Archive for March, 2012

Alpharetta teen says he was ousted from student presidency for suggesting a gay-friendly prom

The AJC is reporting that an Alpharetta High School senior filed a lawsuit this week contending that administrators removed him as student body president after he pushed for making the prom more inclusive to gay students.

This news story  does not have a comment from Fulton County school officials, but I have gotten the statement from Fulton, which is posted below.  First the story.

According to the story:

Reuben Lack, an 18-year-old senior at Alpharetta High School, filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court. He’s asking a judge to issue an injunction reinstating him as student body president.

Lack said he introduced a resolution at a January student council meeting to modify the school’s “prom king and queen” tradition to make it more inclusive to gay students.

Lack says he was told by school officials Feb. 8 that he was immediately removed from his position for “pushing personal projects” and advocating policy changes. School officials couldn’t …

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A middle school becomes a “no hugging” zone. Necessary ban or overreaction?

To the news that a New Jersey middle school officially banned hugging, I have one immediate response: Why are kids hugging each other in middle school in the first place?

(Of course, I attended a Catholic school where we would have been ducking rulers if the good Sisters had caught any one of us hugging. )

Such a rule might limit teachers giving students in hugs but I’m not sure there’s much of that anymore in the current environment.

I have seen teachers embrace students coming back to school after a death in the family, and I would assume that gestures of consolation would still be allowed. I also suspect that students who hug a classmate in the same circumstances will not be tripped up by this new rule.

My older daughter always talked about the strict PDA ban in her private high school — no public displays of affection — but the rule applied largely to couples who were dating.

I haven’t seen much girl/boy romantic hugging in our local middle school. What I see are girls …

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“Good teachers can now be fired because of bad math”

Take time to read this great essay in Education Week by Florida teacher Nadia Zananiri, who teaches AP World History at Miami Beach Senior High School and serves as AP World History mentor teacher for Miami-Dade county.

In the essay, Zananiri explains why, despite a school she loves and wonderful students, she plans to go work in a private school.

She notes that even “after the state Legislators decided to exempt Advanced Placement classrooms from the twice voter approved class size amendment, and my student work load ballooned to 190 students without any extra pay, I was planning on staying.”

So what changed her mind?

This is an except. Please read the entire piece.

But after the last faculty meeting, the state dealt the final blow to my teaching career in Florida public schools. We were told about the wonders of a magical algorithm that would be able to predict student growth. It’s called the “value-added model.” I refer to it as voodoo mathematics. If teachers …

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APS meeting draws 500. Parents care, but is that enough?

The AJC reports that 500 people attended the Atlanta Public Schools community meeting last night, many of them to support of Coan Middle School, which is slated to close under the school chief’s proposal.

Superintendent Erroll Davis spoke at the meeting. (He will be at another meeting tonight at 6:30 Carver High School.)

Redistricting always sparks a crowd because the issue rallies not only current parents in the system, but parents of younger children who will eventually attend the schools.

I’ve heard from several parents whose children are too young to attend Coan, but who hoped that the school would improve by the time their kids arrived there.

The problem is that Coan is at only 30 percent capacity, and it costs a lot to operate half-empty schools. Under his plan to close 13 under-enrolled Atlanta schools, Davis said APS would save $6.5 million.

So while the community members were arguing for the potential that Coan offered –  it’s in a good location in an neighborhood …

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Is my child disrespectful? A teacher rethinks his usual response.

A Fulton teacher sent me this interesting musing, which I tracked to a California high school teacher.

With author Steve Fowler’s permission, I am sharing his essay.

By Steve Fowler

Following a particularly difficult grading period where I had many students fail to turn in assignments, I had the opportunity to consult with the parents of a young man who is “struggling.” By struggling I mean in conflict with himself over the effort he ought to put forth, not with his ability to do the work.

At the conclusion of the parent conference, I was asked by the father if his son had ever been disrespectful. Certainly, a common question one hears so often that rarely is the meaning considered except on the most basic level. I responded, “Johnny wasn’t disrespectful.” This, of course, is true. The student never assaulted or insulted me, had never talked back or even slightly sneered inappropriately in my direction. So Mr. Smith, your son was not disrespectful, his errors and …

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Tennessee moves to prevent parents, press from seeing new teacher ratings. Georgia will face this issue, too.

