Archive for May, 2012

Music video puts the beat down on school bullying

Several folks sent me emails about this wonderful anti-bullying video by Cypress Ranch High School in Texas, an entry in the No Bull Teen Video awards. The video is all the more remarkable because the song was written by a 15-year-old at the Houston high school.

Enjoy.

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A wonderful commencement speech about “uncommon” students and fallen heroes

A Decatur HIgh student presents the letter from the senior class asking retiring teacher Chris Billingsley to be the commencement speaker. (DHS)

A Decatur HIgh student presents the letter from the senior class asking retiring teacher Chris Billingsley to be the commencement speaker. (DHS)

The Decatur High commencement speaker this weekend was retiring teacher Chris Billingsley, who kindly sent me a copy of his speech. (You can read a bit about him in this story in the Decatur Patch.)

With his approval, I am sharing his speech as it is the perfect Memorial Day weekend piece.  On a personal note, I am sorry that Mr. B. will not be at Decatur High when my twins arrive in 2013.

By Chris Billingsley

My sincere thanks go to the Class of 2012 for the honor of speaking to you this evening. Seeing you all sitting here tonight reminds me of my own graduation from St. Pius X in 1971. At my advanced age, there is very little I remember from that day. However, I do recall that the ceremony took place in the Fox Theater; how cool is that.

Sitting in front of the stage in that beautiful theater, I must admit that I was not …

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“State of Georgia is undermining our public schools”

Joe Martin is still fighting the good fight with regard to school funding in Georgia.

But I think this has become a quixotic battle. At best, the Legislature is lukewarm toward public education, and local politicians don’t have the stomach to suggest local tax increases to counter the deep state cuts.

Here is an essay Martin wrote on the desperate plight of local schools, evidenced by the number of systems raising class sizes and cutting teachers. Martin is head of the Georgia School Funding Association.

By Joe Martin

The severe cuts now being made at the local level reveal a new reality in the financing of Georgia’s schools. Many systems were once able to cover the decline in state support through rising property taxes, but this fallback is now gone.

The required cuts go far beyond belt-tightening. There will be larger class sizes, fewer school days, and reduced programs. Furloughs and lay-offs will continue.

State officials consistently say, “We’re doing the best we can.” …

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Is there a teacher in this room? Why don’t we ever recognize the great teachers behind the great students?

over (Medium)Here is another good piece by UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky. As always, his piece is provocative and worthy of discussion.

By Peter Smagorinsky

This week, Maureen Downey published “Rockdale student: Make students work for grades and limit reliance on technology” in her AJC Get Schooled blog. The essay was written by Jennifer Lee, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Rockdale Career Academy charter school in Conyers.

Jennifer wrote what I consider to be a mature and well-reasoned essay expressing her view that technology was producing lazy minds among her peers, and that along with other “security nets” such as summer school and credit recovery, they should be removed so that students may become more responsible for their actions and their consequences.

As of noon or so on May 25, there have been 53 “comments” posted in response to Jennifer’s essay. I am moved to write today after reading all 53, not so much to react to what they say, but to comment on what they don’t say, and what …

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DeKalb under the gun: Raise taxes or make dire cuts, including closing beloved Fernbank

Fernbank costs DeKalb $4.7 million to operate, a luxury the system can't afford any longer. (AJC)

Fernbank costs DeKalb $4.7 million to operate, a luxury the system can't afford any longer. (AJC)

Many of you have suggested that the cash-strapped DeKalb Schools close the Fernbank Science Center.

Someone was listening.

As a longtime metro Atlanta resident, I have been to Fernbank dozens of times with all four of my children. My kids love the nature exhibits and the Apollo 6 Command Module. I would hate to see this facility close, but I realize the financial crisis facing DeKalb and understand that there will be cuts of consequence and conscience. Some good stuff will end.

According to the AJC:

Each year, about 160,000 people, many of them schoolchildren, learn about frogs, snakes, bugs and other animals and plants during visits to Fernbank Science Center.

