Archive for April, 2010

How about this pledge: We will not destroy public education

If you want theater of the absurd, tune into these final hours of the General Assembly. With the exception of the ban on the texting-while-driving bill that passed the House this morning, the rest of the day has been a lot of posturing and establishment of political cred, most notably the bill mandating that Georgia students study the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States and the Georgia flag.

Can someone give the legislators the address of the real world? And directions to it?

With all the problems facing this state in education, why they are wasting time on a bill designed to give them bragging rights that they are more patriotic than the next guy?

Has anyone mentioned to them that we are raising class size, laying off teachers and heading over the proverbial cliff? Yet, they are tacking on new, nebulous mandates?

The bill, SB 518, adds the requirement onto an existing mandate that students study federal and state governments and history. This bill already …

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Governor: We sought teacher input, but a strong RTTT application is more important than widespread buy-in

I will follow the second-to-the-last day of the Legislature today when Senate Bill 521 is expected to come up for a vote. I have been told that lawmakers have received hundreds of e-mails in opposition to the concept of using student progress to measure teacher effectiveness, but I also know that the governor believes this bill is important to deliver a message to Washington and the Race to the Top evaluators that Georgia is serious about school reform. (Here is a good AJC story on today’s crucial vote.)

The governor’s spokesman sent me these links this morning to give context to why a performance-driven evaluation of teachers is vital and why a diluted compromise that placates teachers is not in Georgia’s best interest.

According to the e-mail that Bert Brantley, spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, shared with me:

I would hope that the EdWeek item below would once and for all answer the question of whether it is better to weaken your Race to the Top application in order to get …

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An inner city school sends all of its graduates to college. How?

Many of you have been sending me stories about the incredible success of Urban Prep Academies in Chicago. (The Web site is worth a visit.) The charter high school is sending all 107 of its first class of graduating seniors to four-year colleges.

urbanprepgoodIn reading about the school, the same theme emerges: Students aim for college because that’s the expectation and culture of the school.

Many people argue that it’s Pollyanna-ish to maintain that expectations can overcome the grim realities of these inner city teens’ lives and the deficiencies of their early education. Clearly, it is not simply the expectation that these students will go to the college that matters, but the day-to-day effort by teachers and administrators to make it happen.

Here is an excerpt from a good story in the Christian Science Monitor about Urban Prep:

The school of about 450 students is in a neighborhood where violence is pervasive, and many students have to cross gang territory every day. It’s thus crucial …

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Do lawmakers have any idea what today’s classroom requires? Do they care?

I wrote my education column for the AJC Opinion page Monday on the issue of merit pay. I heard from many teachers, including this ESOL teacher. I am sharing this response as the teacher makes excellent points.

As a 22 year veteran teacher in Georgia public schools, I am compelled to let you know what I’m thinking of the merit pay proposals — probably because my legislators don’t seem to give a flying flip about what I think.

I am annoyed, first of all, that legislators take it upon themselves to rewrite the compensatory rules for my profession when so many haven’t set foot in a public high school classroom in decades.  I think your comparison of my profession to that of the cardiologist is fitting as it is true that I only see some students for an hour or less a day.  My students are English language learners and I wonder how many legislators know what kind of skills are required to teach this population.  Many can not read or write in their home language, and have no …

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Should public school events ever be held in churches?

I attended a Catholic school so I never thought twice about school functions in churches. But I have been surprised as a public school parent how many ceremonies occur in local churches. My high school holds its baccalaureate program in a church, although the event is

Should public school functions be held in churches?

Should public school functions be held in churches? (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

non-denominational. But there is still the very real sense that the ceremony is religious with the stained glass windows, the pews and the altar.

As a poster noted, there are also new Georgia charter schools — public schools that operate independently under a performance contract — opening on church grounds in several places.

Here is a good USA Today story exploring this practice and the controversy around it in other parts of the country:

By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

The latest school battle over the separation of church and state may not feature prayers at football games, after-school Bible clubs or even a moment of silence.

Actually, …

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UGA researcher: What is wrong with status quo in teacher pay?

I devoted the entire Monday education page that I put together for the AJC Opinon section to merit pay. Here is a guest column by a UGA researcher that runs Monday in the print edition, Enjoy

By Eric A. Houck

The governor’s proposal on teacher compensation is back on the table for consideration as an amendment to Senate Bill 521. The proposal would alter teacher evaluation policies without any direct implications for compensation. Nevertheless, this proposal has rightly generated a great deal of discussion.