The Tennessean newspaper is reporting that lawmakers there are considering legislation to shield teacher performance scores from parents and the press. The state Department of Education had said earlier that a teacher’s final evaluation score would be made public if sought through an open records request that cleared department attorneys.

The question of releasing teacher ratings has come to the forefront after the information was made public in Los Angeles and New York. Georgia will be faced with this decision eventually as it is now testing a new teacher rating system as part of its Race to the Top grant. If deemed to be open records, as they were in New York, the ratings would have to be made public.

According to the Tennessean:

A new measure is drawing praise from the state’s largest teachers union and disappointment among some observers. In a time of massive education reform, opponents say, parents and the public should get to see how it’s working.

The vote came …

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Online learning: Before we rush down that path, make sure we know where we are going

I have been researching online/distance/virtual learning because our General Assembly was attempting to mandate it as part of the high school graduation requirements.

Last week, the bill was changed so online high school courses are not mandated, but encouraged.

And that was a good thing, given what I have been finding in talking to researchers and reading the research about online education.

I fear that uninformed investments in expanded online learning will lead Georgia down the same dead end that technology spending did 20 years ago. As a state, we wasted millions of dollars on impractical and unworkable technology because we allowed the vendors to tell us what schools needed.

School systems had computers they couldn’t operate. Stuff sat in boxes. Nothing connected. Lacking staff expertise, systems trusted the vendors, forgetting that their first allegiance was to profit margins.

Now, Georgia is at risk of wasting millions  on online learning because the well-funded and …

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State Board of Education recommends suspending Miller County, Ga., school board

From the state Board of Education:

The State Board of Education today voted unanimously to recommend to the Governor suspension with pay of the Miller County Board of Education. The State Board conducted a hearing pursuant to O.C.G.A. 20-2-73, relating to recommendations for potential suspension of local boards of education for governance related issues. Attached is a copy of the Georgia code section for reference.

The following statement was read by the Chair of the State Board of Education, Barbara Hampton at the conclusion of the hearing:

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73(a)(1), Suspension and removal of local school board members under certain circumstances, the Georgia State Board of Education has received and reviewed all reports requested since the initial hearing date of November 28, 2011 in addition to the testimony heard and evidence presented today. In accordance with the official vote, the State Board of Education hereby recommends to the Governor to suspend with …

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DOE releases list of 156 schools on its new “focus” list

Under its new accountability system, Georgia has created a tier of schools known as focus schools. Today, DOE released the list of 156 focus schools.

Focus schools  — which include schools doing well by a lot of students, but not by all students — will be served by DOE for three years with supports beginning in June.

(Since I posted this yesterday, the AJC has put up a news story that lists the local schools. See it here.)

The new DOE accountability designations — priority schools, focus schools and reward schools — replace the “needs improvement” label that educators deemed unclear and unhelpful. These three designations target  “Title I” schools that have a high percentage of low-income students.

Earlier this month, DOE released the names of the 78 schools on the priority list, a label that brings the greatest level of intervention to address chronic under performance.

The reward designation goes to high-achieving schools. DOE will also designate a fourth category, …

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Panel warns poor education undermining national security and prosperity

We are falling behind other nations, according to a report due to be released Tuesday. (AP Images)

We are falling behind other nations, according to a report due to be released Tuesday. (AP Images)

This is why the public ends up with whiplash trying to keep track of the news, reports and findings about education to figure out if we are improving, declining or stagnating.

A report released in Washington today provided heartening news on improving high school graduation rates, including here in Georgia.

But a few hours later comes a news story about a sobering report from a panel of influential leaders — Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, among them  — that warns national security and economic prosperity are in jeopardy if America’s schools don’t improve.

According to the story on AJC.com:

The Council on Foreign Relations’ task force report, obtained by The Associated Press, cautions that far too many schools fail to adequately prepare students. “The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” it said. “The failure to produce that capital will …

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