Archive for September, 2011

Need to earn a few bucks for college? Take the SAT for someone else at $2,500 a pop

crcted.0920 (Medium)Expect a lot of fanfare over the AJC.com story about the arrest of seven students, including an Emory sophomore, for cheating on the SAT as the media is focused on the current testing mania and the pressures students are feeling and this is an extreme example.

What I find most interesting is that six high school students had enough personal resources to allegedly pay Emory student and apparently ace test taker Sam Eshaghoff between $1,500 and $2,500 to pose as them and sit for the college admissions test.

That’s a lot of babysitting cash.

The six teens were from Eshaghoff’s prestigious Long Island, N.Y., high school. Eshaghoff is a 2010 graduate of Great Neck North who spent his freshman year at the University of Michigan before transferring to Emory in Atlanta.

Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck was facing arraignment after being arrested on charges of scheming to defraud, criminal impersonation and falsifying business records, said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen …

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Cobb controversy over “Islamizing” of public school curriculum escalates

There is a storm brewing over the polygamy/Islam component of a Georgia social studies script that I wrote about earlier today. I have sent DOE an e-mail asking for a statement because the controversy, which began with one father’s concerns, is mounting as bloggers take up arms against the presentation of polygamy in a middle school lesson. No word yet from DOE.

Their complaint is that the lesson praising the quality of life for women under Shariah or Islamic law and behind the veil in the form of a cheery letter from a young Muslim woman fails to present any counterbalance. Blogger Pamela Geller posts the actual lesson here on her Atlas Shrugs blog.

Meanwhile, Marietta Daily Journal columnist Laura Armstrong addresses the issue in her  piece on “‘Islamizing’ America’s public school curriculum.” Here is an excerpt, but you can read her full piece here.

The controversy began last week, when the MDJ broke the story of a Campbell Middle School parent going public, questioning …

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A teacher grading system that seems to work for everyone

New Haven's teacher grading system is winning kudos. (AJC file)

New Haven's teacher grading system is winning kudos. (AJC file)

If Georgia is looking for models for effective teacher evaluations,  New Haven, Ct.,  may be the place to turn.

According to the New Haven Independent, the school district adopted a new teacher evaluation system last year that made it easier to fire tenured teachers who aren’t performing well.

The evaluation tool won the endorsement of the teachers’ union because it placed the greatest emphasis on helping low-performing teachers get better rather than on getting rid of them. The Independent reports:

As the threat of teacher firings loomed this fall, teachers union president Dave Cicarella waited to see if the grading system would be carried out fairly and whether it would affect tenured as well as non-tenured teachers. On Monday Cicarella  announced the process had gone “smoothly” on both counts. “Teachers are much happier because everyone knows what’s expected of them,” Cicarella said.

The …

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Polygamy and school dress codes? This assignment confuses me, too.

Is discussion of burqas and polgamy appropriate for a middle school assignment on dress codes? (AP Images)

Is discussion of burqas and polygamy appropriate for a middle school assignment on dress codes? (AP Images)

Several of you sent me e-mails asking that we discuss the father in Cobb who complained that a middle school assignment promoted the Muslim faith and polygamy without balance or context. The story was reported by WSB-TV/Channel 2’s Tom Regan.

The materials were part of a larger assignment on the benefits and detriments of the school’s  dress code, according to WSB. When I make classroom presentations on writing editorials, I often ask students to debate school dress codes. It’s a topic that resonates with them, and I give them supporting materials on both sides of the question. But I have never handed out anything that referenced burqas or polygamy.

Cobb says the lesson came from the state, so I will ask DOE for clarification once I return to work tomorrow. I think there must be some missing details here.

According to WSB:

The assignment went home with seventh-graders …

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Jessica Colotl case: Pretrial diversion lets her move on with her life

Jessica Colotl avoids jail for lying to police officers. (AJC file)

Jessica Colotl avoids a conviction for lying to police by entering a diversion program. (AJC file)

While former Kennesaw State student Jessica Colotl’s case generated strong response from the public, the official response has been far more tempered, including the recent decision by a Cobb County Superior Court judge to dismiss a felony false swearing charge if she successfully completes a pretrial diversion program.

