Archive for March, 2011

Should parents protest testing by refusing to let their kids take exams?

crcted.0920 (Medium)Interesting CNN story on parents refusing to allow their children to take state exams in protest of the testing mania in schools. The pro-test side in the story is represented by Michael Lomax, a former Fulton County Commission chair who went on to become a college president and now United Negro College Fund president and CEO.

Lomax is a longtime educator. He once spoke to a GSU class that I was teaching and was very candid with the students about Georgia politics. I thought he was an unlikely politician, which may be why he didn’t make it a lifelong career.

I understand the growing concerns about testing, but have not personally seen test prep taken to the extreme. I am still not sure why some teachers are at ease with the CRCT and others are frantic. While many of you will suggest that the nervous teachers are those teaching in the toughest schools, I haven’t found that to be the case. I know teachers in schools with high numbers of poor kids who are not all panicked about …

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The politics of HOPE

(Folks, This piece I wrote runs on the Monday education page, paired with this column by Gov. Nathan Deal.)

The debate in the Legislature over the HOPE scholarship changes provoked many dramatic speeches, but the most personal was delivered by state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna.

Evans is the exact student that Gov. Zell Miller, a son of hardscrabble Georgia, envisioned when he launched HOPE in 1994. Growing up in Ringgold to parents who labored in carpet mills, Evans was smart, but poor. She was not raised in a household that read the classics or discussed poetry around the table. Still, she graduated in the top 10 percent of her class.

Despite her accomplishments, Evans today would not qualify for the full HOPE funding that enabled her to attend the University of  Georgia.

And that’s  because she barely broke a 1,000 on the SAT.

“Hard work can get you a higher GPA, but hard work will not always get you a higher SAT,” Evans said. “I could not make up what I didn’t have 18 years …

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The Salem High Seminoles become fighting words (and images).

seminoleA graduate of Salem High School sent me this story about Florida State University’s complaints about the Rockdale County school’s use of “Seminole” in their sports program, and the school board’s decision to comply with the university’s demands to avoid a costly lawsuit.

The “official” home of the Seminoles, FSU said Salem High’s and Memorial Middle’s use of the word “Seminole” and their corresponding logos was a violation of  its trademark rights.

The reader said: “While I know this isn’t as intriguing as cheating scandals and corrupt school boards, as a Salem High alumni and public school teacher, I find this to be appalling. What a ridiculous thing to do to a school any time, but certainly in a budget crisis. Shame on FSU.”

Here is part of the story from the Rockdale Citizen. Take a look at the entire story:

Rockdale County Public Schools will have to replace athletic and band apparel, wall and floor paintings and school stationery at Salem High School and Memorial Middle …

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If school has 10 valedictorians, do they all get full HOPE?

A Get Schooled poster raises a good question about the new provision added to the HOPE bill at the last minute giving full tuition to each Georgia high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian.

What if a school has multiple valedictorians and salutatorians? (See my last entry on the two Cherokee valedictorians.)

Here is what astute poster “And the beat goes on” noted:

Local boards of education have policies that list the criteria one must meet in order to be valedictorian or salutatorian, but these policies can be easily changed. I believe there are 183 school districts, and if HOPE is offered to all valedictorians and salutatorians (which I don’t have a problem with at all), then there would be 366 students who would be automatically eligible for HOPE. However, if a district were to amend policies to allow an individual school to have as many as 5 or 10 valedictorians, then all of those students would be given the HOPE scholarship. Again, I wish all students who have worked …

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Two valedictorians are better than one in Cherokee County

When the controversy broke over which of two students would be Etowah High School’s valedictorian, the simple solution to many of us was to have two No. 1 slots.  In researching the issue, I found that some schools have had as many as 38 valedictorians.

Now, the Cherokee school board appears to agree. (See this new blog on the implications of multiple valedictorians for HOPE.)

Here is a brief summary of what happened in Cherokee: A private school student enrolled at Etowah to access an early college option offered to public school students. Because college grades earn higher points on the GPA, the private school student edged out an Etowah student who has been tops in her class since the ninth grade.

The prospect of Etowah’s valedictorian being a student who never stepped foot in the building or attended any classes there led to an uproar, a Facebook campaign and petitions. But under Cherokee policy, the young woman in college was the rightful valedictorian.

