Archive for October, 2011

Math: Getting in step with rest of country. Was this fling with integrated math doomed from the start?

As a math teacher told us earlier this week on the blog, Georgia is moving away from its experiment with integrated math in its adoption of the Common Core state standards.

What’s interesting to me is that the reasons cited in the AJC story today echo the initial objections to the switch by many parents — that Georgia was out of step with other states in its math program and that led to problems with transfers and even with college applications.

And, of course, there were those spikes in failure rates in some districts. Yet, other systems reported good results from teaching math in a more integrated fashion.

Could it be that the main problem with the math switch was that teachers were not trained?  There are folks at DOE who have told me that the money was not there for the depth of training that was necessary and that the rollout was undermined as a result.

In his post, the math teacher stressed that the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards is not Algebra 1, Geometry, …

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Cobb plans to rescue “Schools with hair on fire”

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

UPDATE: AJC reporter Ty Tagami will be following the story about schools (those “with hair on fire”) targeted by Cobb County for intervention due to their performance on things like discipline and testing. If you are a student or the parent of a student at one of the four schools, or if you are or were an employee at one of them, please contact Ty. He’s looking for quotable sources and also for people who want to talk about the situation without seeing their names in the paper (or online). Reach Ty at 404-526-7739 or e-mail him.

Back to the original blog:

I love the line that the new Cobb school chief used to describe the schools that he feels need immediate and intense attention: “Schools with hair on fire.”

After meeting today with the new DeKalb school chief, it seems to me there could be a lot of change ahead for metro systems. (We will have to see what changes the new Fulton superintendent has in mind for his district.)

Here is a brief excerpt …

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President Obama announces changes to federal student loan repayments

President Obama talked to Denver college students today about changes to federal student loans.  (AJC file)

President Obama talked to Denver college students today about changes to federal student loans. (AJC file)

I took part in a media call yesterday with Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the White House “pay as you earn” plan to help college grads tame their student debt loads and create more workable repayment schedules.

Under the new rules that go in effect in January, 1.6 million borrowers can cap their federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of their income.

President Obama cited the plan today in a speech in Denver on the economy and jobs creation. Here is a relevant excerpt of that speech:

Over the past three decades, the cost of college has nearly tripled. And that is forcing you, forcing students, to take out more loans and rack up more debt. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college owing an average of $24,000.  Student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt, for the first time ever.

Now, living with that kind of debt means making some …

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New DeKalb school chief: “We are a step away from great.”

Cheryl Atkinson

Cheryl Atkinson

In a meeting today with the AJC, new DeKalb School Superintendent Dr. Cheryl L. H. Atkinson said, “We are a step away from great.”

That comment will likely spark some skepticism from parents who contend the troubled system is a step away from falling off a cliff, but Atkinson brims with optimism about her job, although she has been in the position for less than a month.

But she can already name the major problem: The culture in DeKalb.

“We have the opportunity to save lives generationally or, conversely, not. What we have to have is a sense of urgency. I am pushing to get things addressed as quickly as they can without me putting the cart before the horse. We need to make sure that we understand that our role is to serve, period. The second piece is putting your money where your mouth is –  we need to start to look at resources and drive them to the schools.”

Atkinson wants an external review of the system’s organization and compensation and is in the process …

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Yes, teens are losing their licenses for skipping school

Some of you doubted this was happening when I asked about it last week here on the blog, but the AJC has found through an Open Records request that nearly 13,000 Georgia teens had their driver’s licenses yanked in 2010 for just one reason: Too many unexcused school absences.

According to the news story today:

Under state law, 10 or more unexcused absences are all it takes for that coveted coming-of-age privilege of driving to come to a screeching halt. At least temporarily.

Students generally have ample warning about the law that’s more than a decade old. It’s spelled out in the student handbook, plastered on posters in some high school attendance offices and underscored in red-flag letters that go out, typically, after five or seven absences.

