Archive for May, 2010

If teachers don’t beg, training programs get cut and private colleges get more

One of the most depressing lessons in my reporting career has been watching up close how government works. Many decisions made by the General Assembly in Georgia have nothing to do with the merits of the question, but of who is chasing down lawmakers and buttonholing them in the corridors.

AJC reporter James Salzer describes this process well in a story on why the Promise teacher scholarship and HOPE teacher scholarship were cut this year, while an engineering scholarship for private Mercer University and grants to all private college students were protected or increased.

The most telling quote in the piece explaining how this happened came from a pivotal legislator involved in higher ed decisions.

Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland), who chaired the Higher Education budget subcommittee, said he didn’t hear anyone fight to keep the teacher scholarship programs.

“If you don’t beg, you don’t get to the table.”

Here is an excerpt from the Salzer story in the AJC:

With Gov. …

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Kathy Cox resigns to lead Washington-based nonprofit. What next for state DOE?

UPDATED 3:25 p.m.: Flanked by state board of education members and Department of Education colleagues a tearful State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox announced she was resigning her position effective June 30 to become CEO of a new education nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

Cox will lead a staff of about a dozen people at the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, which will advise states on reform strategies. Cox said she was approached about the job. She and her family are leaving the state for her new post.

Saying that she is taking eight years of what she learned “turning this big ship around,” Cox said her two terms leading the 1,000-person DOE taught her about what works in improving student achievement. She considers the development and adoption of Georgia’s new performance standards her major achievement while in office.

Cox praised the state school board for always asking whether a new policy or program was for the betterment of students and for supporting it 100 …

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Cobb student: End tax break for seniors. Stop honoring teacher seniority.

Here is another fantastic student letter, again from the magnet program at Cobb’s Wheeler High School. I am running it because it goes beyond mourning the loss of great teachers at Wheeler and asks good questions about the tax breaks to seniors.

(By the way, any system with half a brain would be talking to these non-renewed Wheeler science teachers considering how superintendents lament the lack of qualified STEM teachers.  I am thinking about forwarding some of these student testimonials to my own superintendent. I would love to see a robotics and genetic programs at my local high school.)

I, too, wonder about tax policy that exempts property owners as young as 62 from paying taxes. At the Legislature, lawmakers always talk about frail and failing 62-year-olds pushing walkers and eating catfood. However, with remarriage and second families, some 62-year-olds are pushing baby carriages. And financially, older Americans can afford to eat better than many  younger ones with …

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Cobb county students: Our teachers are not replaceable.

I am still puzzled over some of the staffing reductions in Cobb County where a surprising number of math and science teachers were laid off. The county has let go of teachers with unique skills at a time when all we keep hearing how hard it is to find STEM teachers.

Parents in Cobb ought to question why this caliber of teacher was let go.

Here are more comments from students at Wheeler, Cobb’s math and science magnet, that really make me wonder even more about the  county’s decision:

Dear Cobb County School Board,

I am writing this on behalf of the most influential people in my life: My teachers.

I am writing this for what they have given me, for the opportunities they have surrendered to give it, and, perhaps most of all, those that I and my fellow students have lost in losing them.

And I am writing to inform you that you cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of your actions’ ramifications.

I know full well that there is no equivocality as to what you have done. I claim …

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Wired from the womb: “We are looking at a generation that can’t not text.”

Top students tell me all the time that they watch television while doing their homework. This doesn’t surprise psychology professor Larry D. Rosen.

I had always imagined valedictorians and salutatorians buried in their books at night, never looking up from their chemistry homework and certainly not watching “Jersey Shore.”

But Rosen’s own daughter — valedictorian of her high school and now a Yale student — did her homework while watching television, listening to her iPod and trading text messages with friends, says Rosen, author of the new book “Rewired,” which examines how the iGeneration — children born in the 1990s and beyond — learn.

A longtime researcher on the impact of technology, Rosen says we are faced with a new breed of learners for whom doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life.

“This is a generation that has multi-tasked from birth and that is what they do from morning to night,” he says.

