Archive for March, 2011

Who should lead DeKalb County schools? What matters most?

DeKalb residents ought to show up Thursday at 6 p.m. to meet the three school superintendent finalists.

At the open session at the Administration and Instructional Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain, candidates will each get 50 minutes to introduce themselves and answer pre-submitted questions.

(I did send this note to DeKalb schools: When are you releasing the three names? It seems odd that the county is asking parents to submit questions without knowing who the candidates are or their backgrounds as the questions would be a lot more relevant if parents knew the candidates’ history.

And I just received an answer that they do plan on releasing the names, possibly today. I will post. Maureen)

In an  AJC story on the search for new school chiefs in DeKalb and three other districts, DeKalb School Board Chair Tom Bowen said, “Rather than going behind closed doors, we want to be as inclusive as we can. It goes to the bigger picture of changing the culture and …

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President concerned with too much testing but it’s still part of Race to the Top

Testing has become today’s blog theme. President Obama addressed the topic at the town hall meeting this morning at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington. (See earlier blog on this event.)

“Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students,” said Obama.

The president has expressed this view before in discussing needed changes to No Child Left Behind, the sweeping federal law that President Bush enacted and that he considered his signature legislation. Testing is the foundation of NCLB, which rewards and punishes schools based on student scores.

However, despite Obama’s comments, the use of testing to judge teachers is a part of his own signature initiative, Race to the Top, which calls for new models to evaluate and reward teachers that consider student achievement. Georgia is one of the states that will develop and pilot new teacher evaluations in which student performance on tests will be a factor.

According to the story in the AJC:

Obama, who …

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Is everybody cheating on high-stakes tests?

Michelle Rhee's success in Washington as measured by student scores is now in question.

Michelle Rhee's success in Washington as measured by student scores is now in question.

If you were wondering if Atlanta was alone in its testing irregularities, take a look at these USA Today stories questioning the test gains posted in Washington, D.C., under former chancellor and much celebrated reformer Michelle Rhee.

Using the same methodology that the AJC used to dissect Atlanta test score gains, USA Today found similar instances of outlier schools where students posted improbable, if not impossible, swings in scores, in six states and Washington. (These cheating stories make this parent petition in opposition of test scores in teacher evaluations all the more relevant.)

Today’s USA Today story says: (If you have time, link to the story and read it as it is a great piece.)

From the start, Rhee emphasized a need to raise scores, restore calm to chaotic schools and close those with lagging scores and small enrollments. She paid bonuses to principals and teachers who …

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Parents group: Don’t evaluate and pay teachers on test scores

A  reader sent me a link to this petition from parents in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. The parents oppose the use of test scores to determine teacher pay, saying the scores are an unreliable and unfair measure of  teacher performance and the practice will only increase testing and test prep in the schools.

The parents belong to a group called Mecklenburg Acts. The name stands for Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools.

I thought this was interesting as most of the criticisms of teacher accountability models that incorporate student test scores have been coming from within the profession. I have seen few organized parents groups take an official position.

Here is the petition:

We oppose the use of standardized test scores as an integral part of any teacher pay system developed by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

The last thing we want for our children is more standardized tests and more pressure surrounding these tests. If test scores figure into even …

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“Quit trying to cannibalize public schools bit by bit”

Strong piece in the Gwinnett Daily Post by columnist Dick Yarbrough on Sen. Chip Rogers’ voucher bill, which Rogers  pulled this session because he lacked the votes to pass it. But Rogers remains committed to vouchers and will return with his bill next year.

After a long corporate career, Yarbrough was managing director of communications and government relations for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and is now a newspaper columnist.

Here is an excerpt of his column. Read the entire piece here.

It is not a beautiful day in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

State Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, saw his beloved school voucher bill bite the dust this session. Groused Mr. Rogers, “We want to ignore the fact that our schools are failing. I’m going to have a hard time defending this one.” Not really.

Mr. Rogers, maybe public schools are failing because you and your colleagues have done a poor job of helping them succeed. Duh!

Rogers in his frustration at seeing the …

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White House: Education of Latinos essential to America’s future

Today, Latino students account for 22 percent of the pre-k through high school enrollment in the United States.  Metro Atlanta / State News 6:46 p.m. Thursday, March 17, 2011 Blacks, Hispanics lead metro population growth  « Return to story The Hispanic population grew 96 percent in Georgia between 2000 and 2010, with more than a 152 percent increase in Gwinnett County; about 100 percent in Clayton County; and about 80 percent in Cobb, the Census numbers show.  Miguel Martinez/Mundo Hispanico

Today, Hispanics represent 22 percent of the nation's students in pre-k through high school. (Miguel Martinez/Mundo Hispanico)

In a media call today, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the improved academic performance of Latino children a “national priority.”