While the larger …

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Failure of teachers: Haven’t taught politicians a lesson or two about decency

Jordan sent me this link to an essay on the Huffington Post by Randy Turner, a journalist turned teacher. Take a look at it if you have time.

Turner’s piece has the provocative headline of “The Failure of American Teachers,” but is really a broadside against the anti-teacher rhetoric and laws coming out of many Statehouses across the country.

In his essay, Turner concludes:

And that brings me to the sole reason I have changed my mind about the competence of American public schoolteachers — if we were doing our job, somewhere along the line we would have taught the politicians who are systematically destroying public education, the greatest of all American experiments, something about decency, respect, and developing the mortal fortitude to resist the siren song of the special interests who are well on their way to making the U. S. into a world of haves and have-nots, where public education will serve to provide low paid feeder stock for non-union companies and …

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Are pre-k teachers worth less than other Georgia teachers?

A pre-k teacher from south Georgia sent me this letter about salary issues. I think she raises good questions about salary disparities:

I am writing in regards to the Governor’s new proposal to save Georgia’s Pre-K program. In his new proposal, it was stated that lead teachers’ salaries would be reduced by 10 percent due to a reduction of days in the school calendar year.  However, in a webinar presented by Commissioner Bobby Cagle, he said Pre-K teachers’ teaching and experience pay will be capped.  Pre-K teachers will no longer receive step raises like all the other teachers in Georgia.

New, certified teachers with a bachelors’ degree in early childhood education will receive a salary of $21,827.03 a year for as long as they are employed as Pre-K teachers.  Teachers with the same degree teaching kindergarten through fifth grade will start at a salary of $33,424.00.   They will be able to increase their salary every year that they teach or obtain a higher degree.  The salary …

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March madness: Arne Duncan calls for no NCAA tournaments for teams graduating less than half their players. That would include UGA.

Arne Duncan wants college basketball programs to pay more attention to academics (US DOE)

Arne Duncan wants college basketball programs to pay more attention to academics (US DOE)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former college basketball player, condemned the practice of allowing college basketball teams to compete in NCAA postseason tournaments even if they are graduating less than their student athletes in the program.

And he called the growing graduation gap between white and black players “unconscionable.”

On a media call Thursday, Duncan said the issue was personal. Co-captain of the Harvard basketball team and a first-team Academic All-American, Duncan also played professional basketball in Australia. He grew up playing with guys on Chicago’s Southside, where his mother runs an after-school center. (She still is operating it today.)

“I can’t not speak out on something that I have seen from the time I was a child,” he said.  He recalled playing with athletes on street courts who helped earn their colleges millions of dollars only to be leave school …

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Crying fowl: APS board member says chair flipped her the bird at closed session

It appears that the Atlanta school board’s show of unity during its public meetings on maintaining accreditation is masking more fractious relations behind closed doors.

Here is an e-mail sent to board members and other APS officials Monday by District 5 board representative LaChandra Butler Burks in which she maintains that Board Chair Khaatim Sherrer El was “shooting a bird” at her during an executive session from which the public and press were barred.

I asked Chairman El for a comment and he sent me his e-mail response to Burks, which is also posted here along with a statement that El provided.

Here is Burks’ e-mail:

As I reflected on our upcoming SACS report this past weekend, I am concerned about some of the items that will have to be included. As a result, I think we need to be prepared to provide information on the following:

Required Action 1: It is difficult to regain stakeholder’s trust with the comments that were made by Mr. El on V-103. I have received several …

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A former Cherokee County valedictorian: ”Nearly impossible not to get a 100 in a joint enrollment class.”

A former Woodstock High valedictorian sent me this e-mail amid the Etowah High School controversy over who deserved to be awarded the No. 1 spot — a student at the high school or a joint enrolled college student who never attended the school. (You have to read the background on this as it’s complicated.)

I have Lauren Clark’s permission to share her comments here. What I found interesting is her observation that her college courses were easier than her high school AP classes, yet gave her a higher GPA.

I  have been told that same thing by other joint enrolled students — with the exception students enrolled in math classes at Georgia Tech. (After all the comments during the HOPE discussion about how tough Tech is compared to the rest of the state’s colleges, I have to wonder whether Tech is too hard on students or whether other campuses are too easy?)

I asked a college professor about Clark’s experience and her response was that AP classes are usually every day so students are …

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