Archive for April, 2010

Triple crown: Parents of high achieving Lakeside triplets share secret: High expectations and lots of support

As the mother of triplets born at 32 weeks, Mary Boden uttered the first sigh of relief when her daughters, weighing 4 pounds, 3 1/2 pounds and 2 1/4 pounds, sat up and walked on schedule.

The DeKalb mom gave her second sigh of relief when the trio started first grade and kept pace with their classmates. But Stephanie, Lauren and Allison didn’t keep that pace for long.The girls have sped past most of their peers — on the sports field and in the classroom.

Accomplished athletes in baseball, softball and golf, the 17-year-old Boden triplets have now won another distinction. They are the highest-ranked academic graduates this year at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County.

Lauren — the first girl to ever make the Lakeside High baseball team — is valedictorian; Stephanie and Allison — who have led their school golf team to several titles — tied for salutatorian. Had it not been for a grueling Advanced Placement calculus that gave Stephanie and Allison their only B’s, the three …

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Saved by the bell: End of Legislature ends merit pay push for this year.

The governor’s attempt to begin reforming how Georgia teachers are evaluated as a means of ultimately changing how they are paid never came to a vote Thursday in the final session of the General Assembly. (I watched the session until 11:45 p.m. and then went to sleep, figuring there was no way lawmakers would tackle that issue in 15 minutes.

But my colleague Kristina Torres made it to the midnight hour and filed this report:

By taking no action, lawmakers rebuff Perdue on his biggest education initiative this year. Their lack of action also came despite attempts by Perdue and supporters to soften the bill’s language as a concession to critics.

A try Thursday evening by the bill’s original sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody), to find another bill in which to add the same language was unsuccessful, denying new life in the waning hours of this year’s legislative session.

In the House, Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), chairman of the House Education Committee, said …

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Legislature ends: Guns in school parking lots. More tolerance. Less texting.

It’s 11 p.m. and no action yet in the Legislature on Senate Bill 521, which creates a framework for merit pay and advances Georgia’s application for a federal Race to the Top grant.

There is only one hour left of the 2010 session, and I can’t imagine that legislators will get to this  piece of legislation, which has become the hot potato of the session. In the last update, the AJC is reporting that a senator was in search of a bill to attach the governor’s language.

The General Assembly did pass state Sen. Emanuel Jones’ bill on  zero tolerance that we’ve discussed here several times.

“This legislation gives kids in Georgia a voice.  They will now have due process against a policy that makes no distinction between well-behaved students who make youthful mistakes and those whose misconduct warrants harsher punishment,” said Jones.  “It’s time we start applying some common-sense when disciplining our children, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Senate Bill 299 …

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Word is: Governor’s Honor Program funding restored, but program drops to four weeks

The Department of Education says that funding for the Governor’s Honors Program, the prestigious summer enrichment program offered to the state’s top high school students, has been restored for 2011, but at the reduced rate originally sought by the governor. That means the traditional six week program at Valdosta State University pares back to four weeks next year.

But at least it will happen in 2011. The Senate had stripped the 2011 funding, setting off a firestorm of protest from ex GHP attendees who testified to the program’s life-changing powers. A Facebook page to save the program has more than 3,000 members.

DOE’s Matt Cardoza said that the funding was restored in the budget that came out of conference committee, but he can’t say for sure that nothing will change in these last six hours of the General Assembly. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “I certainly hope it stays as it is because we don’t want to see this program cut.”

Cardoza was uncertain what would …

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Look ma — No cheating! Dougherty review finds no evidence of tampering. What does state do now?

A consultant hired by the Dougherty County School System criticized the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s erasure analysis on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which had raised questions about many classrooms in the southwest Georgia county.

In what I suspect will be the findings of most systems asked by the state to review their CRCT  practices, Dougherty’s consultant James Wilson maintains that the higher number of erasures from wrong to right reflects the test-taking strategies taught to students.

I do agree with Wilson’s comment that an easy fix to this issue would be online testing.

I am not sure how the state will react to these clean of bills of health that counties are giving themselves.  I do think that the position of Dougherty — and likely other systems — still falls short of addressing a critical point. Why would students in Dougherty have such different test-taking approaches than their peers around the state?

