Archive for February, 2012

A Teach for America teacher asks why she and her colleagues are unwelcome in Cobb

I ran a shorter version of this heartfelt essay on the education page in the AJC, but wanted to share the full piece here. This piece was written by math teacher Emily Desprez, a Teach for America teacher, after Cobb County’s decision not to proceed with plans to hire 50 Teach for America teachers.

By Emily Desprez

It’s 2:10 and the high school release bell just sounded. I arrived at school this morning at 6, but I won’t leave until 5. My students’ futures are at stake and are worthy of a few extra hours of my time. I am a 22-year- old high school math teacher at a Title 1 school in the Atlanta area. Less than five years ago I was a student at Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County.

It was then my passion for equal educational opportunities launched. I sat in an AP Calculus class taught by an inspiring teacher whose students consistently passed the final AP test –thereby automatically earning college credit. I looked around and saw mostly white faces. …

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Bill Gates: Shame won’t lead to improved teaching

Many posters to this blog resent the growing influence of Bill Gates on U.S. education policy, but I think a lot of them will agree with a New York Times op-ed Gates wrote deploring the release of teacher effectiveness ratings in New York on Friday.

Georgia is moving to teacher effectiveness ratings as part of its Race-to-the-Top-driven overhaul of how it evaluates educators. A new teacher evaluation system  — in which student scores will be considered for those content areas where testing exists  — is being piloted now in the 26 participating districts. Whether those ratings will eventually be released to the public is uncertain at this point and may fall to the Legislature to decide.  Or, as in New York, it may be a court that rules the ratings must be released.

(The Times had a good second-day follow to its news account of Friday’s release of teacher ratings in New York City. The story spotlighted some of the teachers who received the very top ratings. You can read that …

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New York releases teacher ratings today, but cautions against drawing conclusions. Then, why release them?

After bitter legal battles, criticisms by researchers and protests by teachers, New York City released performance rankings of 18,000 teachers today.

And the condemnation was immediate.

“It is outrageous that the New York City Department of Education is releasing teacher rankings that, by their own admission, are based on bad, unreliable data,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Publicizing this data reneges on a deal I made with former Chancellor Joel Klein years ago that it would only be available to teachers and their supervisors for purposes of improving instruction. Today’s release amounts to a public flogging of teachers based on faulty data.

“Instead of working with teachers to develop and implement an evaluation system that assesses teachers based on multiple criteria and helps them improve, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s education officials preferred to publicly ridicule teachers,” she said.

The release was accompanied …

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Without “affirmative action” for athletes, fewer football stars on the field

What do you call a Division I school that doesn’t lower its admission standards to admit star athletes?

Probably 0-12.

While many people condemn any consideration of race in college admissions, few complain about the routine acceptance of lower-performing student athletes admitted because of their outstanding abilities on the field rather than in the classroom.

In an investigation three years ago of admission standards for athletes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates — and men’s basketball players average seven points less than football players.

At the University of Georgia, the average football SAT was 949, which was 239 points behind the average for an undergraduate student at Georgia at the time. The Bulldogs’ average high school GPA was 2.77, or 45th out of 53 big-time college teams for which football GPAs were available.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to revisit the …

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True or false? Georgia teachers highest paid in country

When House speaker pro tem Jan Jones of Milton commented on the blog a few weeks ago that Georgia teachers were the highest paid in the country, many of you argued that it could not be true.

In her op-ed on the blog, Jones wrote, “…when adjusted for cost of living, Georgia ranks first nationally in teacher salary and benefits.”

Well, it’s half true — according to our AJC PolitiFact Georgia team.

Here is the finding of our team, which is dedicated to applying the Truth-O-Meter to comments by politicians:  (Please, read the full piece here before commenting.)

Jones used a February 2009 study by the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh, N.C.-based think tank that supports limited government, to help back up her claim. She also did some research on her own, looking at states that had higher average salaries and determining that there were other factors — such as differences in cost of living — to conclude that Georgia teachers lead the nation in total compensation.

