Archive for May, 2010

While we’re watching students dressing as Klansmen, the schools are being stripped of critical resources

I still don’t see the justification for anyone calling for the firing of the Lumpkin County history teacher who allowed her students to dress in Klan robes for a class dramatization of racism in America. I understand how the sight of the costumed and hooded students would upset a classmate, but once the project was explained, I would think that the concerns would be allayed.

The question here is intent. It seems clear that the teacher, who is well respected and liked, was trying to bring history to life for her students. (Several have posted on an earlier blog on this issue and defended their teacher and their class.) There are valid questions about whether she went too far in her effort to invigorate the history lesson.

Was it wrong to walk the kids through the school in their KKK attire? Yes, it was since other students had no warning and weren’t expecting to look up from their pizza in the cafeteria and see four Klansmen. But again, once the situation was explained, I am …

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State funding pays for 147 days of school. Districts are on their own for the remaining 33.

It is clear the state school Superintendent Kathy Cox is leaving her post in a few weeks.  (She announced last week that she is resigning to head a think tank in D.C. and is no longer seeing election to a third term running Georgia’s schools.) Her criticisms of state cuts to education are growing more forthright, including a statement this week that the Legislature only approved enough funding next year to cover 147 days of the mandated 180-day school year.

Outgoing schools Superintendent Kathy Cox says state is shortchanging school districts by 33 days.

Outgoing schools Superintendent Kathy Cox says state is shortchanging school districts by 33 days.

That means the local communities are paying the full freight for the 33 remaining days, which seems — at least to me — a failure by the state of Georgia to live up to its constitutional obligation to fund education. (Cox did the basic math of dividing the number of schools days by the allotted state funding, which has been dramatically and possibly fatally cut. And you folks don’t think the new math curriculum works. )

The …

Continue reading State funding pays for 147 days of school. Districts are on their own for the remaining 33. »

First in her class, but third at her new school after desegregation. Valedictorian loss still hurts.

So much education news erupted over the last few days that we didn’t get to discuss the interesting story about the top Milton High School graduate who was bumped from the valedictorian spot because he spent a year abroad.

The news story inspired a response from a DeKalb educator, who was also denied the valedictorian honor because of a “technicality.” In her case,  it was moving as a high school senior from a black high school to a white one in the wake of desegregation. Her No. 1 spot was never recognized at her new school.

Take a look at both:

According to the weekend news story about Milton High student Bhanu Kumar:

The top student at Milton High School, described by a school counselor as “the most academically proficient student that I have encountered during my 35 years as an educator, ” won’t get to be valedictorian of his class when it graduates tonight.

Bhanu Kumar, 17, has attended Fulton County schools since second grade. However, his parents pulled him out of …

Continue reading First in her class, but third at her new school after desegregation. Valedictorian loss still hurts. »

If the Klan robes are revealing our sordid history, what’s the problem with historical reenactment?

Updated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with comments from the Anti-Defamation League.

Updated at 1:29  p.m. Tuesday with news  on civil rights meeting today.

Without knowing the exact context of the school assignment, it is hard for me to get worked up over the four Lumpkin County students wearing Klan costumes. If the purpose of the class assignment was to show how cowardly, hateful and pathetic the Klan was, then I have no objections to the historic reenactment. I want students to see what guises hate has taken historically so they can recognize it today.

I would have asked the principal beforehand and likely sent a note home to parents, but all that may have happened in this case. It is not surprising that the sight of students in white robes would be startling, but I would want to see the finished product and whether it contributed to students learning about this dreadful part of American history.

According to the AJC:

A history teacher in Dahlonega was placed on administrative …

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Do we have to pay top dollar for school superintendents?

The AJC has a companion piece to its weekend story on how few systems are cutting their highest-level central office folks. The latest story talks about how well paid school superintendents are in  metro districts.

The real question is whether districts have to pay these high salaries to attract and keep good superintendents. They all claim they do, that this a market-driven decision. (The Regents say the same thing about the salaries they offer college presidents.)

According to the AJC:

At least four local superintendents earn more than the vice president of the United States and one earns nearly as much as the president.

As school districts face unprecedented budget cuts and collective layoffs of more than 1,500 teachers, superintendent compensation remains hefty, even with recent decreases.

