Archive for July, 2012

Parent trigger laws: Shot in the arm for failing schools or shooting yourself in the foot? We may be about to find out.

One of the most controversial school reforms in recent years has been the parent trigger law, first enacted in California in 2010 and since adopted in some fashion in Connecticut, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The country may see its first illustration of the law in action this year.

The trigger law allows parents to take over a failing school and reopen it as an independent charter if they collect signatures from the majority of families. It’s not an easy task because of the mammoth effort required to win over enough parents and the legal challenges from resistant districts.

But we may see the first trigger law takeover ever in Adelanto, Calif., where a judge this week lifted the remaining legal hurdle facing parents seeking to gain control of their failing elementary school 90 miles northeast of LA.

If the parents of Desert Trails Elementary School succeed, they will make history.

They began their effort 13 months ago, working with a California group called Parent …

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Funding education excellence is a long way off in Georgia and getting farther away

Ernest sent me a link to this Education Week story about weighted student funding. He asked, “What if funding was differentiated based on need and really allowed for the dollars to follow the students?  It seems several school districts are already trying this.”

Georgia does use a weighting system in its funding formula. Under Georgia’s system, weights are reflected  as a percentage of the base. While the “average student” gets an allocation of 1.0, an English learner might get an allocation of 1.2.

But the state has never analyzed its weighting in a framework of academic achievement. Is the extra money allotted for students with special needs sufficient to assure academic success? Are we allotting enough to educate children from poor households to a standard of some sort?

The Governor’s Education Finance Task Force created by Sonny Perdue in 2004 was supposed to develop a cost model that would provide the true price of  “an excellent education.” The task force held …

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Should state have less say in local schools now that it’s paying less toward them?

Local taxes are now the largest funding source for schools in Georgia, raising questions about the balance of power. (AP Images)

Local taxes are now the largest funding source for schools in Georgia, raising questions about the balance of power. (AP Images)

The AJC has a story today that will not surprise local boards of education: For the first time in 16 years, local governments paid a higher share of the cost of public education than state governments.

In 2010, Georgia’s public schools received about 38 percent of their funding from the state, with local government paying about 48 percent. Federal and private sources accounted for the rest, according to the census report. In the past, the split has been about 55 state and 45 local.

The policy question now becomes: How much input should the state have in local education decisions and practices when it pays only 38 percent of the freight and less in high spending districts such as Decatur and Atlanta?

That has been the crux of the charter school battle: Should the state overrule local boards of education — which, in theory, represent the …

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Should we expand gambling in Georgia to bolster HOPE?

In talking to parents of young children, I find many fear that the HOPE Scholarship will dwindle away to pennies by the time their kids reach college age.

The changes to HOPE by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature link the merit scholarship to available lottery funds, so the amount  will now vary year to year. It will likely never pay 100 percent of tuition again, given the growing demand on lottery proceeds.

Did you see the AJC interview with the father of HOPE,former Gov. Zell Miller? In a rare press interview, an ailing Miller told my colleague Jim Galloway, “I don’t think they had any other choice. We knew back in the ‘90s that there would be adjustments. This came as no surprise.”

Galloway reports that Miller is not alarmed at the decision by state lottery officials to approve the sale of tickets through the Internet.

“I’m okay with that. In fact, we wrote the lottery law so you could do that,” he said. But as for that plan to create a casino with machines operated …

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Losing a true hero: Sally Ride will be missed but her impact on science education will continue

The first American woman in space, Sally Ride is dead at age 61 from pancreatic cancer. (AJC File)

The first American woman in space, Sally Ride is dead at age 61 from pancreatic cancer. (AJC File)

I was stunned this afternoon to learn about the death of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, from pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Ride inspired many girls to consider careers in science. And dozens of local teachers attended her Sally Ride Science Academy.

Two years, ago, I moderated a roundtable about encouraging and inspiring girls to pursue careers in science, math and technology. Dr. Ride hosted the event and served as a panelist, along with Dr. Barbara Baumstark of Georgia State and Dr. Beverly Tatum of Spelman. I had interviewed her years earlier while a reporter in Florida, but spent a lot more time with her during this event.