And that generation is now running …

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State teacher of year: Pam Williams of Appling County High

From the state Department of Education:

Pam Williams, an economics teacher from Appling County High School, has been named the 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year. Ms. Williams was named the winner of the award Friday at the annual Georgia Teacher of the Year banquet at the Georgia Aquarium.

She will spend the 2010-2011 school year serving as an advocate for public education and the teaching profession in Georgia.

“I know that Pam is going to be a great spokesperson for teachers in Georgia,” said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.

Ms. Williams received her undergraduate degree from Brewton Park College and her master’s and specialist degrees from Georgia Southern University. She began her teaching career at Bacon County Middle in 1991 and moved to Appling County in 1992. She taught sixth grade for two years and then taught language Arts, reading and Georgia studies at Appling County Middle for 13 years. She came to the high school three years ago where she teaches …

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Cobb students and parents: On the streets today to protest teacher layoffs but is it too late?

Cobb students and parents may have been slow to the draw, but they are aware and active now around the large-scale teacher layoffs in their schools this week. I am not sure if the protests can change the dismal situation.

The only thing now that could change the tide is a decision to raise taxes, and I am not sure that taxpayers without children in the schools would agree.

I do think that Cobb has a strong reputation for good schools, and that this staff reduction is a shock to parents, many of whom are seeing their kids’ favorite teachers and programs going out the door.

Here is a Facebook page to save the teachers’ jobs . The page, started by a student, already has more than 2,000 followers.

Here is an AJC story on a protest today at Allatoona High School.

I will update with news of other school protests in Cobb today. Also, thanks to the Cobb teachers who agreed to talk to my co-worker Jeffry Scott for his story tomorrow.

Continue reading Cobb students and parents: On the streets today to protest teacher layoffs but is it too late? »

AJC wants to talk to non-renewed teachers today for news story

I am posting this note for my AJC colleague Jeffry Scott, who is writing on deadline today about the number of non-renewed teachers for a news story that will run tomorrow. He would like to talk to teachers willing to be quoted by name about their experiences. Thanks for your help, Maureen

I’m Jeffry Scott, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, who would like to talk to teachers today who are losing or have lost their jobs because of budget cuts backs at school systems across Metro Atlanta. I can be reached by email: jlscott@ajc.com. Or on my cell phone: 404-805-1332.

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Two sides to divisive issue: Does educating illegal immigrants benefit America or deny a seat to an American?

The AJC has a good story today on both sides of the debate over whether a 22-year-old Mexican born student allegedly  in this country illegally since she was 10 should be allowed to finish her college education at Kennesaw State University The topic has generated hundreds of comments on earlier Get Schooled blogs, and those comments reflect a sharp divide among Americans on how to respond to illegal immigrants and on how many educational opportunities, if any, should be afforded to their children.

The case in question involves KSU student Jessica Colotl who was arrested on a minor traffic charge on the  campus. The arrest led to her booking in the Cobb County jail, which has an agreement with federal officials to flag illegal immigrants for deportation. She is supposed to surrender to authorities today and hold a  news conference at 2 p.m. Friday to discuss her situation.

Here are excerpts from both sides:

Many argue that public higher education, including in-state tuition, …

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College for all. Not all agree that we should be urging kids to college.

A story in today’s AJC examines an issue that typically spurs a lot of debate here on the Get Schooled blog: Whether as public policy we should be encouraging more kids to attend college.

I thought one of the best comments on this issue was made by state Rep. Fran Millar, who said that parents are OK with non-college options as long as their kid is going to college.  College remains a cherished goal of most Americans, whether they went to college or not.

I have to acknowledge that I am one of those parents. I expect my kids to go to college and grad school. I believe that the future belongs to the highly educated.

I have no problem with my kids deciding to be woodworkers or mechanics. (I especially would love a mechanic in the family.) But I want them to go to college first because I believe that higher education is valuable and life-changing.

Here is part of the AP story. (Read the whole piece by Alan Scher Zagier if you have the time):

In a town dominated by the University …

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