Archive for February, 2011

Natalie Munroe and teacher blogs: Free speech or free fall?

Natalie Munroe  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Natalie Munroe (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

I missed the debate this week about Pennsylvania teacher Natalie Munroe, whose frank and often funny blog about teaching and her students gained her national headlines and a job suspension.

“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Munroe, a teacher at Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, told the media.

I agree.

Blogging as “Natalie M” for 18 months and never revealing the name of the school, the 30-year-old expressed many of the frustrations of her colleagues.  She didn’t name names, but someone figured out who she was and she was summoned to the principal’s office. (Prior to this happening, her blog had nine followers, including her husband, so Munroe probably had sound reason to believe that she was safe from disclosure.)

Her principal was not happy when she admitted that she had written the blogs and the comments about students being  “out of control,” and “rude, lazy, disengaged whiners.” She is suspended with pay while the …

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HOPE 2011: Same criteria to earn it, but less money

The lottery cannot keep up with the costs of HOPE and pre-k. So, the governor is expected to unveil cost-saving revisions next week.

The lottery cannot keep up with the costs of HOPE and pre-k. So, the governor is expected to unveil cost-saving revisions next week.

I received an e-mail tonight from a friend whose daughter is a high school senior this year. “Have they raised the GPA requirement for HOPE?” she asked, after hearing a small snippet of a radio news story that suggested students will need better than a 3.0 to earn the HOPE Scholarship.

I responded, “Not yet and not likely.”

As expected, the governor appears ready to take the path of least resistance — giving less money to the same number of recipients meeting the same standard rather than awarding the same amount of money to a smaller set of students meeting a higher standard.

The AJC is reporting that the governor will unveil his plan next week.

According to the AJC, this is the likely revision plan:

  • “Decoupling” the HOPE scholarship from tuition, meaning the amount of the grant no longer will equal the actual cost of tuition. If the …

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Cobb axes balanced calendar. Did system move too fast?

The Cobb board nixed the system's Aug. 1 starting date Thursday night, returning to a mid August start. (AP Image)

The Cobb board nixed the system's Aug. 1 starting date Thursday night, returning to a mid August start. (AP Image)

Unpacked the car, put in the first load of wash and patted the dog  Now, it is time to catch up on all the news that occurred in my five-day absence — due to my school system’s adoption of a balanced calendar that shortens the summer and imposes week-long breaks in September and February on top of the holiday and spring breaks.

Cobb was on the same schedule — until a lively school board meeting last night.

Looks like Cobb acted with lightening speed to revert back to the “traditional” school calendar.  And upset some parents in the process.

Without addressing the merits of the vote, I confess to surprise that any school board would move this quickly after less than a year with the so-called balanced calendar. I thought this would be one of those study committee things that took at least three months to come to a final vote.

But according to the AJC, Cobb will …

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Cobb reconsiders its balanced calendar and shorter summer

Cobb will reconsider its balanced calendar that brings kids back to school in early August. (AP Images.)

Cobb will reconsider its balanced calendar, which brings kids back to school in early August. (AP Images.)

The reason I am on vacation this week is because my children are out of school due to the new Decatur “balanced” calendar, which has students back in class Aug. 1 and out of school for a week in September, in February and in April.

I don’t care for the schedule, which was apparently put in place not to boost student achievement, for which the research is dubious, but to recruit teachers. The conventional wisdom is that teachers like the shorter summers and frequent breaks throughout the year. (A close teacher pal hates the schedule as she can’t attend a standing family reunion in August, and she says the week-long breaks get the students off focus, but I assume she is the exception.)

While this calendar does not work well for me, I am resigned to it.

Not so in Cobb where some parents continue to oppose the adoption of a similar calendar there. One mom sent me a note …

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Without school choice, desperate parents break law

Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail for falsifying records to enable her daughters to attend a better public school. (AP Images)

Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail for falsifying records to enable her daughters to attend a better public school. (AP Images)

Folks, I am gone this week but have some pieces scheduled to run while I am gone. This essay looks at the now infamous Ohio case, which we discussed earlier on Get Schooled.

This essay runs on the Monday education page. The author is Kevin Huffman, executive vice president of public affairs at Teach for America.

Forty–year-old Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was recently released after serving nine days in jail on a felony conviction for tampering with records. Williams-Bolar’s offense? Lying about her address so her two daughters, zoned to the lousy Akron city schools, could attend better schools in the neighboring district.

