NBC’s Education Nation: In Atlanta today with teacher town hall

NBC brought its “Education Nation” project to Atlanta today with a two-hour town hall meeting with teachers at the Georgia Aquarium.

The web-streamed event revisited the usual education topics, teacher effectiveness, career and college readiness, the global workplace, charter schools and the role of technology.

While each of the four panels had a theme, panelists often strayed, so the discussions traveled far and wide. The teachers on the panel and those in the audience were articulate and committed; they certainly put forth Georgia’s best face in education. Many were National Board Certified teachers or county Teachers of the Year.

One of the panelists was a Georgia Teacher of the Year, Jadun McCarthy, a Bibb County high school teacher. (I have quoted the outspoken and eloquent Mr. McCarthy frequently on the blog in the past; he was more constrained under this format than when simply loosed at a microphone.)

McCarthy credited Georgia with applying for and winning a waiver from the federal No Child left Behind Act, enabling the state to adopt more comprehensives measures of school effectiveness to show progress.

With the shift to its own accountability measures, Georgia is now looking  at multitude of things that go on in a school to see if a school is effective, such as AP and SAT scores and attendance numbers, McCarthy said.

One teacher talked about the technology gap, calling students “digital natives” while their  teachers are “digital immigrants.” He said schools were using “18th century techniques to prepare students for a 21st century world.”

The slickly produced event allowed teachers in the audience to vote on the topics under discussion using hand-held clickers — 83 percent voted that technology was improving their instruction — and take to the microphone to comment, with several talking about their system’s aggressive efforts to incorporate technology. All the teachers who spoke considered technology ” an integral part” of the future.

Web watchers could submit comments; one cautioned that while kids love technology, at the end of the day they also need real human interaction, a sentiment that won a smattering of support.

The panels also discussed the Common Core Standards, which won praise from McCarthy. “The standards are going to allow us to compare apples and apples. So often, we hear Georgia ranks 49th out 50 in education. But what are we truly measuring?”

He noted that the state by state comparisons often focus on SAT scores. “We send all our kids to take the SAT while some states only send their college-bound to the SAT. The  Common Core allows us to compare our apples to Alabama apples, to Minnesota apples.”

Using their clickers to vote, teachers in the audience voted on how difficult it will be to integrate the Common Core into their classrooms — 51 percent said it would be moderately easy to implement Common Core;  29 percent said it would be moderately difficult; 15 percent say it would be easy.

A Clayton teacher praised the alignment of the Georgia Performance Standards and the Common Core, saying, “I think we are ahead of the game in Georgia, and that is a great thing.”

The next panel featured Ron Clark, peripatetic founder of the Ron Clark Academy, Milken Award winner Kelly Stopp of Meadowcreek Elementary in Gwinnett and Korri Ellis, a Grady High School teacher and 2008 APS high school teacher of the year.

I am unsure why the moderator failed to explain that all of the panelists were recognized as outstanding educators and had won prestigious awards. Perhaps, it was the time limits as the event had to end in two hours.  These three panelists — whose area should have been teacher effectiveness and classroom techniques — were supposed to talk about the changes to the HOPE Scholarship.

But Clark neatly sidestepped that issue and delved into his favorite theme — the need for high expectations for all students.

Within seconds of his first question, Clark was off and running on the importance of passion and energy in teachers to engage students in learning.

“Where is the passion? Where is the energy? We have too many teachers sitting on the stool. I call it the stool of drool,” said Clark. “We’ve got to to find solutions. Don’t make excuses. At the Ron Clark Academy, we find the brightest student in the class and that’s who we teach to.”

“When I was teaching public school in North Carolina, I found kids were resilient. The harder I made it, the harder they worked to get there,”  said Clark.

A school counselor stood up and challenged the notion that all kids have to go to college.

Clark countered that even if children were going to be carpenters, he wanted them to be well educated carpenters. “I make it really hard in the classroom. But I fire it up. I bring it to life. I don’t want to take kids and say, ‘This kid is a a low- level learner.’  I want all kids to have options.”

Two National Board Certified teachers stood up and agreed with Clark.

Clark complained about parents who want all children to get a trophy, no matter their performance. “Parents are driving us crazy, to be honest,” he said, prompting the loudest applause of the event thus far.

He then shared his oft-told tale about baking cookies for his class once and skipping over a girl because she did not work hard enough to merit a treat. The child’s mother complained to Clark, who defended his exclusion of the child, but promised she could earn a cookie the following week if she worked hard enough.

