Archive for March, 2011

New study on KIPP: Higher attrition and lots more money per pupil

Updated with response from KIPP: at 7:37 p.m.

There are a few dissenters who have remained leery of the great success story of the KIPP schools, questioning the turnover of students in the acclaimed program. KIPP operates three schools in the metro area and a high school, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, opens this summer.

Now skeptics are about to get some data on attrition and funding that may confirm their suspicions.

In a study bound to raise the hackles of KIPP supporters, researchers at the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University and Teachers College at Columbia University found that KIPP has a high attrition rate among African-American boys.

While the study does not challenge the academic success of KIPP graduates, it raises questions about the funding and whether the high level of private dollars is sustainable. The study found that KIPP  schools benefit tremendously by donations and private funding, earning an extra $6,500 on average per …

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Does size matter? DeKalb schools are about to find out.

From the moment I published the names of the three finalists for the DeKalb school chief job on Tuesday, the e-mails began: “Is this the best we can do?” “Can you find out if other candidates turned DeKalb down and this is what we were stuck with?”  “None of these three is qualified. We ought to start over.”

On the other hand, I have also heard many comparisons to famous winning coaches who came to big schools from smaller ones and turned around losing athletic programs.

The fact is that all three candidates do come from much smaller systems. However, that doesn’t mean they have small ideas or that their leadership skills cannot transfer to a system 10 times greater in enrollment.

I have seen city managers, newspaper editors and school superintendents with seemingly ideal credentials fail, and I have seen people with unremarkable backgrounds succeed so I don’t think we can tell much from a curriculum vitae.

The candidates meet the public tonight — which is a very unusual …

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Stalled in Georgia, vouchers advance in Indiana this week

While vouchers are not moving this legislative session in Georgia, an expansive bill — the broadest in the country — was passed by the Indiana House this week and is expected to also pass the Senate. The bill phases in school vouchers, but eventually enables even middle-class families to receive tax dollars for private schools.

Here is a story from the Indianapolis Star:

A bill to give tax dollars to some families to pay for private school tuition is headed to the Senate for debate.

The House voted 56-42 for House Bill 1003, with four Republicans joining 38 Democrats in opposition.

Democrats argued that there is no solid evidence that giving vouchers to students improves their performance or forces public schools to do better to retain students, and that it will drain money from public schools when they are facing budget cuts.

“Why would you want to vote for a bill that siphons money away from public schools, that does not improve student achievement and entangles the …

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Would changing APS board members make any difference?

The news keeps coming today: My AJC colleague Jim Galloway reports that an amendment has been introduced in the House that would enable Gov. Nathan Deal  to remove members of the Atlanta Board of Education if the school system lost accreditation later this year

Deal already has the power to oust school board members as a result of the school board reform package passed by Sonny Perdue. But that bill excludes school board members elected prior to 2010. The amendment would extend the governor’s  purge power to those board members as well.

I am not sure that changing the players matters much when you consider that most of the current APS board members had the blessing of EduPAC, the schools-driven political committee associated with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. If you look at the backgrounds of the board members, they are an impressive bunch. However, as a group, they seem to be less than their sums.

Increasingly, I believe the dysfunction in APS transcends the elected …

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Breaking news: State Supreme Court delays ruling on charter school funding

Update on the much-anticipated Georgia charter school decision: The state Supreme Court just issued an order extending the term of court as to this case “until further order of the Court.”  The court gave no indication  on how much longer the case may take.

The original case was decided from the bench by a Fulton County Superior Court judge last year.  The state Supreme Court heard the case in October and was slated to rule by the end of this month. I suspect this delay means the justices are tussling over the complex issues of school funding and local school board autonomy raised by this case. Apparently, this announcement to extend the term of the case is unusual.

In her swift  ruling, Fulton  Judge Wendy Shoob rejected the constitutional arguments of seven school districts  that a new state Charter Schools Commission that can overrule county boards of education and approve charter schools  is illegal. The systems appealed to the high court where the case remains.

–From …

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Corporal punishment: Why are we still hitting students in schools?

As a former writer on family issues, I was always taken aback when parents and schools espoused a multi-vitamin view of physical punishment, telling me that children needed a whack now and then to grow up big and strong.

I’ve been a longtime advocate of barring schools from using corporal punishment. With all the attention around the abuse of children , it stuns me that we allow adults to legally strike students.

Only 20 states, including Georgia, still permit paddling in their schools, but that is changing.

Some dedicated parents in Georgia are attempting to impose a ban here, but the Legislature has adopted a hands-off attitude,  enabling local school districts to decide for themselves whether to paddle. Most metro districts eschew physical discipline, but it does go on, especially in rural Georgia.

While there are obvious educational, moral and psychological problems with paddles that ought to compel districts to retire them, there’s also the threat of lawsuits.  It’s …

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Three DeKalb school chief finalists: All run much smaller districts

Did a quick search and rundown of the three finalists for DeKalb school chief: Here is some background on each of them:

Arthur Culver

Arthur Culver

Arthur Culver: He is the superintendent in Champaign, Illinois and has been suggested in the Illinois media as a candidate for the Chicago’s school chief job.

In 2009, the Champaign school board voted 4-3 to extend his contract. In 2007, the board extended Culver’s contract from four years to five.  According to the local newspaper, Culver earns $226,049 a year.

Culver had been school chief in the Longview Independent School in Texas. (Here is a story about a controversy that followed Culver from Texas to Illinois.)

Culver came from Texas to Champaign in 2002. According to the newspaper in East Center Illinois, the News-Gazette, “Since then, he’s had his hands full trying to meet the requirements of a consent decree negotiated before his arrival that is aimed at improving the performance of minority students. He’s done a good job, so it’s …

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Here are the three candidates for DeKalb school chief. No internal candidate.

Here are the three finalists for the DeKalb superintendent:

I just posted another blog on their backgrounds. Check it out here.

* Dr. Gloria Davis, Superintendent of Decatur (Illinois) Public Schools

* Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent of Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4

* Dr. Lillie Cox, Superintendent of Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools

From the school system on Thursday’s public forum with the three candidates:

During the forum, each superintendent candidate will have 50 minutes to introduce themselves and answer 10 written questions from the public. Parents and members of the community are invited to submit written questions of the candidates. Questions from the public must be submitted at the forum prior to 5:30 p.m.

Parents and those in the community who cannot attend the forum can submit written questions on the DeKalb Schools website at The forum also will be broadcast live on Dekalb Schools’ PDS TV 24 …

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Michelle Rhee on DC cheating: “Absolutely not the case”

In a PBS interview with Tavis Smiley, former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee responded to the USA Today story that challenged the credibility of test score increases under her tenure in Washington.  (USA Today found the same high wrong to right erasure rates uncovered  in some Atlanta schools after AJC investigations in 2008 and 2009.)

Here is the interview:

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Still waiting for state Supreme Court ruling on fate of charters

Still awaiting the state Supreme Court ruling, which the AJC had expected Monday.

In the meantime, the AJC has a piece on the potential impact of the ruling on state-approved charter schools. It is the funding of these charter schools — not those approved by local boards of education — that sparked the lawsuit by seven metro districts.

Charter schools are awaiting a state Supreme Court opinion this week that will decide whether they are allowed to continue operating. The schools are standing their ground and beginning to make back-up plans so they can keep educating students in their care.

Mark Peevy, executive director of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, said he has been in talks with state officials and school operators about what to expect if the legal battle over local control of public education dissolves the commission. The state commission is facing a constitutional challenge filed by seven metro Atlanta school districts who say it illegally approves and funds …

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