM career (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) at some point in their lives, according to a new Bayer Corporation survey.

U.S. colleges are cited by them as the leading place in the American education system where discouragement happens (60 percent) and college professors as the individuals most likely responsible for the discouragement (44 percent). The U.S. K-12 education system falls short, too.  On average, the survey respondents give it a “D” for the job it does to encourage minorities to study STEM subjects and a “D+” for girls.

The Bayer Facts of Science …

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Can schools stop obesity? Should they even try?

As an editorial writer, I met with representatives of national groups advocating dozens of good and worthy causes, from physical fitness to drug awareness to improved civics literacy.

In many cases, ground zero for the advocacy groups was the schoolhouse. Advocates felt that they needed to reach children to achieve the necessary changes/improvements.

But if all these well-meaning groups prevailed, we’d have two options: Reduce the class time for actual reading and math instruction or expand to a 12-hour school day.

I still wonder how much of what is ailing America can be addressed by schools. Is obesity one of those problems?

An AJC story today reports that the obesity epidemic is soaring among children, with 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls classified as extremely obese in a California study. (I noticed this a few weeks ago when I was looking at the Website of a Georgia nature center. The video showed schoolchildren taking a class on a beach, and I was struck by …

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It’s official: Merit pay is dead, but not buried

It’s official, sort of. Merit pay is dead.

As we discussed here last week, the governor’s merit bill was likely off the table this session after its sponsor told educators he was settling for a study committee.

But the pay for performance issue still looms as it is a key part of the state’s Race to the Top application and would be mandatory in the 23 participating school districts. Those districts, which represent 41 percent of the students in Georgia schools, would, in essence, pilot performance pay for the rest of the state.

Here is a new AJC story on the issue:

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s pay-for-performance teacher plan appeared headed for hiatus Monday. A Senate bill championing the plan still languished in committee as a deadline passed for bills to receive a vote to move on.

“I would say until the final gavel bangs [for the year], he still believes in it, will fight for it, believes it’s the right thing to do,” Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said. Of the study committee, …

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Breaking news: Connecticut high court says constitution guarantees college or job readiness

While a similar lawsuit in Georgia was not allowed to go forward, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a widely anticipated ruling today that could create deep changes in how states approach and fund public schools.

The Connecticut’s high court ruled that the state constitution guarantees students more than a public education; it guarantees them an education that can prepare them for employment or higher education, a considerably higher bar to both meet and fund.

According to the breaking news story in the Hartford Courant:

The case centered on what is meant by the Connecticut constitution’s guarantee to “free public elementary and secondary schools.”

A previous case, Horton v. Meskill, in 1977 established that Connecticut students have the right to a substantially equal education. The plaintiffs in this case argued that the state constitution also guarantees students the right to an adequate public education.

Their lawsuit argued that the state failed on both fronts, not …

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Health care passage will also bring overhaul of student loans

Reforms to college lending will be a byproduct of the expected successful passage of the  health reform bill this week now that the two issues have been combined in a single  monster bill.

(This matter of piggybacking one bill on another is strange to me, but happens at the state level, too.)

As an editorial writer, I have written about the fees imposed on student loans by private lenders, for whom college loans have long been a steady and lucrative income source.

But this long overdue bill would expand government direct lending to college students and cut out the middlemen, saving American taxpayers billions over time.

According to the AJC story:

Private lenders have conducted an all-out lobbying effort against the bill, arguing it would cost thousands of jobs and unnecessarily put the program in the hands of the government.

America’s Student Loan Providers, a trade group representing lenders, called for the Senate to reject the measure. “This is not the final chapter,” the …

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No HOPE for needy

Georgia’s HOPE scholarship has become the political equivalent of a poundcake recipe handed down from your dear, departed Grannie: You dare not change a single ingredient, and if you get caught trying to sneak a bite off somebody else’s plate, you better expect a hand slap.

Ask state Sen. Jack Hill. His hand is probably smarting right now after he introduced a bill that would tap HOPE to assist low-income college students.

Hill, a Reidsville Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, envisions small grants of $600 or $700 that he says could make the difference between a student staying in college or dropping out. The grants would be awarded only when there are sufficient revenues from the lottery to also fund standard HOPE scholarships and pre-k.

As a student, Hill admits, he wasn’t a top scholar and would have lost HOPE, which requires a B average in high school to qualify. To keep the scholarship in college, students have to maintain that B average.

Hill …

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