Archive for October, 2012

Closing the achievement gap: We’ve been building vocabulary. How about also building character?

What sets children on a successful path in school and, hopefully, in life?

The current belief is that it’s how much children know, so we buy math flashcards for 3-year-olds and sit toddlers down in front of “Baby Einstein” videos. We eliminate recess to direct more time to reading and numbers.

But is the answer stuffing information into children’s brains at earlier ages?

A new book suggests that we are focusing on developing the wrong abilities. What might contribute more to children’s success — especially children growing up amid deep adversity — is persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self confidence,  said Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” in a telephone interview.

After visiting classrooms, campuses and laboratories and interviewing teachers, researchers, chess masters and students, Tough concludes that the most significant skills children must learn …

Continue reading Closing the achievement gap: We’ve been building vocabulary. How about also building character? »

Student produced video questions push for charter schools amendment

Now students are getting into the charter amendment debate. Here is a video by two Grady High School students. I am not allowing comments on this post because I am on deadline today and can’t monitor comments. I recognize that many of you will disagree with the students, but I applaud student involvement in public policy debates.

Continue reading Student produced video questions push for charter schools amendment »

Atlanta explains how it calculates value-added scores. Using scores for “improvement, not accountability.”

I ran a letter a few days ago from the principal of an Atlanta charter school expressing concerns about the value-added scores assigned to his school.

Atlanta is looking at both teacher and school-level value-added as part of its Effective Teacher in Every Classroom initiative. Using test scores, researchers are calculating how much “learning” Atlanta students gain in the standard school year. This sort of calculation is being made for school districts and teachers nationwide and will ultimately be done for every school system in Georgia  as we move to accountability models that measure student progress over time.

There is great debate over whether any value-added system — and Atlanta has hired some of the nation’s top experts to help it develop accurate value-added metrics — can be trusted.

Under Atlanta’s analysis, students at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter were found to only gain gain 5.2 months of learning in a year, one of the lowest scores in the district.

In a …

Continue reading Atlanta explains how it calculates value-added scores. Using scores for “improvement, not accountability.” »

Did Atlanta superintendent overhaul North Atlanta High and upset community without reason or true data?

In his explanation for the administrative purge at North Atlanta High School 12 days ago, APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis cited poor academic performance.  A forensic accountant from Midtown decided to research that statement and found a much different picture than what Davis presented.

“He seemed to imply that North Atlanta High School should be held to a higher standard than other APS schools because of the neighborhood’s wealth,” said Jarod Apperson, who writes the Grading Atlanta blog.

“While the neighborhood includes wealthy residents who attend private schools, NAHS itself actually serves a fairly high-needs population. It is the only high school in Atlanta serving a sizable number of Hispanics.  Also, those coming into NAHS through the admin transfer process are grossly under-prepared,” says Apperson.

Here is Apperson’s analysis and conclusions: (Please note that this entire piece is from Jarod Apperson. None of the comments, including those at the end, are …

Continue reading Did Atlanta superintendent overhaul North Atlanta High and upset community without reason or true data? »

Guest column: Charter schools amendment is cash cow

The charter schools amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot has generated record numbers of op-ed submissions across my desk. I published one here yesterday in support of the amendment. I am running an opposing view today.

This is by the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective, a group of educators, parents and citizens who engage in public writing and public teaching about education in Georgia. The group had its impetus in Athens and includes UGA faculty.

The writers contend that charter schools are now being seen as a business opportunity,  and the amendment will increase those seeking to make money off charters. To that end, Reuters had an interesting story about the flow of foreign money to charter schools.

According to Reuters: (This is an excerpt. Please read full piece before commenting.)

Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for …

Continue reading Guest column: Charter schools amendment is cash cow »

School board rep: Until we know truth about North Atlanta High, delay extension of Erroll Davis’ contract

School board member Nancy Meister, who represents the North Atlanta High School community, clashed with board chair Reuben McDaniel over allegations of institutional racism at North Atlanta High, as revealed in emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

APS school chief Erroll Davis replaced the leadership team of the Buckhead high school 12 days ago, angering hundreds of parents who packed a meeting last week to demand an explanation.

