Archive for June, 2011

Former university leader to temporarily run APS. Never a dull moment.

Outgoing Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. will move a few blocks to the APS offices.

Outgoing Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. will move a few blocks to the APS offices.

I have to admit that I’m surprised to see former business-executive-turned-chancellor Erroll B. Davis now coming aboard as interim superintendent at APS.

It would seem that an interim could have been found in the APS leadership ranks rather than bringing in someone without any k-12 experience.

According to the AJC: Davis will start July 1 and will serve until the board hires a permanent replacement for retiring Beverly Hall, presumably one of the three finalists announced last week. (But we saw how that worked in DeKalb.) Davis is leaving the university system June 30.

To get a glimpse of Davis’ views on education in general, take a look back at this blog on his farewell-to-the-system speech.

Davis came to Georgia after serving as chairman of the board of Alliant Energy Corporation.  He earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, in 1965, and a MBA. …

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Immigration law: Will teachers lose their jobs if students don’t return?

A few weeks ago, I received this note from a Fulton teacher:

Is the AJC working on a story about the immigration law’s impact on teacher’s jobs? On the last day of post planning, teachers had to redo class lists for next year because so many Hispanic students had withdrawn. We’re down enough students to potentially lose a few more teachers.

The AJC has now done a story on the potential impact of the state’s new Arizona-style immigration crackdown.  At this point, it is not yet clear how many systems will lose students and whether there will be enough of a loss to affect staffing, according to the story.

Are any of you aware of systems that have warned teachers their jobs may be gone if a significant number of students are gone in August? Have some schools already acted on the expectation that they will see an exodus?

According to the story:

A lot is at stake for Georgia schools. Student enrollment changes can affect state and federal funding schools receive per student, …

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Today’s students: Overconfident or overachieving?

There is an interesting story in the AJC about whether today’s college students are overconfident and brash about their abilities or simply appear that way to an older generation that always looks askance at youth.

The story focuses on a recent study that found an increasing number of incoming college freshmen rate themselves as  “above average,” compared with freshmen surveyed in the 1960s. For example, 60 percent of  students today rate their intellectual self-confidence as above average, compared with 39 percent in 1966.

(Their vaulting confidence in their intellects may be due to the higher grades they earned in high school. In 1966, 19 percent of the students surveyed had A or A-minus averages. By 2009, the percentage reporting  high GPAs had risen to 48 percent.)

The story looks at the so-called entitlement mentality of today’s college students. But I have to wonder about these stories considering that we also read a lot about high school students being overworked — …

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Does class size matter? Don’t ask Bill Gates. Ask a teacher.

In a recent study, researchers questioned whether class size reductions are worth the cost. (AP Images)

In a recent study, researchers questioned whether class size reductions are worth the cost. (AP Images)

University of Georgia education professor Peter Smagorinsky wrote a piece in response to our discussion here a few weeks ago on a new study on class size. I am running his piece on the education page I assemble and edit for the AJC  each Monday, but here is a preview: (By the way, please send me submissions.  mdowney@ajc.com)

By Peter Smagorinsky

One of the debates surrounding public education centers on the question of whether or not size matters – in this case, class size.

A recent report from the Brookings Brown Center on Education Policy concludes that, compared to other investments in schools, reducing class size has a relatively low payoff.

The study found that large reductions – seven to 10 students – can improve student achievement, most notably in the early grades and for low-income students.  But increasing or decreasing enrollment by one or two students has …

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Best wishes to 2011 AJC Cup winners. Now, go change the world.

The AJC has a full-page today in the Sunday paper citing all AJC Cup winners from the high school Class of 2011. One of the longest standing student recognitions in the state, the AJC Cup — formerly known as the Atlanta Journal Cup — acknowledges all-around great students.

(I have already received a miffed e-mail about why a local  high school didn’t have a student listed, suggesting the AJC overlooked the school. But it is the schools that nominate the students, not the AJC.)

To explain the award, I pulled this information from some of the high school web sites themselves: Highest award for a member of the senior class. The AJC Cup is given to the senior who stands above the rest. This student excels and shows leadership in community activities, arts, athletics and academics. This is the highest award given to a member of the Senior Class.

