Archive for August, 2011

No Child Left Behind: A conspiracy against public education that too few called out

Jim Arnold (Pelham City Schools)

Jim Arnold (Pelham City Schools)

A while back, I ran a piece from Jim Arnold, superintendent of Pelham City Schools in Mitchell County. Several of you commented that you wished you worked for such a straight-talking school chief.

I think that sentiment is going to be even stronger after this piece, which I plan to run on the Monday education page that I assemble for the AJC. But I can’t fit all of it in the newspaper, so here is the full version.

By Jim Arnold

We’ve done it now. Eleven years we had to educate the public, to register our protests and do everything in our power to warn people what was coming, and we blew it. We knew the moment would eventually come and we hem-hawed, looked at the ground, kicked at the dirt with our shoes and failed to look the opposition in the eye and face them down. All of us saw this coming, but very few took a stand and now we – and our students – are paying the price. We could have been prophets but failed the test.

We allowed the …

Continue reading No Child Left Behind: A conspiracy against public education that too few called out »

A cautionary tale of a charter school run aground: What went wrong?

Somewhere, there’s a cautionary tale in the dissolution of Peachtree Hope Charter School after its inaugural year, but only if we know the  facts of what led the board to abruptly sever its  management and curriculum contract, stranding more than 500 students. (Some children found spots at the new charter school that opens for the first day of classes tomorrow in the Memorial Drive location, the well-respected Ivy Prep. But some students have returned to the DeKalb elementary schools in the Towers cluster.)

Peachtree Hope had opened under the imprimatur of the now defunct state Charter Schools Commission, ruled unconstitutional this year by the state Supreme Court. I was in Peachtree Hope twice this past year and was impressed with the facility in a formerly desolate Memorial Drive shopping center. The principal was young and enthusiastic. All seemed to be humming along nicely.

Peachtree Hope was run by Sabis International Schools Network, a for-profit education management …

Continue reading A cautionary tale of a charter school run aground: What went wrong? »

Looking for superman? Check out the teacher in front of the classroom.

A makeshift cemetery to all the skills and classes sacrificed to testing at the Save Our Schools rally. (Amy Dees)

A makeshift cemetery to all the skills and classes sacrificed to testing at the Save Our Schools rally. (Amy Dees)

I didn’t get to attend the Save Our Schools rally in DC a few weeks ago, but Coweta school board member Amy Dees sent me a note that she attended. I asked her to share an account with us.

She sent this essay a while ago but the news events of the last three weeks have delayed its appearance. Amy Dees also gave me some of her photos to post here.

By Amy Dees

I have been an advocate of our public education system for years. I am a product of the public school system and all four of my children attend public school. My name is Amy Dees and I currently hold the District One Board of Education seat in Coweta County.

I became actively involved in public education when my oldest daughter started kindergarten in 2000. I was a room mom, school volunteer, PTO Officer, and later PTO President. I ran for my local school board because I saw a need for better communication …

Continue reading Looking for superman? Check out the teacher in front of the classroom. »

NY appeals court: Public should see teacher ratings

report cardIn a decision watched by educators nationwide, a New York appeals court ruled Thursday that teacher performance ratings can be released to the public.

The teachers union had challenged the New York school system’s plan to release the ratings, which categorize teachers  as “high,” “above average,” “average,” “below average” or “low” based on how students fared on the state tests compared to peers. The district has compiled the scores for several years but has not used them in evaluations or released them to parents.

In the unanimous ruling, the four-judge appeals panel reaffirmed an earlier legal decision that the data can be made public, contending,  “The reports concern information of a type that is of compelling interest to the public, namely, the proficiency of public employees in the performance of their job duties.”

The teachers’ union argued that the data is flawed and that the resulting negative labels and sensationalized news stories — “The 10 worst teachers …

Continue reading NY appeals court: Public should see teacher ratings »

Does a split vote undermine new DeKalb school chief?

DeKalb made it official. Cheryl Atkinson is now the school chief.

DeKalb made it official. Cheryl Atkinson is now the school chief.

Does Cheryl Atkinson leave Ohio and begin her tenure in DeKalb already at a disadvantage because of the 6-3 vote today by the school board to hire her as the district’s new leader?

Boards members Nancy Jester, Don McChesney and Pamela Speaks opposed hiring the 30-year veteran who now leads the Lorain city schools in Ohio. Jester and McChesney had released long public statements a few weeks ago expressing concern over her track record in Lorain.

As one poster wrote this morning after the board vote: Is 6 to 3 the kind of ringing endorsement that SACS is looking for? A 6 to 3 vote on a superintendent from a dubious-at-best little school system (one high school). I just mop the floors in one of our big high schools here in DeKalb. I am not known to be a scholar but I know that I have a lot of common sense, and I am a deacon in my church. I know something about leadership and what moves people. I also …

Continue reading Does a split vote undermine new DeKalb school chief? »

Want to get into UGA or Tech? Start planning in middle school.

