Today: Back to school for us. What to do about waning HOPE and the long-awaited APS cheating report.

UPDATED: Just dropped my two off to middle school. Mine were frozen with fear, but were not crying. I saw two sixth graders in tears. Most others seemed tense, but not paralyzed. Hoping for happier scenes by week’s end. Teachers were doing their best to project cheeriness and excitement, but I think kids are naturally scared of the bigger school and the eighth graders who appear old enough to drive themselves to school. I found the staff very helpful and that reassured me, if not my twins.

Saw an endearing sight on the way; All the parents of kids in my neighborhood starting elementary school gathered them for a photo down the street. There were 22 or so young kids with their new backpacks and their back-to-school outfits and about 35 parents in front of them with cameras and video recorders. Lots of parents carrying paper towels and hand sanitizer, which is today’s version of an apple for the teacher. Off to cover HOPE. Talk to you all later.

I am not the only parent who apparently left back-t0-school shopping to the very last minute. Just came from a big box store where I was on a scavenger hunt for Mead five-subject notebooks, per the request of my twins’ social studies teacher. I joined dozens of other parents surveying the wreckage of the notebook aisle where single subject notebooks were in abundance, but five-subject were nowhere to be found.

After much rummaging through piles, I found two battered five-subject notebooks. And I found my two-pocket folders, my eight-pack dividers and my notebook paper. (I refuse to buy new pens and pencils every year, insisting my twins dig through drawers to fill their pencil boxes.)

I am still stunned that my kids go back tomorrow morning. Because we were away this final week on vacation, my kids missed the Thursday meet-and-greet so my husband and I are going to take them a few minutes early to help them find their homerooms and pay the lunch tab. (I always pay in advance for half the year so I avoid those warning notes that my kids will be relegated to P&J because they are late on lunch fees.)

At a weekend potluck with several out-of-towners, my announcement that my district resumed classes Aug. 2 stunned the visitors from the Midwest and the north. They could not fathom why any schools would start up at the hottest point in the summer and were dubious when I explained that my district adopted a shorter-summer-more-breaks-during-the-year-calendar as a teacher recruitment tool. Two teachers at the event told me that they much preferred the longer summer and traditional calendar so their own kids go visit cousins and go to camps.

Tomorrow is a busy news day as I plan to attend the four-hour legislative hearing on HOPE funding and then dash six blocks to the Atlanta Public Schools release of its cheating report.

Stay tuned.

78 comments Add your comment

The question that won't be asked

August 2nd, 2010
1:15 am

Despite the outstanding work on the part of the reporters, the foot soldiers as it were, there seems to be one question the columnists and editorial staff seem to afraid to ask:

What did Beverly Hall know, and when did she know it?

Marching orders from the top? Just exactly what kind of high stakes politics is being played out between the upper echelon of the AJC and the business community that prevents that vital question from being asked, even as the foot soldiers have provided more than enough evidence that it’s the newspaper’s duty to ask?

The question that won't be asked

August 2nd, 2010
1:34 am

Will anybody dare to ask of those who did the report if the report asked what did Beverly Hall know and when did she know it and if they didn’t ask, what possible justification could they have for not looking at that, considered how embedded the cheating is?

Will the AJC have the courage to ask that question, or has the upper echelon decided in conjunction with the business community to find some low level scapegoats, the way the military tried to do with Lynndie England and Abu Ghraib?

In fact the AJC columnists at the time were quite adamant that England, though she may be guilty was a scapegoat, and the higher ups need to be held accountable as well. Will they be just as consistent with a scandal in their own backyard, or will they instead kowtow to the business community and offer up a lame, pathetic attempt to say the situations are somehow different?

Mark Hallen

August 2nd, 2010
2:25 am

Our schools would send out a supply list in advance, and we’d dutifully buy everything on it, only to find out there was one thing they’d left off, so we’d have to fight off the crowds in Staples the day after the schools opened, which was only marginally better than going to Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, there we’d be, combing the shelves for a very specific type of three-section notebook with pockets in the covers and reinforced holes and tabbed indexing and spiral binding and college rules (even though this was middle school–our daughter was was so advanced). And it was, of course, the same notebook all the other parents were looking for because it had been left off their lists, too. And Staples would have exactly two of them in stock. (more at laughs4dads.com)

The actual first day of school was kind of anti-climactic, what with all the advertising that had been going on

ScienceTeacher671

August 2nd, 2010
6:13 am

If you can ask questions at the hearing, would you try to find out why, with record profits and bonuses to lottery employees, the Lottery Corp is still not paying the full percentage to education? Shouldn’t that be done before benefits are cut to students?