“I …

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Resignations or terminations: APS applies pressure to suspected cheaters today

Many of you have expressed frustration with the $600,00 being paid monthly to APS educators implicated in the cheating scandal. A state investigation found cheating on the CRCT occurred at 44 Atlanta schools and involved about 180 educators. The investigation came after multiple articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about the validity of APS test score improvements.

Since July, Atlanta Public Schools has spent $6.2 million to pay the salaries of educators placed on administrative leave. The district can’t fire them because of state employment laws and a lack of access to critical evidence. That may be ending soon. Atlanta Public Schools is meeting today and Friday with educators to tell them they have to resign or be fired.

The AJC’s Jaime Sarrio spoke with attorney Mel Goldstein, who represents 20 to 35 educators. The attorney said teachers attending meetings today have until the end of Friday to decide whether to quit.

According to the story:

If they …

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DeKalb school chief: Balanced calendar to shorten summer, weekly early release for teacher training and planning

Cheryl Atkinson

Cheryl Atkinson

In his introduction of DeKalb’s new school chief at a chamber event this morning, school board chair Gene Walker described Chery Atkinson as someone “who doesn’t go along to get along. She is small in stature, but huge in determination and commitment. Dr. Atkinson believes in what she is doing. It pours out of her. I am proud to work with this lady.”

Atkinson began her State of the System address with her usual theme: Victory.

“Victory is what we will have in every classroom,” she said.

After a very warm description of each board member, Atkinson praised them  for their support. She then introduced her “A team,” the staff members who lead departments and serve as her cabinet.

She reiterated her goals for the school system, saying how community input in her first 90 day listening tour led to the addition of “safe and orderly schools” to the priority list.

Here are highlights from her State of the System address: (She mentioned plans to move to a balanced …

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No surprise: House passes charter school amendment

With the House leadership in overdrive to convert dissenters, the charter school amendment passed on a reconsideration vote today.

The battle — which is defined either as a victory for parental choice or an attack on local control, depending on your position –  now moves to the Senate.

The Senate will easily pass the bill to allow a constitutional amendment that would enable the state to get in the charter school approval business. The Senate vote pushes the fight to the public arena as the amendment has to win voter support in November.

We will be talking about this amendment and what it does or doesn’t do for the next nine months.

According to the AJC:

Georgia’s House of Representatives passed charter schools legislation that would, if later approved by the Senate, send to voters a proposed constitutional amendment on whether states should have more authority to create charter schools.

Wednesday’s vote, 123-48, surpassed the two-thirds majority needed on legislation …

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With an 8-0 vote, DeKalb’s school chief empowered to move forward on reshaping system and reassigning staff

Changes are coming to DeKalb schools, according to today’s AJC story. Ty Tagami reports that principals “will have more control over how taxpayers’ money gets spent on education if a major reorganization pushed by the county’s new superintendent rolls out as she promises.”

While posters here believe some board members are out to derail Cheryl Atkinson’s ambitious reforms, the new school chief won an 8-0 vote from the board to move forward. (There was one odd abstention.)

It may be that whatever reservations board members have about revamping the central office and reassigning staff have been overcome by the harsh financial realities facing DeKalb and the community frustration with regressive policies.

According to the AJC story:

The school board met behind closed doors Tuesday for more than three hours with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson, then emerged for a public vote to approve her proposal to reclassify jobs and alter salaries.

The goal, said Atkinson, is to “drive as …

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U.S. Supreme Court will revisit race in college admissions

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to revisit race in higher education admissions.

In the 2003  Grutter v. Bollinger decision, the court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School, saying that the Constitution “does not prohibit the law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.”

But the court decision made clear that race had to be treated as a “plus” factor rather than as the sole factor and that quotas were illegal: 

The Law School’s admissions program bears the hallmarks of a narrowly tailored plan. To be narrowly tailored, a race-conscious admissions program cannot “insulat[e] each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants.” Instead, it may consider race or ethnicity only …

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