Archive for August, 2011

Georgia is a leading exporter of teaching talent to the Middle East

Georgia teachers are trading I-285 traffic for camels blocking the road as more of them move to the Middle East for better jobs and conditions. (AJC file photo)

Georgia teachers are trading I-285 traffic for camels blocking the road as teachers move to the Middle East for better jobs and conditions. (AJC file photo)

Regular readers of this blog know that we often get comments from Georgia teachers who have moved abroad to teach and who urge their states-bound colleagues to join them in Abu Dhabi or Al Ain. Several of those teachers agreed to be interviewed for a recent AJC story. (Cobb parents might recognize some familiar names.)

One interesting fact in this story: A company that specializes in placing American teachers overseas gets more recruits from Georgia and Texas than any other states.

That ought to trouble state school Superintendent John Barge and the Legislature. Georgia should be concerned when strong teachers leave the state, whether they are going to the Mid-Atlantic or the Middle East.

Here is the story by AJC reporter Bo Emerson:

Carrie Cooper of Sandy Springs frequently encounters a traffic hazard on her way to …

Continue reading Georgia is a leading exporter of teaching talent to the Middle East »

DeKalb parents will get chance to quiz school chief finalist. They have lots of questions.

There will be a meet and greet with the DeKalb superintendent finalist on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 10 a.m. at the DeKalb administrative center at 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd, Tucker.

Here is her candidate file online.

Here is her pending contract, which lists the salary as $275,000. It  gives her $2,600 for monthly expenses. It allows her $750 for her car/gas/travel each month. It gives her $2,000 a month for temporary living/relocation costs during her initial six months on the job.

Here is an interesting provision considering that the past school chief awaits criminal trial:

With respect to criminal actions, whether they involve misdemeanor or felony charges, the BOARD may, but is not required to, reimburse the SUPERINTENDENT for some or all of her defense costs if the SUPERINTENDENT is acquitted or the charges are dropped.

Here are the details from the district:

The DeKalb County Board of Education is pleased to announce that the board’s finalist for superintendent, Dr. …

Continue reading DeKalb parents will get chance to quiz school chief finalist. They have lots of questions. »

Vivid violence in student writing: Is it cause for concern in schools?

I am often struck by the violent tone and dark themes in teen writing. As a teacher reading an essay full of violent depictions and realistic descriptions of murder or suicide, I’d have a hard time distinguishing creative license from cries for help or potential threats.

A New York middle school faced that dilemma and ended up reporting the family of the student to child welfare. The school also suspended the student to get him out of the class and evaluate whether his essay was cause for concern. The parents said their son’s essay was protected speech and the suspension amounted to retaliation. They also contended that the principal’s call to child welfare violated their rights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed both those arguments, saying schools must be able to take action at times to evaluate whether violent writing represents a threat.

Here is a good summation from Education Week:

A federal appeals court has upheld the brief suspension of a middle school student who …

Continue reading Vivid violence in student writing: Is it cause for concern in schools? »

Building a foundation to prosecute Beverly Hall for APS cheating

Lots of movement this week on the Atlanta cheating scandal, including news that the district has been billed $127,386 by former Superintendent Beverly Hall for legal fees associated with the state 2009 testing investigation.

The AJC is also reporting that a foundation is being built for criminal prosecution of the former school chief:

A sweeping subpoena shows a criminal investigation has begun in earnest involving test tampering at Atlanta’s public schools and that former Superintendent Beverly Hall could be a target, lawyers said Tuesday.

The subpoena, issued by a Fulton County grand jury, seeks comprehensive information dating back to 1999 regarding teacher transfers and demotions, bonuses paid to employees for improved test scores and copies of complaints from parents, teachers or students of possible improprieties related to Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The subpoena also seeks signed copies of “any and all oaths of office” taken by Hall when she was …

Continue reading Building a foundation to prosecute Beverly Hall for APS cheating »

Facebook case two years later: Barrow teacher still waiting for decision

One of the Facebook photos that a "parent" complained about in an anonymous e-mail

One of the Facebook photos that a "parent" complained about in an anonymous e-mail

Not a week goes by when I don’t get an e-mail from somewhere around the world asking about the fate of Ashley Payne, the Barrow County teacher who lost her job two years ago after an anonymous e-mailer sent Facebook photos of her sipping wine and drinking beer in Europe.

While the case was in court last week, it remains unresolved. A decision is expected shortly but Payne’s attorney is not optimistic that she will regain her high school teaching position.

“Not yet. I don’t think it is happening,” said attorney Richard Storrs in a telephone interview today. “There is a new superintendent, and I was really hoping that this new superintendent would see things in such a way that we could move forward. But they are dug in more than ever.”

