Archive for January, 2013

Complaint will be filed today about the Georgia private school tax credit that operates in secrecy

The AJC is reporting that the Southern Education Foundation will file a complaint today with the state Department of Revenue alleging widespread abuses in the controversial private school scholarship tax credit program.

The tax credit has received national media attention because of allegations of misuse. Yet, state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, the sponsor of the 2008 law creating the tax credit, is introducing a bill today to expand it.

Critics charge that the abuses — allowing donors to designate the recipients of their donation — have turned the private school scholarships into a back-door voucher. When the General Assembly approved the program, lawmakers said the money would enable poor students in public schools to move to private schools. Instead, the money appears to be going to students already in the private schools.

There have been reports that parents were making donations to schools that were then repackaged as “scholarships” for their own kids. In …

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DeKalb teacher: If you want good teachers to stay in your school, please let them know

Mike Ritter/AJC

Mike Ritter/AJC

A DeKalb teacher sent me this note, which I thought was worth sharing here:

I am an occasional commenter on your blog “Get Schooled,” but a frequent reader. Many, many parents and teachers I know follow it as well. Since I teach in DeKalb, you realize how I cannot use my real name…I sure wish that could change. I’m counting down the number of teaching days I have left until I can escape. The decline in morale is crushing and this has been a crushing week. I’m not sure how you select what letters you print, but I wrote this up after waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to sleep.

There is a lot of griping and hand wringing by parents and teachers alike on this blog, as well as an ample supply of teacher bashing. However, the suggestions of constructive positive actions to be taken are few and far between. It’s no secret that teacher morale is low and, in DeKalb, keeps getting lower with every news cycle.

If there was a way to impact the work …

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Tennessee state senator: Reduce welfare payments to families if children don’t do well in school

A Tennessee state senator has come up with what I believe is a first: Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville proposes to cut welfare benefits to parents whose children don’t make “satisfactory academic progress” in school.

Campfield believes that his bill would compel parents to work harder to ensure their kids excel in school. As you might imagine, his Senate Bill 1312 is triggering a lot of comment.

(If you want to read about another odd law, here is a story about an Arizona legislator who wants all public high-school seniors to recite an oath supporting the U.S. Constitution to be able to graduate.)

Here is a news article from the Knoxville News Sentinel:

While the Knoxville Republican says SB132 is a step toward “breaking the cycle of poverty,” Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, says it could make life more difficult for parents and children who are already struggling.

Campfield said in an interview that …

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Feds: Provide students with disabilities equal opportunity to participate in after-school athletics and clubs

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says students with disabilities are often denied the chance to participate in sports.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says students with disabilities are often denied the chance to participate in sports.

The U.S. Department of Education sent out one of its clarifying “Dear Colleague” letters today, this one explaining school districts’ legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities.

According to US DOE:

Students with disabilities have the right, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to an equal opportunity to participate in their schools’ extracurricular activities. A 2010 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that many students with disabilities are not afforded an equal opportunity to participate in athletics, and therefore may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits of athletic participation.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that …

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Is computer-delivered education equivalent to one with a flesh-and-blood teacher and hands-on experiences?

computer (Medium)Shannon Howrey is assistant professor of literacy education at Georgia Gwinnett College and parent of three school-aged children.  In her second op-ed for the Get Schooled blog, she writes about the spread of MOOCs, massive open online courses delivered over the Internet to anyone who enrolls without charge.

MOOCs award students certificates rather than college credits.

The nation’s elite colleges are rushing to create MOOCs to enhance their brand and to be part of the most talked about innovation in higher education. At some point, colleges are expected to use the evolving and dynamic MOOC market to make money. Among the possible revenue sources: Data mining, selling the course material, selling sponsorships, charging tuition.

In her interesting piece, Howrey considers the future and benefits of MOOCs.

By Shannon Howrey

The AJC reported Monday that Georgia State University is entering the growing market of massive open online courses, better known as MOOCs, and plans to …

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More HOPE to go around this year because fewer students earned it in the first place. Time to consider need-based HOPE?

