Archive for November, 2011

Should schools tell parents when there are lockdowns?

UPDATED at 11 p.m. Wednesday

I asked a few days ago whether schools are under reporting violence or threats of violence. I cited a note that I had received from a knowledgeable source that Atlanta Public Schools had failed to alert parents to lockdowns at Grady High School and the New Schools of Carver, and that the incidents exposed a troubling lack of coordination between APS and Atlanta Police.

Not everyone agreed that parents needed to be notified.

One Grady parent posted: Terrorist threat – really? I worked as part of the safety and security parent/teacher counsel at Grady so was privy to more than just parent hearsay. Anyone aware of the location of Grady is aware that being in Midtown poses unique situations –  that the street crime of breaking into cars can have the miscreant running from the cops and ducking into the parking lot of Grady to run through/get to the other major cross road. Mid-day, broad daylight and not the brightest bulb for a criminal. …

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UGA study: Higher pregnancy and birth rates in states with abstinence-only sex ed programs in schools

Most of the research on abstinence-only sex education programs in schools has found the programs don’t work and can backfire.

Now, a new study out of UGA reaffirms that finding.

From UGA:

States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.

The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states’ approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.

“Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates,” said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Hall is first author on the resulting paper, which has been published online in the …

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SACS keeps beleaguered DeKalb school system in limbo

DeKalb County has work yet to do to stabilize its scandal-plagued school system, according to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The accreditation agency said today that it planned to keep the metro school district on “advisement” status, which is a sort of limbo. Once a state standout, DeKalb has been recovering from a series of blows, including the indictment of its former superintendent and chief operating officer.

(You can read the original eight reasons here why SACS censured the district.)

According to the AJC:

DeKalb County Schools has made progress in the last eight months, but not enough to put its accreditation back in good standing, the state’s top accrediting agency ruled Tuesday.

“With continued work and a focus on sustaining the efforts made to date, the school system will continue to repair its reputation and restore trust with its stakeholders,” said Mark Elgart, president and CEO, AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.

SACS’ options …

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Rebuffed by one court, counseling student seeks expulsion reprieve for her religious objections to gays

Jennifer Keeton is trying to stave off expulsion. (Alliance Defense Fund)

Jennifer Keeton is trying to stave off expulsion. (Alliance Defense Fund)

A grad student at Augusta State University who sued the school over a clash between her grad program requirements and her religious beliefs on gay people is now asking a federal appeals court to block the university from expelling her.

This is an interesting case.

In 2010, Jennifer Keeton, 24, sued after the college required her to complete a remediation program or face expulsion for her anti-gay beliefs. Her lawsuit states that her views on gays were known to faculty at the university because of her “disagreement in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and lesbian ‘lifestyle.’”

Backed by the nonprofit Christian advocacy Alliance Defense Fund, Keeton maintains in her lawsuit: “[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic showing or demonstrated deficiencies in …

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Schools rediscover the joy and benefits of building blocks

This young builder at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., impressed President Barack Obama with her building block skills earlier this month. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

This young builder at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., impressed President Barack Obama with her building block skills earlier this month. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

There is a Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager classic that proclaims,  “Everything old is new again.” We see that a lot in education.

And here is an example from The New York Times — a story on the resurgence of blocks and block play centers in schools as a counterbalance to prescriptive learning.

The story, which opens with college-educated parents at a workshop on block play, reports that schools and parents are eager to return to foundational activities that encourage exploration and creativity in children and don’t entail filling in the bubbles or sitting in front of screens.

Most parents can attest that there’s no more winning combination than kids and empty cardboard boxes. But I have to wonder how many parents at the blocks workshop also provide their youngsters laptops, iPads and other …

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A notable mother and son share their views on education and CRCT cheating

J. Tom Morgan

J. Tom Morgan

A few weeks ago, I ran a father-son essay about the value of a college degree. Now, I have a mother-son piece penned by Virginia Morgan, a retired educator from the Dougherty County School System, and local attorney J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb County district attorney and author of “Ignorance is No Defense, A Teenager’s Guide to Georgia Law.”