(I’m sure you can find a better way to word the question…I’m still waking up…Happy Back to School, everyone!)

raondom thoughts

August 2nd, 2010
7:27 am

Scheduling as a teacher recruitment tool? What an interesting concept. Are schools for students to learn or for teachers to work?

What’s wrong with single subject notebooks? I sometime wonder why we even bother with notebooks as our students aren’t really taught to take notes anyway. Folders? Forget it. How can you expect 12-13 years old to keep track of all those worksheets teachers hand out. Why do they have to use so many worksheets anyway – then they complain about not being able to make copies. What’s wrong with having students write something in their notebooks on their own?

Why do all grading periods must be the same length?

Is it time to go to a year-around school calendar?

Dunwoody Mom

August 2nd, 2010
7:27 am

Good luck on your first day, Maureen. I’ve got another week’s reprieve….

The APS response will be interesting…can’t wait.

Middle School Mom

August 2nd, 2010
7:27 am

Re: supplies. We don’t get lists til the meet and greet on Thursday. My school post some list the administrators came up w/ on the website…am hoping the parents don’t see it, as it’s not what I want! Maureen, with kids starting middle school, I am kind of surprised you picked last week for vacation…the 6th grade meet and greet is a pretty big deal.

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
7:31 am

Get up and get those LIL HULKSTERS to school.

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
7:32 am

Enter your comments here

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
7:34 am

Rise and SHINE!!! Its another school year for some of ya. Now get up and get those Little Hulksters off to school!!

“*HA RING A DING DING* Huh-Randeh I hear the uh schoool bell uh ringin!”

Public school mom

August 2nd, 2010
7:35 am

Starting a week ealier and going a week later but not adding any additional instructional days is terrible for working parents, single parents and employers. I understand the “theory” that by extending the school year, it is hoped that children do not forget what they have learned. But the studies I read about the extended school year included more instructional time, not just more vacation days in the middle of the year.

Now parents of elementary and middle school students will have to take off two more weeks of work, if their employer will allow this. There aren’t camps during these “off” days and no college students to work the camps. However, I am sure the malls will be full of roving high school students.

oldtimer

August 2nd, 2010
7:46 am

I,too, think school begins too early….especialy as it seems the systems have all cut 5 days…

high school teacher

August 2nd, 2010
7:48 am

I can’t wait to hear your results on HOPE. I have been thinking about this issue since your last posting and the possibility of putting an income cap on it. The requirement for HOPE is to maintaina 3.2 GPA in core academic classes. If they deny a student this scholarship based on the amount of money that his or her parents make, isn’t that discrimination? :)

Lisa B.

August 2nd, 2010
7:49 am

Our students return September 7 this year. The school system next door starts today, and another neighboring county starts August 13. I do feel sorry for the students and bus drivers riding around in this heat, and for P.E. teachers and students in their classes. It’s way too hot to go outside past mid-morning, and the school gymnasiums are stifling! I look forward to starting school later this year.

Lisa B.

August 2nd, 2010
7:52 am

Some school systems cut 10 days off the calendar, and at least two others cut 20 days. Murry County had a 160-day calendar for the 2009-2010 school year. In checking their AYP report, the schools that may AYP in 2008-2009 still made it again in 2010 and the ones who failed before, still failed. Still, I know it is hard to squeeze in the required instruction in less days, and the faster pace places hardship on the students who struggle.

JoDeeMcD

August 2nd, 2010
7:57 am

Daycare centers and camps will adjust to their customers’ needs. The “no camps” lament is weak.

This teacher would LOVE year-round school…..I’d like the “balanced schedule”, too. Summer vacation is TOO long and too hot. Kids will go outside and play if they have vacation days when the weather is nicer.

I have tried, but I still can’t figure out WHY people are so married to the “kids need a summer vacation” concept. Kids need vacations, for sure—–about three weeks every 6 weeks or so. Just enough to re-charge the batteries, not enough to forget everything they just learned.