“I told her, ‘If you start working hard, you will get one of these cookies next Friday.’  She worked so hard and got a cookie,” he said. “Parents,  don’t expect us to reward your child when they haven’t earned it.”

The final panel — on Race to the Top — featured Milken teacher Shekema Silveri of Clayton County. A high school AP teacher, Silveri has been filmed as an example of excellence in the classroom as part of standards setting in the Race to the Top grant.

Fellow panelist Jill Beracki, who teaches at South Atlanta High, cautioned that it is important not to stifle the creativity of teachers by plunking them in front of videos and telling them this is the way to teach. She urged more trust of teachers.

Georgia master teacher Heavenly Montgomery talked about the new requirements being piled on teachers, noting that teachers are now asked to disaggregate data, to master the best practices of the new standards movement, to create more parental involvement.

“At some point, we have to take time during the day to let these teachers have time to collaborate. If we don’t have that, we can’t build teacher efficacy,” she said.

Montgomery said the classroom workload is so extreme now that when she is up late and sending emails at 2 a.m., she often gets instant responses because teachers are up and awake.

A teacher stood up and pointed out that Race to the Top is positioned as a race, which means there will be winners and losers. The grants rely in large part on test scores to rate success, he said. Why not stop supporting the growth of a billion dollar testing complex and work together to improve education?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

44 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

May 6th, 2012
2:22 pm

I watched the entire program and was impressed with the educators on the varous panels and those that spoke. It’s too bad this was only 2 hours – as this discussion could go on and on and on. I hope 11alive replays so that those that missed it can view.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
2:31 pm

Interesting recap, @Maureen. These type of events are just “photo ops” and as you noted, most speakers will get cagey on stage and not be completely forthcoming with their remarks.

I challenge you and your readers to read the free white paper: “Education Reform for the Digital Era.” I believe it lays out nearly all of the major systemic issues constraining innovation in public education, and it would serve you and your readers well to not only read it, but to comment on whether or not you will all start to understand that if we do not change, we risk leaving an entire generation behind, which would undermine our international competitiveness. It is a brilliant document and I hope that everyone takes the time to read it. I have no financial or other comercial interest in the organization that released it.

Dunwoody Mom

May 6th, 2012
2:45 pm

I imagine most teachers got a laugh at the charter school founder who said her school only has 6 students per class.

Maureen Downey

May 6th, 2012
2:47 pm

@Dunwoody, I want to look at that school to see if it serves children with unique needs. I thought that teacher was frank about the charter school movement.
Maureen

Beverly Fraud-

May 6th, 2012
3:10 pm

The usual suspects:

teacher effectiveness, career and college readiness, the global workplace, charter schools and the role of technology.

The MASSIVE ALL ENCOMPASSING elephant in the room:

D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E

Having an education discussion without discipline is about as authentic as having a discussion about baseball’s records without mentioning steroids.

Sure you can talk about “advances” in both…you’re just not being honest about it.

But why let honesty destroy a feel good moment?

Beverly Fraud

May 6th, 2012
3:18 pm

Montgomery said the classroom workload is so extreme now that when she is up late and sending emails at 2 a.m., she often gets instant responses because teachers are up and awake.

If we are at the point that teachers are having to be awake at 2 a.m. do to their non classroom duties, the students are suffering during the day, no matter how well intentioned the teacher is.

And if we don’t admit that, we aren’t being HONEST.

By why let honesty destroy a feel good photo op

Maureen Downey

May 6th, 2012
3:20 pm

@Beverly, At the end of the session, teachers were allowed to take the mic and offer a closing thought. One teacher offered a strong comment on the need to allow teachers to address discipline in their classrooms.
Maureen

Dred Scott

May 6th, 2012
3:24 pm

There is the innovation of the charter schools sector. That school has to make their budgets work to have such a setting. While they get a wonderful student to teacher ratio, I am confident they must give up other things which many parents would deem important. There in lies the beauty of chartering; one size does NOT fit all. I hope many more parents are at to find the right setting for their children to succeed whether that is a charter public school or a traditional public school. If both are quality, we all win!!!!

Beverly Fraud

May 6th, 2012
3:25 pm

Well Maureen, it’s a START. But even STUDENTS are advocating it, because they are fed up. As you’ll recall when Davis spoke to the best and brightest APS has to offer, they were NOT saying “We want teachers to ‘manage’ discipline problems better.” They said they want disruptive students OUT of the classroom.

Where they need to be, to experience some real life consequences that can be rectified before they experience real life consequences that CANNOT be rectified.