As J. Tom Morgan explained in a note, “Normal families play Scrabble and play cards when they get together. Mom wanted to write after I told her about the APS and Dougherty scandals.”

Dr. Morgan writes the first part; her son shares his view after her and they collaborate on the conclusion.

First, Dr. Morgan writes:

In 1955, at the age of 25, I began my professional career with the Dougherty County School System. Still stands the dusty classroom where hundreds of children began their formal education. The Dougherty County School System is currently under investigation by state special investigators appointed by the …

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Principals in New York condemn teacher evaluation process as “education by humiliation”

testing (Medium)Michael Winerip has a good online piece in The New York Times about the revolt of principals in New York against the use of student test data to evaluate educators in that state.

The principals are protesting a new evaluation system that the state Department of Education under Commissioner John B. King Jr. has put in place to meet the demands of New York’s federal Race to the Top grant.

As one principal in the story noted, the new evaluation system has accomplished one thing so far; it has united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the state education department.

Also a Race to the Top winner, Georgia will begin to pilot its new teacher/school leadership evaluation tool in January. It, too, will include student performance as a measure of teacher and principal effectiveness. I suspect that we will see the same complaints here, although we have yet to see principals rise up in organized opposition.

In a recent meeting with the Georgia DOE staff …

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Applying to colleges: Seeking counsel when there are too few counselors

Many schools have too few counselors, which leaves some kids on their own in applying to colleges. (AP Images.)

Many high schools have too few counselors, which leaves some kids on their own in applying to colleges. (AP Images.)

One of my favorite quotes in the new book “College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step” comes from Stanford University School of Education senior lecturer Denise Clark Pope on the issue of over-scheduled teens:

“Imagine if Steve Jobs had no time to tinker in his garage because he had to go piano lessons and SAT prep class and art class and was on the travel baseball team that had practice five times a week and away games on weekends.”

Similar common-sense advice fills the pages of “College Admission,” co-written by former Stanford admissions dean Robin Mamlet and journalist Christine VanDeVelde with contributions from 50 admissions deans.

Like most guides, the book assures students that they will get through the admissions arms race and find a campus that suits them.

Of course, the reassurances are belied by the number of thick books on the …

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Do schools conceal violent incidents and threats to avoid negative press and parent outrage?

over (Medium)Among the extended family I saw over the holiday was a young relative who is working as a substitute teacher in the Northeast since he can’t find a full-time teaching post. He shared a story that surprised me, and I wanted to run it by folks here.

He was subbing at a low-performing high school that recently had a well-publicized stabbing. A student in his class pulled what he thought was a real gun on him, and they had a standoff for several minutes until the teen put the “gun” away and the teacher tackled him to the floor. It turned out the gun was a toy, and the student received a three-day suspension for the incident.

The substitute teacher was disappointed with the punishment, but said the school wanted to prevent another round of negative press.

Would such an incident be kept quiet in Georgia? Could it go so easily unreported under zero tolerance policies in which students can get suspended for Tweety Bird key chains?

And speaking of keeping things quiet, I heard about …

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Guest essay: Thanksgiving snapshot captures why I teach

brownart0629 (Medium)Former AJC colleague Jan Gehorsam is now a teacher on the Georgia coast; she has been a language arts teacher at Brunswick High School and various colleges for  more than 20 years. She sent me this essay about an e-mail she received this week from a fellow teacher at Brunswick High about a luncheon for students with extraordinary special needs.

I thought it was an appropriate piece to share this Thanksgiving weekend:

By Jan Gehorsam

A media specialist treated us this week at Brunswick High with an e-mailed photo of several special ed kids chowing down at their Thanksgiving feast. Although they are usually taught in a self-contained classroom, we often see them making their shaky, nearly tipsy, passage from the main school building to the gym. One of the students is sometimes held by a waistband grabbed by a teacher from behind. (Maybe he is very unstable, or likely to lash out at someone; I have never known why he wears that… ) These are the severely disabled kids: Some grunt, …

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