Archive for November, 2012

Nearly 2,000 school employees retire tomorrow to avoid benefit loss

Interesting story about 1,700 school employees retiring tomorrow to take advantage of a base pay boost that is about to disappear.

According to the AJC:

In a typical year, fewer than 300 of the state’s educators retire Dec. 1, while the school year is in full swing.

But this year, 1,707 educators across the state have opted to retire now. This includes 123 employees — including 63 teachers, four counselors, seven paraprofessionals, two assistant principals and two principals — in Gwinnett County, the state’s largest school district.

They’re heading out the door just in time to claim a one-time 3 percent increase in their base for yearly pension benefits that’s been given to new retirees for more than 20 years and is being discontinued in January.

The bump in benefits — capped at 3 percent of $37,500, or an extra $1,125 — was established after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that Georgia could not exempt the pensions of state employees from state income tax …

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The cost of testing: States spending $1.7 billion a year. Georgia on low end of spending scale.

crcted.0920 (Medium)A new report today on test spending by the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings concludes that states would be wiser to consider joining forces in test creation, which is now costing  $1.7 billion per year or one-quarter of one percent of annual K-12 education spending. (The money breaks down to $27 per pupil in grades 3-9.)

The author of the “Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems” is Matthew M. Chingos, co-author of  “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities.” (See my 2009 interview with him.)

Georgia, by the way, spends far less than many other states, according to the study. Georgia spends $14 per pupil on tests, compared to Massachusetts, which spends $64, or Hawaii, which spends $105.

While the costs of tests amount to less than one percent of per-pupil spending , the authors say, “Spending in U.S. public schools totaled $658 billion in 2008-09 (the most recent year for which data are available), so …

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Charter school proponents today: Do a better job shutting down bad charter schools and opening good ones

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers wants states to do a better job of both closing bad charter schools and opening better ones. The pro charter association says its own analysis revealed that between 900 and 1,300 charter schools across the country are performing in the lowest 15 percent of schools within their state.

The association, which held a press conference today in Washington, announced a new campaign to urge more diligence in shuttering underperforming charters and more focus on replacing them with stronger options.

Here is the official release from the association:

While a great many public charter schools are among their states’ best performers and are paving the way for educational innovation across the U.S., too many are failing to provide a quality education. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), which represents government and other entities that approve and oversee charter schools, today called on charter …

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Charter school amendment debate far from over: Next up in the Georgia Legislature, redefining “public” schools.

Here is a guest column by Lee Raudonis, former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party. He also worked for Paul Coverdell in the Georgia Senate, state GOP and U.S. Peace Corps. A former private school teacher, Raudonis is now a communications consultant and writer whose clients include political candidates, public officials and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. 

By Lee Raudonis

Be forewarned: the recent referendum on Constitutional Amendment 1 related to state-approved charter schools is being viewed by its authors and key supporters as much more than an endorsement for increasing the number of charter schools and — they have promised us — improving academic achievement. They view it as an endorsement for drastically altering public education as most Americans define it.

To better understand what I mean, think about the terms “public housing,” “public hospital,” and “public school.” For most people, the term “public housing” conjures up …

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Best advice ever on how to raise successful students. Thanks to my Get Schooled readers.

downeyart (Medium)A few weeks ago, I asked folks on the blog for advice on how to raise successful students for a presentation I was giving at a parenting event. I also cited many of their suggestions in my Nov. 19th AJC print column. (I edit the Monday education op-ed page and write a column for it.)

I didn’t post the column here as I figured that my readers knew all this stuff. But I’ve been getting a lot of requests for electronic versions of the column from principals, parents and PTAs — testimony to the wonderful suggestions offered by Get Schooled readers. I decided to post the column to make it easier for people to pass that great advice along.

So, here it is:

By Maureen Downey

I’ve dashed many a forgotten lunch, school report or permission slip to school.

Then one day, worn out from the frantic calls and even more frantic drives across town, I told my kids that they would have to go without lunch, take a lower grade on a late book report or miss a field trip if they failed to make the …

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A teacher led by faith and fire for her students: Bettina Polite Tate of Savannah

Bettina Polite Tate

Bettina Polite Tate

Here is another installation in UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky’s ongoing Great Georgia Teacher series. Today, he writes about Bettina Polite Tate, a former marketing teacher at Johnson High School in Savannah who recently moved into a district-wide leadership role.

