Archive for February, 2011

One thing duct-tape shouldn’t fix: Unruly students

Can someone explain why teachers would duct-tape students to a chair or tape over their mouths? Or lock students in a closet?

A Cherokee high school teacher pleaded guilty to false imprisonment today for duct-taping an autistic boy to a chair and confining a blind girl under a desk. The former Woodstock High teacher was sentenced to six years of probation and $2,000 in fines. The crimes occurred in 2008.

I get a lot of folks e-mailing me stories from around the country about similar crimes and am puzzled why this still occurs. As someone who had 12 years of tough nuns, I never saw more than a ruler whack now and then.  (Yes, sometimes it was me whose hand was whacked. I was one of those jump-up-and-down kids when I knew an answer and could get carried away with my hand waving.)

These discipline methods fall into the category of professional suicide as there is simply no way to defend them. And I know that teachers are aware that these behaviors are unacceptable and will get …

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A public apology to public school students

I received this e-mail today from a regular Get Schooled reader and thought it was worth sharing.

Maureen, I have been an avid reader and occasional contributor to your blog for quite some time. Recently, the tone of the bloggers has become quite unsettling to me.  It appears that many of your readers have taken an “us vs. them” mentality in the discussion of public education.  Although anger and frustration surrounding educational issues are understandable with a weak economy and an apparent lack of leadership in the political and educational arenas, there is no reason to shortchange the people for whom the educational system was established.  I am, of course, talking about the students.  With that in mind, please allow me to share this letter to the students in public school systems.  Feel free to use the letter as you wish.  Erase it.  Print it out and burn it.  Whatever you want to do with it is all right by me.  I feel better just having written it.

Dear Students,
I am …

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HOPE cuts also affect students in private Georgia colleges

Many students and parents are upset that the new HOPE limits revealed yesterday by Gov. Nathan Deal will be applied to students already in college.

Those students may have chosen Georgia public colleges based on an expectation that HOPE would cover full tuition as it has since its inception. Now, most will be downgraded to HOPE Lite, as they lack the required 3.7 GPA in high school and the 3.5 GPA in college to qualify for the full funding. Those students with the mandated GPAs to retain full funding have a new name,  Zell Miller Scholars.

(Wish the governor had not thrown another name in the mix. I think Full HOPE and HOPE Lite are clearer in their intent.)

HOPE Lite students will get around 90 percent of their tuition covered minus any money for books and fees, which means about $1,500 a year more out of pocket for students at the research campuses.

If you are among them, please call my AJC colleague Laura Diamond who is writing a deadline story today:  She is focusing on …

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Georgia school chief: Give public schools right to refuse students

I posted earlier this week that I didn’t quite get a comment Georgia school chief John Barge made about vouchers at a Georgia Association of Educators’ panel Monday. He said private and public schools have to first be on an even playing field, which couldn’t happen until public schools are able to tell more people “no.”

In response to my post, I received a copy of the 2010 Education Coalition guide to Georgia candidates where Barge expanded on that theme. I still don’t get how public schools could ever pick and choose and turn away students in view of the constitutional mandate they are under to educate all children. I am certain many schools and teachers would cheer Barge’s comments, but I am not sure if his scenario is remotely possible under the law.

And that may be his intent: Barge pretty much dodges any future voucher debate if he says he’ll only consider vouchers if public schools get to pick their kids. (And if the public-school-choosing-their students part doesn’t …

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If teachers are mere babysitters, pay them accordingly

This babysitter piece and the blueberry story are favorites of teachers who often send me copies. This wonderful essay is typically attributed to a New Hampshire paper, but I could not verify the source in a database search of U.S. newspapers going back six years. The essay has been making the rounds for a few years but two readers sent it to me this week, so I thought that was a sign to run it.

So, here it is, author unknown:

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year. It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit.  We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. …

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State’s math teachers: Traditional math doesn’t cut it today

Several of you contend that the Mathematics Curriculum Team at the University of Georgia and the Georgia Council of Supervisors of Mathematics don’t really know what it takes to teach math so their endorsement of integrated math –  found on the blog today — should not be taken seriously. (Both groups do include people who teach math for a living.)