B. Killebrew

May 6th, 2012
3:27 pm

B. Killebrew

May 6th, 2012
3:28 pm

Beverly Fraud

May 6th, 2012
3:42 pm

I take it it is a bit too much to expect that Donna Lowery offered a public apology for being one of Beverly Hall’s chief enablers in the media for the last decade?

Prof

May 6th, 2012
4:35 pm

@ Being Censored by @ Maureen, May 6, 2:31 pm.

You recommend that we read the “free white paper, Education Reform for the Digital Era,” [which is really an ebook] which you term “brilliant.” You don’t mention that this is put out by an online learning movement, the Fordham Institute. The journal “Rethinking Schools” notes: “The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a conservative research group, [is] populated with former officials of the Reagan and Bush Administrations and headed by Reagan’s former assistant education secretary Chester Finn.”

If this work is so brilliant, why isn’t it published by a regular press with scholars to vet the materials, ebooks or otherwise?

Just another attempt to get free AJC advertising for vanity publishing by, as usual, a conservative organization.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
4:36 pm

Change won’t come to education unless the SYSTEM CHANGES. We are beholden to a system built during the Industrial Revolution that can sink us in the digital age.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
4:38 pm

Again, issue a challenge to take the time and read the free white paper: “Education Reform for the Digital Era.” I think it’ll open up some eyes.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
4:50 pm

Why can’t you just read it, @Prof? What are you afraid of? Education is not a conservative or liberal agenda – reform is for our kids! Forgive me for being so frank, but your reaction is EXACTLY why we need younger, more open-minded people in the system in order to change it. Shame on you! Pathetic, actually, and sad.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
4:52 pm

@Prof, I challenge YOU to read the paper and then send this blog your comments. I have no doubt you won’t do it.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
4:56 pm

Oh..and there are plenty of well-regarded researchers sourced in the paper. The question is: do you have the guts to read it instead of making premature generalizations????

Prof

May 6th, 2012
5:16 pm

The Industrial Revolution took place in England during the late 1700s. Present day American education dates from a slightly more recent age than that.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
5:20 pm

Prof, your views are an anachronism and not helpful. Your comment about the Industrial Revolution was truly pathetic. We created an education system that was made for a factory style, mass standardization approach resembling the Industrial Revolution. The paper has concrete ideas on what needs to be fixed systemically. It is not a written to be a political piece, but people like you will make it as such. It is this exact type of close-mindedness that has put our system in the predicament it is in.

And it is very convenient that @Maureen is holding back my comments that were written BEFORE your last one. I wonder. Does @Prof = @Maureen??

Dunwoody Mom

May 6th, 2012
5:30 pm

Maureen, I’d like to see how that charter school operates as well. As someone who intends, at this time, to vote against the Charter School amendment, it makes me angry that education dollars will go to a school to keep their class sizes down, but students in the “traditional” public schools are at 30 in a class room.

Dred Scott

May 6th, 2012
6:47 pm

@Dumbwoody mom, that charter PUBLIC school has to operate with the same budget requirements as all the public school in APS, charter and non-charter. Go to the APS or GA DOE website to investigate the school for yourself. The school is knocking the socks off student achievment, but student achievement for this charter school means nothing to a person who has an obvious vendetta against charter schools.

The real Truth

May 6th, 2012
7:08 pm

The real truth is public school teachers hate charters because they are afraid to lose their jobs.
Tha’s it.
It’s not about the kids.
Parents want charter schools because public schools are badly broken and operate at the pace of a glacier.

Dunwoody Mom

May 6th, 2012
7:19 pm

Just as I suspected, this particular charter school has ZERO ELL students and ZERO SWD students. How are these charter schools which receive tax monies allowed to restrict their enrollment?

Nikole

May 6th, 2012
7:41 pm

@ Dunwoody Mom—I don’t think the charters restrict their enrollment, but I think that parents of students w/ disabilities realize that their child is better served in a public school. They will receive more resources and attention than what a charter school can provide. ELL parents are often not aware of charter schools due to language barriers, but again, they are better off served in a traditional public school. I had a classmate who worked in Atlanta and then at Woodward who said the same thing. Students w/ disabilities would be better served at her public school than at her private school.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
7:42 pm

@Nikole, that is a sweeping generalization and untrue. There are many “special schools” that do a far better job with students w/ disabilities than a public school. Do you know hard it is to qualify for IEP and other programs?