The highest-paid superintendent in the metro area is Gwinnett’s Alvin Wilbanks, who earns $382,819, according to the Gwinnett school district. Wilbanks actually will make less than …

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Class size: After state board vote Monday, the sky’s the limit

(Updated by me at 10:30 Monday night with interviews with local systems, experts)

The state Board of Education voted Monday to lift all limits on class sizes over the next year in response to the deepening school budget crisis that has already forced thousands of teacher layoffs, the loss of music and arts programs and shorter school years in some Georgia districts.

Described as an emergency response to a worsening financial climate, The 9-2 vote means that Georgia school districts can raise class size by 5five, 10, 15 students — or as many students as they choose — without seeking a waiver from the board or the Department of Education.

The vote essentially guts the prevailing state rules that mandated 23 students or fewer in k-3 and 28 in grades 4-8.

“I want to understand — we are giving school boards the right to decide in any class, in any grade and in any subject matter the ability to have any class size they want?” asked state board member James E. Bostic Jr.

Yes, said …

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AJC review: Cuts spare highest ranks of central office school staffs

The AJC examined the oft-made charge that schools are not cutting many high-salaried central office while they slash and burn their way through the teacher ranks. Turns out it’s true.

The AJC analysis found that while metro school districts have laid off  “central office staff,” most of those cuts are lower-salaried jobs, not high-paid administrators. (Many of these folks function as cabinets to the superintendents, and I think few leaders ever want to get rid of their personal posses.)

In the story, central office staffs are defended as behind-the-scenes lifelines, who help and support schools. But are these folks in “adviser” and “expert” roles any real help to teachers and students? Or do a lot of people at the top only put more pressure on the bottom?

According to the AJC analysis: (This is only an excerpt. Please, read the whole piece.)

More than 1,000 public school administrators in metro Atlanta earn more than $100,000 a year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution …

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What are the CRCT scores looking like this year?

I have been getting a lot of calls on state CRCT scores — which have now been sent to the systems by the state Department of Education — asking why some systems have not yet told kids who must take retests because they failed.

One system that I’ve been getting calls about is APS, where teachers have said that they have not been told how their students did and which ones will need retesting and perhaps summer school. Not sure why a system would delay notification unless they have a lot of kids who need retesting and have to get accommodations in place before alerting them.

But I noticed someone posted on the blog this weekend about an Atlanta middle school seeing a drop in its scores, so perhaps APS now has released its scores at some schools. I talked to folks at elementary schools Friday who said they have not heard anything.

Speaking of APS, some folks are predicting principal changes, perhaps owing to the CRCT findings. (For those new to the issue, APS had a lot of schools …

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Which students suffer most from teacher layoffs? Anyone surprised it’s poor, minority students?

With cash-strapped systems across the country resorting to laying off teachers, there is increasing concern over which teachers are being let go and why. Now, the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington says seniority-based layoff policies disproportionately affect the programs and students in their poorer and more minority schools than in their wealthier, less minority counterparts.

The center looked at 15 largest districts in California and found that teachers at risk of layoffs are concentrated in schools with more poor and minority students. (You can read the entire brief “The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students” on the center’s Website.)

According to the center:

In these districts, if seniority-based layoffs are applied for teachers with up to two years’ experience, highest-poverty schools would lose some 30 percent more teachers than wealthier schools, and highest-minority schools would lose 60 …

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The state’s new math program: “Kids are failing left and right”

The AJC has a long story today about the slippage in math grades in the state, which the state Department of Education attributes to the higher standards. Some posters here attribute it to the state adopting an unproven and unworkable math curriculum.

Many of the critics here on the blog have researched this issue and raised compelling arguments about whether Georgia adopted successful math program ingredients from other states or threw a lot of ideas in a pot and produced a foul stew all of its own.

But the state appears determined to stay with the program. The most valid concern to me is whether there was adequate training of teachers before the state rolled out the new math, which introduces tougher concepts earlier and integrates math instruction across disciplines.

The real question is whether the new state school superintendent will agree. With the resignation of Kathy Cox, I have no idea who will be our next school superintendent. I do think how Georgia teaches math …

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