Archive for November, 2011

Barge: Parental involvement is key to student success

School chief John Barge

School chief John Barge

In honor of National Parent Involvement Day today, state school Superintendent John Barge sent out this letter to Georgia parents:

November is Parent Engagement Month in Georgia and schools all across the state are working to bring awareness to the role parents play in their children’s education. It is a time for all parents to consider how they can get more involved in the education of their children regardless of the grade level. Today, though, is a special day within the month that I believe most educators are eager to recognize. It’s National Parent Involvement Day.

When it comes to parent engagement, the research is clear, when schools, families, and communities support each other, students of all backgrounds and ability levels achieve at higher levels.

As the father of a teenage daughter in high school, I know how challenging it can be to stay engaged in the lives of your children. Life is demanding and there is almost never enough time to get …

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What do all these support personnel in DeKalb do? Are the positions and salaries justified?

I am not sure new DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson has to hire an outside firm to audit district payroll and priorities to figure out if district resources are aligned with goals. She could loose a team of teachers on the juggernaut and probably get all the detail she needs.

Here is one such researcher’s/teacher’s effort, sent to me to share with the blog:

According to, the DeKalb County school district employs 208 secretaries, 11 business service secretaries, 16 transportation secretaries, 44 general administration secretaries, 49 information services clerks, and 56 central support clerks.

From what I can tell, these 384 secretaries or clerks do not work in school buildings since DeKalb also employs  236 school secretaries/clerks.

Gwinnett County, with 161,000 students compared to DeKalb’s 98,688, employs 84 business service clerks, 46 transportation secretaries/clerks, 82 central support clerks, 165 data clerks, and five general administration …

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Charter schools for children of millionaires: An expansion of the concept or distortion?

A reader sent me this story about a public charter school in Silicon Valley that asks its wealthy families to donate $5,000 a year, which some parents view as a deal for a public school with private school amenities.

Bullis Charter School is in Los Altos, where the median home is worth $1 million. The story asks whether Bullis, which accepts one in six kindergarten applicants and attracts the children of computer company titans, distorts the original purpose of charter schools — to provide kids trapped in failing public schools with the same choices as more affluent peers.

Increasingly around the country and in Georgia, charter schools are opening in suburban communities with strong public schools because those parents want greater choice, too.

The Bloomberg story cites a study that found 25 percent of U.S. charter schools don’t participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, compared with 2 percent at traditional public schools. (The …

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US DOE: Georgia one of 11 states seeking No Child waiver

In conjunction with my earlier posting today that Georgia has requested a waiver from No Child Left Behind, the U.S. Doe issued this statement:

Just seven weeks after President Obama announced a plan to offer greater flexibility from federal education mandates in exchange for a strong commitment to core reforms that boost student achievement, 11 states formally submitted to the U.S. Department of Education requests for waivers from key provisions of No Child Left Behind.

The following states, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee filed requests based on locally designed plans to implement college and career ready standards; develop rigorous accountability systems that include a focus on low-performing schools and schools with persistent achievement gaps; and create better systems for developing, supporting and evaluating principals and teachers.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan commended the …

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Are Stalin and Arne Duncan comrades in education arms?

A teacher sent me a link to a provocative article in the Teachers College Record by University of Oklahoma professor Lawrence Baines comparing the education reform movement in the United States today with that of the 1930s Soviet Union.

Author of  “The Teachers We Need,” Baines cites many shared trends — nationalized curriculum, frequent standardized tests, achievement level tracking by demographics,  emphasis on the teaching of science, math, and technology and less teacher autonomy but greater accountability.

From the lengthy piece, which you ought to read if you have time:

Of the following three statements, which refer to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and which refer to America today?

1. “Teachers are asked to achieve significant academic growth for all students at the same time that they instruct students with ever-more diverse needs….The stakes are huge—and the time to cling to the status quo has passed.”

2. “We had to have a campaign for 100 percent successful …

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Georgia has made it official: Wants a waiver from No Child Left Behind

nochild (Medium) Georgia is one of 11 states seeking a waiver from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which has become viewed as a shackle by most states.

