Archive for December, 2010

DeKalb: Protecting teachers by outsourcing other jobs?

Facing an estimated $50 million shortfall in next year’s budget, DeKalb schools may resort to outsourcing custodial and maintenance work now done by  700 employees. The district is exploring whether outsourcing the work will be cheaper than paying its own personnel.

While I understand the pain caused by any job losses, it seems that DeKalb is looking at a better solution than laying off teachers. If some of these non classroom jobs can be performed more cheaply by outside contractors, it would save the taxpayers money.

With the size of the shortfalls that DeKalb and other counties are confronting, jobs are going to have to be eliminated.

Shouldn’t those jobs be outside the classroom?

According to the AJC:

The school system is considering privatizing custodians and maintenance jobs, including grounds-keeping, painting, window glazing, heating and air-conditioning, equipment repair and pest control.

“The objective is not to eliminate employees, but to save taxpayer …

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Burst the bubble of shallow professor evaluations

I read this piece in the Emory Wheel and asked permission of the Emory University student newspaper editors and the author to reprint in the AJC as I thought it was well done and interesting. The author is Andrew Brown,  a senior at Emory University. Enjoy. You can read the Emory Wheel online.

By Andrew Brown

As I write this op-ed, I am sitting in the penultimate lecture of one of my classes at Emory University. In a moment, the professor will begin to teach. But I will keep writing this piece rather than pay attention to her because this lecture (like every other one she has given this semester) will be boring and disjointed, and it will tell me nothing that I won’t learn from reading the textbook.

Unfortunately, I think many Emory students have had similar experiences in their courses. In this particular class, only about half of the students show up to each lecture — and those who do pass the time by noodling on their iPhones or doing work for other classes. (At the …

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Prospect of teacher ratings sparks debate, criticisms

report cardSince teacher ratings are of such great interest on the blog, I wanted to share part of an e-mail from a teacher to me and the legislators considering this idea, state Rep. Edward Lindsey’s response to the e-mail and then the letter that New York Chancellor Joel Klein wrote to his teachers explaining why he agreed to release effectiveness ratings there once the courts cleared the way.

I think all three give a pretty good summary of the pros and cons of this highly explosive issue. I think it is fair to say from the hundreds of response to the blog and personal e-mails to me that this is not an idea that Georgia teachers will easily endorse.

And teachers have not done so in Los Angeles where the LA Times released teacher ratings this summer that led to protests in the streets. Teachers are fighting release of similar effectiveness rankings in New York where the media want to see them and the school system wants to provide them under the rationale that parents deserve more …

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Legislature will consider teacher report cards

report cardI have been working on a column for the AJC’s Monday education page on an effort this upcoming legislative session to formulate a bill creating teacher report cards in Georgia and just chatted with House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, about his interest in the issue.

Along with state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, Lindsey visited Colorado recently to meet with the legislator there led a successful effort to pass a teacher effectiveness bill this year.

We talked about a range of education initiatives that Lindsey would like to see this session, including improving the substance of pre-k,  reviewing how much testing we do in our schools, enhancing technical  education in high school and saving HOPE.

But we talked mostly about whether Georgia was ready and able to rate teachers given the available data and all the controversies about whether such measures are fair:

His reply to my question on whether this was the time for report cards for teachers:

“If not now, …

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Legislature can’t ignore the HOPE crisis any longer

The cost of graduating a Georgia college will be higher if HOPE is reduced.

The cost of graduating a Georgia college will be higher if HOPE is reduced.

With the HOPE scholarship bleeding money, the Legislature only has two choices to save the popular program. It can either slash the number of HOPE recipients or the amount that each student receives.

Neither will be politically popular, which explains why lawmakers long ignored the gathering storm clouds over HOPE until the winds nearly blew off the roof of the Capitol.

As early as 2003, legislators were warned that the Georgia Lottery would have a hard time keeping up with the two education programs it supports, HOPE and universal pre-k. This fiscal year, the lottery will be short $243 million. By 2012, the shortfall grows to $317 million.