At the meeting, Davis was in the unusual role of attempting to convince 900 parents and students that their beloved school was not nearly as good as they thought. Many parents remain dissatisfied with Davis’ explanation of why he purged the school leaders and believe there is a political subtext at work.

Their suspicions have been fueled in part by a series of emails.

In the emails, board chair McDaniel asked APS Associate Superintendent Steve Smith to collect data from North Atlanta that breaks down the school’s graduation rates, …

Continue reading School board rep: Until we know truth about North Atlanta High, delay extension of Erroll Davis’ contract »

Former college prof and AP teacher: Advanced Placement is “one of the great frauds” in high school today

The Atlantic offers a provocative essay maintaining that AP classes are a scam and over hyped.

The piece is by John T. Tierney, a former college professor who also taught AP classes at a high school. (According to his bio, he received his Ph.D from Harvard and B.A. from Johns Hopkins. He retired from Boston College in 2000 and later taught American government and American history at an independent high school.)

There is research that students who take AP classes and AP exams perform better in college. However, increasingly, college professor complain to me that AP classes are not the equivalent of college courses, which this author also contends. (I hear that complaint most often from Georgia Tech math professors.)

However, I also hear from high school students in dual enrollment programs that the AP classes at their high schools are much tougher than the intro classes at their local colleges.

There is no doubt that AP is being promoted to high school students as a necessary …

Continue reading Former college prof and AP teacher: Advanced Placement is “one of the great frauds” in high school today »

Former DOE official: Amendment 1 should be about quality charter schools

Andrew Broy is the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Formerly, he was associate state superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education where he oversaw charter schools.

Broy  supports the recreation of a state-appointed commission to approve charters and explains why in this essay:

By Andrew Broy

I have watched the debate over the constitutional amendment over the past year and am increasingly puzzled by the arguments. When House Bill 881 was signed by the governor in 2008, one of the key goals was to create an independent, single-purpose body that could focus on quality authorizing and professionalize the process of deciding which schools were strong enough to be granted a charter. This purpose has been forgotten in the current rush to politicize the amendment.

I have a special interest in the outcome of the referendum. As sssociate state superintendent for the Georgia Department of Education, I served as the lead state charter school authorizer …

Continue reading Former DOE official: Amendment 1 should be about quality charter schools »

Rating teachers: Ruining the profession and running off good people

With teacher ratings becoming a reality, many people are expressing concerns about the impact on the profession. I read two great pieces this weekend that I want to share here. (Also, please read the column I ran Friday from a charter school principal in Atlanta about his concerns over the low value-added score given his school.)

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Deborah Kenny, chief executive and founding principal of Harlem Village Academies and the author of “Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential,” joins the chorus of concern, noting that her charter school once dismissed a teacher whose students posted great scores on tests. But the teacher derided students and was so negative to be around that other teachers were considering quitting. Yet,  under rating models based largely on student scores, that teacher would have been rated at the very top, Kenny says.

Kenny — who calls herself an opponent of teacher tenure and runs a …

Continue reading Rating teachers: Ruining the profession and running off good people »

Student success, Georgia economy threatened by state’s declining support

Taifa S. Butler is the deputy director of Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, which will release a survey today of Georgia’s 180 school districts on the impact of state funding cuts.

The 150 districts that responded too the survey educate more than 92 percent of the students in public schools. The survey found that the state’s lack of support for education diminishes learning opportunities for students by forcing school districts to shorten the school year, increase class size, reduce the number of teachers and cut teacher pay.

By Taifa S. Butler

Georgia’s future depends on its ability to attract employers, create jobs, and grow the economy, and a key ingredient to this is a highly skilled and educated workforce. Yet over the past decade, state investment in public education has declined significantly, undermining our ability to create and nurture the next generation of workers.

State leaders set ambitious goals to improve the quality of the workforce and made …

Continue reading Student success, Georgia economy threatened by state’s declining support »