Archive for May, 2010

Immigrants on campus: Candidate proposes “Citizenship Verification for Higher Education Act”

As the ferocity of the responses here on the blog illustrate, many people believe illegal immigrants are overrunning Georgia’s colleges and universities and stealing seats and resources from legal citizens of the state. I think the greater problem is that Georgia still doesn’t have enough people graduating high school, enrolling in its colleges and universities and finishing them, but that isn’t as easily distilled to a political slogan.

So, now we have a bill from Georgia gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson. Here is Johnson’s answer to what apparently everybody but me thinks is a huge problem, owing to the recent revelations that a young woman from Mexico who has lived here since she was 10 attends Kennesaw State:

Sen. Eric Johnson, Republican candidate for governor, today unveiled draft legislation that would ensure only legal residents are admitted to Georgia’s institutions of higher learning.

“Citizenship verification isn’t complicated or expensive, and by changing …

Continue reading Immigrants on campus: Candidate proposes “Citizenship Verification for Higher Education Act” »

Porn versus privacy: Teen sexting is becoming a legal minefield for schools

A Pennsylvania teen whose cell phone — taken from her by her principal at school — contained nude images she had taken of herself is now suing the district, saying that the principal’s viewing of the personal photos and decision to give her phone to police and the district attorney violated her rights.

“I was absolutely horrified and humiliated to learn that school officials, men in (the) DA’s office, and police had seen naked pictures of me. Those pictures were extremely private and not meant for anyone else’s eyes. What they did is the equivalent of spying on me through my bedroom window.” she said, in a statement released by the ACLU, which is representing her.

When the principal of Tunkhannock Area High School in Pennsylvania took the teen’s phone in 2009 and discovered the images, he turned the phone over to the district attorney, who threatened to file  child pornography charges against the girl unless she took a class on sexual violence. The girl had sent the images to …

Continue reading Porn versus privacy: Teen sexting is becoming a legal minefield for schools »

New NAEP reading scores released for Atlanta: Shows gains in grade 8.

In Atlanta this morning, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released reading scores for 18 large urban districts including Atlanta, which did not see any improvement in its fourth grade reading scores but was one of only two districts to register a significant climb in its eighth grade scores in what is considered a rigorous test.

The Trial Urban District Assessment is considered an important measure as most of the systems have large numbers of poor, minority children and there is great interest in what reforms are working to move these kids forward.

Atlanta has had the fastest reading gains in any city participating in the trial — 14 points in both fourth and eighth grade scores since 2002. (On the other end, Detroit’s scores are so appalling that at the press conference Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, called the scores “an outrage.”)

Literacy has been a focus of Dr. Beverly Hall, the APS superintendent. “Atlanta …

Continue reading New NAEP reading scores released for Atlanta: Shows gains in grade 8. »

Does a teacher’s gender affect a student’s engagement and learning?

Researching economist Thomas Dee for my article on his new No Child Left Behind study led me to a fascinating published piece by him a few years back on whether the gender of the teacher influences student performance. In his paper, he states, “My results indicate that learning from a teacher of the opposite gender has a detrimental effect on students’ academic progress and their engagement in school. My best estimate is that it lowers test scores for both boys and girls by approximately 4 percent of a standard deviation and has even larger effects on various measures of student engagement.”

I was particularly interested in Dee’s findings on boys and middle school since I am about to send my twins off to sixth grade. My son has never had a male teacher, and I think he would love it. I am not sure if he will have a male teacher in middle school as most of our teachers are women.

Please read the study for yourself, but I pulled some interesting passages from it:

-For three …

Continue reading Does a teacher’s gender affect a student’s engagement and learning? »

CRCT probe seems to be doodling along at this point

Here is yet another story on the CRCT investigation suggesting that districts are sticking with their story that the unusual number of erasures from wrong to right are simply a result of kids going back and changing answers and teachers cleaning up stray marks.

I still want to know why systems without flagged schools, including Cobb and Gwinnett, don’t have all these stray marks and doodles. I just can’t buy the defense that students are taught different test-taking skills.

But I am open to being proven wrong.

According to the AJC, which is using the Open Records Act to obtain the reports being submitted to the state by systems:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained 10 completed reports this week under Georgia’s Open Records Act. Those reports show that schools in several systems, including Appling, Savannah-Chatham and Clarke counties, pointed to suspicious erasure marks on state tests as being caused in part by test-taking strategies that included students …

Continue reading CRCT probe seems to be doodling along at this point »

Major review of No Child Left Behind. Kids moved ahead in math, but in little else.

