Archive for August, 2012

DeKalb schools get another warning on SACS accreditation. “Why so many second chances?”

The AJC is reporting that the DeKalb school board is again being asked by an accrediting agency to respond to complaints of mismanagement.

According to the AJC:

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said it’s received dozens of complaints from a broad spectrum of people in DeKalb. Parents, public officials and school staffers have alleged everything from financial mismanagement to undue influence in hiring — all while the school system faces a financial crisis.

“The allegation is they’re getting involved in areas that aren’t their responsibility, and then in the areas that are their responsibility, they’re not being effective,” said Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.

In a letter received by school officials Wednesday, SACS said there is “significant concern” about whether DeKalb is meeting “at least” two of five accreditation standards. SACS gave DeKalb 30 days to respond, and will then …

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Condoleezza Rice on education last night: Crisis in K-12 education is threat to America

Condoleezza Rice called education a threat to "who we are." (Harry E. Walker/MCT)

Condoleezza Rice said the crisis in education was a "grave threat to who we are." (Harry E. Walker/MCT)

A few of you asked that we discuss Condoleezza Rice’s education comments from her speech last night at the Republican National Convention.

Overall, her comments on education were the standard stuff: We need better teachers, higher standards and greater choice.

Since Rice’s speech focused on all the issues in this election with a wide-angle lens, she didn’t go deep on how to achieve those goals. And those goals are not as straightforward as they sound.

For example, the research suggests that pay alone will not entice the brightest college students to consider teaching; we also need to raise the stature of the profession.

And the question around standards, as always, is who sets the standards? We are now following standards set by a national group of state leaders, of which former Gov. Sonny Perdue was a co-chair.

Rice mentioned “greater choice” without mention of either …

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Another skirmish in charter schools war of words. Gwinnett charter fires back at Wilbanks.

Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal spoke about charter schools at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo & Job Fair in front of an audience that included longtime Gwinnett schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.

Deal was explaining his support of the constitutional amendment on the the Nov. 6 ballot that will expand the state’s ability to approve charters schools even over the objections of local boards of education.

“In many parts of our state, students are stuck in schools that are failing and … are not making adequate yearly progress, ” the governor said. “We must ensure that those students and their parents have a quality public education system for their future and the future of the state of Georgia.”

Deal cited Ivy Preparatory Academy in Gwinnett as an example of a successful state-approved charter school. He said Ivy Prep outperforms local schools, a claim that Wilbanks later disputed.

The AJC reported:

Wilbanks said after the luncheon that the governor was …

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Clayton school chief resigns today

Dr. Edmund Heatley resigned today

Dr. Edmond Heatley resigned today

Breaking news from Clayton County where controversial schools Superintendent Dr. Edmond Heatley resigned effective the end of next month.

The Clayton school board released a statement that an interim will be appointed to take Heatley’s place. “School has just begun and our primary focus will remain providing the students of Clayton County with a high quality education during this transition,” said chairwoman Pam Adamson. ”We are grateful to Dr. Heatley for his service and wish him the best.”

Heatley, the eighth Clayton County superintendent since 2000, was not fired. “He still has the confidence and respect of the majority of the board,” said Pam Adamson, who met with Heatley Wednesday morning regarding his decision.

It was apparent that Heatley wanted out of Clayton.

Heatley, who came to Clayton County in 2009, had interviewed for the superintendency in Dallas earlier this summer. The Texas job was open because the former Dallas school …

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Retired teacher: Make admins teach. Reduce testing. Eliminate gifted. Restore recess.

Retired Atlanta Public Schools teacher Scott Stephens — he taught English for 15 years at Grady High School and taught for a decade in Fulton County  — sent me a list of reforms.  I thought it was a great list and have his permission to share it here:

Courtesy of Scott Stephens:

1. All certified personnel at a school, including academy leaders, graduation coaches, instructional coaches, assistant principals and principals, should teach at least one class during the school year. This would be of benefit in two ways. First, it would help reduce class size and, most important, it would provide administrators with continued input from the classroom. I believe that when a number of people are at school, but not teaching, morale is adversely affected.

2. All students (K-12) need daily physical activity, both recess and structured physical education. Many students need to get rid of excess energy. Others need to lose weight and get in shape. Further, many discipline problems …

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Sports fees in schools: Are you seeing them rise in your district?

