Archive for November, 2010

Two new faces on DeKalb board. Congrats and good luck.

District 7 school board member Donna Edler

District 7 school board member Donna Edler

The DeKalb school board gets new leadership with the election of two newcomers in today’s runoff elections.

Nancy Jester defeated incumbent Jim Redovian in District 1 by capturing 55 percent of the vote, while certified public accountant Donna Edler defeated  Zepora Roberts in District 7 by winning 72 percent of the vote.

Runoffs — especially runoffs during terrible rainstorms — hinge on motivated voters. Apparently, Jester and Edler had enough of them.

Edler, in particular, won by a commanding margin, suggesting that District 7 voters craved change after many years with Roberts at the helm.

Both Edler and Jester were impressive at public forums and demonstrated great capacity for detail. Each has children in the system and has been an involved parent in her local school.

District 1 school board member Nancy Jester

District 1 school board member Nancy Jester

Jester and Edler will need every bit of intellect and stamina they have as they are joining the DeKalb school board at a …

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Answers may finally come in ongoing CRCT cheating probe

In an update to the earlier CRCT investigation story, the AJC is now reporting that Mike Bowers and Bob Wilson were appointed special assistant district attorneys in Fulton County today, signaling that criminal prosecutions are coming.

Both former prosecutors, Bowers and Wilson were appointed by the governor in August to jump-start the probe into CRCT cheating by Atlanta and Dougherty County schools. A frustrated Sonny Perdue felt that the two systems did not do a thorough job in their own internal investigations into why their classrooms led the state in the number of wrong to right erasures on the 2009 CRCT.

Both districts had rates that far exceeded the Georgia average and had multiple classrooms flagged by a state audit. The questions that remain unresolved: Who cheated, how and was it systematic?

Hopefully, a grand jury will get some answers.

According to the AJC, which spoke this morning to Fulton DA Paul Howard:

Bowers and Wilson, appointed in August by Gov. Sonny …

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Credit teacher and students for calm in Wisconsin crisis

Update Tuesday afternoon:

The 15-year-old student who held about two dozen students and a teacher hostage for several hours in a classroom at a Wisconsin high school died Tuesday at a hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Sophomore Samuel Hengel shot himself after police stormed a classroom at Marinette High School on Monday night.

Bravo to the students and teacher in a Wisconsin high school who kept their cool and their lives after an armed 15-year-old took them hostage Monday in class.

From early press accounts, it appears that the teacher and students managed to maintain calm in a situation that could have easily turned chaotic and deadly. I am not sure a teacher can ever prepare for this sort of drama, but teacher Valerie Burd rose to the occasion.

The only injuries were to the gunman himself and were self-inflicted.

I am not sure what we can learn from this crime, although I think that we’ll likely learn that this teen armed himself with weapons owned by family …

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U.S. grad rate rises. Fewer dropout factories in Georgia.

A new study says Georgia has fewer high school dropout factories and more grads.

A new study says Georgia has fewer high school dropout factories and more grads.

A bit of good news to close the month of November: The U.S. high school graduation rate is on an upswing and Georgia played a significant role.

According to a report by America’s Promise Alliance, an education advocacy group founded by General Colin Powell and his wife Alma Powell, the U.S. graduation rate increased from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008.

The report says that the “dropout factory” high schools — high schools where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year — are decreasing.

The number of  these factories, which produce half of the nation’s dropouts each year, fell from from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. And Georgia is one of the states slowing its dropout assembly line.

The report states: Most of the decline in dropout factory schools occurred in the South, with 216 of the net decline of 261 schools (about 83 percent …

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Perdue’s probe obtains admissions of cheating on CRCT

APS staff members have either confessed to changing answers on the CRCT or watching others tamper with tests, according to a story in this morning’s AJC.

The admissions came from an investigation ordered by Gov. Perdue in August after internal probes by  Atlanta and Dougherty County school officials yielded no clear picture of how 2009 CRCT  answer sheets were changed or who did it.

However, it is unclear whether those staff members who confessed to tampering in any way are among the 108 employees that Atlanta schools  have already  referred to the state Professional Standards Commission for possible disciplinary action last August as result of their own investigation.

