Archive for November, 2011

No family, but a few friends in high places in DeKalb

An AJC story this morning talks about the new DeKalb school chief’s hiring of three former colleagues at six-figure salaries. Each is a top-level player in the transformation that Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson intends for DeKalb and each is being paid $159,800.

According to the story: Atkinson’s point person for instruction is Kathleen Howe, a former colleague of hers as a deputy superintendent in Kansas City, a district of 17,400 students and 2,300 teachers and other employees. Kendra March is DeKalb’s new deputy superintendent for school leadership and operational support. March worked with Atkinson in Charlotte at a district of 125,000 students. Gary Brantley, the chief information officer, will be in charge of all computers and technical equipment, such as digital “smart boards” for the entire district. He held a similar post for the Lorain City Schools in Ohio, where Atkinson was most recently the district superintendent.

It is not unusual for new CEOs in the …

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APS parent: Too much class time lost to testing

An Atlanta parent shared this letter he sent to Atlanta school chief Erroll B. Davis and Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon expressing concerns over the system’s new Common Assessments, tests designed to gauge mastery of recently taught materials.

First and second graders take nine tests a year;  third and fourth graders take 24; fifth graders take 27; sixth graders take 29; seventh graders take 30; eighth graders take 34.

The parent wanted to know what other folks felt about these tests, which he feels divert precious time from instruction.

“Personally, I’m concerned about the volume of tests being put upon our teachers and kids. Maybe I’m wrong,  so I’d love your take as well as the opinions of your readers on how they will improve performance by our students and within APS overall,” he said.

Here is the parent’s letter:

Dear APS Superintendent Davis and Deputy Superintendent Waldon,

My son is 10 years old and likes school. He’s a good student – not terrific – but makes As …

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Another take on SPLOST vote: Seven percent of DeKalb voters decided critical issue

DeKalb writer Rick Diguette just sent me this piece on SPLOST, and it seems appropriate to run it now since I posted a letter to voters from the DeKalb school board member earlier today.

According to figures compiled as of Oct. 28, 2011, there are 445,250 registered voters in DeKalb County.1 Seven percent of those voters, or 33,114, have saddled everyone else in the county with a one penny hike in the sales tax.

I happen to be one of the 53,255 voters who went to the polls on November 8 to vote on the SPLOST proposal. Along with 20,140 other DeKalb County residents, I voted against it. If you are into percentages, we represented only five percent of the county’s registered voters.

Dr. Cheryl Atkinson, DeKalb County’s new public school superintendent, had this to say after the election: “We are very pleased the voters of DeKalb County are supportive of our efforts to provide the best facilities and resources for our students.”

To be a tad more accurate, a very small …

Continue reading Another take on SPLOST vote: Seven percent of DeKalb voters decided critical issue »

DeKalb board member to voters: Thanks for the SPLOST vote

DeKalb school board member H. Paul Womack Jr. issued this statement to DeKalb voters who approved SPLOST earlier this month:

I would like to take this opportunity to say something simple that’s probably not said enough these days.

“Thank you.”

Earlier this month, the voters of DeKalb County, by an impressive margin of more than 60 percent, approved the continuation of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST IV, for DeKalb and other metro area school systems.

First, I’d to thank each voter for exercising their right to vote. Our right to vote on questions such as the SPLOST, and to elect the people who serve in our government, is a right too many of us take for granted. So, I’d like to especially commend those that took time to go to the polls.

I’d also like to thank the voters for their support of DeKalb Schools. As a member of the Board of Education, I take the result as both an endorsement that we are doing some things right, and a challenge that we need to …

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Texas school raises scores by teaching two subjects, math and reading, and feigning grades on the rest

testing (Medium)To boost scores and gain the coveted “exemplary” status in Texas, a Dallas elementary school taught third graders only math and reading for most of the year, ignoring the other subjects and pressuring teachers to simply make up grades for those discarded areas, including social studies, music and science.

The tactics used by Field Elementary are getting a lot of criticism in the media, but one point is being overlooked: Clearly, there are payoffs to an intense focus on math and reading.

I’d like to know the views of parents and teachers on this story as it reminds me of a debate in Georgia when the state wanted to make some non-core courses, including PE and music, optional in middle school to create more time for reading remediation. At the time, Gov. Roy Barnes argued that reading trumped all else and that sacrificing PE and music so that struggling students could spend more time catching up on their reading skills was a worthwhile consideration.