In Cobb County, an automated calling system alerts parents when unexcused absences reach the thresholds of five, seven, 10 and 15 days. That same system automatically prints a letter for the school to mail and sends an …

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Schools without computers — by choice and conviction that they don’t help kids

If you read Tuesday’s blog entry on the startling numbers of babies and toddlers parked in front of TVs and computers screens, take a look at this New York Times story on how many Silicon Valley computer execs — including the chief technology officer of eBay — send their kids to the Waldorf school, a school that shuns technology in its classrooms.

(There is a Waldorf school in Decatur.)

According to the story:

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is …

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Cobb prepares to embark on major school redistricting

As we have discussed in the past, nothing riles parents as much as school redistricting. And Cobb is considering the largest reshuffling of students and school lines in its history.

There is little that can be said to reassure parents who are losing what they consider a neighborhood school, but many posters in the past have reported their children adjusted well to the new setting.

Redistricting would be less upsetting if we have public school choice within school districts and students were already crisscrossing the county. But now there is great allegiance and preference for neighborhood schools, so much so that many people buy their homes based on the local school. When that local school is not as local as it was, there tends to be resistance and unhappiness.

I hope there is enough faith in the Cobb school board that this process will not be unnecessarily bloody, but there seems to be residual hostility from the school calendar reversal.

Cobb parents are meeting tonight and …

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Infants and toddlers surrounded by screens: Will that change how they learn?

In an increasing number of homes, the TV has moved from the living room to the children's bedrooms, even young children. (AP Images.)

In an increasing number of homes, the TV has moved from the living room to the children's bedrooms, even young children. (AP Images.)

Given last week’s reiteration by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under age 2 should not engage in any screen time, a new study by Common Sense Media finds three out of ten children 1-years-old or younger have a TV in their rooms. When you move up to children ages 2 to 4, 44 percent have televisions in their rooms.

The study found that even among infants and toddlers, screen media use dwarfs time spent reading. In a typical day, 0- to 1-year-olds spend more than twice as much time watching television and DVDs (53 minutes) as they do reading or being read to (23 minutes).

As James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media said in a statement,  “…the data shows infants and toddlers are growing up surrounded by screens. This use data is an important first step toward understanding how the prevalence of media and technology affects …

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Bible classes: The good book didn’t have good numbers in Georgia high schools

Tim Morris teaches a Bible class to juniors and seniors at Woodland High School Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 in Cartersville, Ga. Georgia was the first state in the country to allow Bible classes in public schools, but the number of districts offering the classes have dwindled to just a handful as budgets remain tight. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Tim Morris teaches a Bible class to juniors and seniors at Woodland High School in Cartersville. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

While Georgia was the first state to permit state-approved Bible elective classes in public schools, few districts are offering them now because they can’t afford to hold elective classes with empty seats.

The Legislature approved the Bible classes in 2006. Georgia’s standards for the two English electives — “Literature and History of the Old Testament Era” and “Literature and History of the New Testament Era” — do not provide specific lessons. Students are expected to learn how the Bible came to be, the literary styles that were used, major narratives, the book’s influence on contemporary culture and the development of translations.

During the 2007-08 school year — the first the courses could be taught — 37 of the state’s nearly 440 high schools had the class. Most were outside the metro area, although two schools in Rockdale taught it, and a …

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Teacher’s group: We will not continue legal fight for National Board stipend after new setback

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators said today that it will end its legal quest to compel the state to pay stipends to National Board Certified Teachers after the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

On the 2010 session’s final day, the General Assembly passed a budget that eliminated pay supplements to more than 2,000 educators who earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The General Assembly’s decision amounted to a $6,000 to $8,000 hit for some of the state’s top teachers.

National board-certified teachers have long received a 10 percent salary supplement, but that was cut in half in 2009, at which PAGE filed suit arguing the state had no right to cut the supplements in half.

According to PAGE:

Georgia’s Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit PAGE brought seeking payment of stipends to the state’s approximately 2,500 national …

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