NWGA Math Science Teacher

May 6th, 2012
8:33 pm

@Censored, that (difficulty qualifying for IEP) depends drastically on the school! Also, I think to just lump all “disabilities” together and say they’d do better in one setting or another is way over-generalization. I think where a kid who’s M.I. and where a kid needing enough physical accommodations to warrant an IEP would do best can be vastly different. In fact, probably two different kids with “OHI” (which often means ADD/ADHD) would probably respond differently to the same environment change.

Part of (I’ve not researched – only speculating) that school’s student teacher ratio could be in not having SWD and therefore Special Ed teachers. There are multiple classrooms in the school I currently teach at with more adults than students (not all will be certified…). If they’re able to shift those numbers, maybe they can do lots with that.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
9:07 pm

@NWGA, point taken. Touche : ) You are right that you can’t lump all disabilities together.

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 6th, 2012
9:15 pm

To quote from the “Education Reform for the Digital Era” about why digital learning will struggle before it takes root in our public schools:

1. leaving local districts and their boards in charge of digital instruction
will retard innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and smart competition,
simultaneously stifling students’ ability to find—and be taught by—the very best
educators in the state, region, nation, or even world. It will raise costs, undermine
efficiency, block rich instructional options, restrict school choice and parental
influence, and strengthen the hand of other interest groups—including but not
limited to already-too-powerful teacher unions.
2. Over the past fifty years, the student-faculty ratio in America’s K–12 schools has
dropped from twenty-seven to one to fifteen to one; the student-to-staff ratio
(which includes cafeteria workers, central-office receptionists, and other non-teaching
personnel) plummeted from fifty to one in the 1950s to ten to one today.
When all the pay stubs are tallied, we find over 3 million teachers and umpteen
more “support staff” working in what is America’s second-largest industry. Yet
education’s bulked-up employment has barely touched overall student achievement,
which has scarcely risen during this period. Instead, the added HR heft
has contributed to the bureaucratization, lethargy, and routinization of the K–12
enterprise, buttressing its rigid procedures, internal fiefdoms, and tendency
toward compliance rather than innovation—much less transformation.
3. In order to see real jumps in student achievement, results-linked quality
control of curricula, educators, and programs needs to look dramatically different.
Our current system is laden with input regulations like textbook mandates,
certification requirements, and notches on teachers’ professional-development
belts. None of which has been shown to improve student achievement (and some
of which have actually been shown to hinder it). In the digital-learning era, these
become even more dangerous tokens of “quality,” as they work to hamper innovation.

Read the white paper everyone, and then decide for yourselves whether you agree with it, or have a different solution to fix our schools!

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 7th, 2012
12:06 am

There’s plenty of “talking the talk” about educational excellence in the US of A and The Peach State.

How ’bout a “Walking the Walk for Educational Excellence in Georgia?”

In November during National Education Week?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

May 7th, 2012
12:10 am

Being Censored,

In his remarks at the May Forum of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education(www.gpee.org) held on Tuesday, May 1 at the G-P Auditorium, Mr. Rust, CEO of State Farm Insurance, reiterated the necessity for a results-orientation in USPubEd.

Courtney

May 7th, 2012
12:30 am

Charter Schools are a bad idea. If schools are failing then the governor and State Supt of Education should step in and run them. Clayton County and Atlanta City schools were allowed to flounder too long.

Darrel

May 7th, 2012
1:35 am

A state that generally ranks about 48th in nation in testing is telling the rest of the country how to teach? What was this, a two hour cartoon?

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

May 7th, 2012
6:15 am

@ Courtney,

If a school is already failing, why is it better for something outside the LEA (the state) to come in and run it under the same model it failed under than for something outside the LEA (a charter) to come in and try a different way?

Beverly Fraud

May 7th, 2012
7:25 am

Why not target SETI to seek an asteroid willing to, in a moment of Christ-like consciousness, sacrifice itself by entering the atmosphere in order to achieve a mutually assured destruction of itself, and the educational monolith?

Surely there is one asteroid out there with a altruistic, utilitarian mindset? Maybe one that has seen ‘Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan’ and will emulate Mr. Spock?

Call it unlikely, but is it any more unlikely than the educational monolith reforming itself?

Being Censored by @Maureen

May 7th, 2012
10:02 am

@Maureen, I am putting you on notice that I am done commenting on this blog. I will be notifying the appropriate executives at how you filter my comments and take them out of sequence to control the chat feed. I will not comment if my posts are held for several hours. I will not post under any alias, so continue to communicate your one-sided, anachronistic perspective on public education. No money will help our schools under a structure that is out of date. So we can either follow your approach and maintain the status quo, wasting taxpayer dollars and seeing our kids unprepared for the world ahead of them, or we can have the courage to fundamentally change. Change is coming to Georgia, and you can either embrace it, or GET OUT OF THE WAY.

