Archive for November, 2010

AFT: Don’t put full burden of achievement on teachers

The American Federation of Teachers issued a lengthy response this week to recent speeches by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and computer tycoon Bill Gates.

I thought the formal response raised a lot of good points. Get yourself some pie and coffee. This is long: (Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.)

Here is the formal AFT response:

Assumption: Teacher experience has little correlation with student achievement. In making this claim, Gates cited Jennifer King Rice’s “The Impact of Teacher Experience,” but this is not what the paper, a literature review, says. Rather, it presents the research showing that experience does matter, but that improvement levels off after about five years. In fact, experience is one of the only variables that consistently matters. Accordingly, it makes sense to boost retention by giving raises for additional years of service. Research also tells us the effects of experience are greater and longer when teachers stay in the same grade for …

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Should education turn to outsiders to run schools?

Cathleen Black

Cathleen Black

I think my new plan to retire from journalism someday and run a small school system has been scuttled with the news that the New York state education commissioner  believes journalist/publisher Cathleen P. Black lacks the education credentials to run New York City schools. He may only approve a waiver for her to take office if an educator is named second in command.

(For the record, I don’t think I am qualified to run a school bus, never mind a school system.)

The nomination of Black, who is well respected as a manager, stunned many people. Her ability to run the nation’s largest school system is sparking discussions about whether non-educators who lack an education degree and have never worked as a teacher or principal, can run a big school system. There are some examples of non-educators doing a decent job around the nation, but it seems that it’s a gamble that depends on a lot on the individual.

On one hand, many hospitals are well run by non-medical …

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APS board: An end in sight and a new election of officers

The fractious APS board of education may be at peace after a court agreement hammered out today and an emergency meeting afterward to approve the agreement and elect new officers.

I think both sides were aware that the public was unhappy with the standoff and wanted quick resolution.

Here is the consent order. Take a look and let me know your thoughts. Seems like a fair compromise to me.

At this point, I will take any agreement that moves the Atlanta board and its schools forward in the important task ahead of finding a new superintendent.

I must note that the judge ruled the charter change made by the five-member majority on the board — dubbed the “furious five” by Get Schooled posters — was legal. That means the ousting of the board chair and co-chair and the election of two members of the five-pack was legal.

However, board Chairman Khaatim Sherrer El and Vice Chairwoman Yolanda Johnson agreed to resign so the board could start fresh with a new election, which was held …

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Dad of first-year teacher: Why 50 kids in the class?

Any words of advice for new teachers confronting impossible class sizes besides run for your life?

Any words of advice for new teachers confronting impossible class sizes besides run for your life?

I received an e-mail from a parent of a first-year teacher that I thought I would share. I’ve eliminated any identifying information.

The teacher has been getting good evaluations thus far but the father has been surprised at the unnecessary challenges she has faced. First, she arrived at her new classroom to find no supplies. Nothing. So, she bought her own. Money eventually became available for supplies, but it was well into the school year.

But the father says supplies aren’t his first chief concern:

“It is the number of students that are in the classes.  Our General Assembly had the brilliant idea to balance the budget on the backs of students and teachers.  Not only did they not fund the entire school year, they removed the caps on class sizes.  My child has between 50 to 60 students in each class.

It is impossible to teach in those circumstances, especially when you …

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Sixth grade academies: Fad or fix for our schools?

As both a reporter and a parent, I’ve sat through long debates on reconfiguring schools by grades, typically into something new called an “academy.” (There’s apparently a perception that dubbing a school an “academy” connotes a more serious approach to education.). Ninth grade academies. Fourth and fifth grade academies. And now sixth grade academies.

I have not seen persuasive data that any of these new configurations is a better model than what we now have. In fact, more convincing is the research that students lose ground in transition years, suggesting that we ought to minimize how many times kids move from one new school setting to another.

