Archive for May, 2010

Governor signs bullying and school board reform bills

With all the breaking news last week, I neglected to point out the governor signed two pieces of high-profile school legislation, an expansion of the bullying law and the business-backed school board reform bill. Here are statements on both bills:

First, a release from the Anti-Defamation League on the bullying bill:

Governor Sonny Perdue has signed into law an ADL-backed bill that provides Georgia schools with new tools for cracking down on bullying, including provisions that target the growing menace of cyber bullying.

S.B. 250 expands on previous state law, which covered just physical violence, to include “Any intentional written, verbal or physical act which a reasonable person would perceive as being intended to threaten, harass or intimidate.” The bill was sponsored by Republican State Representative Mike Jacobs, but also attracted broad-based bipartisan support.

“We applaud Rep. Jacobs, the legislature and Governor Perdue for taking steps to create a safer learning …

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Teachers, talent and tests: Do scores tell the story?

Here is an early look at a piece I am running on the Monday AJC education page: It is by UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky.

In his own words:

In the May 23 issue of The New York Times Magazine, Steven Brill examines “how Obama’s Race to the Top could revolutionize public education.” The central assumption behind this plan, says Brill, is that what matters most in education is “good teachers.” Says Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “It’s all about the talent.”

I couldn’t agree more. I like talent. I teach a lot of talented teacher candidates at the University of Georgia. But I don’t teach them how to prepare kids to take the sort of “achievement tests” that Duncan is imposing on the nation’s schools. Rather, I try to teach them to think about what, why, and how young people learn, and how they learn to learn.

I try to teach them how to plan instruction so that kids in high school English classes learn how to read and write critically; learn how to synthesize ideas across …

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“For the first time in 10 years, I cannot call myself a teacher.”

Cobb parents, students and teachers appealed to the board of education last night for a reconsideration of the many cuts to staff and programs. Here is the statement of David Platt, one of the Wheeler High science and magnet teachers whose termination has inspired students letters and protests. Platt, who has a University of Michigan master’s degree in science and engineering, aerospace engineering, taught Post AP Aerospace and Robotics. (He is also on of the creators of  a parody  Georgia High School Graduation Test that I posted in March.)

Platt can speak for himself as his statement indicates, but I still can’t believe that in view of all the rhetoric in this state about the need to bolster STEM – science, technology, engineering and math — education that any county, least of all Cobb, is shedding magnet science teachers. I can’t count how many times I have heard state leaders say the future belongs to the STEM graduates and that Georgia has to produce more science and …

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Plea to the governor: Don’t veto texting-while-driving bill

Dave Belton is an airline pilot who serves on the Morgan County school board. He worked very hard to assure passage of a bill banning texting while driving in the aftermath of the death of a college student from his area.

(Update Saturday morning: Belton is en route to South America for his pilot job, but has done four TV appearances in the last 48 hours to create public awareness that the texting bill is in jeopardy. His e-mail list is calling and e-mailing on behalf of the bill and the Facebook page for the legislation grew to over 1,200 people in just a few hours. Supporters are getting out in full force for this bill in the next five days as the governor is likely to act by Thursday. )

He won passage of the bill, but says now the governor may not sign it. Belton said he had a short meeting with Sonny Perdue today, but the governor remains skeptical of the ability to enforce this law, explaining “The issue is whether law enforcement would pull you over for glancing at your …

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The Teacher of the Year and the football player: Sounds like a Lifetime movie

This sounds like the plot of a Lifetime Channel movie: Teacher of the Year has sex with football player.

But it’s a real allegation in a Gwinnett County high school.

The AJC story is very interesting in that it has quotes from both parents, those of the teacher and of the student. The teacher’s father understandably defends his daughter and casts the student as a “knucklehead,”  but the story notes that the teacher admitted to the relationship, calling it consensual.

I still don’t get the teacher/student thing. When you read these stories, you assume that there is something unique about both the teacher and the student, that a teacher drawn to a student must be much more immature than the average adult and the student who is the subject of the teacher’s attentions must be much more mature that her/his peers.

But when these cases explode and you see the participants in court or interviews, they are just normal people who ended up in abnormal — and illegal — situations.

With all …

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Walton County: Slices 20 days of the year, adds 20 minutes to the day. Does it equal out in the end?

Walton County just adopted a 160-day calendar for next year, adding 20 minutes to each school day to make up the missing 20 days. The county blamed state cuts of $7  million for the drastic measure.

