Archive for February, 2011

Integrating schools based on test scores and achievement

Part two of the blog on the UGA desegregation anniversary: In that blog, I noted the national retreat from the notion that classrooms need to be a rainbow hue, that the focus now is not whether black, white and brown children go to the same schools, but whether they go to good schools.

But the problem is how to create good schools when schools that are high minority are also often high poverty. And kids from poor families bring far more challenges to the classroom — homelessness, job losses, evictions, nutrition deficits, lack of space for the students to do their homework, parents unable to help kid with school work because they hold two jobs.

A classroom with three or four such children can cope; a classroom with 12 may crumble under the weight of so many kids in crisis.

Speaking to that exact situation, here is a New York Times story on how Wake County, N.C., once considered a role model in school integration, is evolving. (Take a look at the entire story if you have …

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Looking back 50 years at two UGA students who changed history and state

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter were the first black students admitted to UGA, and went on to become among the most accomplished. (AJC file photo)

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter were the first black students admitted to UGA, and went on to become among the most accomplished. (AJC file photo)

When the University of Georgia admissions office interviewed Turner High School graduate Hamilton Holmes in 1961, the college staff asked the valedictorian, senior class president and co-captain of  the Turner football team several shocking questions. They asked if he had frequented prostitutes or red light districts. They asked if he had been arrested.

And though Holmes answered truthfully ”no” to all those insulting questions, UGA noted on his application that he was “evasive” in his responses. And that was enough to reject a student for whom UGA would have rolled a red carpet from Athens to Atlanta had he had been white.

UGA didn’t suggest that Holmes’ high-achieving classmate, Charlayne Hunter, was evasive, although the admissions staff kept her waiting for her interview while taking white students at regular seven to 10 …

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HOPE Lite: Will parents like the less filling taste?

This piece is my Monday print column, which has been met almost universally with comments that Georgia parents had a free ride and now it's over. It is time for those parents to save money for college or make their kids work. (AP Images)

This piece is my Monday print column, which has been met almost universally with comments that Georgia parents had a free ride and now it's over. It is time for those parents to save money for college or make their kids work, according to my e-mail today. (AP Images)

The new HOPE Lite unveiled last week by Gov. Nathan Deal is less filling, but longer lasting than Classic HOPE.

I’m not sure too many Georgia students or their parents are going to like the taste.

Deal has done the political heavy lifting of downgrading HOPE, the beloved college scholarship program created by former Gov. Zell Miller and praised for its simplicity.

An inspiration for programs in other states, HOPE was one of the few college scholarships that could be distilled into one sentence: Earn a B average in high school, keep it in college and Georgia will pay your college costs.

Suddenly, bright Georgia students who once would have been Tar Heels were wearing red and rooting for the Bulldogs.

Rather than …

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Moving kids from public to private in middle school

I appreciate the Get Schooled readers who helped AJC reporter Gracie Bonds Staples with her story on families who pull their children from public schools to enroll them in private middle school. Several of you called to say that you never saw the story so I am running it here.

Again, I appreciate the assistance on this and other stories as reporters on deadline often need to find “real” people fast. Increasingly, education writers are asking me to help find people off the blog, and I thank all those who come forward and respond to these requests.

Here is the story:

It used to be kids matriculated from one neighborhood public school to the next, until years later, they graduated and headed off to college.

Nowadays, in an effort to find the right learning environment to suit their children’s individual learning styles or ensure they reach their highest potential, parents are increasingly choosing a mix of public and private school.

That’s what Jim and Jill Burns decided to do …

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Gates: Pay top teachers more to accept larger classes

In Monday’s Washington Post, Bill Gates talks about the need to better recognize and reward good teachers. (Yes, this is another call for performance-based pay.)

But Gates also addresses the national emphasis on class size reduction, an education reform that he maintains is misguided. “U.S. schools have almost twice as many teachers per student as they did in 1960, yet achievement is roughly the same,” writes Gates.

He suggests paying the top 25 percent of teachers more money to accept four or five additional students into their classes. Those larger class sizes could free up money to raise the quality of other teachers, he says. (I am still not sure there would be agreement on who the top 25 percent of teachers were.)

Among his points:

We know that of all the variables under a school’s control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students.

