Archive for July, 2010

Karen Handel: Does she have a big picture vision for education or is she just looking for run-off votes?

Karen Handel remains vague on her exact plans for improving Georgia's schools

Karen Handel wants to reform Georgia schools through "local flexibility and choice."

Having seen Karen Handel outline her education plan at the Georgia School Boards Association meeting in Savannah last month, I was underwhelmed. More relevant to this election, so were many of the school board members I talked to after the panel, most of whom were from outside metro Atlanta. They weren’t really clear what Handel was going to do to help their systems, if anything, based on her comments to them.

As I reported at the time, Handel said, “I am not going to lay out my legislative agenda here today. But my pledge to you is that I will have your leadership at the table. But I can tell you one thing I won’t do; I am not going to have the budget balanced on the backs of teachers and furloughs.”

In fact, Handel and her run-off opponent Nathan Deal had the least concrete plans of any of the GOP candidates on the panel, which I found odd since they were speaking to the elected officials …

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Another dismal chapter in DeKalb schools: Official sells his autobiography to schools under his supervision.

DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson made a serious mistake selling his autobiography to schools under his supervision.

DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson made a serious mistake selling his autobiography to schools under his supervision.

Sorry, but I think DeKalb school official Ralph Simpson needs to be fired for selling his autobiography to public schools under his supervision. If others in the chain of command that approved the purchases of  Simpson’s book for DeKalb C0unty schools is found to have faked signatures or lied about the fact that a colleague authored the book, they should also be fired.

Such self-serving acts undermine DeKalb’s argument that it does not have money for basics because of state cuts and falling property tax collections. I understand the amount spent on Simpson’s book was small, $12,560, but the purchase of the books creates legitimate doubts that anyone is minding the store in DeKalb.  Since federal dollars were used to buy the books, I hope the U.S. Department of Education also demands an inquiry.

Over my many years of writing about government, I have seen …

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Washington Post tracks an alleged child molester through a long teaching career that includes stints at Atlanta private schools

The Washington Post has a heck of a story on an alleged serial child molester who managed to stay in education for more than 30 years, including a stint teaching at some private schools in Atlanta.

Take a look at the remarkable reporting that the Post did on Kevin Ricks, a talented teacher whose affability and devotion to his students masked what the newspaper says could be decades of abuse of teenage boys.

A beloved teacher who once taught in private schools here, Kevin Ricks now faces a charge of sexual battery of one teenager.

A beloved teacher who once taught in private schools here, Kevin Ricks now faces a charge of sexual battery in Virginia of one teenager.

As to the Georgia connection, the story states:  Ricks received his diploma from UNC in 1983, and he taught at a private school in Norfolk for a year. He also taught for a year at a private school in North Carolina, and in the mid-1980s, he taught at private schools in the Atlanta area, at least once serving as the dorm master for a boys’ boarding school, according to his résumé. Because private schools do not always require teaching …

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It’s got snap, crackle and pop, but does middle school home ec have any substance?

Help. My youngest two children begin middle school in 10 days, and I just received their schedules. They are both in “family and consumer science,” for which there is no description on the school Web site.

Rice Krispies treats are tasty, but do we need a middle school course to teach kids how to make them? Can't they just read the instructions on the cereal box?

Rice Krispies treats are tasty, but do we need a middle school course to teach kids how to make them? Can't they just read the instructions on the cereal box?

I looked at course descriptions at other schools around the country, including this one from Illinois: Students will learn basic sewing techniques, operate a sewing machine and complete a project. Students will have an understanding of the food pyramid and prepare simple nutritional foods.

Sounds like a souped-up home economics class to me.

As a former consumer reporter — I once wrote  a column called “Check it Out” where I would test product claims — I think it is important to teach savvy consumer skills. I am just not sure 11-year-olds are the right audience as I think people become interested in consumer …

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Is simulated gunfire overkill in a campus emergency drill? Georgia Perimeter College will find out Monday.

Sounds like Georgia Perimeter College is practicing for Armageddon.

In this note to staffers, GPC President Anthony Tricoli warns them that a practice emergency response simulation on Monday will involve  “simulated gunfire, and you will see the omnipresent yellow ‘Crime Scene’  tape along with some simulated smoke.”

Obviously, the Virginia Tech shootings have made all colleges more aware of the dangers of one deranged student with a gun. Sounds like this simulation is going to reflect a worse case scenario.

If you are around the Decatur campus of Georgia Perimeter at 1 p.m., be forewarned. (This would not be the hour to take your high school senior to see the campus.)

Dear Colleagues:

As all of you know, Public Safety is a critical and essential component of any successful and safe learning institution. Recently, I directed our Public Safety Department to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of our emergency response preparedness. In addition I have asked for …

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Michelle Rhee fires 241 under performing teachers in Washington. Can you fire your way to better schools?