School will start August 16. There will be a three week winter break. School will end May 20.

A teacher from Walton told me, “Our teachers seem to be on board with the idea and there has been effort on the part of administrators for several months now to keep teachers in the loop so that there will be buy in on this. The BOE has been very committed to doing what they can to save taxpayer money and to save jobs without making the students suffer academically.”

The system will focus on bell to bell instruction and do away with many field trips, but I still think there will be a learning loss when you chop off 20 days.  Do you think adding the 2o minutes a day mitigates the shorter school year?

According to the county Web site:

The modification will reduce the number of days …

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Former Agnes Scott president Ruth Schmidt dies

This sad news just arrived: Former Agnes Scott President Ruth Schmidt died Monday at Piedmont Hospital.  I met her several times and found her to be a warm, witty woman with a great zeal for life and for her students. She led Agnes Scott for 12 years, retiring in 1994.

Former Agnes Scott president Ruth Schmidt died Monday.

Former Agnes Scott president Ruth Schmidt died Monday.

Here is the AJC story/obit on Dr. Schmidt.

And here is a statement from Georgia WAND of which Dr. Schmidt was a longtime member:

Ruth, the peacemaker, lived a life of activism: an educator, Agnes Scott college president,  board member or advisor to many organizations, and one of the most faithful members of Stand for Peace – the Friday noon peace vigil held for the past 7 years at the corner of 14th & Peachtree Streets in Midtown Atlanta. Ruth was a devoted and supportive member of the Georgia WAND community. Ruth was valiant, steadfast, brilliant, joyful, and a devoted friend to so many in our community.  We are stunned and deeply saddened by her …

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Shocker: Grand jury indicts Dekalb ex-Superintendent Crawford Lewis on six counts

Updated at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday

A DeKalb grand jury just indicted former Superintendent Crawford Lewis over irregularities in the state’s third-largest school system’s massive construction program. Indictments were also handed down on Pat Reid, who oversaw construction for the county until she fell from grace from alleged conflicts of interest and sweetheart deals to companies with which her then-husband had ties.

A DeKalb grand jury indicted former school Superintendent Crawford Lewis today

A DeKalb grand jury indicted former school Superintendent Crawford Lewis today on six counts

While Lewis did not have a strong vision for DeKalb’s changing school landscape, I did not expect a six-count indictment. A 33-year veteran of the DeKalb district, Lewis has yet to have his day in court, but I am  stunned to see him indicted for racketeering (RICO) charges, theft by a government employee and bribery.

After reading the indictments, it seems to me that Lewis is alleged to have risked his career and his reputation for fairly modest gains, including Masters …

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Show of hands: How many teachers have allowed students to dress as the Klan? Do robes meet dress code?

Maybe it’s time for a show of hands among teachers: Who has allowed students to dress as Klan members, Nazis (Sandra Bullock’s lunkhead husband excluded) or Salem witch burners?

Second question: Who cares?

With the fresh news that a Gwinnett teacher also allowed her students to dress in Klan costumes,  it may be time for an audit of how often historical reenactments are used in schools and whether there should be guidelines to student attire.

I suspect we are likely to hear of more students wearing Klan costumes for re-enactments in Georgia schools. I also fear that we will never see another class re-enactment of anything but “Goldilocks” after all this hoopla.

I still maintain that the costumes are appropriate if the lesson requires dramatizations of real-life events and if the point is to show the true nature of these hateful acts.

I still don’t get the outcry and the rushed conclusion that these teachers – one of whom is black — did something terribly wrong and that summits …

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Is support mounting for an independent candidate for school superintendent? Could an independent even win?

I posted yesterday that the business community was reportedly unhappy with the current field of declared and qualified school chief candidates in the wake of incumbent Kathy Cox’s decision to resign and pull out of the race. I reported that word is that the business leaders are  looking for an independent school chief candidate who they can support and push.

My colleague Jim Galloway has this item –  a snippet of an interview the governor had with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) — that suggests Sonny Perdue may also be willing to consider an independent. (It is too late for anyone to qualify to run as a Democrat or Republican.)

I think that Democrats will push a Roy Barnes/Joe Martin ticket, holding it out as a dream team for education reform. Not sure what the Republicans will do as I stated earlier; at least one GOP candidate is not a big fan of Race to the Top, and the governor is. I am not sure there is a united vision in the GOP camp on education reforms and where Georgia …

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