Without those reading skills …

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No surprise to posters here: Parents have big influence on student success

Given the focus on parents by posters on the blog, it’s no surprise that many of you sent me the Thomas Friedman column from The New York Times on the importance of parents in a child’s educational trajectory.

In the piece, Friedman concludes, “But let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers. We also need better parents.”

No one would disagree, although the challenge remains the students whose parents don’t read to them or monitor their homework or ask them about school.

Can we afford to write those students off?

Here is an excerpt from the Friedman column, but please try to read the entire piece  on why involved parents matter:

Every three years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., conducts exams as part of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests 15-year-olds in the world’s leading industrialized nations on their reading comprehension and ability to use what they’ve learned in math and science to solve …

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Guest colum: Bill Gates may not have a degree, but most of his employees do

Morning folks. I am on the road, but wanted to post this column by Avi Bhuiyan, a student at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and his father, Mohammad Bhuiyan,  the 2011-12 ACE Fellow at the University System of Georgia and Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship at FSU.

Enjoy:

By 2020, it’s projected that more than 60 percent of the jobs in Georgia will require some form of a college education. Today, that number is only 42 percent.

Higher education has taken its lumps recently. Critics often accuse it of failing to give students “real world” skills that translate to their careers, noting that if a Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates can start a powerhouse company with no degree, why all the fuss about getting a college degree? Furthermore, given the high unemployment rate of college grads and ever-increasing rates of tuition, isn’t it time that we as a nation re-evaluate our attitude towards pursuing higher education?

But how many of those entrepreneurs without …

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Smyrna state rep: We need to throw HOPE a financial life line to keep kids going to college

Will we have fewer colleges students -- and grads --  as a result of cuts to HOPE?  (AJC/file photo)

Will we have fewer colleges students — and grads — as a result of cuts to HOPE? (AJC/file photo)

An AJC news story this morning notes a slowdown in enrollment at the state’s public campuses, reporting that while the University System of Georgia enrolled a record number of students this fall, more than 318,000, the figure is only a 2.1 percent increase from fall 2010, the system’s smallest increase since 2005.

The details in the story will be used to frame the upcoming HOPE debate in the Legislature. You can see one side of that argument below in the essay by Stacey Evans, a legislator from Smyrna.

The story states:

Also a dozen campuses are teaching fewer students. The colleges are scattered across the state and they tend to enroll more low-income students who are more likely to struggle to pay for college. System leaders predicted and welcomed a slowdown, saying it would make the annual influx of new students easier to manage. The system has gained about 48,000 students …

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Arne Duncan: If allegations are true, abuse in Penn State case is “sickening.”

Here are highlights of a pre-taped interview airing tonight on “Bloomberg EDU” with radio host Jane Stoddard Williams and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The program airs on on Bloomberg Radio, which is available on Sirius/ XM Channels 113.

(It will also be available on podcast.)

Duncan on the Penn State situation and whether the university violated the Clery Act:

“First of all, obviously we have to look at the Penn State situation specifically. But I think it gives us all as educators and as adults and parents pause just to think about what are we doing to protect our children. If these allegations prove to be true, it’s clearly just a devastating and heartbreaking tragedy, and as I’ve said before it just makes me extraordinarily angry that this kind of behavior was allowed to go on for so long unchecked.”

“When I was in Australia I worked with children who had been abused, and it’s the kind of thing you never want to see anyone experience. And to see this perhaps it …

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Should schools sell advertising space and sponsorships to raise money?

Should cash-strapped schools turn to corporate advertising and sponsorships to raise money or do such deals take advantage of students, who are a captive audience for the sales pitches?

That debate is about to occur in Douglas County, which is considering  advertising deals and sponsorships with national firms, something that some districts have already done as a way to cope with budget crunches. Douglas is facing a $775 million fall in the local tax digest and nearly $70 million in austerity cuts in the last eight years.

Here is an excerpt from a good story in the Douglas County Sentinel on a report to the board on corporate ads by Douglas County Schools Financial Officer Kay Turner:

“This type of revenue is commonly done at the university level but is not something school districts have done as much,” Turner said. “We are now looking at partnerships with national companies, the Apples of the world. Larger school districts like Cobb County and Atlanta Public Schools …

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