As public schools around the country cope with deep funding cuts, more are imposing fees for supplemental materials and for specialized programs, activities and classes.

AJC reporter Daarel Burnette is looking at the fees charged for school sports.

“I’m looking for parents in the Atlanta area to talk to me about any public school fees they’ve incurred this year for school sports. You can reach me at 404-526-5634 or email me.

The Wall Street Journal looked at this issue last year in a lengthy piece. Here is a brief excerpt:

Public-school administrators say the fees—some of which are waived for low-income families—allow them to continue to offer specialty classes and activities that would otherwise fall to the budget ax. Some parents support that approach, saying they’d rather pay for honors physics or drama than see those opportunities eliminated altogether. Some educators, too, argue that fees are good public policy. In a time of fiscal austerity, they say it’s not fair to …

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New study: Urban charter schools draw nearly a third of their students from private schools

A new study released today by the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom examines a question that hasn’t garnered any attention in the charter school debate here in Georgia: Where do public charter schools get their students, from traditional public schools or private schools?

I hope to talk today to the economist who authored the Cato study, Richard Buddin with the RAND Corporation, but here is the essence of his surprising findings: Despite their intention to target poor and under-served students, charters schools draw nearly a third of their elementary school enrollments from students who would have attended private, not public schools. This exodus from private schools to public charter schools costs taxpayers $1.8 billion a year, according to the study.

The study found:

Charters serving primary students in highly urban districts take almost one third of their students from private schools, on average. Urban charters draw nearly one quarter of their middle school …

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Fulton and Cobb school chiefs: Making changes, taking heat

The AJC ran profiles this weekend of the Fulton and Cobb school chiefs. The two men are part of the wave of new school chiefs who arrived in metro Atlanta over the last three years.

Here are excerpts from both AJC profiles:

First, from the profile of Cobb’s Michael Hinojosa, who came from Dallas where he was credited with many improvements.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Going into his second year, Hinojosa, 55, said he has few regrets. “I wanted to build trust and confidence, but we still have to move quickly, ” he said. “I hate waiting. But I want to take a punch and for it to have staying power.”

Hinojosa has received national recognition for his six-year stint in Dallas for raising at-risk students’ test scores and turning around several schools. During his tour of the district, Hinojosa learned of Cobb’s strengths: Its parents are heavily involved. It has four of the highest performing high schools in the state.

And he learned of its struggles: The school board was fractured over …

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Georgia makes parent volunteers in schools mandatory child abuse reporters. Is that a mistake?

Schools in Georgia are now informing parents of a law passed this year that broadens the list of people mandated to report child abuse. The list now includes volunteers at churches, colleges, clubs, summer camps or soccer fields or parents who chaperone a field trip. They could go to jail if they fail to report suspected abuse.

A Fulton parent sent me a copy of a letter she wrote to her legislator expressing concerns about the law. She writes:  “… there are hundreds of volunteers in the FCS system and I believe this law leaves the door open for the possibility of a volunteer thinking they see a case and reporting it ‘just in case.’  After all, if they don’t, they might be charged with a misdemeanor, right? This leaves a terrible scenario where an innocent child/family may be traumatized by the removal of a child and lengthy “investigations.” I personally would call this child abuse.”

A short excerpt of the letter is below. I asked the Fulton school system to explain this …

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APS school chief: “Atlanta is poised to succeed.”

 Erroll B. Davis Jr.

Erroll B. Davis Jr.

Here is an essay by APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis, Jr., on the progress that the district has made in reforming and reinventing itself:

The theme of this year’s annual State of the Schools in Atlanta event was “Children expect the world of us.” It was an occasion for the community and APS educators and administrators to come together at The Carter Center to focus on the importance of education in the lives of our children. The feeling conveyed was equivalent to what we as parents and grandparents feel when we look into the eyes of our own children and grandchildren and commit to doing all in our power to provide them with more than we had.

As APS emerges from what some have described as ‘The Perfect Storm’ of issues, it is important that we maintain the focus on our students and do all that we can to nurture and educate them so that they can become viable 21st Century citizens of the world.

The challenges we have overcome during the past year have …

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