In other words, are these …

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Survey: Drugs and lack of respect for teachers pose greater school problems than bullying

In light of all the attention to bullying after the suicide of Massachusetts high school freshman Phoebe Prince, a new survey found nearly three-quarters of Americans consider bullying and harassment a serious problem in their local public schools. Respondents, however, said illegal drugs and lack of respect for teachers were a greater problem, according to the survey by Public Agenda.

According to the study:

More than one-third of Americans (35 percent), including 39 percent of parents, say they were bullied themselves when growing up. But only 8 percent of the public and 10 percent of parents say they were bullied “a lot.” These findings are based on a Public Agenda survey of 1,001 people, including 262 parents of children under 18, conducted from April 8 – 11, 2010

Public Agenda found that 74 percent of those surveyed say bullying and harassment are serious problems in their local schools, with 47 percent calling these actions “very serious” problems. Roughly …

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Non-renewals and budget cuts: If you’re willing to talk, we’re ready to listen

In response to the many comments of teachers, the AJC education team is going to look at two issues in the next few weeks:  How budget cuts will affect the classroom and whether non-renewals are on the rise as systems look to cut costs.

So, the reporters are looking for teachers and other school employees willing to discuss the implications of metro Atlanta school budget cuts and teacher contract non-renewals. They’d also like to talk to recently retired school personnel. Please contact education assignment editor Angela Tuck at atuck@ajc.com.

As is always the case, the AJC prefers folks who will go on record with their experiences and comments. However, I am sure that Angela would like to hear from a range of folks, so please consider contacting her even to provide background.

By the way, Angela is now directing education coverage so feel free to send her suggestions. I have talked to her about the strong concerns of Get Schooled bloggers about the new math curriculum, so …

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House Education vice chair: Votes not there for merit pay framework bill

I just spoke to the vice chairman of the House Education Committee about the chances that the merit pay framework bill — my name for Senate Bill 521, not the governor’s — will pass on the final day of the Legislature tomorrow.

“The votes aren’t there to pass it,” said state Rep. Fran Millar, speaking on the phone from New York. “It is not going to pass this year.”

To update you on this fast-moving story: Gov. Sonny Perdue could not get a pure merit bill through the Legislature, but wanted to show the federal government that Georgia was at least warming to a system that used student performance/scores to assess and pay teachers.

The White House wants states to adopt performance-based pay, believing that it spurs higher student achievement, and has made merit pay a consideration to win a Race to the Top education reform grant.  Georgia did not win the $400 million grant it sought in the first round of Race to the Top, coming in third after the two winning states of Delaware and …

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Violent video games: Should minors be able to buy them?

When video games first burst onto the kid scene, I interviewed a doctor who told me that he thought the games would be good for young children because they would improve their hand-eye coordination.

Does anybody still believe that video games help children?

I wonder whether video gaming has contributed to the lack of sustained focus in students that teachers often cite. I would be curious if long-time teachers see any difference in the generation of children — now in high school and beyond — raised on a daily diet of video games.

I am not a big fan of electronic gaming, although my boys play them. My older teen plays rarely now, but my younger one loves the soccer video games.  I limit him to soccer and Zelda games because he is only 11. But he is well aware that Halo is out there.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors is legal. I am not sure why violent videos are treated differently than explicit …

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Teacher performance bill hits a bump and goes back to Rules. Will it return at the 11th hour?

House Education Committee chair Brooks Coleman just asked that Senate Bill 521 be returned to the Rules Committee, which seems to take the controversial measure to judge teachers on their students’ performance off the agenda for the time being. The House agreed to Coleman’s request.

Does the bill — which is actually dual enrollment legislation with the performance language added last week — go back to Rules and come out again in the last hours of the session?

Or does it disappear into the mist? Is this a time delay to garner support? Or a concession that there is no support?

”Sending the legislation back to Rules Committee might be a sign that there is insufficient support to bring it to the floor. We know that educators across the state have been communicating with their representatives – who, unlike the governor, have to face the voters this November,” said Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

“I’d like to believe that, but it may only be a …

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