Archive for February, 2011

UGA math team: Return to traditional math “inefficient, wasteful, and demoralizing”

The Mathematics Curriculum Team at the University of Georgia endorses the integrated math approach now in Georgia schools, calling it “typical in countries whose students are high achievers in mathematics. This approach to teaching mathematics enables students to understand connections among concepts from algebra, geometry, and data analysis, which, in turn, leads to effective problem solving and critical thinking.”

The team says that the state DOE’s plan to revert to traditional math “would be inefficient, wasteful, and demoralizing. Switching back to traditional courses would also indicate lack of vision on the part of our state and the inability to persevere through the implementation of true reform.”

Here is the full statement:

We, the Mathematics Curriculum Team at the University of Georgia, endorse the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with great enthusiasm and anticipation. We applaud the GaDOE for the visionary progress of the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) and …

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A debate over Georgia math: Where do you stand?

Lots of stuff in the AJC today about Georgia’s new math, including a pro-con package on the education op-ed page. (A few of you have talked to me about writing op-eds for the Monday education page that I put together. Send them any time.) There was also a front page story today on how much systems have invested in the new math that now may go away. I will post that later.)

The pieces are by John Konop, a business owner and Get Schooled poster, and Dane Marshall of Cumming, a retired mathematics teacher with more than 40 years of education experience.

Here they are:

By John Konop

Math 123 may be a well-intended effort to prepare students for a globally competitive workplace, but it’s a proven failure that’s causing substantially more harm than good. Math 123 radically changed our high school math curriculum without properly reviewing it with teachers and parents. It replaced the traditional math sequence (Algebra I & II, geometry and trigonometry) with Math 1, Math 2 and …

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GAE panel: Still not sure where school chief stands on vouchers

School chief John Barge

School chief John Barge

Despite two audience questions today at the Georgia Association of Educators Town Hall meeting at the Woodruff Arts Center, I couldn’t tell you where school Superintendent John Barge stands on vouchers. I can tell you that he wants the arts back in schools, believes there are fair ways to link teacher pay to performance and feels high school counselors are vital.

But I was not clear on what he thinks about vouchers. (You can watch a video of the panel here.)

To the first question on vouchers, Barge replied that vouchers work because private schools choose their curriculum and their students, and, “if students misbehave or don’t perform, they get rid of them. You are not leveling the playing field if you don’t give public schools the same option. You are never going to get the competition that vouchers will create until you level that playing field.”

Pressed later as to how public schools get that flexibility to level the field, Barge replied, …

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Honk if this mom went too far making failing son wear sign

Ok, folks, you want parents to hold their kids accountable. Is this parent going too far?

A Tiger mother in Florida is making her teenage son stand on the corner with a sign that says: “GPA 1.22 … honk if I need education.”

I am not a fan of shame as a motivator, although I know it is common in other cultures. (See our discussion on the Tiger mom controversy.)

According to the AJC:

Ronda Holder says she and the boy’s father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically. They’ve offered help, asked to see homework, grounded, lectured him and confiscated his cell phone. James Mond III’s indifference at a school meeting last week was the final straw. The next day, Holder made the sign and made her son wear it for nearly four hours.

Experts criticized the move as humiliating and ineffective, and someone reported Holder to the Department of Children and Families.

Holder insists she’s fighting for her child’s education.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get …

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Judge halts APS probe in CRCT cheating. Nobody wins.

Every story I read about APS and the CRCT scandal depresses me as this mess steals time, money and attention away from the biggest challenge in Atlanta and other urban systems — getting children born with few advantages on a strong enough educational footing to live fulfilling lives.  The continual battling also affects the many teachers and principals in APS striving each day to do their best for the students.

All the time devoted to who cheated on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test takes away from how Atlanta children are doing now. For the sake of the system and the sake of the students, I hope the investigation wraps up soon and that anyone who deliberately falsified test results to protect their own skins is exposed. (I remain concerned over whether there will be any clear findings as I think the investigators are discovering more suspicions of cheating rather than confirmation or evidence.)

I am not saying that the investigation is unnecessary. The state …

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Move CRCT to the last week of school to boost learning

crcted.0920 (Medium)I could not resist the title of this note in my e-mail: A few suggestions from a new teacher who is older than dirt.

