Archive for July, 2012

Letter to Gwinnett: Look deeper into student sexual harassment

Carolyn Garfein of Alpharetta is national president of the American Association of University Women.

By Carolyn Garfein

From our nation’s top college campuses to small towns in Florida, Texas, Minnesota, and, yes, Georgia, the painful stories of children and teens experiencing bullying and sexual harassment have filled the news, leaving parents, educators, and community leaders with many questions and few answers.

Last year, in an attempt to shed some light on the issue, the American Association of University Women surveyed students in grades 7–12 and published the results in a report confirming many of the headlines we’ve been reading.

“Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School” revealed that nearly half of all surveyed students reported that they had been sexually harassed during the 2010–11 school year. Of that number, an overwhelming majority, 87 percent, said that being harassed had a negative effect on them. About a third of all girls and a quarter of …

Continue reading Letter to Gwinnett: Look deeper into student sexual harassment »

Now, 32 states have won waivers from No Child Left Behind

From U.S. DOE:

The Obama administration today approved seven more requests for waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), in exchange for state-developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. The approved states include Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia.

Today’s announcement brings to 32 the number of states that have joined in a nationwide, bipartisan movement toward next-generation education reforms that go far beyond No Child Left Behind’s rigid, top-down prescriptions.

Federal education law has been due for congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the face of congressional inaction, President Obama announced in September of 2011 that the Obama Administration would grant waivers from NCLB to qualified states.

The first requests for waivers were granted in February of 2012. Five additional requests are …

Continue reading Now, 32 states have won waivers from No Child Left Behind »

Cobb votes tonight on fining drivers who go around school buses. Sounds great to me.

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

UPDATE: Cobb did vote to approve a contract for a private firm to track drivers who go around stopped school buses via cameras and hit them with steep fines.

I hope the Cobb school board votes tonight to become one of the first and largest Georgia districts to allow an a private  company to issue $300 citations to motorists they film driving around stopped school buses.

I am stunned how often I see Georgia drivers darting around stopped buses. I am also stunned how often drivers fly through crosswalks with schoolchildren in them. Visit any metro school and prepare to be outraged by the hordes of drivers barreling through crosswalks and around buses unloading children.

Drivers do not see it as their responsibility to watch for children exiting buses, despite laws requiring they do so.

Nor do Atlanta drivers respect the slower speeds posted …

Continue reading Cobb votes tonight on fining drivers who go around school buses. Sounds great to me. »

As state shirks its funding responsibility, school systems feel squeeze

Here is an opinion piece from Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s policy analyst Cedric Johnson on the budget deficit that counties across the state of Georgia will face this coming school year.

By Cedric Johnson

As local school boards across Georgia finalize k-12 budgets for the coming school year, they are feeling the squeeze not just from a still-struggling economy, but from a decade of trends and policy decisions that have left schools ill-equipped to meet the needs of families and employers.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported on the DeKalb County school system’s struggle to close an $85 million budget deficit. With little reserve funding available, the article quotes one state senator as warning, “If they don’t rebuild the surplus, I’ll talk to SACS,” referring to the regional entity that evaluates and accredits schools. The senator recommends cutting teacher pay instead of raising taxes to close the deficit.

While the senator’s preferred solution may help …

Continue reading As state shirks its funding responsibility, school systems feel squeeze »

DeKalb business group releases its school board endorsements. Does it influence voters?

EduKALB today announced its endorsements in the DeKalb school board races, taking a pass in the District 4 contest in which incumbent M. Paul Womack Jr. faces three challengers, Jim McMahan, Jim Kinney and Tom Gilbert.

How valuable are such endorsements? Hard to tell. In elections held in the dead of summer, turnout seems to be the most critical factor.

I am assuming that the lack of an endorsement in District 4 reflects the lack of consensus on the best choice. As an editorial writer involved in endorsements for 12 years, we had a hard and fast rule that we could not deadlock: Voters had to make a choice so we had to as well. It can be tough in races where everyone offers something worthwhile or in races where there is no good option. Having met all four candidates for District 4, I am assuming that this is a case of the former.

