Archive for December, 2010

APS Buckhead high school site: Is walkability important?

I wish schools were built in locations that allowed students to walk to neighborhood shops and libraries.

I wish schools were built in locations that allowed students to walk to neighborhood shops and libraries.

An AJC story today answers the question of where the new APS high school will not be located: It will not be on the site of the Paces Apartments complex in Buckhead Village,  a site that met with opposition from the neighbors.

Instead, it is being suggested that the long-awaited school may be built on IBM properties on Northside Parkway, which is not as pedestrian friendly.

I understand the traffic concerns around the Buckhead Village location, but I think there is something wonderful about a high school site that allows teens to walk safely to coffee shops. boutiques and bookstores.

I have never been a fan of isolating schools on major roads that inhibit the ability of students to walk. My son went to a high school in the midst of downtown Decatur, and he and friends sometimes walked downtown for ice cream or pizza. (Of course, once he bought himself a 1992 Honda, he …

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US Ed Secretary makes last-ditch push for DREAM Act

I participated in a quick media call Friday morning with U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan who is making a last-ditch effort to persuade the Senate to pass the DREAM Act when it votes today. Duncan called it an historical vote and said he was hopeful that the bill will pass.

The Senate, in an unusual Saturday session, is taking up two controversial bills today, the DREAM Act, which is being debated now, and the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.

Duncan’s call with reporters was part of an overall White House push this week for DREAM Act passage.  The House passed the act last week, a vote that Duncan said shifted the momentum in favor of the controversial legislation that creates a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

It applies to illegal immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday. To qualify, they  must graduate from high school, enter college or into the military, and stay out of trouble.

The DREAM Act was written …

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More virtual schools likely for Georgia. Good news?

As expected, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission approved the four charter schools recommended by its interviewing panels. It also raised the per pupil funding for online schools, a move that is likely to lure more virtual enterprises to Georgia.

I have read a lot about virtual education, but still think we are in the discovery phase of whether online learning is effective, especially for younger students. To me, the models depend in great part on the willingness of the parents to essentially co-teach.

In its 2009 meta-analysis of studies on online learning, the U.S. Department of Education noted that online learning was effective, but cautioned: An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., …

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Does DeKalb interim school chief deserve $73,000 raise?

UPDATE: The DeKalb County school board Friday voted to give interim superintendent Ramona Tyson a $76,000 raise, $24,000 more for expenses, and an 18-month contract assuring she will receive the higher salary even if the district hires a new leader before her contract ends.

I have no doubt that running the state’s third largest school system is tough, but I am not sure if an interim superintendent — who is a place holder until a permanent super can be found — merits a $73,000 raise.

Ramona Tyson, interim superintendent in DeKalb, is asking for a 44 percent raise,  from $165,000 to $238,000 a year.

While the job is demanding, Tyson is only in the post until the school board hires a replacement. I think there has to be less pressure on an interim on her than on the person who takes the job for good.

But maybe not.

If she is doing the job for however long, perhaps she ought to earn a salary more in line with what a permanent school chief would receive. When Tyson accepted the …

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If you are driving to school, be careful

Be careful out there this morning.

Be careful out there this morning.

In all my years of living up north, I never slid on ice. But I did last night in Decatur. My daughter’s middle school choir sang before Wednesday night’s performance of “A Christmas Story,” which is being mounted by Georgia Shakespeare at its Oglethorpe University stage.

Our family loves the movie so we  bought tickets and stayed for the play, which was fantastic with amazing child actors. (For a fun night, take your kids ages 7 and older.)

The ride home at 9:40 p.m. was spooky. I am a slow driver by nature but I was crawling last night. And all was well until I hit my own street where I slid for about 10 feet. My kids thought it was fun, but I was desperately trying to remember the rules for righting a car after hitting ice. I sort of coasted until I could regain control, luckily hitting nothing in the process. My street is on top of a hill and is famous for getting extreme ice, but I had never had an issue before last night.

Our schools …

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Have tuition increases outpaced HOPE? Students riled.

