Archive for April, 2010

School daze: Cobb wants to cut 734 jobs. DeKalb and Fulton parents seek recalls of boards.

A year ago, none of us would have believed that Cobb County schools would cut 734 jobs.

But we are becoming desensitized to dire school new because there is so much of it.  Every day we read about local systems closing schools, cutting programs and trimming staff. And they are not making careful trims, but wholesale prunings. Georgia’s schools are financially strapped and desperate.

Consider what is on AJC. com right now: At a DeKalb board meeting Wednesday, parents threatened discrimination lawsuits, sit-ins and recalls of elected officials if the school board moves forward with closing schools that it says are crucial.

In Fulton, the school board plans to raise the millage rate and get rid of  beloved programs, including band and orchestra in the elementary grades. Now, school superintendent Cindy Loe said she will recommend an additional $28 million in cuts to shore up the district’s $120 million deficit.

The cuts in Fulton have so upset parents that there is a campaign …

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Grady, Druid Hills and Douglass high schools: Ignore these idiots.

Westboro Baptist Church children Gabriel Phelps-Roper, 10, and his sister Grace Phelps-Roper, 13, both of Topeka, Kan., protest at the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder in Westminster, Md. The young soldier died in a Humvee accident in Iraq four years ago. (AP Photo/Carroll County Times, Dylan Slagle)

Westboro Baptist Church children Gabriel Phelps-Roper, 10, and his sister Grace Phelps-Roper, 13, both of Topeka, Kan., protest at the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder in Westminster, Md. The young soldier died in a Humvee accident in Iraq four years ago. (AP Photo/Carroll County Times, Dylan Slagle)

Please. If I were Druid Hills, Grady and Douglass high students, I would not give these pathetic wretches a second of my time. Anyone who shows up at the funerals of slain U.S. soldiers and holds up signs celebrating their deaths is beyond contempt. We should step over them like vomit on the street.

According to the AJC:

Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, whose membership consists mostly of family members of its pastor, Fred Phelps, has planned nine protests around the metro Atlanta area on May 5-6. The small Kansas group, known for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers and its antipathy toward homosexuals,  will protest at Grady, Druid Hills and Douglass high …

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Governor’s bill on merit pay framework clears second hurdle. Now moves to full House

Update: Senate Bill 521 – which now contains an amendment to create student performance-based evaluations of teachers — just passed out of the House Rules Committee seconds ago despite some efforts to stop it and now moves to the full House for debate Tuesday.

The game is afoot.

The Legislature intends to be in  session on Tuesday for Day 39, and they plan to conclude the 40-day session on Thursday. That means the heated debate on SB 521 – ostensibly a bill on dual enrollment funding but now a vehicle for imposing teacher evaluations that consider student progress and meet the federal call  for performance-driven pay — will occur in the last hectic hours of the session.

I have been trading e-mails with the governor’s spokesman Bert Brantley. He described what the governor’s amendment– presented to the House Education Committee yesterday by the governor’s policy director and former teacher Erin Hames –  does in this way:

As Erin explained yesterday, when the merit pay bill …

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2 limit txtN, jst taK awy ph. (English translation: To limit texting, just take away phone)

In the last few weeks, I have talked to several parents about how much time their kids spend texting. Now, a new study says kids text one another more than they talk to one another.  And the phones are creating problems with schools.

According to the Pew Research Center and the University of Michigan, half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day; one in three send more than 100 messages a day; and 15 percent send more than 200 text messages daily, or more than 6,000 texts a month.

I am not sure why parents are bemoaning this situation. There seems to be an easy fix.

Take away the phones. I feel like too many of us have bought into the idea that kids — even elementary age children — must have cell phones for safety. If you give a child a phone that can do all sorts of cool things, including texts, photos and game, kids will use the phones to do all those things. And they will do them in school.

I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but just take the phones away if kids …

Continue reading 2 limit txtN, jst taK awy ph. (English translation: To limit texting, just take away phone) »

The Phoebe Prince case: Punishable crimes in the adult world?

My column for the AJC education page this week was about the Phoebe Prince bullying case. (I did not post it here as we had discussed the issues already.) But among my statements in the column:

As sympathetic as I am to Phoebe’s family in their quest for justice, it’s hard to know what was really happening in the young girl’s life. It’s often difficult to assess what family dynamics and personal issues play a role in a suicide.

Was Phoebe’s depression due solely to her cruel treatment at school or were other issues involved, such as the family’s recent move to the United States from Ireland? Was Phoebe homesick for Ireland and her friends?

