Archive for June, 2012

New report: Southern states should rethink raising class size in early grades

If every school in the country raised class size by even one student, the annual cost would be $10 billion.  (AJC file)

If every school in the country reduced class size by even one student, the annual cost would be $10 billion. (AJC file)

There is still a great deal of debate around whether smaller classes are worth the high cost. The Southern Regional Education Board takes on the topic in a new report, noting that it would cost more than $10 billion a year if schools nationwide reduced average class size by even one student.

The report, “Smart Class-Size Policies for Lean Times,” says that the public, when given a choice between “smaller classes with average-performing teachers” and “larger classes with better-than-average teachers,” emphatically chose better teachers over smaller classes.

The report also notes that it is difficult to get a true handle on class size and student-teacher ratios because “many states count personnel other than full-time instructors (such as guidance counselors, librarians, paraprofessionals and administrators) in the student teacher ratio. The result is …

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DOE releases statewide CRCT results: More kids exceed, but slight decline in some math, science scores

From DOE on this year’s CRCT results:

The 2012 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results show more students are exceeding the standards than last year. Results also showed a one-year improvement in the percentage of students meeting and exceeding on 20 of the 30 content-area tests.

“The best news in the 2012 CRCT report is that more of our students are exceeding the standards,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “Teachers are doing a great job teaching the more rigorous Georgia Performance Standards and they are to be applauded for raising expectations for all students.”

Exceeding the Standards: One Year Improvement on 24 of the 30 Content-Area Tests

- Grade 3: When comparing 2012 performance to 2011, the percentage of students exceeding the standard in Reading, English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies increased by 7, 3, 3, 3, and 4 percentage points, resp

- Grade 4: When comparing 2012 performance to 2011, the …

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CRCT scores being released today: Fewer concerns

Here is the advance the AJC ran this morning in anticipation of the release this morning of statewide CRCT scores.

The story details the waning impact of the test on school system ratings as Georgia moves to new accountability measures. This is an excerpt. Please read full story:

Few educators are mourning the waning primacy of the CRCT, administered to public school students in grades 3 through 8. The test, a key part in determining if a school meets federal achievement standards , measures student performance in English/language arts, reading, science, math and social studies.

“I think educators have felt for some time now that we’ve gone overboard on testing,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “Right now, we seem to be caught up in a numbers game. It’s almost a blame and shame game.”

Since 2000, the CRCT has been a critical factor in determining if a school meets federal adequate yearly progress targets, or AYP. In years …

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Departing education columnist on the madness: Through it all, children have continued to learn

Many of you read Michael Winerip’s insightful education columns in The New York Times. Concise and perceptive, he takes a scalpel to education issues.

According to his column this week, Winerip will no longer be writing about education for the Times. With that news, I wanted to share two things by him.

First, his note on his final column Monday:

This is my last education column. Again. The first time, in the early 1990s, politicians wanted to make our system more like Japan’s. (This was right before the Japanese economic collapse.)

A decade later, they devised a system to punish teachers if every child in America wasn’t academically proficient. Now they’re developing a standardized test to evaluate high school band teachers. And through it all, teachers have continued to educate children, and children have continued to learn.

Second, here is an excerpt of his recent dissection of Newsweek’s top U.S. high schools list. This is the stuff that I will miss:

What …

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UGA prof: The real educational crisis is manufactured educational crises

UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky has penned another provocative essay for us to discuss on whether all the laments about the state of education have an underlying purpose: To further profits and agendas.

By Peter Smagorinsky

I recently read a document about the need to improve high school writing instruction so as to prepare students better for the expectations that await them in college. Like just about every story written about education these days, the paper opened with the rhetoric of crisis. The argument goes like this: High school teachers aren’t doing their jobs well, because 32 percent of all high school graduates, according to some studies, are performing on writing tests at rates that do not meet the standards for quality writing at the college level. We therefore need to intervene to improve this horrid rate of success, so that kids can better compete in this global economy.

From there, the authors took their own direction. To them, what we need is more university …

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Charter school pioneer: Charters and public school systems can learn from each other

Interesting essay in Education Week by Ember Reichgott Junge of Minnesota, who, while in the state senate there, authored the first chartered school law in the nation.