Yet compared with the countries that …

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Deal taps education standouts to serve as advisers

Gov.Nathan Deal

Gov.Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal has created a statewide Education Advisory Board that includes superintendents, principals, teachers and school board members.

“With the members of my Education Advisory Board now in place, I look forward to meeting with them on a quarterly basis to discuss how we can continue to improve educational outcomes for Georgia students,” said Deal. “The Georgians on these panels are leaders in their fields, and they are giving of their time and talents to help our state strive for educational excellence.”

I recognize several names on his list, including teachers who have won some notable awards.  Given all the people on this board, Deal is going to have to hold his meetings in the Dome.

Here is  the list:

Superintendents:

Susan Andrews, Superintendent of Muscogee County Schools

Matt Arthur, Superintendent of Rabun County Schools

Dr. Gayland Cooper, Superintendent of Rome City Schools

Dr. Edmond T. “Ed” Heatley, Superintendent of Clayton …

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Roy Barnes: Wrong solutions on HOPE Scholarship

Roy Barnes

Roy Barnes

I received this note from former Gov. Roy Barnes, who granted me permission to share it although he was aware that critics would jump in and accuse him of sour grapes or worse

As the first generation in my family to attend college, I share Barnes’ concern that the changes in HOPE will hurt kids who do not come from a family with strong education backgrounds.

I also think the 3.7 GPA to get Full HOPE and the 3.5 to keep it is steep, considering that the average GPA for the students in Georgia Tech’s Honors Program is below 3.5. (The average GPA in the Honors Program at Tech  is 3.34 for the Class of 2011 and 3.37 for the Class of 2012. )

Please, be respectful in comments as I am going to be en route to Athens and my editor hates to play traffic cop in my absence.

From the former governor:

A message from exile where grandchildren and cows rule the day. I can’t believe what we have done to HOPE. Did there need to be a change made to HOPE? Without a doubt, but what we …

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Providence: Firing 2,000 teachers just in case. Flexibility or farce?

The mass firing of  2,000 teachers in Providence is getting a lot of press attention and clearly upset the teachers who received the notices. But the school board in the Rhode Island capitol is  contending that it is only following the law requiring notification of possible job layoffs for the next school year by March 1.

Because the city does not yet know the scope of layoffs, it covered its bases by sending notices to all teachers seeking what it describes as “maximum flexibility” in coping with its budget melt down.

But the notices have created maximum anxiety. Many of the teachers will have their jobs in 2011-2012, but the tactic is garnering criticism. And I can understand as I would also be panicked if I received an official notice that I was losing my job, even if I was assured it was procedural maneuver.

Like every city, Providence is in budget free fall. It’s almost gone through its reserves and is facing massive cuts.

Still, teachers ask why they have to be the …

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Proposed law: Lay off teachers based on performance over 3 years

Lawmakers are taking aim at teacher performance in a new bill.

Lawmakers are taking aim at teacher performance in a new bill.

Georgia House education leaders have introduced a bill that bases all teacher layoffs primarily on performance, something that most districts already consider. But HB 257, sponsored by Democrat Alisha Thomas Morgan of Cobb and Republican Ed Lindsey of Atlanta, makes it a statewide requirement.

The law mandates school districts create workforce reduction policies that “provide that when selecting positions to be eliminated, the local board shall consider as the primary factor the performance of the teacher over the past three years. Such performance shall include documented job performance, classroom management, absenteeism, tardiness, handling of extra school responsibilities, and student academic performance. Secondary factors may include length of service and other factors as determined by the local board. For teachers that have not completed three years of service, such teacher’s performance shall be …

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All that glitters is gold in Savannah High’s toothy video

Great story out of Savannah High School where some clever students decided to make a rap of Principal Toney Jordan’s daily reminders to tuck in their shirts and take out their gold teeth. (In my high school, it would have been “stop hiking your uniform skirt and wash off that mascara.”)

Jordan told the Savannah Morning News, “I don’t allow my kids to talk to me with those removable gold teeth grills in their mouths, and we have a strict policy for tucking in shirttails.”

This clip shows the students making the music video, which had the principal’s blessing and the involvement of teachers. I think this is a great project that builds on teens’ interest in music and unites the school. It also reflects the willingness of school officials to have some fun now and then. Not need to comment on the video. Just enjoy.

Here is a video from the Savannah Morning News:

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