Archive for January, 2012

Most kids could get less HOPE so a few can get more. Seems unfair to me.

The celebrating might  be less once high school grads see their HOPE amounts. (AJC/file photo)

The celebrating might be less once high school grads see their HOPE amounts. (AJC/file photo)

The luster of a HOPE Scholarship — once a full tuition ride to public colleges for Georgia high school graduates with a B average — may dim a bit more this year.

To recap how we came to this depressing situation: Faced with a money crunch, Gov. Nathan Deal last year reduced HOPE for all but top high school students, those who graduated with a 3.7 or higher GPA  combined with a minimum score of 1200 on the math and reading portions of the SAT test or a 26 composite score on the ACT.

And he dubbed that new elite scholarship the  Zell Miller Scholarship.

It turns out that more kids qualified for the Zell Miller Scholarship than had been expected, so the regular HOPE Scholars — which I call HOPE Lite –  could see their financial awards shrink even further than predicted over the next several years.

In stark terms, to fully fund the Miller-level scholars, the state could end up …

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Can we continue to provide less and less yet ask schools for more and more?

One of my questions to presenters at an education symposium Friday was what three things the Georgia Legislature had done in the last few years that helped education and what had hurt it.

Herb Garrett of Georgia School Superintendents Association paused for a moment before responding: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think there have been some good intentions. But it’s easier to talk about the damage.”

And the greatest damage to schools has come from the ongoing “austerity cuts,” a phrase introduced into education parlance by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2003.

Cumulatively, those cuts have reduced spending in Georgia k-12 schools by $1.1 billion per year, said Garrett, a former principal and superintendent.

“There are systems barely able to keep their heads above water,” he said, speaking at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s annual session on top school issues in the state.

State Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, could only come up with two positives …

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If feds grant waiver, farewell to AYP for Georgia schools this year

If the feds approve Georgia’s request for a waiver from No Child Left Behind, school chief John Barge said, “AYP will be done for Georgia. We will be issuing each school district an index score based on 100 percent.”

Barge expects to know in two weeks whether the federal Department of Education will give Georgia, one of 11 states seeking a wavier, a reprieve from No Child’s stringent accountability requirements. Georgia is proposing to use another form of accountability that it contends is richer and more comprehensive reflection of school effectiveness, a College and Career Ready Performance Index.

“We feel it is a much more powerful tool for our schools,” said Barge, speaking to the media Friday afternoon. “It will actually drive their school improvement process.”

DOE says its index will impose scores in three areas to capture the essential work of individual schools: Achievement Score (based upon current year data); Progress Score (based upon current and prior year …

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Blogging live today from ed event: New teacher evals and challenges

I am at the annual daylong media symposium on education sponsored at the start of each legislative session by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

It is always a great event as it brings education newsmakers into a room with reporters from across the state — including lots of young, bright journalists from suburban and rural papers. I am always impressed with the caliber of news writers from small-town papers here in Georgia.

On the agenda to speak today are state employees, John Barge, Bobby Cagle, Matt Cardoza, Erin Hames, Teresa MacCartney and elected lawmakers Brooks Coleman and Stacey Abrams. Also, Herb Garrett of the Georgia School Superintendents Association will speak. A highlight was Jadun McCarthy, 2012 Georgia Teacher of the Year, who is a fantastic speaker.

“We are being told you need to do more with less,” he said. “That sounds like a great philosophy. But it presupposes you weren’t doing the most that you could with what you had in the first …

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APS school chief: Attempt to assign students to schools closest to their homes

APS school chief Erroll B. Davis wrote a letter to parents outlining his guiding principles for redistricting. He is careful to explain that his thinking on this issue has “evolved.” The next round of public meetings on the controversial redistricting plans is the week of Jan. 30.

Here are the guiding principles set forth by Davis:

Ranking of Priorities

Priority One

• Propose boundaries that will be functional for 10 years based on forecasted enrollment.

• Attempt to assign students to schools located closest to their homes. Allow K-8 students to walk where possible. The proximity of ES’s to MS’s should be maximized.

• Attempt to maximize/keep the school feeder concept intact. No more split feeders. Clusters only.

