Archive for January, 2013

Less concern about how much time students spend in their seats and more concern about how much they learn

In an ideal world, students would advance or tarry based on their fluency with the material. Kids who mastered the material quickly would leap ahead. Struggling peers would stay a bit longer.

But such individualized attention is not easy in education systems wedded to 180-day school years, 8-to-3 daily schedules and once-a-year administration of proficiency exams.

States are experimenting with highly personalized high school learning programs and schedules that increase engagement and lead to improved graduation rates.

Look at what Michigan and Ohio are doing.

I am sharing a statement from the Alliance for Excellent Education on New Hampshire’s competency-based learning approach, which is getting a lot of attention:  The alliance is holding a webinar today at 2 p.m. on New Hampshire’s program. Click here for info on it.)

For a century, most students have advanced from grade to grade based on the number of days they spend in class, but in New Hampshire, schools have moved …

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Georgia teachers: Prefer to be judged on student work rather than on student test scores or surveys

A survey of Georgia teachers found more support for using student work to judge them than test scores. (AJC file photo)

A survey of Georgia teachers found more support for using student work to judge them than test scores. (AJC file photo)

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators queried its members regarding Georgia’s new teacher evaluation system and found more support for using student work to judge teachers than student test scores or surveys. More than 2,000 teachers responded to the PAGE survey.

Georgia is piloting a new teacher evaluation system that will include principal observations, test scores and student surveys. Race to the Top is funding the development of that new system.

Here is what PAGE found:

The participants covered a range of experience, with 42.5% having 6-15 years of classroom experience and another 38.3% having 16-30 years of experience.

Grade levels were well represented, with 27.7% from K-2, 30.2% from grades 3-5, 23.2% from grades 6-8 and 26.1% with assignments in grades 9-12

When it came to new evaluation system versus the former one, 72.5% of respondents …

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National School Choice week: 49 million students still without options

Here is an op-ed column by Robert Enlow, the president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the legacy foundation of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and his wife Rose. His piece highlights National School Choice week, which kicks off on Sunday, Jan 27.

Enlow addresses the growing choice landscape, including Georgia’s private school tax credit.

By Robert Enlow

Heidi and Frank Green used to worry about their daughters while they were at school. The Clarksville, Indiana couple was concerned about bullying, cursing, large class sizes, a revolving teaching staff, and a general lack of attention for students.

Thankfully, the Greens say their lives have changed for the better as daughters Gillian and Emma are now eager to attend school. Today they are getting quality instruction at their new Catholic school thanks to a voucher program adopted in Indiana two years ago.

“School choice should be everywhere,” said Mrs. Green. “Parents should be able to decide …

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Teacher evaluations: Is there really enough time for reliable classroom observations?

A middle school teacher I admired for her innovation pulled me aside once to tell me she was leaving the district. Her tendency to stray from the script put her at odds with the new principal.

When I shared the news later with a neighbor, an educator herself, her reaction shocked me: “Good riddance. My son never knew what was going on in that class because the teacher was always going off on a tangent.”

I learned a lesson. What’s outside-the-box teaching to one parent may be a crate of goo to the next.

Through having twins — one with a penchant for flights of fancy, the other with feet firmly planted on the ground — I have seen firsthand that personality plays a role in how well a student relates to a teacher. My son prefers strict standards, frequent quizzes and no projects that demand glue, poster boards or costumes. My daughter likes personal journals, classes that meander and any event that requires wearing a hat.

That’s why I regard promises of objective …

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Teachers refuse to give test, but aren’t there some tests that are worth giving?

crcted.0920 (Medium)Teachers in Seattle are taking a stand against standardized testing by refusing to administer a required district-wide test.

What’s odd to me is the test Seattle teachers are choosing to protest, which is the Measure of Academic Progress. The high performing City of Decatur Schools uses MAP testing as well, giving it three times a year to see where students begin, where they are mid-year and where they are at the end of the year.

My kids attend Decatur schools and are not intimidated by MAP testing as it has been part of their education for a long time.  Nor are they overly concerned with the scores, which they get instantly as the test is taken on a computer. I would be interested in what other Decatur parents out there think about MAP.

