Archive for August, 2011

What they are saying in Ohio about their school chief’s move to DeKalb

In her hometown newspaper today, the Morning Journal, Lorain City school chief Cheryl Atkinson, soon to be DeKalb’s superintendent, discusses her three years leading that small Ohio system.

Among the points in the long news story:

“My passion is to give all children, regardless of background or circumstances, a quality public school education,” Dr. Atkinson said. “This is an opportunity to take a district of 100,000 students and apply on a larger scale the things we are doing in Lorain,” said Atkinson. The Lorain school district has about 8,000 students.

Coincidentally, she said the Lorain schools learned officially yesterday that Lorain’s state report card ranking will move up from Academic Watch to Continuous Improvement.

Also, Lorain High School’s latest state rating is rising to Effective, and all the traditional schools in Lorain will have met state attendance goals for the first time since the state began the report card system, Atkinson said.

In a …

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DeKalb names a new leader. Is she the right one?

DeKalb has a new school chief, Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio.

DeKalb has a new school chief, Cheryl Atkinson of Ohio.

Earlier this week, a DeKalb parent called to tell me that Cheryl L. H. Atkinson would likely be named DeKalb school chief. The parent was disappointed because Atkinson, a finalist for the APS job that went to former Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis, led such a small system in Ohio.

I pass the tip onto news here at the AJC, which is now reporting that Atkinson will take over the troubled DeKalb system next month. She leaves the Lorain City Schools, an Ohio system of 8,000 students and one high school, to manage DeKalb with nearly 100,000 students.

She is making quite a leap. Clearly, Atkinson is impressive to have also been a finalist for the APS job. But there is reason to be concerned about her lack of experience leading a mega system, especially one with an entrenched bureaucracy, a recent history of chaos and a frustrated parent base.

(An interesting side note after witnessing the recent school chief search in not just …

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Former state official says Dr. Hall’s defense rings hollow

On his blog, Eric Wearne, formerly of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, takes issue with former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall’s essay in Education Week in which she defends her response to suspected cheating in her schools and touts the achievement under here tenure.

As GOSA deputy director, Wearne managed the publication of the annual State Report Card and Scoreboard and was involved in the statewide audits of standardized testing practices. Wearne is now an assistant professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, teaching assessment and foundations classes.

Here is his blog entry on Hall:

Beverly Hall had a piece in Education Week today. First, the good: a stopped watch is right twice a day. “The culprit is not standardized testing or teacher accountability.” Whatever PR firm she’s hired to rehab her image got that bit right.

On NAEP, I’ll just point you back to my statement last month: “Ultimately, one way to look at the NAEP math and reading scores is that even …

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What does it mean to be a proficient 8th grade reader in Georgia? Not much.

The U.S. Department of Education released a new analysis of state standards this week that maps the standards against federal ones to assess rigor. We don’t look strong on the mapping, especially in eighth grade reading where we trail the nation.

The analysis using National Center for Educational Statistics data superimposes a state’s standard for proficient performance in reading and mathematics onto a common scale defined by  scores on NAEP, a federal test administered to student samples in every state to produce a big picture view of American education. (This report offers a lot of data and great graphics.)

The most alarming mapping revealed that Georgia’s standard for proficiency in 8th grade reading is so low that it falls into the below basic category on NAEP scoring. (We don’t look in 8th grade math, either, but the feds warn that our change from QBE standards to Georgia Performance Standards undermines comparisons.)

That means a student who appeared a proficient …

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“Our kids deserve better than NCLB, AYP, and RttT.”

Teachers see their students as more than barcodes or cogs. (AP Images)

Teachers see their students as more than barcodes or cogs. (AP Images)

I asked Fulton County high school teacher Jordan Kohanim to write a piece about what she wanted for her students this year. Jordan joined forces with fellow Centennial High School English teachers Larken McCord and Cathy Rumfelt to write a powerful letter about their goals for their students and for all students. School resumes in Fulton County on Monday

Here is their combined effort. I think it is wonderful:

Dear Parents,

Your kids are our kids.

Your kids — our kids — are not “stakeholders,” “clients,” or “customers.”  They are our kids, our charges, our collaborators.

They are not “raw material” or “human capital.”