The teacher explained that she has been teaching for four years. At 62, she says she is “probably the oldest living starting teacher.” She earned her  certification at  age 58. I admire her willingness to take the time to draft this position paper on the state CRCTs. Please take a look.

(And to General Assembly education leaders Fran Millar and Brooks Coleman, these are the teachers you ought to put on your committees. We need some radical thinkers rather than the same old corporate representatives on every single blue-ribbon commission put together by the state. New voices and fresh faces, please.)

This teacher wrote her comments in response to a GAE request for teacher questions for its  2 p.m. Town Hall meeting today that I hope to attend and post a summary. The meeting is also supposed to be available on a live webcast. See details on the link.

She …

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Should years of experience matter in teacher layoffs?

Michelle Rhee criticized last-in-first-out approaches to teacher layoffs while speaking to the Legislature earlier this month. (AJC Photo)

Michelle Rhee criticized last-in-first-out approaches to teacher layoffs while speaking to the Legislature earlier this month. (AJC Photo)

I would love to get the reaction of teachers to this Wall Street Journal article on the drawbacks of basing teacher layoffs on seniority, a practice that Michelle Rhee criticized during her recent whirlwind tour of Atlanta earlier this month.

I was puzzled by one of Rhee’s arguments against the “last-in-first-out” approach to teacher layoffs. She said the seniority system hurts high poverty schools as they typically have the newest teachers. So, those schools can see major staff turnover when layoffs are required and the newest teachers are marched out the front door.

But one of the standing criticisms of school systems is that they assign the least experienced teachers to the highest poverty schools. (It is a point often made by the Education Trust.)

In those policy debates, inexperienced teachers are cast as impediments to turning around …

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Rockdale reports near average attendance during snow makeup week

Rockdale held school last week to make up for the January snow days, and attendance was near normal. (AJC photo)

Rockdale held school last week to make up for the January snow days, and attendance was near normal. (AJC photo)

Rockdale was one of the few counties that canceled its winter break last week to make up for the five snow days in January, a decision that irked parents and teachers who had vacation plans already in place. However, the Rockdale Citizen is reporting that attendance of students and teachers was close to normal for the week.

My own system chose not to make up all the snow days. It preserved last week’s winter break because of families and teachers with travel plans. I was one of the parents with plans, but would have canceled them and sent my twins to school. But I didn’t have large deposits at stake, which was not true for teachers and families with non-refundable airline tickets, cruise reservations or rooms at Disney hotels.

On the Citizen web site, a few Rockdale parents complained that their children’s teachers were absent so students watched movies in classes. …

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APS fires back in CRCT probe: We’re doing our job

APS turned up the volume in its smack down with the investigatory team appointed last year by Gov. Sonny Perdue to probe CRCT cheating in district schools.

The embattled system fired off a three-page defense calling the investigators’ accusations of central office intimidation and obstruction “highly improper during a pending investigation.”

What’s interesting to me is that this intensifying battle between the state and APS pits two former DeKalb prosecutors against one another.

Former DeKalb District Attorney Bob Wilson is part of the three-person team assembled by Gov. Sonny Perdue to figure out where and how cheating occurred on the 2009 CRCT and who in APS is responsible.

One of the lawyers for APS is former DeKalb DA J. Tom. Morgan. (The other is notable Atlanta attorney Robert S. Highsmith Jr., who served as Deputy Executive Counsel for Perdue. )

Both Wilson and Morgan are well respected in DeKalb. Neither ever struck me as a wild-eyed, shoot-from-the-hip type. …

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Has APS gone from resenting cheating probe to subverting it?

Two new AJC stories on the ongoing Atlanta CRCT cheating scandal reveal not only official resentment of a widening state investigation into the suspected test tampering, but possible subversion of that investigation.

Neither story portrays the system as eager to get to the bottom of where and how cheating occurred and who was responsible. Instead, the leaders seemed more focused on circling the wagons. Whoever takes over for outgoing Superintendent Beverly Hall will inherit a badly wounded and deeply dysfunctional system.

There will need to a total change of leadership at the top since so many officials have been tainted by this scandal. And there must be a rebuilding of trust between the central office and the principals and teachers in the schools.

First, the AJC reported a troubling conference call with principals in which Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine encouraged them to push parents and students to take sides in an escalating school board divide inspired by the …

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