Archive for June, 2011

Live blogging: Georgia’s new school funding formula: “We are not going to reach for excellence”

I am at the first all-day meeting of the state’s new education finance review committee created by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature — it is the sixth such blue ribbon committee since the state adopted the Quality Basic Education Funding Act in 1985.

The most recent committee labored four years and came up with district contracts for flexibility rather than a revised funding formula.

None of the other committees yielded any results, either. Speaking now is state House budget staff director John Brown, who leaves the Legislature after 25 years to join the Regents tomorrow. So, Brown is speaking with a remarkable degree of candor to the 20-member committee about the earlier failed efforts and the state of education in Georgia.

Brown blamed the failures of the other funding review committees on two factors: Governors who wanted  only recommendations that were “revenue neutral,” and overly ambitious committee recommendations that were more “wish lists.”

And this …

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Waycross principal finalist for National Principal of the Year

Speaking of good principals earlier today on this blog: I just received this news release:

Timothy Dixon, principal of Waycross (GA) Middle School, has been named a finalist in the 2012 MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program for his significant contributions to student achievement.

In his four years as principal of Waycross, Dixon has earned a great deal of respect from colleagues, teachers, parents, and community members. Committed to collaborative leadership, he rallies his staff members to take accountability for student success and he ensures that they participate in the major decisions that impact the school. He also works closely with the PTA and forges strong relationships with local business leaders.

“Dixon is loved by the school community,” said Joseph Barrow Jr., superintendent of Ware County Schools. “He models values, beliefs, and attitudes that encourage others to high levels of performance.”

By supporting the development of …

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Great principals hire great teachers and get out of their way

State Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, gathered some Georgia educators recently for a discussion about education issues in the state. Among the attendees was University of Georgia education professor Peter Smagorinsky, who has written several pieces for the blog.

Here is a piece that Smagorinsky wrote after the meeting:

Rep. Edward Lindsey recently invited a group of teachers to meet with him and discuss the state of education in Georgia. I was fortunate to be included in this group of impressive, knowledgeable, and provocative Georgia educators. Among the challenges they identified in Georgia schools was finding effective leadership. A good principal is priceless; a bad one is a disaster.

In my years as an Illinois teacher in the 1970s and 1980s, I had pretty much the same experience. I worked for six principals at three schools over 14 years. One was great; some were mediocre; the rest were a fright. Each made a difference in how students and teachers experienced the …

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Everybody is talking about education. Is anyone listening?

Marian Wright Edelman (Children's Defense Fund)

"Incarceration is becoming the new American apartheid, and poor children of color are the fodder," said Marian Wright Edelman (Children's Defense Fund)

Over the past few weeks Georgia has been the epicenter of education debate, hosting some of the most notable — and controversial — voices in the field today.Speaking to the Georgia School Boards Association in Savannah 10 days ago, historian Diane Ravitch urged, “Don’t stand by and let politicians tear down a public institution that has been the foundation of our democracy for 150 years.”

Reminding the audience that more than 90 percent of Georgia’s students attend public schools, Ravitch, author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System, ” said: “We must improve those public schools. We must not pretend those children don’t exist while we are creating more choices for 2 [percent] to 3 percent of them.”

Following her to the podium was a politician, Gov. Nathan Deal, who won applause with …

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Peachtree Hope Charter: Matter of hours left for it to get back on DeKalb agenda

If I were a parent considering Peachtree Hope Charter School, I would be asking the board of directors why they chose to terminate the management contract with Sabis, which provides the management and curriculum for the Memorial Drive charter school.

Essentially, the decision means that the DeKalb school has to start from scratch in its academic blueprint, and there are real questions today whether it can recreate itself in time to reopen in August.  The school’s board of directors plans to meet with parents later this week to explain why they dumped Sabis and how the school plans to move forward.

But Peachtree Hope Charter School only has a few hours left today to submit an application to DeKalb County.

(Note: DeKalb sent me this note at 6 Monday evening: “No word on Peachtree Hope today. We’re waiting until the a.m. to give them some more time.”  But then, the AJC reporter writing the news story on the school’s plight sent me this note: Peachtree Hope filed a new …

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Is it tougher to open a charter school in a high achieving district?