Our kids are not barcodes. They are not cogs. They are not slides on a PowerPoint or points on a graph. They have names. They have hopes and fears and dreams.

They have crushes and heartaches and disappointments and jubilations. Sometimes they have all of these in a single class period.

They …

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Beverly Hall: Real progress made by APS is being ignored

Beverly Hall tells the “rest” of the APS story in Education Week today, insisting that the real and dramatic progress in Atlanta schools is being ignored in the media frenzy over the cheating scandal.

Among her points in her guest column:

In 2000, according to Georgia’s state testing, 47 percent of the district’s 4th graders, for example, were reading at levels that met or exceeded state standards. In 2011, under the strictest testing conditions, 80 percent were performing at acceptable levels. This trend is evident across most grades and subjects.

Those dramatic increases are not the result of score manipulation. They are the result of the hard work of turning around a struggling school system. When I arrived in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported, “Ninety percent of the system’s kindergarten teachers said they did not believe their pupils would graduate (from high school).” The situation was dire, and a complete overhaul was needed.

My team and I …

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New class in Georgia high schools: Punctuality 101

Showing your true colors: Do schools need to teach kids to show up on time for jobs and not wear sagging pants? (AJC file)

Showing your true colors: Do schools need to teach kids to show up on time for jobs and not wear sagging pants? (AJC file)

A common complaint by adults is the lack of manners and social skills in the younger generation. But I am unsure whether there is actual slippage in these areas or whether every generation laments the manners of the next.  My parents complained about it, and I am sure that my grandparents did as well, but in Italian.

Real or not, the issue is being taken seriously by the state of Georgia. Very seriously.

There is a town hall meeting on “Soft Skills in Education” Thursday at DeKalb Technical College, one of 31 meetings planned across the state by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development.

“Improving our economy and creating jobs for Georgians should be our No. 1 priority,” said panelist and state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates. “The implementation of an effective soft skills certification will help ensure Georgia students enter the workforce …

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While APS is on road to recovery, DeKalb is stalled in the slow lane

While all systems have active parents, I’ve found that DeKalb parents are among the most vocal and the most informed. There are many who pore over spreadsheets and dig deeply into the budget.  This active core extends across the county. So, why can’t this core coalesce and create the system that DeKalb parents say they want? It seems that the system is stuck, and I am not sure why the many concerned parents can’t use their collective voice and power to end the inertia.

For example, the essay by DeKalb parent Lynn Deutsch on the indifference of the DeKalb school board to academic excellence drew a lot of response from parents who share Deutsch’s fears about the system’s aimlessness. One of those responses came from Shayna M. Steinfeld.

A bankruptcy attorney and past president of the Atlanta Bar, Steinfeld ran for the District 4 school board seat in 2008, losing to Paul Womack in a close runoff.  She has had three children in the system.  With her permission, here is …

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Does APS have any other choice but to pay suspected cheaters?

There is indignation tonight over news that APS must dig into its savings to pay $6 million in salaries and benefits to educators accused of cheating.

But does the district have any other real choice in view of the unresolved legal issues? At this point, the educators have not had their day in court.

According to the AJC:

Almost 200 teachers, principals and staff were implicated in what investigators called widespread cheating, where student answers were changed from wrong to right on state tests. Of those named, 126 are on administrative leave awaiting a due process hearing required by law. The remainder have resigned or retired.

Monday’s meeting capped the first day of school at APS, as students returned to a district still figuring out how it will help students harmed in the cheating scandal, fully staff its teaching corps and improve its board operations enough so that an accrediting agency will take the district off probation.

Superintendent Erroll Davis asked the …

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New study: Federal dollars for poor kids paying off in improved test scores

In the arid landscape of school improvement comes a bit of succor, a report showing that some states are showing progress in raising the performance of impoverished children and narrowing the achievement gap.

The Center on Education Policy examined test data in 19 states and found that reading and math scores of children in Title 1 programs are improving in most of them.  Title 1 is a federal program that directs extra dollars to schools with a large low-income student population.

Georgia lacked the data necessary to be among the states examined, but those in the study enroll more than half of the nation’s Title I students. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Here is the CEP release:

Achievement on state reading and math tests has improved in recent years for students participating in the Title I …

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