A much-anticipated evaluation of the No Child Left Behind Act — the sweeping federal law that imposed consequential accountability on all states and schools — found strong evidence that math achievement improved in the earlier grades as a result of the decades-long law.

A new evaluation of President Bush's signature law No Child Left Behind found improvement to math performance in lower grades, but to little else.

A new evaluation of President Bush's signature law No Child Left Behind found improvement to math performance in lower grades, but to little else.

But  the controversial law had no impact on reading.

One of the challenges to analyzing the law has been separating out what changes in student performance were related to other variables including the improvements to the economy during the decade. All those moving parts made it hard for studies to offer any definitive claims about the law’s impact, said researcher Thomas Dee. (I just finished a phone interview with Dee and will be writing that for my Monday education column. I will also post here.)

Dee and his colleague Brian Jacob sought out a credible control …

Continue reading Major review of No Child Left Behind. Kids moved ahead in math, but in little else. »

Latest study: Reducing class size doesn’t benefit student achievement

As often happens within education research, major studies contradict one another, and that is again the case with the new study on whether state-mandated class size reductions in Florida improved student achievement.  In a word, the study out of Harvard said “no.”

The question bears consideration here in Georgia where many systems are increasing the number of  students in a class to save money. (By the way, the author of this study, Matthew Chingos,  co-wrote  “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities.” and here is an interview I did with him on that book.)

According to the official release:

A new study finds that Florida’s 2002 constitutional amendment mandating a reduction in the size of classes in school districts throughout the state had no discernible impact upon student achievement, either  positive or negative.

Florida’s constitutional amendment, which forced districts to use state funds for class reduction unless they …

Continue reading Latest study: Reducing class size doesn’t benefit student achievement »

A former Navy pilot and strategist targets a middle school and changes a culture

A reader kindly sent me this link to a Baltimore Sun editorial, which I wanted to share with you as it speaks to the power to transform a culture in a school.

This Sun editorial is based on a news story, which I also recommend that you read. I think you will enjoy both pieces about a former Navy pilot turned U.S. Naval Academy history professor who refused to give up on his local middle school. Here is the editorial:

An elementary school has a new playground because of a parent who raised the money, helped design it and even stored the bricks to build it. A father mentors troubled middle school boys on everything from substance abuse to anger management. A mom lobbies county government to limit housing development that might lead to classroom overcrowding.

The importance of parental participation in Maryland’s public schools is critical, as anyone with children in them can attest, but too often overlooked and underappreciated. There is no better example of this than Jeffrey …

Continue reading A former Navy pilot and strategist targets a middle school and changes a culture »

Johns Creek 4th grade doodles her way to possible Google fame

This artwork by a Georgia 4th grader could end up on the Google homepage

This artwork by a Georgia 4th grader from Johns Creek could end up on the Google homepage

A  9-year-old Johns Creek student artist learned today that she is one of Google’s regional finalists in “Doodle 4 Google” Competition.

Jennifer Ahn, a 4th-grader from Shakerag Elementary School, was named one of the 40 regional finalists. Open to k-12 students, the art competition asked students to design a Google logo inspired by the theme “If I Could Do Anything, I Would…”

Jennifer titled her whimsical work “The Milky Way Playground,” saying, “I always dreamed of going to space. Well I wondered, wouldn’t be great if there was a playground out there? Riding a shooting star, having a hula-hoop contest with Saturn, and having a race to Pluto. If I could do anything… I would make a playground in space.”

Readers can vote online for their favorite doodle from the 40 finalists and help select four national finalists (one per grade group) through May 25.  Google will choose a national winner …

Continue reading Johns Creek 4th grade doodles her way to possible Google fame »

Cobb and Paulding teachers ask: How much more can we take? Are deeper salary cuts next?

I had several e-mails today from Cobb teachers with development in the system’s ongoing budget woes. Teachers believe they are shouldering a disproportionate share of the budget burden. I also want to note that I am hearing from Paulding County teachers who say that between salary cuts and furloughs they are seeing a 20 percent decrease in their pay. One teacher said it came out to $10 an hour after all the cuts were considered. That county also let go of new teachers under the three-year mark.

The response from some posters here is that teachers should be glad they still have jobs and health benefits so so many Georgians do not. And I agree that teachers as a whole are in much better shape than folks in construction or real estate-related fields, many of whom are out of work and are unlikely to find anything soon.

But is there a point when the cuts and the working conditions — larger classrooms, less time to plan, furlough days — undermine the ability to teach effectively? …

Continue reading Cobb and Paulding teachers ask: How much more can we take? Are deeper salary cuts next? »