Archive for January, 2011

Spike Lee: We need options other than sports, rap and the corner

Congressman John Lewis gets passionate about the role of education as Spike Lee listens at a Morehouse panel Monday. Vino Wong vwong@ajc.com

Congressman John Lewis gets passionate about the role of education as Spike Lee listens at a Morehouse panel Monday. Vino Wong vwong@ajc.com

I just attended the U.S. Department of Education town hall meeting at Morehouse College featuring Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Congressman John Lewis, filmmaker and Morehouse graduate Spike Lee, Morehouse President Robert Michael Franklin, New Schools of Carver science teacher Christopher Watson, MSNBC contributor Jeff Johnson and Jonesboro’s Mundy’s Mill Middle School principal Derrick Dalton.

The point of the session –  which was loaded with inspirational moments, including Lee recognizing two Morehouse professors in the front row for their role in his success –  was to encourage black students to consider teaching.

The program opened with a personal, taped message to the Morehouse students from President Obama about the importance of increasing the pool of quality teachers. The stage backdrop was an Obama quote: “If you want to …

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Is teacher fund taking lessons from Wall Street on bonuses?

AJC reporter James Salzer created quite a stir with his AJC story on the 35 percent raises to top staffers in the Teacher Retirement System. (See down below for a priceless piece of outrage from a Georgia college professor.)

Salzer reports:

The two investment chiefs at the retirement system took home $609,000 each, almost double what they were paid before the recession hit in 2007. According to state records, the two, Nancie H. Boedy and Charles W. Cary, made slightly more in fiscal 2010 than University of Georgia President Michael Adams, who was listed as earning $601,494. They made more than four times what then-Gov. Sonny Perdue was paid.

Teacher Retirement System officials said the big pay — a combination of salaries and “incentive pay” or bonuses — are needed to keep highly qualified money managers running teacher and state employee retirement programs that are now worth a combined $66 billion.

“For the same type of responsibility they have here, in the private …

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Teaching and testing the “Seven Deadly Sins”

In my effort to share interesting e-mails, here is one from a Fayette County mom about confronting a permission slip from school to permit her child to attend a segment on the “Seven Deadly Sins.”

Today my 8th grade, 14-year-old daughter presented me with a permission slip to attend a teaching segment on the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  As stated in the permission slip, juveniles who are at least 13 years old in Georgia “must be prosecuted as adults if they are charged with one of the Seven Deadly Sins.”

The permission slip further contends the Georgia Department of Education believes it is vital for our children to understand the justice system and consequently the circumstances which may result in them being treated as adults.   In this very same paragraph, it is stated it is now “required” for all 8th grade social studies teachers to therefore cover this curriculum as part of performance standards as it will subsequently be covered on the 8th grade CRCT.

As a …

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Grading parents: Does this idea deserve an “F”

report cardA friend of mine in Florida — she is a former teacher who quit last year when she couldn’t sleep and was working 15 hour days — urged me to  write about the campaign in the Sunshine State to create parent report cards.

State Rep. Kelli Stargel of Florida has a bill in the works that would require Florida teachers to evaluate parents on how involved they are in their child’s education.

Here are the measures in the bill that teachers would use to rate parents: Student attendance, interactions with teachers, children’s completion of homework and readiness for tests, and children’s physical preparation for school.

Parents would receive ratings of “satisfactory,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory” on their child’s report cards.

Bills like this are largely symbolic, as even teachers would balk at the added burden of assessing not only students but their parents. (I worked in Florida for three years, and its Legislature tends to get even more carried away …

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Arne Duncan on Monday: We need more black men in classrooms

Arne Duncan will be here Monday to talk to Morehouse students about teaching.

Arne Duncan will be here Monday to talk to Morehouse students about teaching. US DOE/photo

Less than 2 percent of the nation’s teachers are black males.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, film director Spike Lee and Congressman John Lewis will try to change that Monday when they appeal to the men of Morehouse College to consider teaching as a career.

In a phone interview Friday, Duncan said the nation’s teacher workforce does not reflect the diversity of its student when only one in 50 teachers is a black male. “This is a national problem,” he said, “and one in which most schools of education have not shown leadership or foresight.”

So, Duncan has been traveling the nation to appeal to students of color “to consider coming back to the community and making a difference.”

Wouldn’t those students or any students, I asked Duncan, be more interested in coming to New York and being Spike Lee?  (Lee is a Morehouse grad.)