From Georgia DOE:

The Georgia Department of Education formally submitted an application yesterday for a waiver of No Child Left Behind. In September, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge personally delivered Georgia’s request for a waiver to certain provisions of NCLB, and an alternative accountability plan, to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The U.S. Department of Education required that a formal application be submitted electronically, which was due yesterday for those states seeking early waivers.

Georgia is one of the first states seeking a waiver from some of the requirements within NCLB. The state is requesting permission to implement a new College and Career Ready Performance Index for each public school, school district, and the state for the 2011 – 2012 school …

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Georgia remediates nearly half of its technical college students. How do we fix that?

Several posters asked that we tackle the great AJC Sunday story on the costs of remediation for technical college students, a piece that has not run online.  If it does, I will add a link. This is a very well done story, and I encourage you all to read it.  (You can find it in the Sunday AJC.)

In short, AJC higher ed reporter Laura Diamond reported that nearly half the students who enter the Technical College System of Georgia need remedial classes in reading, writing or math. The system spent about $36 million of its $718.6 million budget last year — an amount expected to rise even higher — teaching students what they should have learned in high school.

One of the points that the story makes is that there is a lot of finger pointing in this mess, colleges at high schools, high schools at k-12 and k-12 at teacher education programs.

At some point, we have to get past the blame to why Georgia is turning out so many kids who lag in basic skills. The story gives examples of what …

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If parents set real limits, students will succeed

This is a piece by high school teacher social studies teacher Marc Urbach. The piece will appear in the Monday education page but here is an early look.


By Marc Urbach

Students need great teachers in the classroom but that is only half the story. I only see my students for 50 minutes a day while their parents see them for several hours. What do they do with all of that time?

Over the years, I have asked my students and the answers have stayed the same — watch television, listen to music, play games and now YouTube and Facebook.

Do any of these activities help with their schooling/studies? No.

Why do they do all of these activities? Because “they want to” and because their parents let them. Many parents do not have the courage to set limits with their children. If parents are serious about their child becoming successful in school and in life, they will implement the following rules.

No television, computers, video games until you are earning all A’s.

No listening to …

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Georgia’s only Milken winner this year: “I am my students.”

Milken Educator Shekema Silveri believes her classroom has to be healing place for her students. (AJC photo)

Milken Educator Shekema Silveri believes her classroom has to be healing place for her students. (AJC photo)

When Clayton County teacher Shekema Silveri won the Milken award last month, the most prestigious prize in education, another teacher commented to me, “That’s her ticket to a better job anywhere she wants.”

Silveri won’t be cashing in that ticket, saying she is where she was called to be — with students who thrive on her love and support.

“I want students who actually appreciate a teacher who loves them,” she says. “I would not be in my element in a school where students said, ‘I don’t need a teacher to love me because I have two parents and a nanny.’”

Silveri’s deep affection for her students at Mount Zion High School in Jonesboro takes many forms, from cautioning them at the start of the weekend, “Come back to me safely. I love you,” to daily texts to a teen whose mother died three years ago, “Good morning princess, God loves you, and so do I,” to shopping for …

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Now, it appears DeKalb is not filling high-paid secretary’s slot after edict from new school chief

In an update this afternoon, DeKalb Schools spokesman Walter Woods said the district will not be filling the central office secretary’s job posted with a salary range of $53,000 to $72,000, far higher than some teachers earn. And the job only called for a high school diploma or GED.

Since it was published here on the blog last night, the job posting has generated widespread condemnation from DeKalb residents and employees who cited the system’s financial constraints.

Nor were readers appeased by earlier explanations today from Woods.

Here is his latest note, which I have followed up with a call and e-mail to make sure that it means the job is going unfilled for the time being. (Woods did get back to me and says the job will be filled but only after the salary and position review.)

New school chief Cheryl Atkinson wins a point in my book for a sane and sensible decision.

From Woods:

Dr. Atkinson has been in meetings, but I did speak with her and she asked me to give you an …

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