Dr. Ride was inspiring,  warm and funny. She talked about her proud her dad was when she was chosen for the space program as he was able to brag about his daughter the astronaut rather than his daughter the physicist. People understood what astronauts …

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Suburbs and charter schools: More room for innovation

Interesting post by Fordham Institute’s Michael J. Petrilli on why charter schools ought to be viable options in leafy, affluent suburbs with great schools.

Petrilli says pro charter school forces typically focus on throwing a lifeline to poor kids in failing urban schools rather than their accelerated peers in the suburbs. But he says charter schools could have a strong role in the super zip codes such as Scarsdale, Bethesda or McLean, where the students arrive in kindergarten well ahead of the curve.

Petrilli maintains that the advanced abilities of the students create a conducive environment for charter schools because there’s less urgency to get the kids on track and thus “arguably more room for innovation and experimentation.”

Here is an excerpt of his posting:

What about kids who aren’t poor; attend schools that aren’t failing; and live in school districts that, by some measures at least, aren’t in dire need of improvement? I’m talking, of course, about our affluent, …

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Ravitch on New York’s failed experiment in school turnaround model. Lessons for all of us.

Many of you follow the blog of noted education historian Diane Ravitch. She sent me a link today to her most recent blog, which I thought was worth sharing. You can read the original here.

Here is her blog on the failed reform efforts of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

From The New York Daily News (owned by billionaire Mort Zuckerman, who also owns U.S. News & World Report) often runs editorials applauding the “reforms” of the Bloomberg administration. Its editorials are anti-union, anti-teacher, and consistently supportive of the policy of closing schools that have low test scores.

But the New York Daily News has excellent reporters who don’t follow the editorial line. They just report the news. And the story today is stunning.

The headline summarizes the story: “Bloomberg’s New Schools Have Failed Thousands of City Students: Did More Poorly on State Reading Tests than Older Schools with Similar Poverty Rates.”

This analysis shows the abject failure of the policy that has …

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Feds: Sub-prime-style lenders burying college students in mountains of debt

Lots of reaction around the country to a damning report released today from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education on the shady tactics and misleading practices of the private student loan market.

According to the bureau, outstanding student loan debt topped $1 trillion in 2011 — $864 billion of federal student debt and approximately $150 billion of private student loan debt.

Among the findings in the report:

•Private student loans are riskier: Used appropriately, private student loans have a role to play in financing higher education. However, compared to federal student loans, private student loans often lack repayment flexibility and other protections when borrowers are struggling to make ends meet. Most private loans have few options for payment modification or forbearance. Federal loans have a fixed interest rate and most private loans have variable rates, making estimates about future debt payments difficult. Prior …

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What in the world is going on in Dougherty? Spending $18,000 on a speaker? Officials lying for free lunches?

There has been a lot of attention on Atlanta schools in the wake of the CRCT cheating scandal, but the second bad actor in this drama, Dougherty County, has garnered less attention. One reason is location: Albany is far from the media center of Atlanta so there has been less press about the blatant cheating there on state exams.

But given what is now unfolding in Dougherty, it seems that close attention to this under performing and troubled school system is long overdue. In fact, this district seems a possible candidate for state takeover based on these breaking news stories.

According to the AJC, the state Department of Education has determined that the Dougherty County School District is not eligible to receive at least $10 million in federal funds because of concerns that the district has inflated the number of students who qualify for federal meal assistance. The agency also said the district has not properly overseen federal grant programs.

An incredible element of this …

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Free for the taking: Elite colleges including Tech put classes online

computer (Medium) A dozen major research universities including Georgia Tech, Princeton, Duke, Johns Hopkins and the University of Virginia announced plans this week to offer 100 free online courses that will enable millions worldwide to take the same classes as students at elite U.S. campuses.

The announcement by Coursera, a year-old company founded by two Stanford professors, represents a giant leap forward in the expanding inventory of what has become known as MOOCs — massive open online courses.

“I think this is the most remarkable social development certainly of the last few years,” said Eric D. Fingerhut at a Brookings Institution webinar Tuesday. The former chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Fingerhut is vice president of education and STEM learning for the Ohio-based research and development firm Batelle.

“One of America’s greatest products is our higher education system,” said Fingerhut. “And we are opening it up for free to people anywhere in the world. You’d be amazed how …

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