Archive for June, 2010

Kathy Cox heads to DC. She can go with her head held high.

I like Kathy “With a K” Cox.  I don’t know her well; she is not the type to call and chat. Neither am I. And most of our conversations over the years came in response to bad news on Georgia’s education front. With each new round of scores or studies, I would make the call to the Department of Education and ask for a comment.

“What does Kathy think about the stagnant SAT scores?” “Why aren’t our NAEP scores in reading improving?”  “Why isn’t Kathy challenging the cuts to education by the Legislature?”

On her last day as school superintendent, I want to talk about why I like Cox.

I like her because she met my three criteria for a decent elected official.  She was honest. I never feared that she would scrape the gold off the Gold Dome to pay for plastic surgery. I couldn’t say that about her predecessor and current state prison inmate Linda Schrenko, who would have rented a crane, strapped on a harness and started chiseling if it weren’t easier for her just to steal the money …

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Former Perdue adviser: Leaders of systems implicated in CRCT scandal ought to step down

I first met researcher Ben Scafidi, then at GSU, at a conference on school resegregation where he presented a paper. Soon after, he became Gov. Perdue’s education adviser. We have philosophical differences, but I think he is true to his principles and I think he is always forthcoming on what he’s thinking.

You will likely agree once you read his piece on the CRCT cheating probe.

Now chairman of the state’s new Charter Schools Commission and a professor at Georgia College & State University, Scafidi wrote this piece for the op-ed page.

By Ben Scafidi

When Bernie Madoff and his accomplices embezzled billions from clients out of the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, it wasn’t the traders who ran the company who were sent to prison. Instead, Madoff himself earned a life sentence for the collapse of his securities firm.

So, too, should those at the top of public schools that have experienced widespread cheating during the Georgia CRCT be held accountable for what happened in their …

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Federal study: Charter schools no more successful in improving achievement, attendance or behavior

As regular readers know, I have concerns about the General Assembly’s zeal for charter schools, which I consider a quick fix approach to education based largely on renaming schools rather than reforming them.

I like charter schools; I just don’t think they are the answer to under-performing schools. Nor are they a surrogate for the challenging work of improving teacher quality.

And here’s a new federal study — the first large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools in multiple states and types of communities — that underscores my concerns that lawmakers believe that turning schools into charters is all they need to do to improve education in Georgia. (Legislators claim that they have other reform ideas, but take a look at the significant legislation of the past four years.)

This study has been long awaited and will spark a lot of debate. Let’s start it here.

Many years ago, when charters were just appearing on the education horizon, I attended a program …

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Cyberbullying: Are schools supposed to now police the behavior of students in virtual playgrounds?

This is a riveting New York Times piece on the challenges to schools from cyberbullying. I am torn as to what the schools’ rightful role ought to be in policing the nasty adolescent exchanges that are becoming far too common on the Internet.

Read the lengthy Times piece when you have time. It is disturbing, especially since my twins start middle school in August. (My oldest daughter had a very rough first year in middle school. My older son had very little drama in middle school, but sidestepped a lot of the social tussling. And he had neither a phone nor a personal computer until high school.)

I still think one answer to cyberbullying is keeping middle schoolers off Facebook and other social networking sites. I am also not a fan of giving middle school students cell phones, as my 11-year-old daughter is quick to complain. Her older sister used to ask me to please dip into her college fund to get cable TV. Now, we have cable, but the 11-year-old asks me now instead to tap into …

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Democrats debate: No clear winner, but a clear indication of the front-runner

It was clear the front-runner in the polls, Joe Martin, was the focus of his two Democratic opponents in tonight’s Atlanta Press Club school superintendent debates.

Given the opportunity to ask a question of another candidate, both retired Georgia State administrator and former teacher Beth Farokhi and Gwinnett high school teacher Brian Westlake chose to take on Martin, taking  aim at his lack of classroom experience. Martin has a formal background in finance and economics rather than education, but has served on the Atlanta school board and headed up a statewide coalition to overhaul school funding.

With this being his third run for the school chief’s post, Martin knows how to turn a hostile question into a golden moment. When Farokhi pressed him on his three top qualification for the job, Martin told her commitment, experience and know-how.