The competition to get into Tech and UGA will not subside any time soon.  (AJC file)

The competition to get into Tech and UGA will not subside any time soon. (AJC file)

Parents of current high school students will not be surprised by today’s AJC story on the rising caliber of  students admitted to Georgia’s top public campuses. Most parents have a story about a great candidate from their local high school who was rejected by UGA or Tech. And there are many alums of both schools who admit they would never be admitted under today’s tougher standards.

Applications for UGA’s freshman class have increased by more than 50 percent since 2003. Tech’s applications have increased by 48 percent over the last four years.

As the competition for spots at the premier campuses has intensified, students are upping their academic games, enrolling in more AP classes. Parents of high school freshmen and sophomores ought to advise their children to read today’s AJC story so they better understand the risks of waiting until their junior year to get serious about their high …

Continue reading Want to get into UGA or Tech? Start planning in middle school. »

It’s official: DeKalb hires Ohio school chief in split vote.

School chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson met the Dekalb public for the first time today.

School chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson met the DeKalb public for the first time today, wrapping up the session just a few minutes ago.

UPDATE Monday morning: The DeKalb board approved Dr. Atkinson this morning in a 6-3 vote. She is now officially the new school chief of the third largest system in the state of Georgia.

In her first meet-and-greet Saturday morning with the community, DeKalb school chief finalist Cheryl Atkinson came across as open, tough, seasoned and ready for the challenges of the fractured district.

Twice, to applause both times, Atkinson said she had no problem letting people go who are not performing. She also won applause when she said that education takes place in the classroom, not in the central office.

(You gained the sense that the DeKalb parents in the audience believe there is too much dead weight in the central office as the applause was reflexive whenever Atkinson talked about changes at that level.)

“My focus will be on our students and student …

Continue reading It’s official: DeKalb hires Ohio school chief in split vote. »

Thanks for telling the AJC about your best teacher

UPDATED MONDAY at 10:30 AM : Nancy has enough folks so please do not send her any more. We appreciate those of you who shared their memories. Maureen

A timely request in view of our discussions today on quality teaching:

AJC staff writer Nancy Badertscher is working on a story about teacher quality and would like to include some feedback from current and former Georgia students about what makes a good teacher.

Specifically, she would like to hear about the teacher that had the greatest impact on your life/learning and what attributes made him or her a standout (25 words or less). If you can participate, she’ll need this and a color photo (just your face) by Wednesday at 5 p.m.  She is looking for teachers who taught you in k-12.

Here’s the specifics of what Nancy needs.

Your name:

High School you attended, city, when you graduated and what you do now:

Name of the standout teacher:

What and where the teacher taught (school, city):

What year you had the teacher:

What made …

Continue reading Thanks for telling the AJC about your best teacher »

School funding: If the state funds a cabin, can a local community use its own resources to build a mansion?

How should we fund our schools? A new commission is considering that complicated question.  (AP Images)

How should we fund our schools? A new commission is considering that complicated question. (AP Images)

I wrote a live blog out of the state Education Finance Study Commission meeting yesterday, but wanted to write a  second piece today that offered a bit more perspective.

The newly formed committee of educators, lawmakers and business leaders is supposed to produce initial recommendations for the Legislature in January, and others for the 2013 session.

The commission seems serious about reforming the education funding formula, although its first swipe targeted, as many members admitted, “the low-hanging fruit.” I find that reassuring since every other effort has failed, usually because the conclusion — schools need more money — was not politically viable.

The funding formula and the state law governing schools are outdated in many instances, including their lack of recognition of technology and its pivotal role in education today.

In fact, state School Superintendent John …

Continue reading School funding: If the state funds a cabin, can a local community use its own resources to build a mansion? »

Freedom University: College profs teach barred immigrant students

The AJC has an extraordinary story about five University of Georgia professors who have started a program to teach a weekly seminar course to students who can’t attend one of the state’s premier campuses because of a controversial new policy on immigrant students or because of cuts to state scholarship programs.

The professors call their program Freedom University and they are offering the courses on their own time.  Their volunteer effort is no different than the many churches in Georgia that offer aid and classes to immigrant families. It is purely volunteer and does not involve the universities where the professors teach, so there are no taxpayer dollars involved in these classes for children of undocumented parents.

As result of a new state policy adopted last year, illegal immigrants are banned from any University System of Georgia campus that turned away academically qualified students for the past two years. (The campuses are UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State …

Continue reading Freedom University: College profs teach barred immigrant students »