Now in graduate school at the University of Georgia, Payne said in an e-mail today,  “I don’t think winning my job back has been a possibility since my …

Continue reading Facebook case two years later: Barrow teacher still waiting for decision »

ACT scores: Number of Georgia test takers rises; average score falls a tad

From state DOE today in response to the release of national ACT scores. The ACT is a college admissions test that is gaining ground in the South. Today, nearly half of Georgia graduating high school seniors take the ACT, often along with the SAT.

According to the 2011 ACT report, Georgia high school students improved in a number of areas on the ACT, even while the number of students tested increased from 44% in 2010 to 47% in 2011. Some of the student gains include the following: more High School Seniors demonstrating college readiness, key demographic sub-groups outperforming the national average, and improvements in 8th and 10th grade student assessments of college readiness.

College Readiness

The report reveals that more of Georgia’s students (9,015 in 2011, compared to 8,282 in 2010) demonstrated college and career readiness this year in all four areas (English, reading, mathematics, and science) of the test. Nationally, 25 percent of ACT test-takers demonstrated …

Continue reading ACT scores: Number of Georgia test takers rises; average score falls a tad »

Reading time in class: Boon for students or break for teachers?

Should class time be turned over to silent reading? (AP Images)

Should class time be turned over to silent reading? (AP Images)

In a recent debate on the blog, a poster commented:  No teacher should ever kick back his or her heels and say to his or her classroom “Read silently to yourselves.”  That just means the teacher doesn’t want to do their job.

I have never liked movies being shown in class, but haven’t thought much about students reading books during class. My twins read in class while they’re awaiting a turn on the computer or when they have completed revisions on writing. But they’ve also had classes where everyone opens a book and reads silently.

Is it bad policy?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog



Continue reading Reading time in class: Boon for students or break for teachers? »

Parents mobilizing against DeKalb school chief candidate. Why?

There is a growing effort under way in DeKalb to oppose the confirmation of educator Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio as school chief.

Parents are using polls and e-mails to mobilize against her appointment, building on the detailed objections laid out in letters from school board members Nancy Jester and Don McChesney.

After reading the hundreds of posts here on the Get Schooled blog for and against Atkinson, I see two major questions reflected in the divided commentary:

Is Atkinson the best choice for an urban district that has lost prestige and academic ground in the last decade? We won’t know the answer until Atkinson comes to DeKalb. A resume only tells a small part of the story. We have all seen leaders with fantastic resumes and great experience fail, and others with limited resumes and unproven experience excel.

The more relevant question is whether Atkinson is a good choice.

I have read her application and her dissertation — neither of which is poorly written, as some folks on …

Continue reading Parents mobilizing against DeKalb school chief candidate. Why? »

A harder line on softer skills: If young people can master PhotoShop, can’t they figure out alarm clocks?

A generation raised on MacBooks and PhotoShop can surely figure out alarm clocks and get to work on time. (AP Images)

A generation raised on MacBooks and PhotoShop can surely figure out alarm clocks and get to work on time. (AP Images)

When state Rep. Margaret Kaiser, D-Atlanta, visited the Kia plant in West Point, she said the automakers told her that they don’t need young workers with college degrees.

“They can take kids with high school diplomas and teach them what they need to know. But they need them to show up on time. Kids do not understand everyday workforce requirements,” Kaiser said.

The state wants to fix that by integrating “soft skills” into the high school curriculum and awarding students certificates to show that they have mastered these skills — skills that were once known as good manners and work ethic.

One of the simplest definitions of soft skills comes from management coach Peggy Klaus, author of “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills.” She explains that while hard skills are the factual and technical talents that workers bring to their jobs, soft skills …

Continue reading A harder line on softer skills: If young people can master PhotoShop, can’t they figure out alarm clocks? »

Two DeKalb board members: We cannot support school chief choice because of her record

Two DeKalb school board members have sent open letters expressing their opposition to the selection of Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio to lead the system.

Here are the letters from Don McChesney and Nancy Jester expressing their concerns over Atkinson’s record in her small Ohio system.

“Dear DeKalb Citizens:

I think it is important for me to comment on the choice of Dr. Cheryl Atkinson as the prospective school superintendent for DeKalb County. The opinions I express are mine and I do not profess to speak for anyone else.

My first priority in finding a superintendent was to find the best candidate to raise student achievement in the school system and give the taxpayer equity for money spent. The theme for me was the students. Beyond that all else was secondary.

It is not possible for me to support this choice based on the record. This is the most important decision that has been made since I came on the board. We need to get it right based on an informed study of the facts available. …

Continue reading Two DeKalb board members: We cannot support school chief choice because of her record »