When Westlake hit his standard theme in this contest — the job should go to someone with recent classroom experience — Martin parried, …

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The GOP candidates for superintendent in debate tonight: Shed federal shackles. But do voters want liberation?

In watching the Atlanta Press Club debates tonight, I see little difference in the two Republican candidates for state school superintendent, John Barge and Richard Woods, making it a difficult decision for GOP voters next month.

Both oppose the federal Race to the Top grants, which has put them on the wrong side of the governor who very much wants the possible $400 million grant that will be awarded in September.

That is why Gov. Sonny Perdue has bypassed both men in favor of independent candidate Brad Bryant. The governor also appointed Bryant, a Republican attorney and a state school board member, interim superintendent to fill the final six months of Kathy Cox’s term.

Woods and Barge both favor cutting ties with the federal government, even to the extreme of rejecting federal education dollars. A Bartow County schools administrator, Barge said the federal government has “shackled” Georgia teachers. An Irwin County administrator, Woods said the federal government is …

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State board chair defends common core standards and integrated math

Here is the other side of the common core debate by Wanda Barrs, chair of the Georgia Board of Education,  a teacher and environmental educators. (You ought to read this in tandem with the blog entry prior.)

By Wanda Barrs

The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, co-chaired by Gov. Sonny Perdue, recently issued a common set of English language arts and mathematics standards that states can adopt.

Through these Common Core State Standards, students, teachers, parents, colleges and employers throughout Georgia, and indeed much of the United States, will have a first-class guide to what our children must know and be able to do to succeed in college, the 21st-century workplace and as contributing citizens in our democracy.

Will implementing the Common Core State Standards in Georgia reverse or shut down the implementation of our Georgia Performance Standards? Is this is a federal mandate to “take over” education? The answer to these …

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Corporate role in common core standards ought to be exposed. Who appointed Bill Gates Emperor of Education?

Cindy Lutenbacher is a teacher and DeKalb public school parent who sent me a note about her objections to the new common core standards. She was very thorough in her comments so I asked her to write a piece, which she did and which I ran on the Monday education page.

Enjoy. (To get another perspective, I am also posting another piece I ran on the education page in support of the common core standards by state Board of Education chair Wanda Barrs. That will post shortly.)

By Cindy Lutenbacher

Amid great fanfare in our state earlier this month, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced the release of the “Common Core Standards.”

So, I have a few questions for those who back the standards — including our own governor, Sonny Perdue, who co-chaired the Governors Association effort. In the general celebration over the release of these new standards, it seems very few people are asking what Common  Core Standards will actually …

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Cobb superintendent to step down next year. Any replacements in mind?

With staff cuts, furloughs and increasing pressure to raise test scores, does anyone want to be superintendent of a major school system any longer?

With the announcement at Thursday’s Cobb school board meeting that he is retiring,  superintendent Fred Sanderson is leaving behind a system very different from the one he took over in 2005. Stable and high-achieving, Cobb has been rocked by the economic upheavals confronting systems across the state. It has laid off teachers and then rehired some, creating a vat of ill will that I think will last a while.

The system has a year to find a replacement for Sanderson.

Any suggestions?

Many people always want to see a national search for a new leader, but I wonder if that is wise in this wild climate. Is there something to be said for hiring someone within who knows already what the system has been through this year and knows the players?

It didn’t work in DeKalb to hire an outsider or an insider, so I am not sure there is any right …

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Governor of Massachusetts: Rethink condoms in grade schools

Now, the governor of Massachusetts is entering the emotional debate about making condoms available to all schoolchildren in the Provincetown school district under a new safe sex program. This has become a national issue after the school board there decided it did not want to limit its policy to high school students since there could be younger kids who are sexually active.

Superintendent Beth Singer, who wrote the policy approved by the Cape Cod community’s school board last week, explained that, “The intent is to protect kids. We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?”

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Singer said that if an elementary school student requests a condom, the nurse would ask the student a series of questions and almost certainly deny them.

This is one of those stories that gets people riled up over what seems to be a misreading of the intent. The school committee is not condoning early sexual activity, …

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