In a 4-3 vote Friday met with a standing ovation, the Cherokee school board rejected Cherokee Charter Academy, one of eight new charters statewide whose futures were thrown into limbo by the state Supreme Court decision on May 16.

Like most of the other charter schools scheduled to open and the eight already in operation, Cherokee Charter turned to its local school board for approval, which was the best lifeline since it assured the best funding. But many things were at work against the fledgling school, one being the short time frame for local approval due to the late ruling by the Supreme Court.

By issuing its decision in mid May after hearing the case in October, the high court left a window of only a few weeks for schools approved by the now illegal state commission to find legitimacy through local boards of education. I think that the schools already in operation had a slight edge over schools like Cherokee Academy, which had not yet opened and had no record on which to …

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What happened to Peachtree Hope Charter School in DeKalb?

Anyone know what is happening with Peachtree Hope Charter School?

The Memorial Drive school was approved last year by the now defunct state Charter Schools Commission and was part of the Sabis network of schools. The school had lost its charter because of the recent Supreme Court decision impacting 16 new and existing schools, but had won a year’s lease on life via a vote by the DeKalb Board of Education.

However,  if you go to the school web site today, you will find only this stark note: This is no longer the website for Peachtree Hope Charter School. Please contact (404) 622-2727 for more information.

I called the number and after many rings, a message came on still identifying the school as part of the Minnesota-based SABIS Educational Systems and directing me to the Web site.  I will check Monday to see if  Sabis pulled out because of the state Supreme Court ruling and whether the school plans to try to soldier on as an independent school.

However, Peachtree …

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Will higher pay for math teachers add up to more of them?

math (Medium)When I first started writing this blog two years ago, we had a discussion about whether hard-to-fill teaching slots in science and math should be paid at higher rate to entice people to the classroom.

At the time, a few of you argued that while today’s shortage might be math and science, tomorrow’s could be social studies and reading so differential pay was problematic.

But it appears the shortages in math and science are not going away any time soon, based on current college grads going into those teaching areas.

I had run a note on this blog a few weeks ago seeking math and science teachers willing to talk to the AJC for a story about a state incentive plan.

Thanks to those who responded and chatted with the reporter.

The story is now in the paper, and here is an excerpt:

By the end of the month, 3,100 of the state’s newest math and science teachers will receive from $1,461 to $6,577 through an incentive plan put into law in 2009 and funded for the first time this …

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Coweta rejects charter school: Vote destroys “American freedom to choose.”

The Coweta school board voted 6-1 today to deny the charter petition because of problems with the school’s facility, lack of transportation services and inadequate staff serving students with special needs.

You can read the county’s reasons here. Clearly, the system has found reasons to be concerned, including this issue: An analysis of this data clearly reflects that students in the Coweta County School System outperformed students in Coweta Charter Academy. Furthermore, Coweta Charter Academy did not meet its performance goal as agreed upon by Coweta Charter Academy, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and the State Board of Education.

In a few minutes, the Cherokee school board will vote on the application of Cherokee Charter Academy, another Charter Schools USA partner school.

What makes these two charter schools different than most others in the state is that they are seeking to operate in counties with very high academic achievement. I understand that there are …

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Cherokee: Will charter school open? And $324,608 for e-mails related to school?

I wrote a series a few years ago about local governments in Georgia frustrating citizens who were attempting to use the state Open Records Act to obtain public documents.

One way was to impose outlandish charges for the records, and I have seen some hefty bills. Another way was to force citizens to wait months for the documents. I talked to many people around the state who had these obstacles put in their path.

But $324,608 and a 463-day wait shocks even me.

That is what Cherokee schools told an attorney he would have to pay for a request for e-mails and other documents related to the Cherokee Academy Charter School, one of 16 charters left in limbo by the May 16 state Supreme Court ruling.

The school wants to open this fall, and is before the school board tonight.

Now, Mike Klein of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is reporting that Attorney General Sam Olens said today that his office will open an investigation into how the Cherokee County School District’s open records …

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