When writing about the AJC Cup, I always like to quote civil rights leader and presidential adviser Vernon Jordan, who wrote about …

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Gov. Deal: Value of a teacher should not hinge on CRCT score

Speaking to a standing room only audience in Savannah this morning, Gov. Nathan Deal told the state’s school boards, “We have to restore the joy of teaching to our teachers. And that means diverting away from the concept that everything hinges on a CRCT score.”

Deal described a visit to a tornado-damaged school in middle Georgia where the first thing that the superintendent assured him was that she had rushed to the school after the storm to check on the condition of the just-completed CRCT tests.

The tests had been under lock and key and were dry. Under guidance of the system attorney, the school chief  told the governor that she removed them from the water-logged school and locked them in the courthouse.

Deal was a keynote speaker at the Georgia School Boards Association conference, which has drawn 600 school board members and school officials to Savannah this week. His short speech was warmly received, even his comment that school board officials must work cohesively …

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Diane Ravitch in Savannah: Don’t let reformers and politicians destroy public schools

SAVANNAH: At the summer conference of the Georgia School Boards Association this morning in this port city, noted education researcher Diane Ravitch lambasted most of the reforms du jour in education today, merit pay, value-added teacher evaluations, charter schools, vouchers and testing.

She cautioned the 600 attendees to look critically at reforms being led by the high tech sector and hedge fund managers “who don’t much about public schools. They don’t much about education and, sometimes, I think they don’t know much about children.”

The competitive model that they are pushing will not work because the goal of education is not to produce winners and losers, Ravitch said, but to give “every child our best effort.”

She urged the school board members to “Stand up for public education. Don’t let private entrepreneurs divide your community and turn your schools into profit centers. Don’t stand by and let politicians tear down a public institution that has been the …

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An online charter school travels south Georgia in search of rejection

I spoke this week with Monica Henson, head of Provost Academy Georgia, a virtual public charter high school that ls due to open in the fall with at least 400 students from around the state.

The irrepressible Henson is in the midst of a journey through south Georgia in search of rejection. And as the song goes, ‘”What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Henson was at one south Georgia board meeting Monday nightm where she could not get on the agenda, and then rushed to another the next day only to discover it had been canceled, but she did get to chat with the superintendent.

But still, nobody has rejected her. And that’s a problem.

Backed by EdisonLearning, Provost Academy is one of 16 Georgia charter schools whose futures were cast in doubt by the recent state Supreme Court ruling that a Legislature-created commission to approve charter schools was illegal because the power belongs solely to local boards of education.

So, most of those 16 schools are rushing to their local …

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Ivy Prep will not become a Gwinnett charter school after all

Ivy Preparatory Academy has declined the Gwinnett school board’s offer to grant the all-girl charter school a one-year contract because of concerns over funding and loss of autonomy.

Ivy Prep is one of 16 schools whose operating contracts were thrown out when the state Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was illegal. Some of those schools are seeking to remain open by asking local systems to “adopt” them, while others are appealing for state Board of Education approval.

The state route is the more surefire one, but it also brings less funding. If approved by the state Board of Education, the affected charters lose their local dollars, which account for about half their funding.

I am in Savannah for the Georgia School Boards Association conference so I did not attend the Gwinnett board meeting tonight, and am seeing two slightly different accounts of what led Gilbert to her decision.

According to the AJC:

Ivy Prep’s head of school, Nina Gilbert, …

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Survey shows that metro voters support education SPLOST

Speaking of SPLOST, a survey by Blogging While Blue found overwhelming support for continuing the special penny sales tax for education. The special tax is up for renewal in a November vote, and there has been debate over whether voters will extend it for a fourth time.

The poll results belie the assumption that metro residents are giving up on public education, an assumption often treated as fact in the General Assembly. I expect  SPLOST IV to pass, although the survey margins are higher than what I would have expected.

(Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin produces Blogging While Blue with her son Cabral Franklin and her former mayoral communications director Beverly Isom.)

According to Blogging While Blue:

In Dekalb County, which includes the city of Decatur and part of the city of Atlanta, 80% of the voters surveyed say they support continuing the tax. Voters in Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta, are almost as supportive with 73% saying they support the …

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