Archive for July, 2011

Ron Clark: Not every kid deserves a cookie. But they all deserve a quality education to high standards.

ronclark (Medium)It was the first day of a school for fourth graders in a rural Georgia district, and I was there to watch their excitement — slowly shrivel and die. For 50 minutes, the teacher recited her class rules in a voice so listless and flat that she could have been reading from the telephone book.

I was literally praying for a fire drill so I could escape, and it still saddens me that those 27 children returned to that lifeless classroom day after day.

“That’s a molasses class,” says Ron Clark, the desk-jumping, algebra-rapping, superstar teacher whose astounding success with struggling East Harlem students was celebrated in a movie and by Oprah Winfrey. In 2007, Clark used his fame to create his dream middle school in one of southeast Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods, intent on practicing the craft he still considers his first mission and also on training other teachers.

Today, the private Ron Clark Academy vibrates with the energy and passion that earned its founder a …

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“By requiring minimum competency testing accountability, we demand mediocrity.”

In the “keeping us honest” department, here is an e-mail from our resident testing expert Jerry Eads in response to the AJC story on exceptional CRCT gains at five APS elementary school, gains that fell far outside the expected range.

The AJC data analyst — the same person who originally did the CRCT analysis in 2008 that led to the exposure of widespread cheating — said  the odds of such increases range from about one in 700 to one in 21,000. APS is now looking at the gains, which principals and parents credit to extraordinary efforts.

Jerry is the former coordinator, research and evaluation, for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission:

Here is Jerry’s response to the AJC reporting on this issue:

Oh, where to start.

Those of you who catch my posts know I have fits about the AJC continuing to mislead readers by saying “scores increase” or “scores decrease.” That’s because the so-called “scale” scores on minimum competency tests are virtually meaningless. The ONLY …

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Are there valid reasons for unusual test score improvements at APS schools?

crcted.0920 (Medium)The AJC reports that APS is looking at CRCT gains in five elementary schools after the newspaper’s analysis identified unusual deviations. The schools are Toomer, White, Morningside, West Manor and Wesley International Academy.

The story — which is complex and which you ought to read — notes that the schools have unique circumstances that could explain the deviations. APS school chief Erroll Davis told the paper, “Those schools are all on the radar because of the jumps, but we don’t know yet whether there are plausible explanations. I would certainly not jump to a conclusion that cheating has occurred.”

According to the AJC:

They were registering exceptional gains on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, so exceptional that an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the odds of such increases range from about one in 700 to one in 21,000.

The odds that these improvements were obtained by honest means aren’t as long as the AJC has found in the past, but …

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What’s next on back-to-school supply lists? Mops and floor polish?

Now, back-to-school supply shopping can be a costly event. (AP Images)

Now, back-to-school supply shopping can be a costly event. (AP Images)

Given the number of cleaning products showing up on back-to-school school supply lists, a friend jokes that she expects to see mops, brooms and floor polish next.

Over the years, I’ve seen school supply lists go well beyond pencils, paper and glue to paper towels, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

As the number of items on back-to-school lists have increased, so have complaints about them.

As a reader said in a note to me:

My friends are complaining the lists are very costly and they are being asked to buy multiples of items such a scissors. Are schools asking more of parents, are fewer parents sending supplies or are parents just more strapped for cash? I’ve just never seen so much chatter and my complaining friends live in the most affluent county in the state. I wonder if the lists are affecting families in other areas even more. Do parents become detached when they can’t even fill the first requests …

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School calendars: Too many breaks? And could kids really be going back next week?

I can't quite believe it, but my kids go back to school on Tuesday. (AP Image)

I can't quite believe it, but my kids go back to school on Tuesday. (AP Image)

A parent sent me a note about the frequent breaks in the school calendar.

His questions on whether frequent breaks stymie learning intrigued me as I am in a system — Decatur — that resumes classes Tuesday and has week-long breaks in September, November (Thanksgiving week), February and April, in addition to the standard holiday break in December.

(As a New Jersey native, I still can’t get used to returning to school at the beginning of August, but Decatur is one of several districts opening next week.  And the temperature is supposed to be 99 degrees, which will make for a long mile-plus walk home for my twins. )

As I have said many times, our “balanced” calendar, which made its debut last year, does not work well for me, but I am resigned to it since the system believes it is more appealing to teachers.