The media call previewed President Obama’s town hall meeting Monday morning at Bell Multicultural High School. The president will discuss Hispanics and education with 600 students, parents and teachers at the Washington, D.C. high school.

Today, 22 percent of students under the age of 18 are Latino. Citing the growth of Hispanic enrollment — 12 million children in pre-k to high school are Latino — Duncan said that less than half of Latino children attend early learning programs and less than half earn their high school degrees.

Only one in eight has a bachelor’s degree. Only 4 percent of Latinos have an academic degree beyond an undergraduate level.

In Georgia, the Hispanic population grew 96 percent, according …

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Walking in her shoes: Principal tells us why she is selling her heels to raise money for her school

It’s long been true that schools have to hold bake sales and wrapping paper sales to raise needed funds. Now, one educator is resorting to a shoe sale to stave off layoffs at her school.

The creative and shoe-loving principal of Jackson Elementary in El Dorado Hills, a suburb east of Sacramento, is hawking her vast array shoes via the Internet.

Calling her effort “Shoes to the Rescue,” Michele Miller is selling off hundreds of pairs of shoes on a web site that you can check out here.

This is a fun story, which is getting a lot of media attention. But the sobering underside is that education is at such a low point in funding that a principal is raiding her own wardrobe to help pay the bills.

If practitioners have to sell their boots and slingbacks to pay the bills, I am not sure schools can meet the higher performance demands now being placed on them or that we can expect greater professionalization of the education field.

Let’s hear from principal Miller …

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Is Reed the right mayor to run Atlanta schools? Is any mayor?

Mayor Kasim Reed is considering getting involved in running APS. (AJC photo)

Mayor Kasim Reed is considering getting involved in running APS. (AJC photo)

At a recent panel on school leadership, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told a roomful of business leaders that the troubled city school system must make “path breaking” progress.

“As your mayor, I’m prepared to go as far as you all are prepared to go to save these kids,” he promised the audience at last month’s Education Leadership for the 21st Century event.

Apparently, that includes going across the street — from City Hall to the Atlanta Public Schools offices.

Reed announced a few days ago that he is considering seeking special power to appoint  school board members in an effort to stabilize a system reeling from a cheating scandal, a feuding Board of Education and increasingly irate parents.

Is a reconstituted school board the lifeline that will pull Atlanta to solid ground?  Or will the system’s restoration depend on the next person hired to lead Atlanta, one of several metro systems …

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N.J. judge finds deep cuts incompatible with a “thorough” education

Interesting New York Times story on a New Jersey judge’s report on the cuts to education made by the governor. The judge said the deep cuts violate the state’s obligation to provide a “a thorough and efficient” education system.

I suspect that similar judicial reviews in other states would also find budget cuts are incompatible with constitutional mandates for adequate educations.

According to the Times:

The report by Judge Peter E. Doyne is not binding on the court, but it raises the prospect that the justices could once again order the state to direct more money to poor schools. That would complicate Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to cut spending as the state struggles with its worst fiscal problems in generations.

Shortly after taking office last year, Mr. Christie cut $475 million in school aid from the budget of about $11 billion that was already in place. For the fiscal year that began July 1, he and the Legislature reduced that aid by $820 million from the previous …

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Managing middle school. What your child — or mine — won’t tell you

My sixth grader is at his middle school this evening because he’s part of the open house for parents of fifth graders. His official title is student ambassador, and he and 17 classmates have been preparing for this night for several weeks.

I think he is taking the ambassador’s role as an emissary of good will to heart.

In the car earlier today, he explained to me that his topic is after-school clubs and activities. “Make sure you tell the parents that it is not easy to keep up with after-school events or sports and that the calendar isn’t always updated to reflect club meetings that are changed or canceled,” I told him. “And tell them to make copies of their children’s sports physicals in case the school loses them.”

He responded that he had already practiced his presentation and he couldn’t change anything now.

Besides, he said, “Do you think I am going to get up in front of the school administration and tell the parents that our school does some things badly?”

–From Maureen …

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