Seven years ago, the state assembled a commission that made recommendations for deep cuts to HOPE, but a better-than-expected haul in lottery proceeds convinced lawmakers that the state could afford to wait to eviscerate HOPE.

So while the 2004 Legislature …

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School funding: Should Georgia parents sue the state?

Here’s an op-ed running today on the AJC education page.  This provocative piece is by Luis A. Velez, the parent of two children in the Coweta public schools. (Repeating again my request for op-ed submissions for the weekly education page. If you want to submit one, send it to me at mdowney@ajc.com. Op-eds must run with bylines. )

Enjoy this piece:

By Luis A. Velez

A political firestorm regarding public education in Florida may soon hit Georgia.

What do you do if you’re a public school parent who is fed up with the inferior quality of education your children are receiving? How do you deal with budget cuts that are crippling the system and even forcing teachers to beg for essential supplies, like crayons and pencils? If you’re a public school parent in Florida, you sue the state.

The Florida Supreme Court recently made history by holding that the Florida legislature can be held accountable for the quality of the state’s public schools. Specifically, the Court held that …

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Deal’s young hotshots: Erin Hames lands a key role

Erin Hames will now advise Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.

Erin Hames will now advise Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.

When the AJC met two weeks ago with the Department of Education leadership team about Race to the Top, Erin Hames led the discussion, which was interesting as incoming school chief John Barge was not keeping her at the agency.

Hames had joined DOE earlier this year to help oversee RTTT after serving as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s policy director.

At the meeting, current school chief Brad Bryant, who is staying at DOE as legal counsel, said he hoped DOE  could find a spot for Hames because of her critical role in crafting and winning Georgia’s $400 million RTTT grant.

For the record, I thought it was crazy to let Hames go as she is the state’s authority on RTTT, and it seemed counterproductive and costly to send all that background and knowledge out the door. She also knows all the players in Washington, which is important as this four-year grant will require ongoing contact with the U.S. DOE and Arne Duncan.

But Hames, a …

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Holiday party chatter: Tracking and testing

I hope the holidays were pleasant for everyone. Except for one vigorous debate with my husband over whether to wash the pre-washed lettuce yet again, we had a serene and home-bound holiday. We visited friends in the neighborhood. made fudge and  played  Rummikub.

Because most of my friends have school-age kids, we always fall into conversation about education. I  want to share two conversation themes that came up several times over the holidays.

The first is the perennial private school versus public debate. I am in a strong public system here in Decatur, made all the stronger by the prevalence of parents with advanced college degrees.  (This is due to the high number of CDC researchers, Emory doctors and college professors who live here. )

Neighbors with two kids in public school and one in private told me that the biggest difference they saw was testing. Their public school offspring were always being prepped for tests or taking tests. And they felt that once the CRCT …

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The commercial college biz grows: For profit, for shame

American students are responding in record numbers to the constant drumbeat that they must go to college to succeed.

Unfortunately, the most vulnerable of these students, those without a college-going culture in their families to inform their higher-education decisions, are marching into institutions that have little incentive to ensure they graduate.

The fastest-growing campuses in higher education today are for-profit schools that rely on sleek marketing, big promises and online ads to entice low-income and minority students to their pricey programs.

But these colleges post far lower graduation rates, even when compared to nonprofit open-enrollment colleges that serve the same students.

And they get higher tuition from these students, often the first in their families to attend a college.  “And who’s waiting for them with open arms?” says Amy Wilkins, vice president of the Education Trust, which just released a blistering report on for-profit colleges. “These …

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EEOC sues Kaplan Higher Ed for unlawful discrimination

Interesting release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about its decision to sue Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, which operates Bauder College in Atlanta

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, a nationwide provider of postsecondary education, engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by refusing to hire a class of black job applicants nationwide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

Since at least 2008, Kaplan Higher Education has rejected job applicants based on their credit history. This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit.

As a result of these practices, the company has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-02882) filed by the EEOC’s Cleveland Field Office in U.S. District Court for the …

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