Now, here comes the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which calls the integrated math approach  “the most effective for the 21st century Georgia workforce.”

The council represents 3,000 math teachers. The council did not poll all its members, but its leadership strongly supports the integrated curriculum and many of of them were involved in its development.

I understand the criticisms of the state’s integrated math, but I think it is foolish to overlook the people in the field who support it. I attended one of the workshops held to develop the new standards back in the Cox era and it was full of math teachers from around …

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HOPE Lite versus Full HOPE: Less filling but more lasting?

I am sharing the governor’s full statement on his proposed changes to HOPE and pre-k.

His changes apply to students now in college and receiving HOPE, which means that some students will have to come up with another $1,000 next year if they don’t make the grade to be Zell Miller Scholars, which brings full tuition. (You began school as a HOPE Scholar, and now you may be a Miller Scholar as well if you meet the criteria.)

No students are grandfathered in under the current HOPE rules, according to the governor’s spokesman, whom I called for clarification of a couple of points.

I asked how many times a Full Hope/3.7 student can lose the Zell Miller Scholarship, revert to HOPE Lite, and then regain Full HOPE.  Once.

However, as long as those students maintain a 3.0, they will always get some HOPE. And the governor’s office said that students can upgrade to the Zell Miller level at the stated check points.

However, students now in college can only qualify for the Zell Miller …

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Will 3.7 GPA for full HOPE lead to more grade inflation?

Speaking of a motivation for grade inflation, only high school students with a 3.7 GPA and decent SAT/ACT scores would get a full HOPE Scholarship under the plan unveiled today by Gov. Nathan Deal.

For kids with a 3.0, HOPE would cover at most 90 percent. Students who lose HOPE in college because their average falls below a 3.0 will only be able to regain it once under the Deal plan.

I can imagine a lot of parents shaking their heads right now if their kids have a 3.6 or a 3.5. A slight boost in that GPA could mean nearly an additional $1,000 a year in tuition at the research universities.  I expect greater pressure on teachers for grades to earn the full HOPE.

I also wonder about the kids who have a perfect 2,400 on the SAT and a 3.6 GPA. Shouldn’t they qualify for full HOPE, or as it’s being called, the Zell Miller Scholarship? These Miller Scholars also can only regain HOPE once, and must maintain a 3.5 to keep their full ride. I am not clear from the bill whether these …

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Bottom line: HOPE will pay less and be more complicated.

I think simple is better, but the financial crisis means that the HOPE Scholarship will pay less toward a student’s college tuition and possibly involve low-cost loans to make up the difference.

It will no longer be the straightforward promise of a B average earning Georgia high school students free tuition at public colleges and universities.

In a few minutes, Gov. Nathan Deal will unveil his program to save the program, which is a victim of its own success and rising college costs The lottery can longer keep pace with the tab for HOPE and pre-k, and cuts have to be made.

Rather than HOPE paying all tuition cost, Deal is expected to offer a plan for a fixed amount of money per student, with the families making up the rest.

Stay tuned. Will post shortly with the details. In the meantime, if you are the parent of a high school student, walk right on by that Starbucks. You will need that $4.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

Continue reading Bottom line: HOPE will pay less and be more complicated. »

State math supervisors: Don’t change. Maintain integrated math.

Here is another warning from mathematicians, the Georgia Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, about the state plan to revert to traditional math in view of  high numbers of failing students.

Their members maintain that the state will make a mistake offering two math programs, saying  that Georgia has made real progress in math and the plan is “alarming and place this trajectory of success at risk.” The statement includes supporting data charts, which I will try and post in a Google doc later today.

To Whom It May Concern:

As members of the Georgia Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (GSCM), we would like to extend our support and commitment to the implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS). We strongly believe that ALL students can learn mathematics, and we applaud the state’s commitment to implementing the rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Georgia has earned national recognition for establishing high academic standards in mathematics with …

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