We just paid our first college bill yesterday……Hurrah for HOPE! I hope it lasts for another 3 years, at least!

momof two

August 2nd, 2010
8:14 am

to JoDmcD. You are so smug as a teacher to say that “daycare” centers and camps will adjust to these stupid school schedules. Why in the world would they want to hire extra people for one week here and one week there. Oh and there are people “working parents” struggling to get by and can’t afford registration fees and camp costs even there were any. so that will leave the dilema and I guarantee we will have 6 year olds home alone and middle school kids left to their own devices. It is amazing to me that you as an employee of your county can dictate to parents how the school calendar goes. You do your job and be glad you have one. Parents provide the product “our children” for the school systems and yet we are never listened to Your stupid edu fad does not work obviously we are 48th in the nation and year round school is too expensive and dangerous. Yes, there are those of us out here who truly care about our children and their physical safety.

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
8:14 am

“isn’t that discrimination?” Absolutely. Its an all out WAR on the wealthy and/or well to do. Seems results based on indifference and poor performace more often than not will win the day.

“Poor Johnny didnt have a chance and he needs more freebies” mm hmmm…

Devil's Advocate

August 2nd, 2010
8:18 am

Aren’t Lee and Dr NO adorable together?

momof two

August 2nd, 2010
8:19 am

to JoDMcD. You are so smug as a teacher to tell parents that “camps” will adjust to this stupid schedule. Well guess what we are in a recession and many parents cannot afford extra camp fees and costs for the every other week their kids are off from school. That is to say if they are even offered. You are a teacher so do your job and your have no right to determine school schedules.

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
8:29 am

If one cant to put “lil precious” in Summer daycare of pay for a babysitter then perhaps MawMaw and PawPaw shouldnt have had “lil precious”

Here is a word of advice…”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

STOP BE A RETRO THINKER you RETRO THINKERS!

Devil's Advocate

August 2nd, 2010
8:44 am

Thanks for the RETRO grammar Dr….

Mother of three, Teacher of many

August 2nd, 2010
8:50 am

To mom of two: I don’t think JoDMcD is being smug. He has a strong opinion (as do you), and he is stating it. Having worked at a couple of daycare centers while in college, I know that scheduling around the school year calendar is a fact of life for them. They are in business to meet the consumer’s needs, period. Also, if you and JoDMcD were in the same school district, you would have an equal voice in determining school schedules. The decision is ultimately made by the school board, with teacher and PARENT input. I suggest that you take your concerns to the next school board meeting.

JoDeeMcD

August 2nd, 2010
8:51 am

Momof 2– trust me, I don’t dictate anything. There are NO people in decision-making roles who care one whit about what I think. I’m in the same recession as you, have had daycare issues, too. Big difference between you and me is that I have worked in education for 22 years, and you have probably not.

Smug. That’s a good one.

Color me confused

August 2nd, 2010
8:53 am

momoftwo

I recommend you read the book The Outliers or at least this article from this week’s Time Magazine. Long summer vacations negatively low income children.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2005654,00.html

Color me confused

August 2nd, 2010
8:53 am

That should say, negatively impact low income children.

Tip of the Iceberg

August 2nd, 2010
9:01 am

Fixing HOPE is simple.
In one column of a spreadsheet, list all of the state’s high schools, along with the percentage of the seniors who qualified for HOPE. In another column, list the average SAT score for those high schools.
Sort by SAT from lowest to highest and the top grade inflating high schools will be identified. It is amazing that some high schools have 80%> getting the HOPE, but their SAT averages are terrible.

Give the offending schools a year to clean up their acts; then cut off the cash.
Allow individual students at these schools to qualify for HOPE by using the SAT or alternative data such as End of Course Tests, AP exams, etc.

There are all kinds of ways to make this process more exact and fair, but the current practices amount to millions of dollars of fraud.

Maureen: What does this look like for the Metro high schools?

Since the Lotto folks are fond of bonuses, just send me 1% of the millions that I just saved them.

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
9:09 am

Before I read any comments, let me start my observations off today by saying I’m completely astounded by the fact, I went to 3 Wal-Mart and didn’t find one pair of school uniform SHORTS !!! I all I saw was pants and let me we wondering do these store buyers actually review the weather reports?

Sounder

August 2nd, 2010
9:11 am

Regarding school supplies: I like what many of the private schools do. They order needed supplies for each child, buying in bulk so that they get better prices, and then simply add the cost of supplies to the tuition bill. The supplies are ready and waiting for the kids on day one.

ABC

August 2nd, 2010
9:12 am

Wish Fulton were starting today. This extra 2 weeks is ridiculous.

An advocate for public education change & choice

August 2nd, 2010
9:21 am

@ Random Thoughts: I personally think the year-round school calendar would work wonders for GA’s public education system. Taking a look at how the summer break has shrunk to next to nothing we’re about half there anyway.

