Archive for October, 2010

Peachtree City middle school meanness: Symptom of a culture gone awry or parents gone AWOL?

When the movie "Mean Girls" was made, kids still whispered rumors about one another. Now, the web delivers such poison in a far more efficient and expedited way. (Photo/Paramount)

When the movie "Mean Girls" was made, kids still whispered rumors about one another. Now, the web delivers such poison in a far more efficient and expedited way. (Photo/Paramount)

Apparently, some web savvy adolescents at J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City created a site that listed the school’s best-looking and popular kids as well as those they suspected of being gay.

I am delighted that the school found out about the site and moved quickly to talk to students about its implications. There’s nothing new about middle school students rating who’s attractive and who’s liked.

But there are two new forces at play today that make such lists more problematic than 30 years ago: The culture itself re-inforces the social poison of middle school and the web delivers it with lightning speed.

I also wonder if parents contribute to the problem by allowing their children unfettered access to computers. I have found that some parents prefer their children be the alpha students …

Continue reading Peachtree City middle school meanness: Symptom of a culture gone awry or parents gone AWOL? »

Turning up the volume in our lives. Everyone seems to be talking now, in the library, in class. Is quiet old school?

Is it too quiet in here?

The WSB-TV story about the mother being arrested in the Decatur library allegedly because she wouldn’t quiet  her noisy toddler made me think about noise in schools and libraries. (BTW, having used that library many times and seen the tolerance toward boisterous children, I have to believe the library’s account that the police were called because of the woman’s loudness rather than the child’s.)

First off, libraries in general are louder than they used to be. As a young child, I was a regular at the library near my house and it was a silent, somber place where I checked out my “Harriet the Spy” books and fled home to read them.

Today, libraries are filled with parents and toddlers and there are bean bag chairs and little tables that invite kids to get comfy. The child-friendly nooks and crannies also invite noise because where they are children, there is noise.

In fact, I also see many more adults who talk in normal tones rather than the whispers in …

Continue reading Turning up the volume in our lives. Everyone seems to be talking now, in the library, in class. Is quiet old school? »

Gwinnett school board election: Incumbent Bob McClure faces challenger Mark A. Williams

Here are the three questions we asked of the two candidates running for the District 4 school board in Gwinnett County.

1.  What are your views on school choice and the repeated denials of charter schools in Gwinnett?
2. How has growth impacted quality of education and individualized instruction and should Gwinnett make its historically large schools smaller for students so they can learn more effectively?
3. What would you do to make sure the staff and leadership in the district reflects the community, which is now majority minority, since the county has a reputation for stifling community input?

Bob McClure is the District 4 incumbent and a physician in Lilburn. His six children are graduates of Gwinnett schools

Bob McClure

Bob McClure

1. Gwinnett has had a school choice program for many years. A student may request transfer to any school that is not overcrowded. Permissive transfers also are allowed in specific situations as outlined in Board policy. The school district also …

Continue reading Gwinnett school board election: Incumbent Bob McClure faces challenger Mark A. Williams »

Cobb school board election: District 2 incumbent Holli Cash faces challenger Tim Stultz

Here are the three questions we put to Cobb County Post 2 school board candidates in the Nov. 2 general election;

1. What skills and abilities do you bring to the school board?

2. Should Cobb conduct a national search for a superintendent or go with home grown talent?

3. Schools in parts of Cobb continue to have high test scores while schools in the south and western part of the district are struggling. What are some ways the district can address disparities brought on by race and socio-economics?

Holli Cash: Democratic candidate for Cobb school board, Post 2

Holli Cash: Democratic candidate for Cobb school board, Post 2

Holli Cash is the Democratic incumbent in District 2. Bachelor’s degree in business/marketing from University of Texas. School and community volunteer who has served four years on the board.  She has four children in the system:

1. I have 20 years of volunteer experience serving on various school committees and holding several PTA leadership positions. Working with PTA has taught me the issues facing public …

Continue reading Cobb school board election: District 2 incumbent Holli Cash faces challenger Tim Stultz »

Gwinnett wins prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education: A validation of its strong superintendent

Congratulations to the teachers, students and administrators of Gwinnett schools. In a ceremony in New York, Gwinnett was just declared the nation’s top urban school system by the Broad Foundation, earning the district a million dollars in student scholarships and its controversial superintendent validation of his strong leadership style.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the award in front of an audience that included a large Gwinnett contingent.

in New York today, J. Alvin Wilbanks accepted the 2010 Broad Prize on behalf of Gwinnett schools

In New York today, J. Alvin Wilbanks accepted the 2010 Broad Prize on behalf of Gwinnett schools from U.S. Ed Secetary Arne Duncan.

The Broad Prize for Urban Education honors the urban system that has the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing the achievement gap. It is the largest education prize in the country.

