Archive for March, 2012

New report on improving graduation rates singles out success of Georgia and APS

A new report credits Georgia with dramatically improving high school grad rates. (AJC/file photo)

A new report credits Georgia with dramatically improving high school grad rates. (AJC/file photo)

A new report on nationwide high school graduation trends celebrates Georgia as one of three states that saw a decrease in the number of “dropout factory” schools by more than 50 between 2002 and 2010.

According to Building a Grad Nation 2012, Georgia had 54 schools drop from the unsavory list, while Texas had 122  and Florida had 62. Dropout factories are defined as high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer of their students on time.

Georgia is also among a dozen states credited for boosting the overall U.S. high school graduation rate. The other states are New York, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. These 12 states added nearly 109,000 additional graduates in 2009.

The report says that Georgia raised its grad rate from 61 percent to 68 percent by 2010. (Please note that the state has …

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Senate passes charter school amendment. Now, voters will decide the question in November.

The state Senate passed the controversial charter school amendment this afternoon, enabling a constitutional amendment on the question in November. The amendment passed 40-16, which represents the two-thirds majority required. The amendment already had passed the House.

One of the reasons for passage is the assurance from its author, Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, that the state would cover the costs of a state-approved charter school if its original charter application was not approved by a local school districts.

However, skeptics argue that the language is fuzzy enough that the state will still be able to divert money from local school districts to pay for state-approved charter schools.

The bill has become one of the most promoted pieces of legislation in the General Assembly this year, in part because of the assistance of the influential for-profit charter school industry, including online providers , which is looking to expand its foothold and profits in …

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State Supreme Court rules that governor can’t yank school board members

The state Supreme Court has limited the governor’s ability to intervene in feuding and dysfunctional school boards.

Here is the official statement on the ruling:

The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously reversed a Fulton County court decision and ruled that Georgia’s governor did not have the authority to remove from office three members of the Warren County Board of Education.

Official Code of Georgia §45-10-4 grants the governor authority to remove members of any “board, commission, or authority” created by statute who have violated the state’s code of ethics law. However, “county school boards are creations of the Constitution,” Justice P. Harris writes in today’s opinion:

“While appellees argue that administrative removal of members of constitutionally-created boards, commissions and authorities is a wise policy that is consistent with our Constitution, the wisdom of such a policy is not the issue,” the opinion says. “The General Assembly …

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State still sending millions to day cares and pre-ks that don’t meet child care quality regulations

As a parent, I once checked out a day care center recommended by a friend. (He had no children in the center, but lived across from it, liked the owner and often saw the kids playing happily in the front yard.)

But the place was so awful that I thought I might have stumbled into a “Candid Camera” spoof. There was a nail on the floor in the playroom. I handed it to the owner who tucked it in her pocket without comment or explanation. During our brief conversation, the “Oprah Show” was blaring on the TV, and her dog kept jumping up and taking food out of the toddlers’ hands.

I did not send my child to that center and still wonder about the parents who did.

The AJC has been doing a terrific job investigating laxity in regulating day care centers and pre-k programs.

In the Sunday installment of the ongoing series, investigative reporter Tim Eberly reports that the state paid at least $355 million in subsidies over the past four years to day cares that have failed to meet …

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Did influence play a role in APS redistricting or was it simply a matter of numbers?

Interesting Sunday AJC story today on the Atlanta redistricting. The story focuses on the recommendations released last week by Superintendent Erroll Davis on how to deal with a system that has seats for 62,500 students but only 49,000 children enrolled.

The AJC touches on the question of whether the system took the path of least resistance, essentially leaving much of North Atlanta and Buckhead intact while imposing significant change on less influential communities.

But the story notes that the areas spared dramatic redistricting share traits besides affluence: Stability and full schools.

Brandon Elementary is 97 percent full, while Garden Hills Elementary is 102 percent full. Both are comfortable compared to E. Rivers, which is 121 percent full. All of those students feed into Sutton, which is 150 percent full. Of the 10 elementary schools that are closing, most are on the Southside with an average capacity of 54.24 percent. Herndon Elementary School is only 32.1 …

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To get into Tech, stakes, scores and grades are higher

The students admitted to Tech have grades and scores comparable to Ivy League admissions. (AJC File)

The students admitted to Tech have grades and scores comparable to Ivy League admissions. (AJC File)

It’s that time of year when college admission letters go out, and Georgia Tech released some info today about its successful applicant pool for the class of 2016

It’s a deep pool and quite similar to the caliber of student admitted to Ivy League colleges.