“Maybe,” he said, “but I went to Howard University with …

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CRCT probe: Key cards reveal odd after-hours visits

The AJC has a fascinating story on how 29 DeKalb teachers and principals were flagged for possible test tampering in the CRCT cheating scandal — use of their security key cards on weekends and late at night while the answer booklets were still in the schools.

“There’s a chain of evidence that requires only certain people to have access to those tests,” said spokesman Walter Woods. “There were several instances where employees accessed school over the weekend and those employees were flagged.”

Many of the 24 — five of the employees are no longer employed with DeKalb — are reassigned to cataloging, distributing and ordering textbooks. Others are working on a special education research report. Subs are costing the county nearly a half million dollars.

While DeKalb has not released the names of the impacted schools, the AJC has been told the list includes Rainbow, Shadow Rock, Cedar Grove, Glen Haven, Stoneview and Woodridge elementary schools, and Cedar Grove Middle …

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DeKalb: Redistricting would save $15 million a year

DeKalb parents have been pressing for information on how much money the DeKalb County School System would save from the redistricting and consolidation proposals, some of which split some neighborhoods off from beloved elementary and high schools.

Here is the county statement, which I just received:

The Redistricting and Consolidation plan options, which were presented to the DeKalb County Board of Education by MGT of America on Jan. 3, 2011, are designed to address inefficiencies in the facilities management of DeKalb Schools, including some 11,000 “empty seats” throughout the School District.

The plan, which must be approved by the Board of Education, will be implemented at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year and includes two options, including a “centralized” and “decentralized” option.

Based on an internal review and consultation with the Georgia Department of Education, the School System estimates the centralized plan will save the School District …

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UGA tailgating: Isn’t four hours long enough to party?

If a picture says a thousand words, the first one that comes to mind from this shot is "pigs."

If a picture says a thousand words, the first one that comes to mind from this shot is "pigs." Photo courtesy of Tom Ritch

I’m not sure why the University of Georgia Student Government Association wants tailgating beyond four hours, which seems like a reasonable period time for any pre-game party to me.

Nor am I sure if the SGA is in the best position to ask for a relaxing of the restrictions put on tailgating by the UGA administration to cut down on the trash and mayhem. The administration says someone dragged a couch out of a dorm and set it on fire in Myers Quad during the Nov. 27 game against Georgia Tech. And the college had to deal with jagged glass from beer bottles on the ground as well.

Take a look at this AJC story, which states that UGA student leaders want three North Campus tailgating restrictions imposed last year relaxed; the prohibitions against tents, tables longer than four feet and tailgating more than four hours before kickoff. Lest anyone forget why these …

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Arne Duncan at Morehouse and Meadowcreek High Monday

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be at Morehouse College and Meadowcreek High School Monday.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be at Morehouse College and Meadowcreek High School Monday. (US DOE photo)

U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Congressman John Lewis and film producer Spike Lee will ask Morehouse College students to pursue teaching careers at a noon event at the Atlanta campus Monday, and then Duncan will join Sen. Johnny Isakson and Congressman Hank Johnson for a roundtable at Gwinnett County’s Meadowcreek High School. (I plan to talk to Sec. Duncan today on the phone about both these events and then attend the programs Monday.)

The Morehouse program is open to the public but is first come, first serve. It is at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center, 830 Westview Dr., S.W., Atlanta.

Here is the official US DOE statement on Duncan’s day:

“With more than 1 million teachers expected to retire in the coming years, we have a historic opportunity to transform public education in America by calling on a new generation to join those already in the …

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Imperiled DeKalb educators will “never stand alone.”

Here is the response from the Organization of DeKalb Educators to the removal of 24 DeKalb educators from classrooms and schools yesterday by the system because they were implicated in the CRCT cheating.

This note to members was signed by the ODE president, David Schutten. He also released this official statement to the media: ODE is in the process of gathering information.  While we do not condone cheating, we expect a fair process, and that our members’ rights will be honored. We need to be sure every stone is unturned to bring all facts to light. To our knowledge we haven’t seen any evidence of cheating in the DeKalb County School System.  All of this is predicated on the possibility there might be testing irregularities as there appears to be no direct evidence of cheating.  We are standing up for the rights of students to be in good learning environments and educators to be in good teaching environments.  Our ultimate goal is that good teachers are back in their …

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