Archive for November, 2012

A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers

Interesting story in the AJC today on a cheating scandal involving hired ringers taking the teacher qualification exam for candidates in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The ringers used faked IDs to sit for the Praxis exam, administered by the Educational Testing Service. Praxis exams are required by 40 states and territories to measure the academic achievement and proficiency of newly minted teachers.

According to ETS: The Praxis Series tests measure specific content and pedagogical knowledge for beginning teaching practice. The tests do not measure skills related to an individual’s disposition toward teaching or potential for success. The assessments are designed to be comprehensive and inclusive, but are limited to what can be covered in a finite number of questions and question types.

I spent some time reviewing research on whether Praxis scores were reliable signposts of teacher effectiveness.

I read a paper by Linda Darling-Hammond in which she noted, “Student …

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Georgia: Putting all our eggs and hopes in charter school basket

The battle in Georgia to win passage of a controversial charter school amendment turned out to be costly, divisive and polarizing.

Many might also argue it was unnecessary, given that charter schools were never in jeopardy and more continue to open every year in Georgia.

The state Board of Education already had the ability to approve them, and local school boards, despite the characterization that most were hostile toward charters, authorized nine out of 10 of the existing 108 charter schools now operating in Georgia.

It’s a futile exercise now to question the rationale for the amendment, which, in its most practical application, accords the state Legislature the power to appoint a commission that can approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local boards of education.

The benign question put before voters — “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”— …

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President Obama, Congress face ticking education time bombs: Fiscal cliff, college costs and student loan deadline

John Konop steered me to this article from on the compelling education policy challenges facing President Obama and Congress.

Seems like a lot to get done, some of which has to be done in a matter of weeks.

Here is an excerpt but try to read the full piece before commenting:

…First up is sequestration, the automatic, government-wide spending cuts set to knock out 8.2 percent of the funding to almost all of the Education Department’s programs — unless Congress acts before the end of the year to avert the cuts.

Programs intended to reduce educational inequities will take a hit of $1.3 billion, according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Special education, already funded far below the levels Congress originally promised, will be slashed by more than $1 billion. Most of the reductions won’t take effect until next fall, when the 2013-14 school year starts, but Impact Aid, which helps districts that lose revenue due to local tax-exempt federal …

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If you want better schools, rural or otherwise, improve motivation and discipline of students

My blog entry on rural schools, prompted by an AJC Sunday story on rural education in Georgia, spurred a lot of comments, including this email from retired educator and school head Dennis Brown of Villa Rica. (I have shared other responses by Brown on teacher quality.)

Here is his latest:

There is always a need for more great teachers in the classroom. But the title of your article this morning, “How do we entice great teachers to move to remote rural schools,” suggests there are none there today. That’s just not the case.

There are some great teachers already in place. But their effectiveness is muted and often their  hands tied by pedagogy and lack of equipment. Let’s first attack the real problem – and while I hesitate to use it to identify what that real problem is, the saying “If you want to improve the prisons, improve the prisoners” is never more true in our schools than it is today.

State of mind and environment before the student even enters the classroom …

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US DOE: Lowest performing schools are improving

From US DOE on its School Improvement Grants:

The U.S. Department of Education today released an early snapshot of student performance data at schools that have received federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program funds, a key component of the Department’s blueprint for helping states and districts turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools.

Under the Obama Administration, the SIG program has invested up to $2 million per school at more than 1300 of the country’s lowest-performing schools. The data released today provides the first overview of performance for the first cohort of schools after one year of implementing SIG. The data begins in the 2009-2010 school year and ends in the 2010-2011 school year, the first year schools received SIG funds.

In three main areas, these early findings show positive momentum and progress in many SIG schools;

•Schools receiving SIG grants are improving. The first year of data show that two thirds of schools showed gains …

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AJC wants to talk to parents or students who participated in Gwinnett’s STEP Academy

My AJC colleague Nancy Badertscher is looking for parents or students who have participated in Gwinnett’s STEP Academy and who would be willing to be quoted in a story about the program. If you can help, please contact her at 770-263-3641 or email her.

Thanks, Maureen

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Interested in dyslexia? Consider this Twitter event tonight.

I was asked to spread the word about this event, which does not require getting up from your couch and driving across town: The National Center for Learning Disabilities is hosting a Twitter chat tonight on #dyslexia. It offers an opportunity for folks to chat with the nation’s leading experts.

Get more details here.

But here are the basics:

When: TONIGHT. Monday, 11/19 from 9-10pm EST

Topic: #Dyslexia


- Amy Mascott: @teachmama Education blogger & reading specialist

- Stan Wattles: @LDorg Former Indy racecar driver diagnosed with dyslexia (tweeting from NCLD’s Twitter handle)

- Anne Ford: @AnneFordAuthor Author of three books on learning disabilities

- Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D. @LD_Expert NCLD’s Director of LD Resources and Essential Information

- Allie McDonald, @NoFlashCards parent, educator, blogger, & proponent of LD awareness

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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School vouchers: Should there be more quality controls?

Georgia will likely see another legislative attempt at vouchers next session, something that thus far has failed to gain much traction in the General Assembly.

An investigation by the Washington Post will likely revive the debate over whether we should allow parents to receive tax dollars to pay for private schools, especially religious schools.

Most vouchers do not cover the full cost of private school tuition. So, many parents in areas with vouchers send their children to parochial schools, which typically charge less than other private schools.  And, indeed, many of the families receiving vouchers in Washington send their kids to Catholic schools.

But what folks don’t consider is that once vouchers are approved for one religious school, they can’t legally be denied to others. Taxpayers could find their money going to schools run by cults equivalent to the Branch Davidians.

The Post found vouchers going to quite an array of schools.

Here is an excerpt of the piece: …

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How do we entice great teachers to move to remote rural schools?

How do we get great teachers to move to rural areas? (Johnny Crawford,

How do we get great teachers to move to rural areas? (Johnny Crawford,

In the Sunday paper today, the AJC takes a look at rural schools in a well researched package

AJC reporter Jaime Sarrio spent time in Wilcox County and other rural school districts interviewing educators, officials and parents. She also extensively researched the subject, reviewing studies by state government and nonprofit experts. AJC data specialist Kelly Guckian gathered extensive data on test scores, remedial education and other measures of college readiness, then analyzed thousands of records to demonstrate the disparity between rural and non-rural schools. Sarrio used that analysis in reporting this story.

Among their discoveries:  In 2010, 23 percent of Georgia’s rural students needed remedial courses, compared to 19.9 percent of non-rural students. Those figures were more pronounced in extremely rural districts, where 30 percent needed remedial courses …

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UGA and Tech presidents: The fiscal cliff looms

Michael F. Adams is president of the University of Georgia. G.P. “Bud” Peterson is president of the Georgia Institute of Technology. With their football teams about to face off next week, the presidents co-authored a guest column on the fiscal cliff and its impact on higher education.

By Michael F. Adams and G.P. “Bud” Peterson

It’s no secret that our universities have a century-old rivalry in sports, but what isn’t as well known is that Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia are partners, collaborating in areas ranging from energy and health research, to teacher education, to strengthening local economies around the state.

Together, our two public research universities provide educational opportunities for 56,000 students and conduct $900 million in research each year, spanning everything from national defense to cancer treatments to Internet security. This research is not only critical to preparing students for good jobs and careers, it is essential if Georgia …

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