The financial crisis facing the HOPE Scholarship has been looming for several years but appears to be at a boiling point now with state leaders predicting a certain reduction in either the amount of the scholarship or in how many students receive it.

While we have discussed HOPE several times in the last few weeks, a parent sent me this note that I thought was worth sharing as we have not discussed the increases in tuition at the public colleges:

I have a senior at Georgia Tech.  Four years ago her HOPE scholarship (including the $150 book allowance) was $4,796.  I have a freshman at UGA this year and her HOPE scholarship for the year is $8,240.  In four years tuition and reimbursable fees have risen 72 percent.  Maybe that’s why HOPE is going broke.”

There’s also an AJC story by Laura Diamond about the escalating concerns among students about HOPE. She writes:

Legislative recommendations aren’t expected for a few of weeks, but suggestions include decreasing the amount of …

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Pretty in pink: No so with girl gang in Fayette schools

I don't think Barbie was making a gang statement with her pink and black ensemble.

I don't think Barbie was making a gang statement with her pink and black ensemble.

I never thought of pink and black as gang colors, but I haven’t seen too many girl gangs up close.

The AJC is reporting the arrest of girl gang members in Fayette County, which is not a county typically associated with gangs.

One of the schools involved is J.C. Booth Middle School in Peachtree City, where we have the incident of the online bullying not along ago. I am sure parents in that school are wondering what is happening with their adolescents. Yes, parents expect mood swings and acne; I am not sure they expect online harassment and girl gangs.

According to the AJC:

A ninth-grade girl and eight eighth- grade girls were arrested at their Fayette County schools Wednesday morning on charges of gang activity, officials confirmed.

The arrests were at Booth Middle School and at McIntosh High School, culminating two independent investigations by the school system and the Peachtree City Police …

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Hall says no more schoolhouse defense lawyer sessions

The AJC reported last week that Atlanta Public Schools administrators were allowing their personal criminal defense attorneys access to school grounds so they can interview potential witnesses, raising “serious witness intimidation concerns,” the governor’s special investigators have told Superintendent Beverly Hall.

(It is sad to me that educators need personal criminal defense attorneys because they may have resorted to cheating on a state test to improve their class or school scores.)

Now, Hall says this practice will stop.

According to the AJC:

Hall said she will tell staffers their attorneys cannot disrupt the educational environment.

Last week, the special investigators wrote Hall, asking her to address the matter. In August, Perdue appointed the investigators — Mike Bowers, Bob Wilson and Richard Hyde – to determine whether APS officials falsified scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard recently named Bowers, the …

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Chilling video of Florida school board siege, but cool heads

Cool heads prevailed at a routine Panama City school board meeting that turned horrific when a calm, but deranged gunman showed up and ordered everyone but the board members and superintendent out of the public meeting.

And while her actions may seem dangerous, I am impressed with school board member Ginger Littleton who tried to knock the gun out of the man’s hand with her purse. Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt was very composed as he tried to talk the man down.

The gunman killed himself after a school security guard opened fire. But no one else was hurt, which is an incredible outcome given the circumstances.

Here is the terrifying video of the incident. I am not sure I would have been as calm as any of these folks.

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Fewest college grads in counties: Georgia tops nation

We lead in yet another category of under attainment in education in the country.

We lead in yet another category of under attainment in education in the country.

This is for all of you who maintain that Georgia does not need to send more kids to college.

From the new American Community Survey released this week from the U.S. Census:

There were 62 counties [in the country] where less than 10 percent of the adult population had a bachelor’s degree. Fourteen of these counties were in Georgia, nine in Tennessee, eight in Kentucky and five each in Florida and West Virginia.

When I went to the Census files to find the 14 counties, I discovered that there were far more than 14 Georgia counties that were showing less than 10 percent of people ages 25 and older with bachelor’s or higher degrees in the raw data. I stopped counting midway through the Georgia counties when the tally topped 20. So, I called the Census to ask how it came up with only 14.

Here is the explanation:

One of our subject matter experts went back and looked at the data again and ran it …

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