• When evaluating consolidation/closure scenarios and determining which facilities should be retained vs. closed, consideration should be given to minimizing disruption to established educational programming (retain existing IB …

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Cobb: As system raises class size, it risks going from “teaching to crowd management”

The Cobb school year could grow shorter and the classes larger as the system grapples with a budget shortfall. (AJC File Photo)

The Cobb school year could grow shorter and the classes larger as the system grapples with a budget shortfall. (AJC File Photo)

I am surprised at the school cutbacks that Cobb parents seem willing to accept in view of their commitment to education, a commitment that has been rewarded with historic high performance. I keep waiting for a revolt among parents over slashes to the education budget at both the state and local level, but it may be that they are resigned to the grim new realities of school funding.

That reality could be even bleaker this year, based on an AJC news story about proposed reductions in both staffing and the school year. I was talking to a teacher yesterday about class size in middle school, and she said the quality loss kicks in when you go higher than 20 students in the class.

I think the days of 20 students in core classes are long gone.  We may soon be nostalgic for classes of 25.

After I posted this, I received this pertinent note from a Cobb middle …

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Outside audit of DeKalb school system: Slash the central office by more than 300 jobs

Many of you have been insisting for a long time that DeKalb County Schools has too many central office staff. A newly released audit by outside consultants now confirms it.

According to the AJC story by Ty Tagami:

The report, released Wednesday , said DeKalb has 1,499 employees in the central office — too many for a system its size. The consultant, Virginia-based Management Advisory Group, recommends that DeKalb slim down to 1,162 administrative slots.

But don’t expect immediate cuts. Job titles, and their lack of descriptiveness, are a problem, Atkinson said. The district employs directors, coordinators, secretaries and others in the central office whose titles don’t reflect their responsibilities.

The audit focused mostly on white collar positions. It found confusion about who does what and how much they should be paid. Some secretaries, for instance, have more responsibility than the presumably higher title of coordinator. Atkinson said it would take at least …

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Teacher under siege for slavery math question resigns

The AJC is reporting the Gwinnett third-grade teacher under siege for the slavery-themed math questions has resigned.

As we know in any profession, there are freely chosen resignations and there are highly recommended resignations. I wonder which this was.

According to the AJC:

A Beaver Ridge Elementary School teacher involved in giving slavery themed math questions to students has resigned, a Gwinnett County Schools spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

The unidentified teacher quit during a human resources investigation into the origin of the homework assignment. School officials said one teacher created the slave math questions, which used references to beatings and picking cotton to link a history lesson about Frederick Douglass to math computation. It was used in four classrooms.

Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett Schools, said the teacher who resigned is one of four under a personnel investigation. She said the school probe concluded late Tuesday. “The principal …

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DeKalb County Schools: Strike up the bands

In a family photo, Robert Champion demonstrates the flair that earned him the prestigious drum major role in the FAMU band.

In a family photo, Robert Champion demonstrates the flair that earned him the prestigious drum major role in the FAMU band.

DeKalb lifted its suspension on high school marching band activities today, a suspension imposed last month in the wake of the alleged hazing death of a FAMU drum major who had been a member of a noted DeKalb high school band.

However, the county continues to look into whether any incidences of bullying or harassment have occurred in its band programs.

In ending most band activities in mid-December, schools spokesman Walter Woods said, “We need to make sure that the adults responsible for the band, the principal, the band directors are following our policies.’’

DeKalb superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has not yet commented on whether the hazing behaviors documented at FAMU have been found at the high school level. The suspension struck a sour note with parents in DeKalb who had children in marching band. Parents argued that the high schools bands were …

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Is slavery controversy a teachable moment? If so, what is the lesson?

Here is one of the questions that shocked parents in Gwinnett. (AJC Photo)

Here is one of the questions that shocked parents in Gwinnett. (AJC Photo)

The AJC has a long, thoughtful piece about what can be learned from the controversy over the slave questions given to third graders in a Norcross elementary school math class.

The piece begins with questions about how  such bizarre questions could have been conceived, no less handed out to third graders, at Beaver Ridge Elementary, a Gwinnett school where 88 percent of students are either black or Hispanic and half the staff is non-white.

(Still no word on the fate of the teacher. Gwinnett has not responded to my most recent questions about the teacher’s employment status but earlier had refuted reports that he has been let go for creating the two slave-related math questions.)

According to the story:

Christopher Braxton said he was helping his son Nicholas with homework like always when Nicholas stumbled upon the slave math word problems meant to re-enforce a history lesson about ex-slave and …

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