“This is a great trip to New York,” said Dr. Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett superintendent, thanking his board of education and his central staff. “Let me present to you the …

Continue reading Gwinnett wins prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education: A validation of its strong superintendent »

Re-testing: Does it penalize the kids who get it right the first time? Is school about learning well or testing well?

Dean Rohrer, NewsArt

Dean Rohrer, NewsArt

I had an interesting conversation with a teacher I ran into last week at the store: Is the purpose of education to make sure kids learn — in which case testing should be diagnostic — or is it that they learn in a specific way at a specific time?

That question goes to the heart of an AJC news story today on a new retesting policy in Forsyth County where students re-take tests if they get a poor grade fail or perform poorly on the first attempt.

When the reporter doing this story asked me about it, I asked a testing expert who sent me this note:

Re-testing is and has been common practice for a long time. Even back in the 70’s when minimum competency barrier testing started, students were allowed to re-take such things as graduation barrier tests (such as the GHSGT) to try to pass them. There are two major variables in retaking and passing; one of course is additional narrow preparation specifically for the test, the other, of course, is the inaccuracy …

Continue reading Re-testing: Does it penalize the kids who get it right the first time? Is school about learning well or testing well? »

Gwinnett finds out today whether it snares the million dollar Broad Prize as best urban system in the nation

We find out today whether Gwinnett County wins the 2010 Broad Prize for being the nation’s most improved urban school system. You can go to this site and register to watch the live web announcement at 11:3o a.m. today.

The largest education prize in the country, the Broad Prize awards $1 million in college scholarships for high school seniors in the winning district.  A finalist last year, Gwinnett lost out to Aldine, Texas.

The county has stiff competition this year. Other finalists are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.,  Montgomery County Public Schools, Md., Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas, and Ysleta Independent School District, El Paso, Texas.

Every year, 100 of America’s largest urban school districts are automatically eligible for the Broad Prize; they cannot apply or be nominated.

The announcement today will be made at a live webcast from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City with U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and philanthropist …

Continue reading Gwinnett finds out today whether it snares the million dollar Broad Prize as best urban system in the nation »

“We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep. We should be waking them up.”

Thanks to teacher Jordan Kohanim for alerting me to this very entertaining and enlightening video by education innovator Sir Ken Robinson.

Robinson addresses the problems with our production line mentality of educating “children by batches…why is there this assumption that the most important thing children have in common is how old they are…it is like the most important thing about them was their date of manufacture.”

“They have spent 10 years at school and been told there is one answer and it’s in the back and don’t look,” says Robinson.

He criticizes the American embrace of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, noting that diagnoses have risen in tandem with the rise of standardized testing and prescriptions for ADHD drugs increase as you travel east across the United States.

“People start losing interest in Oklahoma,” he says. “They can hardly think straight in Arkansas and, by the time they get to Washington, they’ve lost it completely. It’s a fictitious epidemic.”

“We …

Continue reading “We are getting our children through education by anesthetizing them. We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep. We should be waking them up.” »

Cherokee school board elections: Four first-time candidates seek your votes in Posts 3 and 6

We collected answers to three questions from the Post 3 and Post 6 Cherokee County school board candidates. (We also did other counties and will post those candidate responses over the next few days.)

1. Has the county been receptive to charter schools and are they a good idea?
2. Do you agree with how the school board has dealt with the county’s growth in terms of planning and staffing?
3. Has Cherokee made enough changes to cope with the reduced funds from the state and should there be more cuts?

Michael Geist is the Republican running for Post 3; Bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech in aerospace engineering and some graduate work in business. Works as a senior IT analyst. First-time candidate:

Michael Geist

Michael Geist

1. It is my impression that a majority of the PEOPLE of the county are receptive to, if not eager for, a public charter school option. Perhaps the results of the local Republican primary reflect this as two pro-charter candidates – myself included – prevailed over …

Continue reading Cherokee school board elections: Four first-time candidates seek your votes in Posts 3 and 6 »

DeKalb District 5: Incumbent Jesse “Jay” Cunningham faces two opponents in Kirk Nooks and Jacques Hall

We collected answers to three questions from the District 5 DeKalb school board candidates. (We also did other counties and will post those candidate responses over the next few days.) These will appear in the print edition in shorter form throughout the next week.

1. What qualities should the next superintendent of schools have?
2. How would you involve the communities in the school redistricting and closings process?
3. With the indictments of two top school officials and the current questions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about leadership of the district, what will you do to help restore credibility and confidence?

Here are the responses from the District 5 candidates:

Jesse Jay Cunningham is the District 5 incumbent and owns  Zo’s Pizza in Lithonia.

Jesse Jay Cunningham

Jesse Jay Cunningham

1. A vision, confidence, experience and a successful record as school superintendent of a large diverse urban school system . A strong instructional leadership background to have the …

Continue reading DeKalb District 5: Incumbent Jesse “Jay” Cunningham faces two opponents in Kirk Nooks and Jacques Hall »