Archive for March, 2013

Do or die: Last chance for bills in the Legislature, including the controversial guns on campus effort

tb1605If you have time today, tune in to watch the last gasp of the 2013 legislative session where guns on campus will be one of the top stories.

Today marks the final day when bills either pass or die.

The state’s universities are battling hard against a push to allow college students to carry guns on campus, and seem to have the state Senate on their side. But the Georgia General Assembly is among the nation’s most gun friendly, and most lawmakers do not want to alienate the gun lobby. So this will be a close battle and one that is getting national attention.

To watch from your computer, go here and click on the links on the left side. Updates also will be posted frequently on ajc.com.

According to the AJC summary of where the gun bill and the budget stand:

Efforts to expand access to guns across Georgia in places such as schools and college campuses are going right down to the wire. The crux of the issue: The House wants to allow guns on college campuses; the Senate, so far, …

Continue reading Do or die: Last chance for bills in the Legislature, including the controversial guns on campus effort »

New Race to the Top teacher evaluations with strong reliance on test scores begin in 2014-2015

downeyart0726 (Medium)As expected, House Bill 244 passed both the House and the Senate, incorporating the educator evaluation system piloted by Georgia’s Race to the Top districts into state law. With the Senate vote this week, the bill now moves to the governor, who will sign it into law.

As you can tell from reading the bill, there are some vague references to yet-to-be-finalized evaluation details.

The teacher evaluations will now give great weight to student academic growth as measured by testing. Measures of student growth count for at least half an educator’s rating.

The passage won praise from former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst. “The overwhelming bipartisan support of House Bill 244 provides a clear example of leaders putting politics aside and doing what’s best for students. By passing this legislation, the Georgia Legislature has sent a strong message to the rest of the country – our kids deserve to have great teachers in public school …

Continue reading New Race to the Top teacher evaluations with strong reliance on test scores begin in 2014-2015 »

After 45 days in the DeKalb school chief post, Michael Thurmond still optimistic if not specific

Michael Thurmond (AJC Photo)

Michael Thurmond (AJC Photo)

Interim DeKalb superintendent Michael Thurmond marked his 45th day on the job by speaking this morning to a packed gathering of Leadership DeKalb and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. Along with business leaders, the audience included the newly reconstituted school board and DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

I have now heard Thurmond speak six times, and he continues to deliver the same broad message of optimism: DeKalb schools will get on track, but it won’t be overnight and it won’t be easy.

Thurmond avoids specifics, artfully dodging questions about whether he intends to fire any of the central office holdovers from previous administrations. He responded today that new leaders err when they fire everyone on their first day. Then, the leaders devote the next six months to coping with the fallout. He intends to find out who he needs and who he doesn’t need over time.

Asked how he will stem the exodus of unhappy teachers from the system, Thurmond said he …

Continue reading After 45 days in the DeKalb school chief post, Michael Thurmond still optimistic if not specific »

Can parents trust the state with control of their schools?

charterartMany people in DeKalb and other counties are losing faith in the ability of local education leaders to responsibly manage their schools.

Can they trust state leaders to govern more responsibly?

That’s a question more Georgia parents may be asking if Gov. Nathan Deal wins greater control over local schools systems. And that, reports the AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Ty Tagami, is Deal’s intent.

In 1989, New Jersey became the first state to take over a school district. Now, the majority of states have some legal mechanism to seize control of a troubled district. But research suggests that state intervention does not always solve problems.

That’s because a state bureaucracy can be even more sluggish and unyielding than a local one. And states don’t always have the money or the staffing to turn around struggling systems.

So, while states may come in and rearrange things, they don’t necessarily dramatically improve them as recent takeovers in Philadelphia and Roosevelt, N.Y., …

Continue reading Can parents trust the state with control of their schools? »

Indiana Supreme Court upholds voucher program

Breaking news out of Indiana where the state Supreme Court has upheld the state’s voucher program.

While Indiana’s Choice Scholarship imposes income caps, they are broader than most voucher programs. The amount of the voucher depends on family income and size. For example, a family of five can qualify for half the $4,500 voucher with an annual income of up to $76,5007.

According to the Indianapolis Star:

The ruling, on a teachers union-supported lawsuit from 2011, ends the legal challenge to the program at the state level. The case could be made again in federal court. But in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar program in Ohio, making any further appeal a long shot.

The Indiana case began shortly after the program was created in 2011 when a group of teachers, school officials and parents who oppose vouchers sued the state, arguing the program was unconstitutional.

Vouchers allow low income families to redirect tax dollars from their local public school …

Continue reading Indiana Supreme Court upholds voucher program »

No Child Left Behind neglected gifted students. That is about to change in Georgia.

Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber owns and operates GiftedAtlanta.com, a non-commercial online resource for parents of gifted children. She is a parent advocate for gifted education and the mother of two gifted children.

In this piece, she explains why education policy must not just consider under performing students, but those who are high performing, too.

By Dori Kleber

One of the great tragedies of our American public schools in the past decade has been the neglect of our brightest children. While struggling students have made gains, high-achieving students have stagnated.

During the reign of No Child Left Behind, our schools have been so intent on lifting low-performing students to a level of minimum aptitude that they have ignored the needs of those who already exceed basic proficiency and are ready for greater challenges. The result: Top students are languishing.

This imbalance in academic growth was confirmed in a 2008 study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “High-Achieving …

Continue reading No Child Left Behind neglected gifted students. That is about to change in Georgia. »

If you thought criminal indictments would never come in APS cheating scandal, think again. Indictments coming.

I had my doubts that any APS officials would ever be criminally indicted for the cheating scandal given how long it has taken,  but I may be proven wrong.

According to the AJC:

Fulton County prosecutors are close to seeking indictments in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal, lawyers familiar with the probe said.

Defense attorneys representing some educators are being told criminal charges could be filed soon and that more than two dozen people could be indicted. That would answer questions that have hung over the inquiry since its start: Would the cheating be treated as a crime, and who would be prosecuted?

The Fulton District Attorney’s Office has spent more than 18 months investigating cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

In July 2011, three special investigators found cheating on standardized tests occurred at 44 Atlanta schools and involved 178 educators, including 38 principals. That probe, initiated by Gov. Sonny Perdue, …

Continue reading If you thought criminal indictments would never come in APS cheating scandal, think again. Indictments coming. »

Cherokee school board: Shades of DeKalb in silly exchange between new board member and school chief

I was beseeched by several readers to look at the video of Thursday’s Cherokee County Board of Education meeting. The readers contended that new board member Kelly Marlow tangled with Cherokee Superintendent Frank Petruzielo over a minor issue and wasted a lot of time.

After watching the video, I have to agree that time was frittered away on what seemed a minor point on the dues being spent by the district — approved in the budget last year — for the Georgia School Boards Association.

And the audience seemed to concur, applauding in the video when an exasperated Petruzielo finally said, “I can’t imagine we are spending really this much time on something this inconsequential, particularly with the kinds of issues we just talked about in the work session that are so consequential to the future of this system.”

Marlow ran for the office as a watchdog and a reformer, and that is the role she clearly intends to fulfill even at the cost of creating discomfort.

I happen to like …

Continue reading Cherokee school board: Shades of DeKalb in silly exchange between new board member and school chief »

Shorter summers short teen’s chances to earn money

Do shorter summers hurt the ability of teens to earn college money from such jobs as lifeguarding and camp counselors? (AP Images)

Do shorter summers hurt the ability of teens to earn college money from such jobs as lifeguards and camp counselors? (AP Images)

As a parent in a metro district that returns to school Aug. 1 under a “balanced calendar,” I read this Sunday AJC essay by Roswell parent Vicki Griffin with a personal interest.

While Griffin wrote the column to address the issue of lobbyist fees, she mentions her son’s experience in protesting his school district’s dwindling summer breaks.

That is a growing issue as more systems move to modified year-round or balanced calendars in which students have shorter summers and more breaks throughout the school year. Some states have essentially blocked short summers by legislating that school cannot start earlier than late August.

In fact, North Carolina passed a law that specifies school start dates: Start date no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11 (unless a weather related calendar …

Continue reading Shorter summers short teen’s chances to earn money »

Challenge is not only opening good charter schools, but closing bad ones. A new national discussion begins.

Mike Ritter/AJC

Mike Ritter/AJC

While Georgia seeks ways to open more high-performing charter schools, other parts of the country are engaging in a different challenge: How to close under-performing ones.

The House passed a parent trigger bill that would have allowed parents in even top-rated schools to petition their school boards to convert their school to a charter school. (The bill stalled late last week in the state Senate but could be attached to another bill and come up again.) The recently resurrected Charter Schools Commission is beginning to consider applications for new charters.

Charter schools are public schools that operate under individualized contracts that award them more freedom and flexibility in exchange for a pledge of higher student achievement. To expand parental choice, many states, including Georgia, have been eager to open charters, but less diligent in closing them when the promised achievement doesn’t materialize.

In his study, “Improving Charter School …

Continue reading Challenge is not only opening good charter schools, but closing bad ones. A new national discussion begins. »