Archive for January, 2011

The ABCs of SACS: Why is it so powerful?

Here is the link to the Sunday story on SACS that several of you requested. The news story explains the role of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in policing schools and school boards.

According to the piece:

SACS used to be unheard of by anyone outside a superintendent’s office. Yet it is close to becoming a household name in metro Atlanta, even if few people really know what SACS does.

SACS and its parent organization AdvancED, last month moved into a 60,000-square-foot headquarters in Alpharetta. It was in Decatur for 21 years before moving to North Fulton. While there are numerous school accrediting agencies, AdvancED is the only one in the nation that accredits full districts, which means it scrutinizes everything from board governance and the superintendent’s office to finances and following No Child Left Behind. Currently AdvancED works with more than 27,000 schools and districts in 69 countries, or about 15 million students.

It is headed by a former …

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NAEP science: Less than half of students at competency

In a conference call on today’s release of national 2009 science scores of grades 4 and 8 and 12, members of the governing board of the the National Assessment of Educational Progress decried the one percent of students scoring at the top level. There was also concern over the growing number of students scoring below the most basic levels.

At the two grade levels where Georgia students’ test results were released, less than one-third are demonstrating solid academic performance and competency in science.

In Georgia, 27 percent of fourth graders performed at or above the proficient level on science, compared to the national average of 32 percent. In eighth grade,  27 percent performed at or above proficient, compared to 29 percent nationally. Twelfth grade scores were not released by state. (See the AJC story for more details on Georgia.)

“These are challenges that I think are very serious for all of us who are into science education and who want our children to be prepared to …

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Rallying for choice. How about a rally for quality?

Hundreds of charter school students rallied for school choice Tuesday at the Gold Dome. John Spinks/AJC Photo

Hundreds of charter school students rallied for school choice Tuesday at the Gold Dome. John Spinks/AJC Photo

Despite the weather, several hundred charter school students and supporters showed up in downtown Atlanta this morning where speakers and elected leaders extolled the benefits of choice as part of National School Choice Week.

It has become apparent to me that lawmakers in Georgia now equate school choice with school quality.

But more charter schools in Georgia are not a guarantee of improved education. Like all schools, charters come in all flavors, good, bad, run-of-the-mill and terrible. Opening more charter schools will bring more choice — which is enough for some people — but it won’t necessarily deliver more great choices. Multiple studies have concluded that charter schools are not a panacea, producing achievement levels similar to or sometimes even worse than the traditional public schools in the state.

Since Georgia changed its laws and increased funding for …

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Fighting redistricting to lower-performing schools

Both my e-mail and voicemail are at capacity since DeKalb County schools unveiled potential restricting plans.

As with APS, DeKalb also has a strong parent base in many areas, and that base is holding meetings, sending letters and suggesting alternatives to the restricting. I plan to put up a few of the letters and e-mails that have come my way, as I think this topic has a great deal of interest and it also shows that parental involvement is strong in many schools.

In talking to DeKalb parents and looking at the plans, I see two descriptors of what is happening.  One is moving families from ideal situations to less than ideal for the families but far from terrible. I would put the central DeKalb shift from Lakeside High School to Druid Hills High in that category.

But there are communities in which students are being moved from good schools to low-performing ones, and that is where parents have the most to lose and the most reason to fight. As one DeKalb parent told me and I …

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America’s smartest kids: Not in the South

Just what we need. Another ranking of states on educational achievement, this time by the Daily Beast, a news and opinion web site

However, Georgia is not last on the list of  “America’s Smartest Kids.” That spot went to Mississippi. Georgia ranked 39th.

Using NAEP scores, the Daily Beast measured the percent of students who, for the 2009 results, scored at an advanced level or higher for 4th grade math, 8th grade math, 4th grade reading, and 8th grade reading. As a second component, the web site took each state one by one, determining the number of states that performed better and worse at a statistically significant level, and averaging those figures.

First, as usual, was Massachusetts, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Minnesota. Most Southern states did not fare well in the ranking, in part because of the higher poverty in the South.

Speaking of NAEP, we are getting the data today on how American students performed on science. I will post the results in …

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Rockdale students to board: Restore our winter break

Rockdale's decision to cancel its February break to make up for snow days has upset students, teachers and parents. But is there another viable choice?

