Archive for March, 2012

Why are teachers absent on Mondays and Fridays? A retired school chief offers his theory and solution.

The always-thoughtful Clete Bulach has written an interesting response to the AJC investigation into teacher absences. (As I noted in my original post, this investigation was subscriber only so I cannot link to it. It appeared in the Thursday AJC.)

Dr. Bulach worked as a school superintendent from 1979 to 1990 at which point he retired. He is now an associate professor emeritus from the University of West Georgia. He has numerous publications in educational journals and is co-author of “Creating a Culture for A High Performing School: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform, Dropout Prevention, and Bullying Behavior.”

Dr. Bulach says his purpose in life “is to change the way students and teachers are treated in their school… to help create caring learning environments in schools where teachers and school administrators give control to others without giving it up.”

Here is his response:

By Clete Bulach

The article on teacher absenteeism brought back some …

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Federal judge: Gay-friendly prom idea was not reason for ouster of Alpharetta High president

The deposed Alpharetta High student body president had his first day in court and lost.

According to the AJC:

A federal judge Friday ruled against an Alpharetta High School senior who claims he was ousted as student body president for pushing to make the school’s prom king and queen selection more inclusive to gay and lesbian students.

Reuben Lack, an honor student and debate team captain, filed a federal lawsuit that alleges his removal as president violated his rights of free speech and expression. In a 12-page order, U.S. District Judge Richard Story denied Lack’s request to be reinstated as student body president. The judge commended Lack for championing the inclusion of all students in school activities and his “zeal to change policy.” Story also expressed concern over the timing of Lack’s removal — a month after his prom idea became an issue.

But Story said he found evidence supporting a conclusion that Lack was removed for other reasons. These include …

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Payback to Cherokee schools by local lawmakers: Will governor provide the knock-out punch?

The chair of the Cherokee County Board of Education is asking the governor to veto House Bill 978, which is one of the most surprising and invasive pieces of local legislation this session. I am uncertain why a GOP-led body would violate its less government/local control mantra to meddle in a county with a darn good school system.

This bill has already drawn fire from SACS, the accrediting agency that oversees Cherokee schools.

I doubt Cherokee will get much help from Nathan Deal, who often takes a see no evil, hear no evil posture with the Legislature, but this bill does strike at the heart of much of what the governor professes to believe about the rights of local voters to decide their representation.

HB 978 has been described as payback to the Cherokee school board for nixing a charter school application, which again surprises me as there were legitimate concerns about the project.

I think the lesson here is that politicians of any party will violate their own foundational …

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If you know outstanding teen volunteers, nominate them for contest

I have been asked by the AJC to alert Get Schooled readers to a contest that will reward Metro Atlanta teens who are outstanding volunteers in their communities.

From the AJC:

One of our advertisers wants to recognize teens who volunteer in the community. They are sponsoring a Young Leadership Award, and four winners will get $500.  If you know a teen doing great work, nominate him or her today.

I checked out the requirements for High School Hero and wanted to note a few that are important before you consider nominating a candidate. The deadline  for nominations is April 15.

•Nominee must be a high school student (grades 9-12) and enrolled in a public or private school program in Metro Atlanta.

•Nominee must be a Georgia resident and reside in Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, …

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Finalist from Indiana recommended to become new Valdosta State University president

The Regents search committee announced this morning that William J. McKinney is the finalist for the next president of Valdosta State University.

From the University System:

McKinney is currently vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, a position he has held since 2008. In this post, McKinney oversees an annual $70 million budget and is responsible for more than 400 full time and almost 400 part-time faculty.

He also has overseen a 33 percent increase in sponsored research grants and contracts during his tenure, fueled in part by McKinney’s creation of new positions for research, community engagement, and sponsored programs.

Prior to his work at IPFW, McKinney was dean of the College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts at Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pa. (2001-2008) and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Mo. (1997-2001). He has taught at …

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Assessing the damage to education by 2012 Legislature

Joe Martin

Joe Martin

With the General Assembly wrapping up last night in its usual frenzy, school financing expert Joseph Martin sent me this op-ed this morning.

