Archive for September, 2012

Panel questions on teacher morale and an answer in my in-box

over (Medium)I participated in a PAGE panel today on education, along with my AJC colleague Nancy Badertscher, TV reporter Donna Lowry of 11 Alive and Macon Telegraph editorial page editor Charles E. Richardson. (Georgia school chief John Barge and education guru Phillip C. Schlechty were among the speakers at the PAGE program, and I will write up their comments later tonight.)

Several audience questions  to my panel touched on the current state of teacher morale.  When I returned to work, I found this email waiting for me in my in-box. It spoke directly to the questions asked by the panel audience.

The teacher who wrote it asked to remain anonymous:

I  just wanted to express my thoughts on the most recent  “Get Schooled” blog message to the President.

I am a high school special education teacher. I also work with many general education students. I have taught for 11 years and have many friends and acquaintances who have taught anywhere from three years to 20-plus.

In my 11 years as an …

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Election 2012: Does either presidential candidate offer hope on education?

A shorter version of this guest column ran today on the op-ed education page that I edit for the print AJC.  You are getting the uncut version. This piece by University of Arkansas associate professor Chris Goering reflects the concerns many educators feel about this upcoming presidential election: They don’t think either candidate has it right on education.

In the next two months, I hope to run more pieces on both the election and the charter school amendment vote in Georgia that is attracting national interest and money. If you have something to say on either and want to submit a piece, please email me at mdowney@ajc.com

By Chris Goering

Mr. President: On Education, You Can’t Handle the Truth

In November of 2008 and again in January of 2009, I have never been as proud to be an American as I was when you were elected and then subsequently sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Before those two great days, I had lost a lot of faith in our country and especially …

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Is Georgia padlocking its past by closing its archives?

A repository of Georgia history, the Georgia State Archives will be closed to the public, a decision that noted historian James Cobb calls a mistake. (Georgia State Archives)

A repository of Georgia history, the Georgia State Archives in Morrow will now be closed to the public, a decision that noted historian James C. Cobb calls a grave mistake. (Georgia State Archives photo)

Here is an interesting opinion piece by historian James C. Cobb of the University of Georgia about the budget-driven decision last week to close the Georgia State Archives to the public.

The closing has upset researchers, genealogists and history buffs statewide, and a petition drive is under way to reverse the decision.

Former president of the Southern Historical Association and an oft-quoted expert on the American South, Cobb has written several books, including The Selling of The South: The Southern Crusade for Industrial Development, 1936-1990, and The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity. His most recent book, Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity, was published in 2005.

By James C. Cobb

Two years ago at this …

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College students today: A study in contradictions

In a culture where everyone wins a trophy, where A’s outnumber C’s on report cards and where a child’s self-esteem is as polished as the family silver, it’s not surprising that young people feel good about themselves.

Do they feel too good?

Yes, says Arthur Levine, co-author of the new book, “Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student,” a snapshot of the values, lives and aspirations of students enrolled in college between 2005 through current students.

“This is a generation of kids never permitted to skin their knees. If everyone won an award and you never really had to deal with adversity, why wouldn’t you think you were great?” asks Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and president emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University.

That coddling, evidenced by parents still intervening for their kids with messy college roommates or demanding professors, is extending adolescence and delaying adulthood for the tightrope …

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Clayton’s Edmond Heatley: His move to Berkeley is on hold. Would Clayton take him back?

Dr. Edmond Heatley

Dr. Edmond Heatley

I am just back from a five-day vacation without Internet and am reading the local news I missed, including the complications around outgoing Clayton Superintendent Edmond Heatley’s hopes to move into the top schools job in Berkeley, Calif.

According to the AJC, Heatley’s chances of becoming superintendent of the 9,400-student district may be in doubt because of  “his alleged opposition to same-sex marriage and his management of the 51,008-student Clayton school system.”

Apparently, community reservations over Heatley increased when Berkeleyside.com, a local online news site, reported that he allegedly backed a resolution supporting Proposition 8 –  which recognizes marriage as being between a man and woman — as superintendent several years back in Chino Valley.

