Archive for March, 2013

DeKalb’s Eugene Walker intends to pass hat to pay for continued legal fight over school board suspension

With the unanimous vote of the newly reconstituted DeKalb school board this week, any suspended board members who want to fight their ouster were set adrift. They now have to front their own legal costs in court.

Former school board chair Eugene Walker intends to do just that.

But he is seeking donations to defray his legal battle. In a post on this blog about the importance of challenging the state law, Walker explained, “If this unconstitutional act is to stand, then what is next? It will only be a matter of time before another constitutional right will be taken away by another wayward and self-perpetuating politico under the guise of the greater good. Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away. This cannot and shall not be allowed to stand.”

Ronald Carlson, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia law school, told the AJC’s Ty …

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The top HOPE Scholarships: Are the best and the brightest in Fulton and Gwinnett? Is rural Georgia shortchanged?

artchangeThe Georgia Senate debated the qualifications to become a Zell Miller scholar this afternoon while discussing House Bill 131, which accords high school students who take dual enrollment college classes the same .5 boost in their final grade that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students now earn.

Ultimately, the Senate approved the grade boost for dual enrollment, but voted 33-15 against against an amendment  to change how the Zell Miller Scholarship is calculated so that more rural Georgia students would qualify.

Only one group of Georgia college students — those who graduated high school with a 3.7 or higher GPA  and scored at least 1200 on the math and reading portions of the SAT test or a 26 on the ACT –   now earn full tuition under the changes made to the lottery-funded HOPE Scholarship. These students are known as Zell Miller Scholars. Zell Miller is also extended to all high school valedictorians and salutatorians.

State Sen. Jason …

Continue reading The top HOPE Scholarships: Are the best and the brightest in Fulton and Gwinnett? Is rural Georgia shortchanged? »

Georgia kids can’t touch their toes. Can schools fix that?

Schools are being asked to get students moving more. (Vino Wong/AJC)

Schools are being asked to get students moving more. (Vino Wong/AJC)

Before I began writing about education, I never thought much about all that we ask of schools, from teaching kids calculus to civics to character to cardiovascular health. As an editorial writer, I would attend meetings where one group after another would tout some critical new skill that kids ought to have or some societal problem that schools ought to fix.

But I began to realize schools can’t be ground zero for every societal change; they simply don’t have the time or resources to tackle every challenge facing America today, including childhood obesity.

Can schools help? Sure, but I doubt schools can solve a problem that begins in the home with poor nutritional habits and lack of regular physical activity.

With that backdrop, here is an AJC story on just how out of shape Georgia kids are.

According to the AJC:

Only 16 percent of a million Georgia schoolchildren were able to pass five basic tests of …

Continue reading Georgia kids can’t touch their toes. Can schools fix that? »

Cobb faces drastic actions to cope with school budget crisis. Considers some online high school classes.

computer (Medium)Georgians can grasp just how grave the underfunding of education has become when they read about what’s happening in Cobb County, long considered one of the state’s top school districts and among its most stable.

Tonight, the school chief proposed shifting many high school classes into online courses, cutting five days from the school year, eliminating transportation to several thousand students and giving district staff five furlough days to address an $86.4 million deficit.

This is occurring in one of more affluent counties in the state, a county that lured new residents on the reputation of its schools.

How are the rest of Georgia districts — few with the financial resources and educated middle-class populace of Cobb — coping with drastic funding cuts to their schools? Never mind bake sales. Are they holding blood drives?

I’m not sure how happy Cobb parents are going to be when word of these proposed economies reach them. Many parents will have questions about the online …

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Parent trigger bill stalls in Senate: The trigger wasn’t pulled but the bill was.

Earlier this session, folks in the Georgia Senate told me that the parent trigger bill was unlikely to win passage. I thought they were wrong when the bill flew through the House but today’s events suggest my sources were right.

House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, withdrew his parent-trigger charter school legislation amid doubts by his GOP Senate colleagues.

Seven states have enacted parent trigger laws; Georgia was among three state considering them. House Bill 123 would have allowed a majority of the parents or a majority of the faculty and instructional staff  to petition for a complete overhaul of the school by converting to charter school status or another turnaround model.