But the admissions will provide a clearer picture of how cheating occurred and how to stop it in the future. For the most part, the investigations by the schools themselves yielded no admissions. It is likely the presence of GBI agents influenced some people to come clean with what they knew.

I find this …

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dz NE1 care bout sp n gramA Ny mor?

Should grammar and spelling matter to us anymore?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the students at J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City who created a web site that listed the school’s best-looking and popular kids as well as those they suspected of being gay.

A Booth student sent this note, which I appreciate for its passion and its decency. But I worry about its spelling and punctuation, which I suspect may be influenced by texting where information is reduced to its essence.

With kids now writing more than a thousand texts a month, texting has become a more familiar literary form to them than the essay. They may rewrite the rules for the rest of us.

Here is the message:

i am a student at the school where this happened. My friends were on these lists, I see the hatred from my peers day after day. When this site was made i wasnt suprised. i was just horrified someone would have the nerve to acctually make the site. Every student at my school new people who talked bad, but …

Continue reading dz NE1 care bout sp n gramA Ny mor? »

UGA’s student editor proves dangers of drinking

The Red & Black, the independent University of Georgia student newspaper, is reporting on one of its own today in a story about college drinking. This is a tough break for the student/editor involved.

He had to be a talented editor to rise to his top leadership position. I am sorry that he made his big mistake at such a high profile forum and with the current and next state governor present.

But I suspect this is a lesson that Daniel Burnett will never forget. (Take a look at my colleague Jim Galloway’s take on this.)

Also on the Red & Black web site are two other items about drinking, including one about a student who kicked in the door to an apartment. I am not sure how to get the message that drinking, if done at all, ought to be in moderation.

According to the Red & Black:

Daniel Burnett, editor in chief of The Red & Black, has submitted a letter of resignation stemming from an incident in which he was asked to leave the University President’s Box during Saturday’s …

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When teachers cuss. And students hear.


A New York City teacher is fighting a $15,000 fine for using the word “cono” (COHN’-yoh) in his classroom. He is arguing that while the word’s literal translation may mean female sexual organs, it can also mean other things that are less controversial and fit for classroom use.

I wrote a print column a while back about classroom language after a local teacher told a fourth grader to stop “acting like a retard.” I’ve never been troubled by reports that a teacher slipped up and muttered a “damn” or worse when a chair fell over or a finger got slammed in a drawer. But I was troubled over this because I find “retard”  hurtful.

However, others disagreed, explaining that the teacher might have been trying to talk to the children in their own vernacular. Maybe the teacher knew that kids used that term when a classmate acted goofy, so she was conveying her disapproval in their terms.

I understand the adult struggle to relate to teens, whose language can be described as salty. (A …

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DeKalb faces challenges in upcoming redistricting

Redistricting is a chilling experience for everyone involved, the affected families and the school administrators. It’s especially true when families feel they are being drawn out of a beloved school or feeder system.

That is a deep concern in north DeKalb, where parents are gathering tonight at a redistricting meeting at Henderson Middle School at 6:30. Parents in the Leafmore neighborhood fear the possibility that they will be shifted from the Oak Grove/Henderson/Lakeside feeder system to the Sagamore/Shamrock/Druid Hills system.

At this point, DeKalb is in the discussion and planning stages of redistricting. As the recent school closing hearings in DeKalb demonstrated, parents will rise up quickly even at the suggestion that their children could be tapped for redistricting.

The challenge in DeKalb County is that growth has slowed in the south end of the county, which had been a hotbed of new housing a few years ago. During the school closing hearings, system officials …

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Teachers on a paper trail. Does it lead to greater learning?

One of the surprises in talking to teachers over the years is that their biggest complaint is not unruly students or uninvolved parents. What really discourages teachers is the paperwork, the ever-increasing and ever-changing litany of demands from the central office, state agencies and federal government to fill out this form and churn out that report.

Across grades, systems and states, teachers are overwhelmed by the pressure to submit detailed lesson plans, agendas and daily goals. A survey earlier this year of 43,000 Maryland teachers found that while they are generally happy with their class sizes and teaching conditions, they despair over all the paperwork.

A 1987 study found that teachers on average spent eight hours a week on paperwork. The hours may well be higher now since many current school reform models seem to measure success by the stacks of reports produced.

The emphasis on relentlessly documenting their every move in the classroom whittles away at their …

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