Williams-Bolar has become a cause célèbre in a case that crosses traditional ideological bounds. African American activists are outraged, asking: Would a white mother face the same punishment for …

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Did you pull your child from public school for middle school?

AJC parenting reporter Gracie Bonds Staples is looking for parents who have used a mix of both public and private school for their children’s education, especially those who have enrolled kids in public elementary school only to switch to a private middle school and maybe back again.

If you are among them, please e-mail Gracie Bonds Staples at gstaples@ajc.com or call her  at 770-263-3621.

The most common pattern I have seen is a child leaving the public system for middle and returning for high school. (I am seeing less of it now in my town,  either because parents are more comfortable with the middle school or because they’re too strapped to afford private school.)

I know this a tired refrain from me, but I still question the middle school design. When I sat in on the meeting of parents with Michelle Rhee last week, several of the 50 parents spoke about touring their local middle schools and then running for the hills. Whenever I hear parents lament, most of their …

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Value in non students joining public school teams, clubs?

Should Georgia mandate that public schools must open their after-school activities to any child in the community, no matter where they go to school?  AJC photo.

Should Georgia mandate that public schools open their after-school activities to any child in the community, no matter where they go to school? AJC photo.

I exchanged e-mails with Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, one of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 55, and asked if I could share his explanation of why he sees a need for this legislation.

SB 55 is one of two bills — SB 34 is the other – that open public school after-school extracurriculars to children who don’t attend the school. However, I wasn’t clear which kids each of these similar bills was representing. (See earlier blogs for background. This one is about 55. This one is about 34.)

Were the bills designed to let any children, whether enrolled in private, charter, magnet or homeschooled, to join after-school clubs and teams at the local public school?

As far as SB 55,  Sen. Shafer said that he signed on because the bill “would allow home and private school kids to participate in public school extracurricular activities. …

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Avondale High parents: Our kids forgotten in DeKalb redistricting

Dr. Tasarah Wilson, the principal at Avondale High School, talks to students in the cafeteria in 2007. (JESSICA MCGOWAN/Special)

Dr. Tasarah Wilson, the principal at Avondale High School, talks to students in the cafeteria in 2007. (JESSICA MCGOWAN/Special)

Hardest hit in the redistricting proposal unveiled this week by DeKalb interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson is the Avondale cluster, which is losing its middle and high school.

Avondale High School parents contend that the school has long been promised renovations and resources that never came. Now, they get the news that their school will be closed, their children reassigned to other high schools.

The parents maintain that the county’s priority has become the DeKalb School of the Arts, a boutique magnet of less than 300 students that shares space at Avondale and will remain in the building.

They feel that the school board assumes the working class parents in Avondale High lack the time and energy to rally for their schools. And that, the parents say, is wrong. Parents are meeting, Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. at the high school with board members Donna …

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HOPE Scholarships: A welfare system for Georgia’s affluent

Here is a strong piece by Hugh Hudson, chair of the Department of History at Georgia State University, on the need to restore income caps on the HOPE Scholarship.  Hudson is also executive secretary of the Georgia Conference of the American Association of University Professors.

He provides an historic view of HOPE, which, as introduced by Gov. Zell Miller, had an income cap so it was unavailable to Georgia’s higher earning households. With the scholarship imperiled by a budget crisis, Hudson suggests we return to Miller’s original blueprint.

By Hugh Hudson

The fact that the governor and the legislature are determining the fate of the Hope Scholarship is widely reported, as in the AJC story on the presentation by Timothy A. Connell, president, Georgia Student Finance Commission, to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

What is being ignored is the threat that many of the “reforms” make to the original purpose of HOPE and the dream of former Gov. Zell …

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Parent trigger laws: Parents can fire school staffs

As expected, Georgia lawmakers are pushing for a version of California’s controversial parent trigger bill to overhaul failing schools even as that state grapples with how to put its law into action.

Introduced this week in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 68 mimics the California law, which allows the majority of parents in low-performing schools to petition for major changes, including replacing staff and programs or bringing in a charter management operator.

However, the parent trigger law is running into problems in California where state education officials now say they are uncertain how to implement it and want a study group to look at the law. (The bureaucratic version of sending someone to Siberia.)

I am not sure of the wisdom of adopting a California law that hasn’t even been put into effect yet. Consider what happened yesterday.

According to a story in today’s LA Times:

The state Board of Education, in its first full meeting with a majority of members appointed by …

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