A chamber-led group of business and community leaders that organized in response to the school system chaos, eduKALB endorsed five school board …

Continue reading DeKalb business group releases its school board endorsements. Does it influence voters? »

New report: Federal stimulus funds saved and created teaching jobs

Speaking of President Obama this morning in the previous blog, here is a release from the Center on Education Policy at the George Washington University on how education stimulus funds were used:

Education stimulus funds largely met the goal of saving or creating jobs for k-12 teachers and other education personnel, according to a summary of three years of survey research by the Center on Education Policy at the George Washington University. However, ongoing state budget shortfalls have slowed state implementation of education reforms tied to the receipt of stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“Federal stimulus funds appear to have blunted the effects of the economic downturn on the k-12 education sector,” said Maria Ferguson, CEP’s executive director. “Although many districts still had to eliminate teaching and other key staff positions, our research indicates that the situation would have been worse without the stimulus …

Continue reading New report: Federal stimulus funds saved and created teaching jobs »

Obama creates elite science, math teaching corps and seeks a billion to fund it

From the White House:

President Obama announced the creation of a new STEM teachers corps. (AJC)

President Obama announced the creation of a new STEM teachers corps. (AJC)

Today, the Obama Administration announced the President’s plan for the creation of a new, national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps comprised of some of the nation’s finest educators in STEM subjects. The STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin with 50 exceptional STEM teachers established in 50 sites and will be expanded over 4 years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers.

These selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. The Administration will launch this Teacher Corps with the $1 billion from the President’s 2013 budget request currently before Congress.

President Obama said, “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are …

Continue reading Obama creates elite science, math teaching corps and seeks a billion to fund it »

Is DeKalb waiting for a “budget fairy” to wave away its money woes?

I hate layoffs but am not sure DeKalb County Schools is serving its employees by pretending it can avoid them in this dire budget crisis.

As one parent said after the school boarded 5-2 last night to instruct Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson to find $20 million in cuts elsewhere, “What are they waiting on, the ‘budget fairy?”

The problem is that it is near impossible for the county to cut $20 million without layoffs at this point.

“If they don’t do it now, at some point during the school year, the numbers aren’t going to match up,” Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, told the AJC. “It’s going to be pay me now or pay me later.”

The layoff proposal would have affected 120 paraprofessionals, or teachers’ aides, an unpopular option among some parents especially with a school board election around the corner on July 31.

According to the AJC:

But DeKalb schools may be out of options. It’s unlikely enough teachers will choose to …

Continue reading Is DeKalb waiting for a “budget fairy” to wave away its money woes? »

Can Georgia learn from Tennessee’s review of its new teacher evals?

Tennessee is ahead of Georgia in developing a teacher evaluation system that considers student outcomes, a factor in its early receipt of a federal Race to the Top grant. (Georgia won its $400 million grant in round two.)

In response to concerns about the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, the state undertook a study that was released this week.

Here are highlights of the Tennessee study, but those of you interested in this issue — and how it may play out in Georgia, which is poised to roll out its new teacher eval system this year — ought to read the full report:

In July 2011, Tennessee became one of the first states in the country to implement a comprehensive, student outcomes-based, statewide educator evaluation system. This landmark legislation established the parameters of a new teacher and principal evaluation system and committed to implementation during the 2011-12 school year.

The act required 50 percent of the evaluation to be comprised of student achievement …

Continue reading Can Georgia learn from Tennessee’s review of its new teacher evals? »

Students spending more, parents spending less on college

An old pal stayed with me this weekend. She lives on the Georgia coast but was in town so her 17-year-old daughter could tour UGA and Georgia Tech. Her daughter is a top student who wants to stay in the South for college, so I suggested that she might add Emory, Duke and Davidson to her list.

But the teen told me that she was concentrating on Georgia public colleges where she would receive the HOPE Scholarship.

Increasingly, families nationwide are factoring cost into school decisions, both due to the exorbitant tab for private schools and the erosion of U.S. household incomes. According to a new survey released today, parents are spending less on their children’s higher education. The students are shouldering most of the costs.

I have to admit that I am talking up UGA and Tech to my twins, who are five years away from college. I had encouraged my older two children to look at other regions of the country.  The result is that I will need that five years to replenish the …

Continue reading Students spending more, parents spending less on college »