Here is an excerpt. Please read the full piece in Ed Week:

As the state Senate author of Minnesota’s 1991 legislation that authorized the first chartered schools (or charter schools, as most people call them), I am in awe of the number of young lives touched by chartering today: 2 million students in an estimated 5,600 schools across the country.

And yet, I know that some charters are not delivering the quality education we envisioned 20 years ago.

As we look to the future of chartering, it is important to revisit the origins and set the historical record straight. Here are some key facts that may surprise you and dispel a few common myths.

• Legislation for chartered schools came from the conservative right, in opposition to unions. False.

• The proposal for a “charter school” was suggested by a prominent …

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Fulton and Fayette teachers win presidential medals for math, science

President Obama today named 97 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  The two Georgia winners are Carol Taylor of Fayette County schools for math and Kelly Stewart of Fulton County schools for science

Dr. Taylor teaches math at Rising Starr Middle School and was Fayette County’s top teacher of the year in 2009. I found a news story about her in which she noted, “I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, yet also a private pilot of a single engine aircraft, an advanced certified diver, windsurfer, marathon runner, student, Sunday school teacher, and piano and flute player. I approach my students with the attitude that if you can dream it, you can do it.”

Kelly Stewart is a former science teacher at Ridgeview Charter Middle School where she was teacher of the year in 2011. She is now a school data analyst for Fulton County Schools.

According to the White House:

The Presidential Award …

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DeKalb board delays budget vote after learning it must trim $12 million more

The DeKalb County property digest is down more than the school district expected, creating a likely need to cut $12 million more

The DeKalb County property digest is down more than the school district expected, creating a likely need to cut $12 million more

At a crowded board meeting tonight, the DeKalb Board of Education — all members on hand — tabled discussing the school budget until June 20 after learning county property values were even worse than it was expecting.

The board learned that it would likely have to cut $12 million more from its already scaled-down proposed budget. DeKalb was already facing a $70 million deficit and was considering closing Fernbank Science Center and eliminating its local contribution to pre-k, which could mean fewer pre-k days.

DeKalb Schools CFO Michael Perrone delivered the bad news: He expected the county property tax digest to fall 6 percent, but now projects it will drop 9 percent in value. The county was badly hit by the collapse of the real estate market in Georgia.

So, Perrone is calling for $12 million more in additional cuts to reflect the downgraded …

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DeKalb about to make tough budget choices with Fernbank and pre-k at risk. Brace yourselves.

Tonight’s DeKalb school board meeting on the budget is going to be dramatic. In danger is the county’s supplement to the state pre-k program, and now, revealed this morning, Fernbank Science Center, which supporters assumed was safe.

But this morning Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said she would recommend $3.2 million in cutbacks at Fernbank.  School district spokesman Walter Woods told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that many of the programs and the 56 staffers would be reduced or eliminated. He said, though, that Fernbank would still operate as a “fully functional” science center.

According to the AJC:

On the block are popular items such as the pre-kindergarten program. DeKalb supplements what it gets from the state lottery to pay for pre-k, and that supplement is what’s likely to be cut. “We’re looking at cutting back on days that it’s offered and the number of positions, ” school system spokesman Walter Woods said, adding that officials don’t know yet if …

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I think Clark Howard was wrong on this call: Truancy case not so simple. School not so wrong.

I am a longtime fan of Atlanta-based TV and radio consumer reporter Clark Howard, having spent two years in my journalism career writing a weekly consumer column in which I tested advertising claims. No one can beat Howard on consumer issues.

But I heard Howard’s education commentary today on the infamous Diane Tran truancy case out of Texas and respectfully disagree with his conclusion that what happened to the Houston-area student illustrates the failings of public schools. (I also disagree with his strong criticisms of the judge.)

As an education writer, I get emails every day purportedly proving how stupid public school administrators are. And, indeed, the cases, as presented to me, often make the school’s actions seem downright crazy. Until you collect more information.

In 99 percent of the cases, the issues are far more complex, the school’s rationale far more nuanced. Are the school’s decisions sometimes wrong? Yes, but they are not baseless.

Here is the problem with …

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