Since its passage in 2008, the California constitutional amendment has been controversial.  Earlier this year, the voter-approved ban on gay marriage was struck down by the United States Court of …

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Are we pushing kids into the school-to-prison pipeline with suspensions?

Many schools maintain a push and pull approach to attendance. One one hand, school administrators make extensive efforts to push parents to get their children to class.

Yet, schools adhere to suspension policies that pull students out of their seats for minor infractions. In 2010, U.S. schools suspended more than 3 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade. And many of those students were minorities and children with disabilities, according to a new analysis of data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The review by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found one in six African-American students was suspended from school, more than three times the rate of their white counterparts. Those findings are creating significant concern as school suspensions are linked to retention, lower graduation rates and funneling kids into what is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The analysis also found that more than 13 …

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The anniversary of 9/11: Are schools marking the day?

Today marks the 11 year anniversary of 9/11. Are schools paying attention to it today? Are there special programs?

My twins are out of school this week — Decatur is on a modified year-round schedule that includes a week-long break in early September. So, my kids are never in school on Sept. 11 to commemorate the tragedy. (By the way, I am on vacation this week so blogging will be sporadic.)

I interviewed Arthur Levine yesterday about his new book “Generation on a Tightrope: Portrait of Today’s College Student,” a snapshot of the values, lives and aspirations of students enrolled in college between 2005 through 2014. Levine is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and president emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University.

The book is my topic for my Monday column, but I thought this was relevant today.

When he began the book, Levine assumed that 9/11 would be the defining event in the lives of the tightrope generation. Instead, more students …

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Does charter school funding leave taxpayers holding the bag?

Regular Get Schooled blog readers know Cherokee businessman John Konop as an astute commenter on the economics of education. He’s also a great debater as he focuses on the facts and does not get carried away with politics or ideology.

And he posts under his name, which signals that he stands behind his comments.

Konop has sparked debate in Cherokee County over questions on the funding of a charter school there and who gets stuck with the bill. Konop raised these issues with the Cherokee County School Board at a recent meeting.

Here is a followup letter he sent board member Michael Geist:

Dear Mr. Geist,

According to a recent newspaper article, it seems you are still very confused about why you’re getting so much negative feedback about the lack of fiscal controls in the charter school amendment that you support. I will once again clarify the issues by explaining how the Cherokee Charter Academy (CCA) was funded and how the current charter school amendment fails protect tax …

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When a strike is called, students are the ones out. Was there no other choice in Chicago?

Striking Chicago teachers were ordered to walk picket lines at their schools this morning. (AP Images)

Striking Chicago teachers were ordered to walk picket lines at their schools this morning. (AP Images)

Schools will be closed today in Chicago where teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years.

Chicago schools, which only opened last week, are operating on half-day schedules, although parents are being urged to keep their kids home. Students will spend time on independent reading or writing as state law doesn’t allow Chicago schools to offer classroom instruction without certified teachers.

There are clearly legitimate issues in Chicago but a strike won’t win the city or the union any friends.

Here is a good Chicago Tribune story on the strife. This is only an excerpt. Please try to read the full piece before commenting:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced late Sunday night that weekend talks had failed to resolve all the union’s issues.  “We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” she said. “No CTU members will be …

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When a teacher teaches in a lonely forest

Here is a provocative essay by Peter Smagorinsky of UGA:

By Peter Smagorinsky

If a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no living creature is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If good teaching takes place in a classroom, and no assessment is there to record it, does it make an impression?

Most of us have heard some version of the first of these two questions. Folks have pondered such mysteries for centuries, perhaps beginning when the Irish philosopher George Berkeley wrote A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge in 1710.

The question, however, has never made sense to me, at least if reality matters in philosophical debates. Trees are teeming with life, often more so when they’re dead than when alive. And unless the tree is out completely in the open, which is unlikely in even the loneliest of forests, there’s a whole lot of life going on all around it, much of it with ears. A tree that falls in a real forest without anything hearing it defies everything …

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