Washington, D.C., school Chancellor Michelle Rhee is drawing national attention for her ambitious reforms in the nation’s Capitol and for her no-nonsense management style that includes firing teachers she feels are not producing student gains.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington public schools, announced today that 241 teachers will be fired.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington public schools, announced today that 241 teachers will be fired.

Today, the District of Columbia Public Schools  announced the firing of 241 teachers for poor classroom performance. Teachers are being evaluated  under a new detailed accountability system called IMPACT that looks at student progress, using what is commonly called a growth model.

In addition, 737 employees rated “minimally effective” by the new rating standard have a year to improve or face dismissal next year.

The academic growth of their students account for half of a teacher’s evaluation; most of the rest of the evaluation hinge on detailed classroom observations of the teacher.

The mass firings prompted this response from …

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Georgia’s vaunted HOPE Scholarship has become welfare for the state’s rich

An Atlanta attorney argues that HOPE now constitutes "welfare" for wealthier Georgians and more lottery funds ought to go to pre-k.

An Atlanta attorney argues that HOPE now constitutes "welfare" for wealthier Georgians and more lottery funds ought to go to pre-k.

I ran an e-mail that I received from Emmet Bondurant, a prominent local attorney and education advocate, calling for the HOPE Scholarships to be limited by income so more funds can go to the critical needs of pre-k.

I asked Emmet Bondurant to expand his views into an op-ed and here it is. (A joint House and Senate education committee meets Aug. 2 at 10 a.m. to discuss HOPE funding. I plan to attend. Should be interesting.) I plan to run the piece on the Monday education op-ed page but this is a preview for Get Schooled readers.

I know many of you like HOPE the way it is, but Bondurant is looking at the issue of dwindling resources and what investment yields a greater return for the state. Again, there is no doubt that HOPE has done a lot to inspire high school kids to work harder and take more AP classes to get into UGA or Tech. And as the quality …

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Teacher says: Cheerleading is not a sport. And it’s pointless. She got kids mad and writing.

Yes, cheerleading is an athletic event, but it is not a sport, says this op-ed writer.

Yes, cheerleading is an athletic event, but it is not a sport, says this op-ed writer.

Even before a federal judge court ruled this week that cheerleading is not a sport, UGA doctoral student Angelyne Collins sent me this op-ed contending that cheerleading is most definitely not a sport. She says it is an athletic endeavor, just not a sport.

She used the topic to inspire her middle school language arts students who were cheerleaders to defend their position. Ms. Collins also has a fun YouTube video where she tells girls that she would rather they pick basket weaving than cheerleading. It’s well done as her real goal is to teach kids to learn how to defend their stands. (Link t0 the video is in the piece.)

I think she does a good job defending her own position as well. (Quick confession: I was captain of the cheerleaders in 8th grade; I wish I have played tennis instead.)

Here is Ms. Collins’ piece:

As a middle school Language Arts teacher, I noticed on Fridays in the fall …

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Core values or rotten to the core? Georgia and Common Core praised for their math and English standards

As have 27 other states, Georgia has adopted the new national math and English/language art standards wrapped in the more palatable name of Common Core State Standards. (The phrase “national standards” gives too many people the willies.)

Now comes the hard part, getting students up to speed on the greater rigor embedded in the standards so they can pass the national tests that will eventually be developed. States can expect to see them in 2013 or 2014.

The expectation is that the  tests will be a shock to many parents whose children are now being assessed on easier-to-pass state exams.

The battery of national tests based on the new standards will be the first opportunity American parents will have to see how their schools and their children stack up to counterparts elsewhere in the country.

Now, we now have 50 sets of standards and 50 sets of tests.

The transition to national standards will not be as rocky for Georgia as our standards — and presumably our CRCTs — are …

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Is one child’s injury enough reason to ban a game? And are any PE games completely safe from chance of injury?

Someone sent the AJC a tweet asking that we open up the story about the Gwinnett family seeking to stop a PE game they deemed dangerous for reader discussion. I didn’t post on it yesterday when I first read the piece because it wasn’t clear to me what exactly happened.

I  don’t know if this particular game is any more dangerous to children than other playground games, as kids get hurt in tag and soccer as well. I know that many of you are going to argue that this is helicopter parenting, but I can understand the frustration of parents whose child has had his summer snatched away by a gym class injury.

But if one child’s bad experience could squelch a sport, schools would virtually have to ban almost everything except catch with a Nerf ball.

Here is the AJC story:

Tyler Strickland is spending the sweltering days of July wrapped in a sling from his shoulder to his wrist, unable to swim, cut his food or bang out a tune on his electric guitar.

The wiry 14-year-old, who has to …

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