Colotl, an illegal immigrant brought to this country as a child, was nearly deported to Mexico in 2010 following an arrest for a traffic violation on the Kennesaw campus. Even though the details of her case and her college attendance sparked outrage in Georgia, the federal government granted Colotl a yearlong deferment so she could complete her degree in political science.

To enter the diversion program, Colotl would have had to admit she lied to deputies about her address when being booked into the Cobb County jail on a charge of driving without a …

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Spending millions to fight parents of special needs children in court. Why not spend the money on the children instead?

A few years ago, I met a woman who had spent years battling APS over her nephew’s education or, in her view and the one ultimately embraced by the courts, his lack of education.

What struck me in listening to the woman, a military veteran who was not easily intimidated, is that Atlanta ended up spending likely close to a million dollars in legal fees that it could have spent on the young man’s schooling.

I feel the same way reading this shocking AJC story, which describes a situation not unique to Atlanta. I personally know families who have resorted to court to battle for their children with special needs, and, in some cases, won judgments that required the district to underwrite private residential education elsewhere in the country.

I understand the challenges of students with extreme special needs, and the high cost of doing it right. But I think some of the costs are a result of schools failing to give these kids what they need at the very beginning:

Here is part of the …

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As Congress stalls on fixing No Child, Obama today offers short-term fix

President Obama announced that states can get waivers from No Child Left Behind. (AJC file.)

President Obama announced that states can get waivers from No Child Left Behind. (AJC file.)

No Child Left Behind — and how to escape it — dominated discussion in Washington today. President Obama announced waivers from the law for those states that make efforts “to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready.”

“To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” said the president.

Here are the criteria to obtain a waiver:

1. A state must have already adopted college- and career-ready standards in reading/language arts and mathematics designed to raise the achievement of all …

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No Child no more? Are GOP proposals to dump AYP a step forward or back?

Will the GOP plan to gut the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind improve education?  (Dean Rohrer/AJC file)

Will the GOP plan to gut the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind improve education? (Dean Rohrer/AJC file)

Depending on where you stand — outside a school or inside — No Child Left Behind either pushed public education to new heights or kicked it to the curb.

Used by President George W. Bush as a cattle prod for greater student achievement, the 2001 law ramped up the federal role in schools and spawned a new lexicon of education acronyms, from AYP (adequate yearly progress) to NI (needs improvement).

The landmark legislation had standardized testing as its engine, causing critics to charge that the law reduced U.S. classrooms into “drill-and-kill” labs where worksheets and practice exams edged out science fairs and hands-on learning.  The unrelenting pressure to raise test scores caused educators in some schools, including many in Atlanta, to resort to cheating to mask disappointing AYP results.

Despite its Republican pedigree, a group of GOP senators, …

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Georgia to feds: Free us from No Child Left Behind

Georgia is seeking a waiver from No Child. (Dean Rohrer/AJC file)

Georgia is seeking a waiver from No Child. (Dean Rohrer/AJC file)

I also want to share this statement from DOE about Georgia’s formal request for a waiver from provisions of No Child Left Behind. (Now, I have to get back to my vacation, which today is devoted to ironing tablecloths for the wedding. This is the first time I have used this iron in five years, but I knew it would come in handy some day.)

For the English translation of this announcement, please go to this jargon-free AJC story.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge yesterday personally delivered Georgia’s request for a waiver to certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, and an alternative, to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Georgia is one of the first states seeking a waiver from some of the requirements within NCLB. The State requests permission to replace NCLB with Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index for each public school, school …

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Common Core Standards: State DOE will offer a preview today

School chief John Barge

School chief John Barge

Folks, I am on vacation this week as my oldest gets married Saturday — an outdoor wedding so forgive my hopes for sunshine rather than the much-needed rain — so I am short on time to post to the blog.

But I thought this was worth sharing from DOE:

Today, state School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and Georgia Department of Education staff will host a telecast to discuss the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.

This broadcast will be aired via video streaming from Georgia Public Broadcasting at 3:00-4:00 p.m. and will be replayed at 4:00-5:00 p.m. The orientation session will provide an overview about the new Georgia standards, which students will begin learning in the 2012-2013 school year.

“Georgia has joined with 44 other states to develop a set of core standards for K-12 in English Language Arts and Mathematics,” said Superintendent Barge. “We believe these common standards will provide a consistent framework to prepare students for …

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