I chatted with a teacher today who told she hates the calendar as a parent and as an educator …

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Gov. Deal: Confident that APS will get it together and keep accreditation

Gov. Nathan Deal issued a statement of support in response to the state Board of Education’s unanimous decision this morning to give the Atlanta Public Schools board until November to regain full accreditation,  which means the APS  members keep their jobs for the time being.

“I agree with the Board of Education’s decision to give APS and its new leadership additional time to show progress. I’m confident that all involved are working actively to promote the needs of Atlanta’s children and to keep the system’s accreditation in place,” said Deal.

According to the AJC: Lawyers for both the state education department and the district announced they had come to agreement on conditions that would become legally binding if approved. The main condition of the agreement suspends the hearing until Nov. 4. That date follows a Sept. 30 deadline set by the district’s accrediting agency.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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APS: On the hot seat this week over open meetings and SACS concerns

On the day before the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education faces a state hearing, the Georgia attorney general sanctioned members for open records violations and announced plans to monitor the group over the next year to assure compliance.

According to the AJC:

The extraordinary oversight agreed to by the board stems from a series of complaints from city residents and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about both the board and the administration of ex-schools chief Beverly Hall.

State investigators earlier this month released a searing report that said Hall ignored a culture of cover-ups and obstruction that blossomed during her 12-year tenure. It also detailed extensive cheating by educators on state tests.

Among the most serious of the public records violations, investigators said Hall — who left the system June 30 — and former Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine illegally suppressed a report by a testing expert last year that largely confirmed an AJC analysis …

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State Supreme Court decision was not fatal to charter schools

Thomas A. Cox is an education lawyer and litigator with the Atlanta office of Carlock, Copeland & Stair, LLP. He has represented the Atlanta and DeKalb school systems in the lawsuit successfully challenging the constitutionality of the state Charter Commission Act.

Here is his take on the recent state Supreme Court decision that continues to reverberate:

By Thomas A. Cox

The state Supreme Court’s recent decision declaring the state’s Charter Commission Act unconstitutional has generated intense reaction among charter school advocates, including calls to amend the state’s constitution. Before embarking on the serious and extended process of altering the historical constitutional framework governing public education, advocates and legislators should pause to consider a few points.

First, the Supreme Court’s decision impacts only a few charter schools. According to the Department of Education, 121 charter schools operated in 2010-2011. Of those, only the eight charter schools …

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Any jobs out there for teachers? Who is hiring? And is it only in hard-to-fill slots?

Who is still hiring teachers this year? (AJC file)

Who is still hiring teachers this year? (AJC file)

A reader sent me these questions about teaching jobs in Georgia, which I decided to post as most of you are far better equipped to respond.

The AJC has reported that some systems are hiring, including Gwinnett, which is bringing in 530 new teachers for the upcoming school year. However, the AJC notes in its news story that Gwinnett has already filled 359 of the 530 jobs, including some through an annual spring job fair that concentrates on recruitment of teachers in math, science and special needs. But the system is still encouraging applicants with those qualifications to apply as jobs remain in those hard-to-fill areas

Here are the reader’s questions:

I recently have moved out of GA, but I still try to keep up with some of the news. I have a good number of friends who have either graduated from university with teaching degrees or will be very shortly who are encountering difficulties with finding a teaching position.

Can …

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City councilman: Still reason to be proud of APS diploma

Here is a piece by C.T. Martin, the “Dean” of the Atlanta City Council. He was elected in 1990 and represents District 10. He is also a graduate of an APS, a system that he says still has reason to be proud:

By C.T. Martin,

In 1869, Dr. Daniel O’Keefe faced fierce opposition from the city’s elite when he led the charge for the establishment of a public school system in Atlanta. The municipality’s well-heeled didn’t have the slightest desire in supporting a system in which their children would not attend since they were sent to privileged private schools.

City Council members, however, made O’Keefe’s resolution law. Thanks to O’Keefe, access to education for most of the city’s citizens was born. This was, of course, a good thing. However, there was also a less palatable racial caveat. The following year, in 1870, the first Public School Act of Georgia mandated separate black and white schools.

I’ll be clear. The negative impact of the Atlanta Public …

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