As to the comment within the news story below that algebra students see geometry on the test, my kids tell me that the challenge of the questions on the MAP test increases depending on how well a student is doing. If they get a question wrong, …

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Charter schools commission rises from the ashes with familiar faces

The State Board of Education approved seven state Charter Schools Commission members, several of whom were members prior to the state Supreme Court disbanding the commission in 2011 and the voters resurrecting it with their endorsement of a constitutional amendment in November.

The commission members are appointed by the state Board of Education based on two recommendations for each open seat from the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker.

“I am pleased to see that the members of the Charter Schools Commission represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and expertise in business, education, non-profits, and government,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “I know they will take their duty of reviewing charter school petitions and approving high quality charter schools seriously, and I look forward to working with them to improve student learning and achievement across Georgia.”

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle said, “Strengthening and reforming the way we educate our children …

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Can the DeKalb school board reinvent itself in 30 days?

This is the digest form of the four-hour state Board of Education hearing today on whether or not to suspend the DeKalb Board of Education. If want all the details, scan my live blog from the hearing.

The DeKalb board is fighting for its survival after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the district on probation last month because of board mismanagement, meddling, nepotism and fiscal failings. The General Assembly passed a law in 2011 that gave the governor the legal power to remove errant school boards who jeopardize their district’s accreditation.

After the hearing during which every DeKalb board member testified, the state Board of Education delayed voting on recommending that the governor oust the fractious school board, instead approving a consent agreement and giving DeKalb time to show improvement.

But not as much time as the school board wanted.

It was clear some state board members were exasperated with the ongoing problems in DeKalb and …

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State board gives DeKalb 30 more days to reform itself. Will continue debate on Feb. 21

After a hearing that lasted four hours, the state Board of Education delayed voting on recommending that the governor oust the fractious DeKalb school board, although some state board members were clearly exasperated with the situation.

At the start of the marathon hearing, lawyers for both the state Department of Education and the DeKalb school board urged the state board to sanction a consent agreement that would have allowed the trouble board three months to initiate reforms recommended by SACS.

However, the state board was reluctant to grant DeKalb its requested three months to right its ship. So, the state board instead gave them  30 days to report its progress rather than the April date sought by DeKalb.

The state board approved a consent agreement and then turned around immediately and told the DeKalb board to return on Feb. 21 to report on its progress at which time the state board could choose to vote on suspension if unimpressed with what DeKalb has done.

This …

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Pre-k paying off for Georgia according to study

Pre-k pays off, according to the early results of a new study. (AJC photo)

Pre-k pays off, according to the early results of a new study. (AJC photo)

There is near universal agreement in the research community that early childhood education benefits disadvantaged children despite the contention of skeptics that Georgia pre-k is just free daycare.

To address that skepticism, Georgia commissioned a study to look at the impact of its pre-k program.

According to the AJC:

A first-of-its kind study of Georgia pre-kindergarten program is nearly complete, and early reports indicate it shows largely good news about the program that has enrolled about 1.2 million youngsters in 20 years.

The study, which cost $1.5 million in lottery dollars, not tax dollars, was launched at the request of lawmakers two years ago amid dire predictions about the long-term viability of the lottery-funded pre-k and HOPE scholarship programs, arguably the state’s two most popular initiatives.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child …

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DeKalb board chair: ‘You can’t prohibit a student from plagiarizing and then permit some staff person to do it.’

If DeKalb County Schools paid a consultant $10,000 for a report that seems overly broad and overly academic, the district was irresponsible with taxpayer funds. But if DeKalb keeps an employee on staff who copied other people’s material for that report, then it’s communicating to students that cheating can be overlooked.

Ralph Taylor was hired by DeKalb to produce an analysis of its alternative education program in 2011, then offered a job as an associate superintendent in DeKalb shortly after finishing it, according to the AJC.

Following a tip, AJC reporter Ty Tagami discovered that Taylor copied more than a third of his report from publications accessible via the Internet.

DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson offered an odd rationale to the AJC for retaining Taylor in his $117,461-a-year associate superintendent  job. “The infraction pertains to his work as a consultant, not as an employee,” she said through a spokesman.

Tagami interviewed one of the authors of …

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