Rockdale's decision to cancel its February break to make up for snow days has upset students, teachers and parents. But is there another viable choice?

Rockdale County students have started a petition to restore their winter break, which the school board eliminated Thursday in a 5-2 vote. The board voted to use the week to make up the January snow days. The timing of the vote — only three weeks before the break was scheduled — has upset families who have plane tickers and plans.

“I have personally started a petition with a few of my classmates to regain our Winter Break. We are near 300 signatures in approximately 24 hours, however it is urgent we receive many more. The majority of students, parents and RCPS employees feel the decision was unjust and unnecessary,” said Rockdale 10th grader Mark Meyers in an e-mail to the AJC.

Not sure what the petition will do if the system has to make up the days. It doesn’t seem educationally sound to put the days at the end of the year, …

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FairTest to Obama: Set smarter testing policy

crcted.0920 (Medium)On the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union speech expected to focus on education, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing is asking the president to ”set a smarter course for student testing.”

Here is the release from FairTest, which I thought I would share given all the debate on this blog on testing.  (I would also urge you to read this New York Times story on research suggesting that testing actually helps people learn, and produces better results than a number of other studying techniques.)

From FairTest:

“President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan continue to promote failed policies, such as excessive testing and judging teachers by student test scores,” said FairTest Director Monty Neill. “Stagnant results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show this approach does not work. President Obama needs to support reforms based on research and experience, not ideology. He must work with Congress to overhaul the federal Elementary …

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In defense of Chinese mothers and fulfilling lives

Amy Chua and her family. (I have a feeling her dogs can sit, fetch and speak Mandarin.) Photo/Penguin Press

Amy Chua and her family. (I have a feeling her dogs can sit, fetch and speak Mandarin.) Photo/Penguin Press

The “Tiger mom” debate continues. Yale Law professor Amy Chua did more than strike a nerve with “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” her memoir on how she practically lashed her daughter to the piano to force her to perfect a piece, threatening to give away the 7-year-old’s doll house or burn her stuffed animals.  Her children could not bring home anything but perfect grades, even  if the price was no sleepovers, no play dates, no TV or computers.

Her book set off a national panic attack among many American parents who are clearly in doubt about whether their own more laid-back parenting is effective. (And Chua earned more than a few cheers from teachers who said they would welcome merit pay if all their parents were Amy Chuas who responded to a B as if it were a bed bug infestation that had to be blotted out at any cost.)

Of course, there are also a lot of critics who …

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APS parents: “Is anyone out there worth trusting?”

Atlanta parents are not sitting back while their system implodes.

Atlanta parents are not sitting back while their system implodes.

Whatever good intentions Beverly Hall and her staff had for the Atlanta schools, the system has moved from ailing to collapsed, and parents cannot ignore the seriousness of the problems.

Because Atlanta has many informed parents, they have wasted no time in responding to the probationary status that their schools are now in as a result of the decision this week by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. SACS based its decision on the squabbling of the APS Board of Education, but the problem really goes back to the cheating on state exams by teachers and administrators who felt their jobs were on the line.

First off, there is a Facebook page of parents called Atlanta School Board: Step Up or Step Down. Some intown parents met Saturday at Haygood Memorial Church to discuss the possibility that Atlanta could lose its accreditation if the board does not meet …

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APS whistle blowers: Their credibility came under attack

The Sunday AJC is full of good education stories, but the one that will get people talking is an investigation into the fallout to APS teachers who report cheating on state high-stakes tests.

(If you don’t get the AJC on Sunday, this would be the day to pick up a newspaper as there is a lot to read, long story on how SACS works, a news piece on APS accreditation, an editorial on APS and two columns on education issues.)

As is often the case with whistle blowers,  APS teachers told the AJC that they experienced push back and recriminations for coming forward, although many still work for the Atlanta schools.

One of the common tactics in discrediting whistle blowers is to turn the focus on them and their job performance. It’s also an effective means to intimidate other employees from ever coming forward.

Teachers in the story allege that is what happened to them in Atlanta.

According to the investigative piece by AJC reporter Alan Judd and Heather Vogell: (Please read the full …

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