Editorials, blog posts and columns have all discussed the merits and flaws of moving teacher compensation to a plan that is based on classroom observation, parental feedback, and student learning as measured by growth on standardized assessments.

While many may be happy to see the proposal fail — as a recent merit pay plan did in Florida — few have asked questions about the current manner in which teachers are compensated. What is the state’s motivation to move …

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Wow! Triplets are Lakeside High School’s valedictorian and salutatorians

From top: Stephanie, Allison and Lauren Boden.

From top: Stephanie, Allison and Lauren Boden.

As a mother of twins, I have a new role model in the world of multiples — the Boden family of DeKalb County. Their triplet daughters just achieved something that has to be a first in Georgia. At an award ceremony last night at Lakeside High School, sisters Stephanie Boden and Allison Boden were named salutatorians of the class of 2010 and their sister Lauren Boden was declared valedictorian.

That is incredible.  Congratulations to the triplets and their parents for not only their remarkable academic records, but also for their many athletic feats as well.

According to Lakeside assistant principal Jason Clyne, “Not only did these ladies receive these awards, but they were almost not able to attend the awards ceremony because they were busy winning the county golf tournament yesterday afternoon.”

The Boden triplets are noted athletes in DeKalb, also playing softball. They are the oldest of five children of Mary and Scott Boden, an …

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Fulton’s new high school: Should we be building palaces in this climate?

I have to agree with this reader about the detailed plans for the new Bethany Road High School in Milton. It does look grand.  (The plans can be viewed in this Google.doc).

Does this new Fulton County school – or any school — need to be this elaborate when we are cutting teachers and raising class sizes? I have often argued that I would accept a broom closet for my kids’ classroom if a great teacher was leading the class.  I think the critical issue is top personnel more than top facilities.  That is where I would put my money.

Here is what the reader said:

With all the furloughs, layoffs, budget cuts, shortage of books to take home, elimination of after school programs, art, music, and PE classes, somehow the school boards find the money to build monuments such as the new Bethany Road High School to be built in Milton.  The plans give you a perspective of the scope of the structure.

While it is important to provide enough classrooms and other facilities, and to …

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Now at Yale, she credits Governor’s Honors Program with expanding her mind and world. It’s about to go away.

A longstanding summer enrichment program for high achieving Georgia high school students loses funding next year year under a Senate vote. As you might imagine, the suspension of the popular Governor’s Honors Program is sparking many complaints, but none as elegant as this one from Yale student Annie Wang.

The Governor's Honors Program offers talented high school seniors a fully funded summer of enrichment education at a college campus. Funding is about to be halted.

The Governor's Honors Program offers talented high school students a fully funded summer of enrichment education at a college campus. (This is an art student in the 2006 GHP class.) Funding is about to be halted.

By the way, if you wonder what work ethic it takes to get into Yale;  Annie wrote this e-mail at 1 a.m. I read it this morning at 7:30 and sent her a note that I would like to use it. Within 30 minutes, I had a revised copy from her. There is a lot of posturing on this blog about the inherent failings of “government schools.”  But there are many schools producing brilliant students. Annie is one example.

I graduated from Walton High School in Cobb County last …

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Is Gwinnett using non-renewals to thin the ranks? Why is Fulton keeping grad coaches?

Some questions and e-mails I have been getting on school cuts that I thought I would put out there for comment: Feel free to e-mail me others.

1. Why isn’t Fulton cutting graduation coaches? A Fulton employee called me to ask why school counselors and psychologists are on the chopping block and not graduation coaches? (She had her suspicions why — a personal connection — but I suspect there are other reasons.)

2. This comment came to me from the husband of a Gwinnett teacher. (This issue has been raised by many people.  I have called Gwinnett last month as I have been hearing a lot of this. See comment below.)

I  urge your paper to do some investigation of Gwinnett County’s layoff practices.  My wife’s contract was not renewed for performance reasons.  She has not had even one negative mark on her employment record.  Her principal could not give her any specific reasons for the non-renewal.  My wife is a third year, highly qualified teacher.

This incident alone is not …

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