None of these conditions would excuse the bullying, but they would help us understand what also might have been going on in Phoebe’s life.

I debated this issue with several readers last week, almost all of whom disagree with me. Among them is John E. Morris, a social sciences doctoral student.

“A student who is abused by his fellow students …

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In a deft move, governor resurrects merit pay framework at 11th hour

The governor successfully and deftly attached a merit pay framework to another bill passed Tuesday by a House Education subcommittee and then the full  committee, surprising and disappointing representatives of the state’s two largest teacher organizations, both of whom said they were unaware that the amendment was coming and that teachers will be angered over the political maneuvering. Now, the bill goes to the full House next week for what promises to be a spirited debate.

Representatives of the Georgia Association of Educators and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators expressed dismay that the House Education Committee would act on such a complex topic on the 37th day of the 40-day General Assembly session and without teacher input.

But as House Education vice-chair Fran Millar noted, the state had another deadline that forced the rapid action — Georgia’s reapplication for a federal Race to the Top grant in which performance pay is a key component to land the …

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Retired military leaders: School lunches threaten national security

When I spotted a headline asking whether school lunches had become a national security risk, I assumed the story was about a possible threat to children from someone poisoning the lunches.

Nope, the story was about risks to kids from eating the standard cafeteria fare. A group of retired military leaders contend that the offerings on the school trays are making kids too fat to grow up and serve their country.

According to the AP:

A group of retired military officers says high-calorie school lunches are threatening national security.

A study by the group Mission: Readiness finds that school lunches are making American kids so fat that fewer of them can meet the military’s physical fitness standards. That, in turn, is putting recruitment in jeopardy.

A report from the group, being released today, says that 27 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military.

One of the officers, retired Navy Rear Admiral James Barnett Jr., says many young …

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Craigslist ad: Wanted teachers to administer CRCT. Must be able to lift heavy boxes and post “Do not disturb” sign.

In the wake of the state demands for greater security and integrity this month in the administration of the CRCT, it was odd to see this listing on Craigslist Atlanta by the Georgia Cyber Academy, a taxpayer supported virtual charter school that works with children who are learning at home. (Thanks for the clarification, Josie.)

On Monday afternoon, I called DOE about the ad, but the state education agency was unaware of it. After looking into it, the spokesman told me Monday evening, “I checked around and this is news to us. We will take care of it quickly. Posting this kind of thing on Craigslist is certainly not something we condone.”

Here is the ad, which disappeared Tuesday so I assume DOE did take care of it quickly as promised:

We are currently looking for teachers throughout Georgia to assist with CRCT testing in the following counties: Bibb, Bryan, Clarke, Columbia, Floyd, Franklin, Laurens, Newton, Pike, Putnam, Richmond, and Wayne.

Role & Responsibilities:
• …

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Since states including Georgia won’t ban paddling, the feds might do it

Corporal punishment in schools is on the front burner in many places this month, including Congress where U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce legislation to ban the use of physical discipline in public schools.

At a recent hearing on the issue by her Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee, McCarthy said:

The federal government has outlawed physical punishment in prisons, jails and medical facilities.   Yet our children sitting in a classroom are targets for hitting. We know safe, effective, evidence-based strategies are available to support children who display  challenging behaviors in school settings.

Hitting children in school does not help them achieve academic success. Hitting children in school is not an effective discipline tactic. Hitting children in school does not make them feel safe in school. Instead, they feel humiliated, helpless, depressed, and angry. Hitting children teaches them that it is a legitimate way to handle conflict.

We are …

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Parents understand what a “C” means. Do they understand a “2″ or “3″ on a report card?

Teach1 asked that we discuss standard-based report cards. So, I asked her to write an entry to get us started as this topic is new to me. My system does some of the things that Teach1 describes.

I am not sure how many parents look too long or hard at the 1-4 measures now being used in standards assessments, probably because the nomenclature is unfamiliar to them and is not as easily digested as traditional grading.

Parents understand a “C.” I am not sure they can deconstruct a “2″ or “3″ as quickly, based on the descriptions that accompany the standard assessments.

I have not found the increase in grade reports coming home to be all that helpful.

What I always value most on grading reports are the personal notes that the teacher writes. But I realize the depth and breadth of those notes depends on the teacher. My son’s teacher writes five to seven lines that are very personal to his situation. My daughter’s teacher last year used a single-line generic summation along the lines …

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