@the real truth

May 7th, 2012
10:11 am

um, no, I’m not afraid of charter schools taking my job away from me. I’m afraid of the money siphoned to these schools that will take away already low funding away from my classroom. I’m more afraid of the increasing class sizes taking my job away from me as schools try and manage their budgets than a charter school.

C Jae of EAV

May 7th, 2012
11:58 am

@Dunwoody Mom – Its easy to blame some charter schools for belaboring to create operating models that are mindful of the impact of class sizes on academic achievement. To your point, we should spend less time castigating some charter schools for taking this approach and spend more time trying to figure out what’s necessary for the greater system to adhere to smaller class size as a uncompromised principal.

Prof

May 7th, 2012
12:23 pm

@ Being Censored by @Maureen, May 7th, 10:02 am: “@Maureen, I am putting you on notice that I am done commenting on this blog. I will be notifying the appropriate executives at how you filter my comments and take them out of sequence to control the chat feed. I will not comment if my posts are held for several hours.”

You’ve promised this before on an earlier blog-thread about digital teaching, and then kept posting endlessly. You’ve been taking over this one with your tiresome plugs for the Fordham Institute “white paper.” And Maureen often “moderates,” or holds posts for several hours. I’ve had it done to myself. As moderator, she certainly has that right.

Sandra

May 7th, 2012
12:24 pm

I hope to open a School that serves all children with special emphasis on AD/HD, and Other Learning Disabilities. I do not know where we get the idea that children who appear to be “normal” are not also suffering with learning disabilities. I just need a school that will teach children the way they learn and not the way they want them to learn to pass tests.

Dunwoody Mom

May 7th, 2012
12:26 pm

Here is my biggest issue with this charter school movement. Their supporters and our own state legislators continually bombard the public with the idea that charter schools ARE public schools.
That argument is bogus and deceitful. Yesterday, I took a look at most of the non-conversion charter schools listed on the Georgia Charter School Commission. The Hispanic, ELL and SWD subgroups have little to no representation in these schools. But, yet the “real” public schools are required to educate these students and now we are being asked to bankroll schools that deliberately exclude certain subgroups – those that expend the most time and resources, in an attempt to make their schools “look good”. This is unacceptable, most likely illegal, and insulting to the “real” public schools that have gotten their funding cut year after year after year. Shame on our elected officials for allowing this to continue.

C Jae of EAV

May 7th, 2012
12:35 pm

@the real truth – Yours is a somewhat hollow argument that is often repeated in defense of stat quo public school governance & fiscal management. I firmly believe that economies of scale have allowed many local districts to mask their mismanagement of public funds for decades!

What the spectra of charter schools seems to do in my view is cast a brighter light on the effectiveness of the goverance and fiscal management made manifest by local districts (both central office & BOE as a mgmt collective).

I don’t believe charter schools are the absolute answer to fix public education in GA, but I believe pretty strongly that they are a componant to the overall answer that will serve to help progressively push us forward. How many years/decades of ineffective undesirable results must communities across this state endure before we submit to allowing alternative approaches to be brought to bear that operate collaboratively in concert with the traditional model of governance?

Sandra M. Cook

May 14th, 2012
7:27 pm

Wanted to comment on this morning’s newspaper article. Not relevant to this discussion. I’m thinking, since so many kids have homework problems, how about adding 1.5 hours to school day? Or 2 hours? Teachers could work 2 days a week supervising, teachers aids could help, and even PTA volunteers could take a turn. I’ve heard, “Well, the small kids get tired…” so nap mats like for pre-school could be provided. After the last class, a short break for fruit snacks, the WORK on homework!! Then onto the school bus
es. This idea has potential in problem schools.and would shorten the time kids are home ALONE.

Sandra M. Cook

May 14th, 2012
7:38 pm

Maureen, the newspaper has a lot of noise filtered out, so I didn’t know about the fighting. No. Not here to fight. Just want to say when I was growing up there was a hyperactive preschooler @ home DOMINATING our household. At the time the diagnosis was poorly understood and tranquilizer use rampant. She was put on Butisol. I understand the distractions in these situations, and also children might not be able to structure their own time for homework. (It takes a little maturity) Thanks. My 2 cents worth (.See previous comment.)