According to the AJC: The high school seniors admitted to Tech have an average grade point average of 3.9 and a 1430 out of 1600 on the math and verbal SAT.

By high school graduation these students would have taken an average of eight college-level courses, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate.

About 14,700 students applied for one of the 2,400 spots for fall or the 250 spots for this summer.

AJC higher ed reporter Laura Diamond sent me some more details to share with Get Schooled readers:

If you want to consider the 2400 SAT base, the Tech average was 2105. Also, when Tech reviews applications, there …

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Rancor in the ranks: Should schools continue to name valedictorians?

In a stint as a field day volunteer at my children’s elementary school, I was assigned parachute play in which children held the edges of a giant colorful canvas and then ran under the chute.

A little boy who had already conquered the potato sack races, relays and hurdles eyed the parachute game with skepticism before asking, “How do you win?”

When I explained that the goal wasn’t to win but to have fun, he complained, “It’s not fun if there’s no winner.”

That seems to be a prevailing attitude in public education where we have always ranked students, and now, in the new age of accountability, rank teachers and schools. Teachers in Georgia are about to earn effective or ineffective rankings, as part of the state’s Race to the Top grant.

Colleges have a long history of public rankings and, concomitantly, of inflating their credentials to rise higher in those rankings.

But there is probably no ranking more controversial than class rankings, which is why many …

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Bad news tonight for Gwinnett teachers, students and staff

Tonight’s school board meeting did not produce good news for Gwinnett teachers. The system plans to furlough teachers and other staff for a third year and increase class sizes by two students to offset a projected $89 million budget shortfall next year.

The night was best summarized by board member Robert McClure: “We cannot expect to do more with less forever.”

According to the AJC:

Rick Cost, the system’s chief financial officer, said the projected shortfall is due in large part to a 7.5 percent drop in local property values, which translates into $36 million less in revenue for the district. Since 2008, property tax collections have fallen 24 percent, for a loss of $133 million to the district.

The system also is facing an $11 million increase in its share of employee health insurance premiums for more than 6,000 classified workers, including bus drivers and clerical workers. In addition, the district no longer has federal stimulus money, which this year gave …

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Georgia Legislature earns notoriety for keeping taxpayers in the dark on private school scholarship tax credits

This speaks for itself.

(And it speaks badly of a General Assembly that often ranks the public’s right to know well below its affinity for special interests and its affection for free chicken sandwiches.)

From the Society of Professional Journalists:

In honor of Sunshine Week, the Society of Professional Journalists announces the winners of its second annual Black Hole Award, which exposes the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know.

The SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chose three “winners,” along with several runners-up. The “winners” include the Georgia Legislature, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and the Wisconsin Legislature.

“Last year, our first year, we gave the Black Hole Award to the Utah Legislature and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert,” SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Chairwoman Linda Petersen said. “That was for a piece of legislation, HB477, subsequently repealed, that would have decimated GRAMA, Utah’s open …

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Emory to Atlanta school chief: Reconsider decision to close Coan Middle School

Emory University is entering the Atlanta school closing fray, taking up the cause of Coan Middle School. Emory has been a partner in an ambitious project to improve the school.

March 12, 2012

Dear Superintendent Davis,

We have some concerns, noted below, about your recommendation released last week that listed Coan Middle School as one of the schools that Atlanta Public Schools would close as part of its school redistricting. It is our hope that you’ll reconsider your decision to close Coan Middle School and that you or your representative would be available to meet with us and officials of the Zeist Foundation, Families First, the H.J. Russell and Company, and Pastor Toni Belin-Ingram to discuss our concerns.

As you may know, Coan is the site of Emory’s most ambitious university-community-school partnership, and the culmination of more than 15 years of Emory’s collaboration with APS and a wide range of community partners in the Edgewood neighborhood. Emory University has a …

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