The decades-old institution, owned and operated by the DeKalb County public school district, has offered a hands-on education to students and other visitors from across metro Atlanta and elsewhere. However, it …

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A Georgia college president weighs in on Shorter controversy: Believers v. non believers

Oglethorpe University president Lawrence M. Schall sent me a link to his recent Huffington Post blog on the Shorter University controversy; the Baptist college is requiring its faculty to sign Personal Lifestyle statements forbidding premarital sex, adultery and homosexual sex. The pledge is reportedly causing upset faculty to leave the school.

The Personal Statement also requires that employees be active members of a local church. And the employees must agree to not drink in public places where students may see them, including restaurants, concerts and sports events. Nor can they attend a Shorter function if they consumed alcohol six hours prior to the event.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Schall’s blog response to the pledge but try to read the full piece, which has interesting comments:

As an outsider, this is a tough one. I would never sign such a statement nor do I believe anyone should be asked to renounce homosexuality. In my book, homosexuality is no more a choice than …

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Another Atlanta private school issues statement on tax credit

Another private school makes it clear that it is not scamming the private school tax credit. This is from Fred Assaf, the head of school at Pace Academy, to parents at the Atlanta private school:

You may have seen the article in Tuesday’s New York Times that explores problems with the implementation of private school tax credit programs in Georgia and other states. The report focuses specifically on Georgia schools manipulating the program. Pace, as you know, has participated in the tax credit program since its inception in an ethical manner, which is consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the law.

I want to assure you that the misconduct described in this article is not happening at Pace. We have and will continue to administer tax credit funds through our rigorous financial aid process. All financial aid dollars, including tax credit funds, are given to families with demonstrated financial need. I feel good about what Pace is doing. We are ethical in our treatment …

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No premarital or gay sex. No adultery. No public drinking. No faculty at Shorter University?

Huffington Post has an item today that Shorter University’s personal lifestyle statement, which we discussed here in October, is causing the Baptist school to lose faculty members.

That is what many of you predicted when the AJC first reported that the Rome college required employees to sign a “Personal Lifestyle Statement” forbidding premarital sex, adultery and homosexual sex. The Personal Statement also requires that employees be active members of a local church. And the employees must agree to not drink in public places where students may see them, including restaurants, concerts and sports events. Nor can they attend a Shorter function if they consumed alcohol six hours prior to the event.

The school has had a policy since 2008 to hire Christians only who adhere to strict interpretations of the Bible. My AJC colleague Laura Diamond explained that the policy does not impact students’ ability to get federal loans because the college serves as pass-through and the money …

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Rockdale student: Make students work for grades and limit reliance on technology

computer (Medium)I love to publish the work of students. Here is an essay by Rockdale Career Academy 10th grader Jennifer Lee, sent to me by her teacher Joanna Anglin, who was Georgia Council of Teachers of English state Teacher of the Year  in 2011.

Jennifer takes an interesting position, that the attachment of her generation to technology is undermining their education and their work ethic. She also argues that we give students too many opportunities to make up lackluster performance, thus reducing the pressure on them to work hard in the first place.

Here is Jennifer’s essay:

The greatest feat of man was evolving and developing into the intelligent beings we are today. However, recently people’s minds have been reverting back to their basic, primary state, that of the mind of a monkey.

People in the United States have become increasingly dependent on technology to the point where they no longer have to work as diligently to learn. In turn, people do not apply themselves as actively in …

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Here is the video urging private school parents to “scam” state for tuition money

UPDATE on Thursday morning: Please note that the video has been removed. I suspect that the public outrage drove that decision.

Here is the video explanation of the state’s private school state scholarship by state Rep. David Casas, R-Lilburn. Please look at this to fully understand how this Legislature-approved program — characterized as a way for poor children in persistently failing schools to afford private schools — has become a back door for middle class parents to use tax dollars to pay their private school tuition bills.

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