@ Dr. No & High School Teacher: Sorry, but I would say its call responsible management of the program. Lest we forget the program began with an income cap. I personally think that the viability of this program demands a return to its roots on some measure.

works for me

August 2nd, 2010
9:24 am

mom of two- these working parents who can’t afford care during the breaks, how do they afford care during the summer? The kids are still in school 180 days, so childcare has to be provided or paid for regardless of when. And yes, the daycares, churches, YMCA and other providers DO offer camps during the breaks. The teenagers are out of school on the breaks as well and many are looking for babysitting jobs.

Dunwoody Mom

August 2nd, 2010
9:28 am

I know the schools in our area post the supply lists on line several weeks before start of school. Several also sell the supplies pre-bagged at registration.

Claire

August 2nd, 2010
9:37 am

Cherokee County continues to start in the middle of the summer, while giving us a week in September, the absurd winter break, and a week at Thanksgiving. I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes starting the first week of August. Please do not use the “students” perform better” as schools up north consistently score higher than schools in the south and start in September every year. Until Georgia parents become more involved in their children’s education and we eliminate the stupid standardized testing, nothing will change in Georgia. My gosh, how long does it take us to figure out there is a reason we stay at the bottom in education? And for you genius parents complaining about the rush on school supplies, the supply lists have been listed online for weeks…

Cobb Mom

August 2nd, 2010
9:51 am

Regarding the school calendar…it is hot in September in the south. It is also hot in June, and our kids will end school in June, not May, if the start date is pushed back after Labor Day (or there will be very little time off during the school year). Personally, the calendar Cobb chose is not exactly my preference, but I am looking forward to spending some extra time with my children during the school year (not vacationing every break, either, just some simple downtime at home).

I am amazed by how many parents are angry at the school system for not providing a calendar that suits their childcare needs. It is school, not daycare!! Some of those high school students would be happy to earn some extra money babysitting instead of roaming the mall. I guess it is easier to whine about who is going to be responsible for YOUR children than put effort into finding other alternatives.

As for HOPE, I do not think there should be an income cap (although why not put one in place for pre-K?). The HOPE scholarship has improved Georgia’s public universities and kept more of the best and brightest kids in the state, kids who used to flock to out of state schools. There are other aid programs to help those with lower incomes. Sometimes it pays to invest in the best and the brightest regardless of income.

November

August 2nd, 2010
10:00 am

C’mon people, quit griping, bitching, moaning, groaning and complaining about it and just do what you have to to get it done. This is the way things is…..learn to live with it. If you just can’t, November 2 is coming up real fast. There are options then……don’t do like Yoga Berra espouses…”when you come to the fork in the road, take it”. Examine the differences in the candidates and make a decision based on what you would like this state to be like. My opinion…..”Schools should start the day after Labor Day” like they did in the good old days attended by children who built this country into a great place to go to school. Now the school systems are run by a bunch of idiots (there are exceptions) who all think old is bad. At least we knew how to count change. Folks, there’s a revolution brewing……get it right.

MB

August 2nd, 2010
10:07 am

ABC – Amen! THREE more weeks before our Fulton kids start. Then there’s a LONG haul from Labor Day to December 23rd, with only Thanksgiving off for teachers and one work day for kids. Parents of high schoolers especially need to SCREAM when next year’s calendar comes up, as the board obviously doesn’t process input from the superintendent on this one.

Claire, EVERYONE I know from Cherokee LOVES the balanced calendar (that would be parents AND teachers). They say they were concerned, but now they really like the breaks and two months of summer is enough time off, they realize. Maybe you’re starting your conversations with “I hate it!” so you don’t hear from those who like it.

The school system is charged with the education of your children, not daycare, and high schoolers can work in camps rather than roam the malls. If you count on sending your kid off to grandparents, or former spouse, or whatever for summer daycare, see Dr. No at 8:29.

JoDeeMcD

August 2nd, 2010
10:11 am

@Claire—I live in Cherokee, and all of my neighbors like the school calendar. Maybe you’re talking to the wrong people.

MB

August 2nd, 2010
10:14 am

@ Tip: AMEN! I think they just need to go ahead and set a minimum SAT score for HOPE, because there is NO doubt that grades are inflated in some schools. (You are denying that child the opportunity to better him/herself if you don’t INSURE they have at least a B.) In some schools however, certain teachers despise honors points and students who would have a 100+ in the first schools end up with a 79 in another.