(He sent two copies, one with footnotes and one without. I am not including the footnotes here, but Martin has provided documentation for his figures. He is ready for the AJC Truth-O-Meter.)

Martin has been a longtime voice for public education; he was president of the Atlanta Board of Education, a leader on several state commissions, head of the Georgia School Funding Association and an unsuccessful candidate for state School Superintendent. And he helped design the current Georgia funding formula, Quality Basic Education, which, of course, has never been fully funded.

He has been called upon many times to testify at the Capitol on school financing. I think it is fair to say that Martin, a Democrat, is respected by members of both parties for his expertise.

By Joseph Martin

The State of Georgia is undermining our public …

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APS: Many principals in flux. North Atlanta parents in protest over mega schools.

The plans to redistrict many Atlanta schools have led to several new advocacy groups of parents, including Meet in the Middle APS.

With Superintendent Erroll Davis taking comments through today on his proposal on how to close schools and shift attendance lines, the group sent me its position paper on middle school configurations. After Davis makes his final recommendations on redistricting, the Atlanta school board will vote April 10.

Meet in the Middle APS opposes the proposal to convert Sutton Middle into a 6th grade academy and make the current North Atlanta High School a mega middle school with approximately 2,000 seventh and eighth graders.

(An aside on APS: I am trying to get a comment from APS about the news that quite a few principals were told they did not have their jobs at their same schools next year. The group includes veterans and newbies to the principal posts.  There will apparently be consolidation and realignments designed to both save money and improve …

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Bill to grade schools makes it across finish line tonight

report cardSenate Bill 410 passed tonight in the last hurrah — or harrumph, depending on your view of our lawmakers in action — of the 2012 Georgia General Assembly.

The bill grades public schools on “indicators of quality of learning, financial efficiency, school climate, and any other indicators the office adopts shall be compared to state standards, progress on improved student achievement, and comparable performance.” In these areas, schools would get stars; five stars is the top ranking and presents excellence. One star signals unsatisfactory performance.

The bill also sets forth numerical grading of schools. The bill states: “The office, in coordination with the Department of Education, shall establish and annually calculate individual school and school system ratings, which shall be a numerical score on a scale of 0-100, for each public school and school system in this state based on the indicators of quality of learning adopted pursuant to this Code section for student …

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Teacher absenteeism: Are mental health days on the rise?

Teacher absenteeism can adversely affect students. (AP Images)

Teacher absenteeism can adversely affect students. (AP Images)

The AJC has an interesting piece this morning on absenteeism among metro Atlanta teachers. The story by education writer Ty Tagami and database specialist Kelly Guckian is subscriber only and will not appear online so I can’t share a link. But I can provide a summary.

The AJC analyzed metro Atlanta attendance data for the past three years and found that teachers in nearly all districts missed on average more than 10 days due to illness, training, personal leave or jury duty. Sickness was the most common cause.

The story examines whether “mental health” days are increasing because of class size, diminishing respect and increasing responsibilities and accountability.

“It used to be that teachers only worried about teaching,” said Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators. “Now, they have to worry about paperwork, evaluations, test scores, data management, keeping your …

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Testing season revs up: March madness leads to April angst

Here is a great essay by Georgia classroom teacher Beth Pittard, who is also a grad student at the University of Georgia College of Education:

By Beth Pittard

While many people around the country complete brackets for basketball, teachers everywhere gear up for their own version of March Madness. To prepare for the Criterion Referenced Competency Test to be taken sometime between April 4- May 6, elementary school teachers will actually have to convince students to forget what they have learned about reading.

The high-stakes testing situation leads, literally, to madness.

Let me explain. Teachers are required to teach the Georgia Performance Standards with fidelity. We are expected to “prove” we are doing this by posting the standard in a “highly visible” place in our classrooms along with an essential question (EQ) for each lesson of each day and for each subject area (forget integrating the curriculum, but that’s another story).

Each standard has a code …

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