AJC reporter Laura Diamond is reporting that the slight rise in HOPE payouts this year is a result of fewer Georgia students receiving the scholarship as a result of state lawmakers making the award harder to earn and harder to keep.

I stand nearly alone on this issue here on the blog, but still contend that Georgia has to consider a need component to HOPE. On a personal level, I would love to see HOPE remain fully merit-based as I have twins who will be college bound in 2017.

But on a public policy level, I understand that Georgia must produce many more college graduates to remain economically competitive. And that means finding ways to prod more teens to consider going to college by making it economically feasible for them. (Research shows that finances play a significant role in preventing qualified kids from attending college.)

As it stands now, HOPE has a greater influence on where kids go to college rather than whether they go. Every economic forecast says that Georgia …

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Great Teachers: Effingham County’s Mark Weese teaches the wonders of science

Mark Weese

Mark Weese of Effingham County Schools

I received this note from Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor of English Education in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia: “After the post about how awful the teaching force is (based on a report by an outfit dedicated to making schools look bad), I hope there’s room for this more positive view of the profession.”

Smagorinsky has been writing a great teacher series for the Get Schooled blog. (You can find other great teacher profiles in the archives under Teachers.)

Here is his latest entry about science teacher Mark Weese of Effingham County. I have no doubts after reading this piece why Weese is a student favorite in Rincon, Ga.

By Peter Smagorinsky

When I was a kid, I had all the makings of being a good science student. My father was a pioneering meteorologist, and my mother was the first woman statistician ever hired by the Weather Bureau (now NOAA). Even though we lived …

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Georgia earns a C for how well it selects and prepares its teaching force. Colleges are not selective enough.

downeyart0321(3) (Medium)The National Council on Teacher Quality gave Georgia an overall grade of C in its teacher preparation policies, docking the state points for the lack of selectivity in admissions to teacher prep programs and for ridding classrooms of under performing teachers.

Still, Georgia outperforms the rest of the nation. The average grade nationwide was a D plus.

Here is a link to the full 2012 Georgia report.

The report recommends:

Georgia should require programs to use an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class while also facilitating program comparison.

Requiring only a 2.5 GPA sets a very low bar for the academic performance of the state’s prospective teachers. Georgia should consider using a higher GPA requirement for program admission in combination …

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Privacy laws shield bullies. Would public shame be a greater deterrent?

grabarart0920Tammy Simpson is an anti-bullying advocate and the founder of the Brandon Bitner Memorial Scholarship Fund. Glen Retief’s memoir about bullying, “The Jack Bank,” won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award.  Retief teaches creative nonfiction at Susquehanna University.

This is their first piece for the AJC:

By Tammy Simpson and Glen Retief

As our kids settle in for the second half of the school year, spare a thought for this number: 160,000. That’s the estimated number of American students who will stay at home every day this semester due to fear of being bullied.

Americans spent much of December transfixed by images of elementary school gun violence. However, the fact is that the average student is infinitely more likely to be bullied than shot by a lunatic. Bullying — which can, of course, include gun violence, especially in rough neighborhoods — is the routine risk that can shake loose the foundations of children’s security.

Once, parents typically reacted to a disclosure …

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New federal high school on-time graduation data: National average is 78 percent. Georgia rate is 69.9

New federal data shows a rise in the on-time high school graduation rate.  (AJC/file photo)

New federal data show a rise in the on-time high school graduation rate. (AJC/file photo)

Federal data released today shows that the percentage of U.S. high school students graduating on time has reached a level last seen in 1974.

Citing data from the class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics found that on average 78.2 percent of students graduated within four years of beginning high school. The on-time high school grad rate for Georgia was below the national average; it was 69.9 percent.

The dropout rate for male students was 3.8 percent. For females, it was 2.9 percent.

While minority students continue to post lower grad rates, Hispanic students nationwide saw a rise in their on-time graduation rate.

“The new NCES report is good news. After three decades of stagnation, the on-time graduation rate for high school students in the 2009-10 school year [78.2 percent] is the highest it’s been since at least 1974. It’s encouraging that the on-time …

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