She now serves as Career, Technical, Agricultural, Education supervisor for the district and is no longer at Johnson High. She sounds like a remarkable teacher with amazing drive and energy, and I hope she will be able to reach more students in her new position in the Career, Technical, Agricultural, Education Department with the Savannah-Chatham  County Public Schools.

When Peter Smagorinsky wrote this piece, she was still at the high school.

By Peter Smagorinsky

Sol C. Johnson High, located on Savannah’s east side, is known as the Atom Smashers when it takes to the sporting fields. Perhaps this moniker follows from its original name, the Powell Laboratory School, when it was founded in 1959 …

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Race to the Top news: Fulton, Haralson, Morgan and Rockdale are finalists for millions in district grants

The US DOE is busy making news today, including the announcement that the Fulton County Board of Education, Haralson County School System, Morgan County Charter School System and Rockdale County Public Schools are among 61 applications selected as finalists in the Race to the Top-District competition.

Georgia is already a state Race to the Top winner in the state contest, but these systems submitted applications for a pool of money targeting smaller-scale reforms.

In explaining this district-level contest, US DOE says: The Race to the Top District competition will build on the lessons learned from the State-level competitions and support bold, locally directed improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness. More specifically, Race to the Top District will reward those LEAs that have the leadership and vision to implement the strategies, structures and systems of support to move beyond one-size–fits-all …

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Feds release new high school grad data using common yardstick; Georgia’s rate is 67 percent, putting us among bottom three.

Remember when Georgia used to say “Thank God for Mississippi and Alabama”?

With the release of new national high school graduation rates today, Georgia is now extending its thanks to Nevada and New Mexico, the only two states with lower graduation rates than Georgia.

Georgia has a 67 percent overall high school graduation rate, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Education under a new nationwide measurement formula.

For the first time ever, the cohort method will allow apples to apples comparisons since every state is using it to calculate how many of their seniors graduate in four years.

And those apples aren’t pretty for Georgia, which is among the bottom three.

Among states, only New Mexico, 63 percent, and Nevada, 62 percent, posted lower rates. (Also below Georgia were Washington, D.C., 59 percent, and the Bureau of Indian Education, 61 percent.)

Prior to the cohort method being adopted, states used a hodgepodge of methods — and a bit of voodoo math …

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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed backs APS school chief. Does Erroll Davis need Reed’s help to keep his job?

Mayor Kasim Reed supports a contract extension for APS school chief Erroll Davis. (AJC photo)

Mayor Kasim Reed supports a contract extension for APS school chief Erroll Davis. (AJC photo)

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed made a public declaration of support for APS school chief Erroll B. Davis last week, raising the question of whether Davis was in need of allies to retain his job.

“I happen to believe that Erroll Davis is the right guy to lead us for the next two years,” said Reed during a Commerce Club luncheon speech.

In October, the Atlanta school board deferred its decision whether to extend the contract of Davis, who has come under attack for his sudden purge of top administrators at North Atlanta High School. The vote is now expected next month.

APS board Chairman Reuben McDaniel  said the decision to delay the vote  “is a process we are going through to make sure all the parties are heard.”

As the AJC’s Jeffry Scott reported:

According to Davis’ contract, the board has to make a decision by December whether to renew his contract, which expires next June. The former …

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AP classes and college: How many are enough?

Over the holiday, I spoke to a friend about the classes her two teenage daughters are taking this year.  The older teen is a senior at a top private school near the family home in New York. The younger is a junior at the local public high school.

What surprised me is how few AP classes they’ve taken. Each teen has only been in one AP course. My friend was not aware of the push — at least here in Georgia — to get more kids into AP.  She was surprised to learn that elite colleges expect to see at least four AP classes on transcripts of applicants, especially if the teens attend high schools with a full roster of AP offerings.

Her teen attending public school is a strong math and science student, scoring 700 0n the PSAT in math. Yet, as a junior, she hasn’t taken an AP math or science course. She has taken honors classes, but those seem to have fallen out of favor with colleges because every high school sets its own standards for what constitutes “honors.” In many high schools, …

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