Maureen, does HOPE pay for remedial classes in college? I have heard that is true and, if so, that would be the most obvious place to start cutting. If you didn’t take advantage of high school to the point you’re ready for college work, pay your own way until you get to that point.

What is the discussion on HOPE Grants for tech colleges? AJC reported that enrollment has skyrocketed at those schools. Is that part of the problem?

Been there done that...for 33 years

August 2nd, 2010
10:22 am

@Advocate…you can still get uniform shorts online through Land’s End. They were on sale…not sure if they still are. Also, Sears carries Land’s End products so they might possibly have them in the store. If you order and they don’t fit, they can be returned to Sears rather than mailing back to Land’s End. Just a tip…their adult sizes tend to run a bit large, check the measurements on their size charts if you decide to order.

Dr NO

August 2nd, 2010
10:23 am

A few hard cold facts.

Most of your precious darlings take after you and simply possess not the common sense to come in from the rain. This being the case many of your precious darlings will be forced into the following positions thanks to no fault of their own…

Taco Bell Lettuce Mgr.
Tire Retread Engineer.
Pine Straw Placement Engineer.
Lavatory Attendant.
Toll Booth Operator.
Salad Bar Cherry Tomato Replacement Engineer.
Dept Store Clothes Hanger Mgr.
Scotch Boutique Shelf Stockperson.

Etc.

Yes the prospects are dim for your precious darlings.

EnoughAlready

August 2nd, 2010
10:25 am

If you want to save HOPE, put an income limit on it. If your parents make $100,000 or more; you can afford to pay for college.

Dunwoody Mom

August 2nd, 2010
10:27 am

@MB – a student has to keep a “B” average in college to keep the Hope scholarship, so there is a check and balances with regards to the high school “grade inflation” factor.

Cobb Mom

August 2nd, 2010
10:27 am

I guess my first post is caught in the filter…

School calendar: It is hot in September, it is hot in June (when school will get out if we don’t start until September). Living in the south means recess and bus rides in the heat no matter what 180 day calendar you choose. It is school, not free daycare. Call a high school student to babysit YOUR kids if you can’t find a camp.

HOPE has improved the caliber of students at Georgia’s public universities and should not have an income limit (although please add a minimum SAT requirement and make it a real scholarship earned by high performance). There are other programs for low income students. Sometimes it pays to invest in the best and brightest regardless of income.

William Casey

August 2nd, 2010
10:30 am

TIP OF THE ICEBERG did us all a service by explaining the basics of the unintended consequences of HOPE. Retired teacher/coach/administrator here. I was at Northview and encountered many transfer students with “A/B” averages who struggled to get “C’s” in my classes. I’m not saying that Northview had no grade inflation (it did), but there are some schools and systems that have made grade inflation an art form. It IS fraud. The number of “HOPE SCHOLARS” unprepared for college (and the stats on HOPE recipients who lose it confirm this) would be a joke if it weren’t so serious. Until HOPE becomes a reimbursement program for actual college achievement rather than high school grade inflation, I don’t see much chance of this improving. Might not happen even then.

Nikole

August 2nd, 2010
10:30 am

@ JoDee…–I completely agree with you and I have been saying the same thing for years. Aside from the fact that school is not to be thought of as free babysitting, I know that daycares, camps, and even teachers that want to do extra work as a babysitter or tutor would pick up the slack if we had a year round schedule. People can take vacations in cheaper off seasons and not only do kids get to re energize, but so do their teachers. Kids can only benefit from a balanced or year round schedule.

William Casey

August 2nd, 2010
10:35 am

PS to DUNWOODY MOM: The current system of having to maintain a “B” average in college eventually kicks in but TONS OF MONEY is absolutely being WASTED until it does. We can no longer afford to waste money on the unprepared or the over-privileged who want to spend a year partying. HOPE should be for SCHOLARS.

Beck

August 2nd, 2010
10:39 am

ABC & MB – the reason Fulton starts so late this year was caving to parent pressure to start later.

adam

August 2nd, 2010
10:42 am

Why not make the teachers purchase the supplies out of their paycheck if they want the kids to come to school with this junk?

William Casey

August 2nd, 2010
10:44 am

DR. NO: I think that you must have been mistreated by society in your youth. Attitude! Somehow, I don’t think that my “little darling” Math & Philosophy double degrees pursuing son will end up in the positions described. However, he did spend the last 2.5 months as the “Chief Burger, Hotdogs and Beer Engineer” after the 9th hole at a golf club. He not only made money to supplement HOPE, he learned some important things about life and people in this job.