Research (Alspaugh 1999) has shown that students suffer achievement loss during each transition year. Studies also show that students in k-8 schools outperform peers in middle and junior highs, and the fewer transitions are considered a key factor. Students in the k-8 and k-12 schools, a configuration that remains common among private …

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Economic and social failures blamed on schools

For a break from APS news, here’s an op-ed that runs in the Monday print education page that I assemble and edit each week. (Please send essays on education for consideration, 500 or 800 words. )

This piece is by Walt Gardner, who has written for the AJC before on education topics. A teacher for 28 years in Los Angeles, he writes the Reality Check blog for Education Week.

Enjoy his piece:

In the debate over education reform, the charge guaranteed to get the attention of the media is that the U.S. is losing its economic hegemony.  The evidence is rankings on tests of international competition, which are offered as proof that the U.S. will not be able to compete globally.  Yet a closer look leads to a far more nuanced conclusion.

The first question that should raise eyebrows is who takes the tests. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), for example, tests students who are in their “final year of school.”  But the ages of students range from 17 …

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Who should be the next APS superintendent?

Any candidates out there for the superintendent’s job in Atlanta?

A Get Schooled poster suggested that the APS board has already been sizing up potential candidates. The poster wrote on an earlier blog: “Dr. Marcia Lyles former Deputy Chancellor of New York City Public Schools and Now Superintendent in Delaware has been seen meeting with School Board Members in Atlanta. A good choice. Stan Mims a former Superintendent, also from New York City Public Schools is a strong candidate. Arlene Ackaman would be the best choice but wont leave Philadelphia anytime soon, then there is Linda Darling Hammond a professor at Stanford University. In house there is Randy Bynum who is well liked by principals because he is not dogmatic like many of the Executive leadership team. There are many principals to consider but the board is too stupid to consider them. There is Tyrone Smith at Mays, Vincent Murray at Grady, Shirlene Carter at Southside, Melody Morgan at Coretta Scott King and a few …

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CRCT cheating: AJC says time for APS chief to go

The AJC editorial editor called for the removal Dr. Beverly Hall.

The AJC editorial editor called for the removal Dr. Beverly Hall.

The AJC is calling for Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall to either quit or be fired in the wake of  revelations that she did not release a report she commissioned validating the newspaper’s data-driven investigation of improbable test score gains.

And the AJC is asking the attorney general to look into possible criminal violation of the Georgia Open Records Act by the district’s withholding of the damaging  report, which upheld the findings of AJC’s Heather Vogell and John Perry that APS gains on spring 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were highly unlikely, if not near impossible.

Hall requested the report last fall after the AJC identified 12  schools with the most unfathomable score swings. Hall commissioned a separate data analysis of the 12 schools by Andrew Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. It was given to the system in May, …

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APS cheating mess: Hall won’t stay on after contract ends

As I have reported here before, APS Superintendent Beverly Hall was not expected to stay on after next spring when her contract expired.

I have argued with many folks here on the blog that she should be allowed to stay on through the expiration of her contract in the spring simply for the sake of stability.  Most of you disagreed, including now my own newspaper. But I have found that interim superintendents throw systems into inertia. Nothing gets done for the year while the search is under way for a new leader.

You all argued that dormancy is better than chaos.

Now, we have confirmation that Hall formally plans to step down next year. She has given official word to what has been the long-held unofficial assumption:

Channel 2 Action News is reporting that Hall notified school board members late Friday that she will not seek another contract when her current contract expires on June 30, of next year.

– By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog

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DOE chief of staff: Too many school systems hostile to Christians

I reported the other day that new school chief John Barge chose his new leadership team, including chief of staff Joel Thornton, who is now president and CEO of the International Human Rights Group and a former classroom teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School and Model Middle School in Rome.

Several readers sent me a link to Thorton’s own blog, which they found troubling and felt portended a blurring of the church/state dividing line.

I am not sure if we can judge how Thorton will run the state Department of Education based on his blog musings, but after spending some time on Thornton’s blog today, I note that he doesn’t write about what I consider the core questions facing Georgia public schools, teacher quality, curriculum, testing and rigor.

His references to public education deal with the elimination of God from the schools and what he perceives to be a growing hostility to Christianity in schools in America and beyond.

Here are long excerpts from the blog. Take a look …

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