The Georgia bill had three unique aspects. It gave the final say-so to local boards of education. It permitted teachers in failing schools to also petition for a management overhaul. And it allowed parents in high achieving schools to petition to turn their schools into charter …

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Students lead effort to repeal Alabama law requiring teachers say being gay is crime and unacceptable to public

Two Alabama high school students have started a petition to repeal a 1992 Alabama law that mandates teachers in sex ed classes teach that homosexuality is a criminal offense and “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”

While there’s no evidence Alabama schools adhere to the outdated law, the state’s first openly gay legislator, state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, wants it off the books.  She is being assisted in her effort by a conservative Republican in the Legislature who doesn’t want sex ed taught, period.

According to the Anniston Star:

Politically, Mary Sue McClurkin and Patricia Todd don’t have a lot in common. Todd, a Democratic state representative from Birmingham, is Alabama’s first openly gay state legislator. McClurkin, a Republican from Indian Springs, is a longtime member of the conservative group Eagle Forum.

Yet both women say they’d like to repeal the state’s law governing what public schools should teach students about sex. “Sex …

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From Canada to Georgia, teachers complain of pressure to change grades to mask high failure rates

testing (Medium)Interesting AJC story on an Atlanta high school principal who resigned after accusations he bullied and intimidated teachers into raising failing grades.

Grade inflation has been in the national news as schools face increased pressure to improve student achievement, an issue Georgia knows well after the CRCT cheating scandals in Atlanta and Dougherty County schools.

Even Canada, held up as a model of effective education reform, has seen complaints from teachers of mounting pressure to alter grades so fewer students fail under a stricter accountability system.

Closer to home, teachers in a Tennessee for-profit virtual school complained of an email that directed them to drop failing grades. In a recent investigation, Nashville’s WTVF/NewsChannel 5 found that a Tennessee Virtual Academy administrator instructed middle school teachers to delete failing grades.

The case has had reverberations nationwide as the parent company of Tennessee Virtual, K12, the nation’s largest …

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Parent trigger on agenda today. Is the bill fatally flawed?

A Senate committee takes up the parent trigger bill today.

Originally, House Bill 123 allowed a majority of the parents or teachers in a failing school to petition the school board for a complete overhaul of a the school by converting to charter school status or another turnaround model. The bill specifies that the parents can remove school personnel, including the principal, or mandate the complete reconstitution of the school. In a feature unique to the Georgia bill, even parents of high performing schools can apply for their schools to convert to a charter school.

But House Bill 123 underwent dramatic change in its move from House passage to Senate consideration. The Senate eliminated any mention of teachers in failing schools being able to petition for a management overhaul. The Senate version limits that power to parents.

I asked the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, for a comment.

“We’ll see what the Senate committee does with my bill.  …

Continue reading Parent trigger on agenda today. Is the bill fatally flawed? »

So, did you see new DeKalb school board in action tonight? Looked sharp to me. What did you think?

Good questions from new DeKalb Board of Education members at their inaugural board meeting tonight, which I watched online.

The board voted unanimously to end its involvement in the lawsuit challenging the law that enabled Gov. Nathan Deal to oust six members of the board. That vote ends payments to the attorneys in the lawsuit.

It seemed that many folks were at the meeting to cheer on the new board, including the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

The six members appointed by the governor asked lots of questions, all of which were focused, relevant and pointed.

I was impressed with the questions from Deal appointee Thad Mayfield. He was quick in his analysis and offered strong points in the protracted discussion on the financing of portable classrooms and the maintenance of them.

Board member Marshall Orson — one of the three members elected this past fall — requested DeKalb terminate its status as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the state. The …

Continue reading So, did you see new DeKalb school board in action tonight? Looked sharp to me. What did you think? »

Clean sweep of teachers in Senate parent trigger bill

Take a look at this Google doc of the newly revised Parent Empowerment bill, notable for the clean sweep of any mention of teachers or educators. See my blog yesterday on the odd changes to this bill.

Sponsored by House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, the bill initially had been called the Parent and Educator Empowerment bill, but you can’t find the words “teacher” or “educator” any longer. (I have sent Lindsey a note for comment, but have not heard from him.)

In its original form, House Bill 123 allowed a majority of teachers and parents in a low-performing school to petition to the school board for new management of their schools.

The bill, which passed the House, was discussed in a Senate subcommittee today. However, the subcommittee could not vote the bill out as it lacked a quorum at the time.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, explained why he excised teachers from the bill. He noted that teachers are not part of the parent trigger laws in the seven states …

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