Archive for April, 2013

A ‘kissing cousin’ of segregated proms: segregated high school reunions. Are they common?

A reader of the segregated prom blog sent me a note about something that DeKalb school chief Michael Thurmond referenced in a recent speech, racially segregated class reunions.

Thurmond said that his high school graduating class — he attended high school in Athens and was among the first black students to attend high school with white students — holds two reunions divided by race.  “We have come a long way. But we have a long way to go,” he said.

Like racially segregated proms, these reunion events are not officially sponsored or organized by the high schools, so the guest list can be selective if the organizers so desire.

And apparently, sometimes organizers do limit who’s included in the planning and notifications. A friend went to her high school reunion in South Carolina. She, too, graduated in one of the first integrated classes and expected to see both black and white classmates at the reunion.

But only white students were there.  When she asked one of the organizers …

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Reading between the lines: Florida’s retention program is not worth replicating

Paul Thomas, a Furman University associate professor of education, writes about range of education issues, including the push in South Carolina to follow Florida’s retention policy. This is his second appearance on the Get Schooled blog, but you can read more of his stuff at his “becoming radical” blog.

Thomas sent me this opinion column on the issue of retention. Retention is still one of education’s most hotly debate topics. State policy says Georgia students in grades 3, 5 and 8 should repeat the year when they fail certain standardized tests. But it seldom happens.

The AJC found that districts promote the vast majority of  students even if they fail the retest or blow it off altogether.

Here is an excerpt of the 2008 AJC story:

The AJC obtained state databases — with students’ names removed — that contained spring CRCT scores, summer retest scores and students’ grade level the following fall for 2006 and 2007. In total, the newspaper examined nearly 800,000 …

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In black and white: Segregated proms continue but students at Georgia school trying to make history with first integrated prom

The concept of segregated proms in the South shocked people when the AJC and other newspapers wrote about it a few years back. The first question from readers was how this could still be happening.

It happens because the proms are not officially school events, although a great deal of promoting and planning by students occurs within schools.  Since the proms are private parties held off campus without any school funds, schools disavow any control over the events, which are organized by parents and students and reflect historic and lingering racial divides.

In the news this week is an effort by students in Wilcox County High School to finally end the tradition there of segregated proms. Homecoming dances are also segregated there.

The teens are trying to raise money for an “Integrated Prom,” which would be the first ever in the rural Georgia county. They began a Facebook page yesterday to garner support. When I began this blog this morning, they had 300 “Likes.” They now have …

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Bill Gates: We’re fumbling evaluations when we rate teachers on how students skip

downeyart0401In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates says there should be a fairer way to evaluate teachers. While he is all for accountability, Gates cautions against using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers.

Here is an excerpt: (Please read full piece before commenting.)

Efforts are being made to define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects, including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.

In one Midwestern state, for example, a 166-page Physical Education Evaluation Instrument holds …

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Bieber fever leads schools in Norway to reschedule exams. Can’t ever see that happening here.

Some schools in Norway are rescheduling exams around a Justin Bieber concert. (AP Photo)

Some schools in Norway are rescheduling exams around a Justin Bieber concert. (AP Photo)

No government official in the United States would shrug off a decision by schools to reschedule exams so students could attend a Justin Bieber concert. Such a decision here would be met with indignant speeches about skewed priorities.

Nor can I imagine any U.S. education secretary saying, “We’ve all been 14-years-old and know that interests can be intense.” Not unless they were willing to dodge brickbats and the histrionics of talk radio.

But education and politics are apparently more relaxed in Norway.

According to the AJC:

Five schools in western Norway have rescheduled their midterm exams to allow students to attend upcoming Justin Bieber concerts in the capital, the country’s Ministry of Education and Research said Wednesday.

The Canadian pop star is scheduled to perform in the Norwegian capital on April 16 and 17 — stoking fears that some students in remote schools will skip midterm …

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Alfie Kohn on APS cheating scandal: ‘What if we gave a test and nobody came?’

testing (Medium)I interviewed education advocate and writer Alfie Kohn a while back. You can read the 2011 interview here.

The APS cheating scandal was in the news at the time, and Kohn told me:

The real cheating scandal that has been going on for years is that kids are being cheated out of meaningful learning by focusing on test scores. Standardized tests like the CRCT measure what matters least. The more you know about education, the less likely you would ever be to measure teachers, schools or kids based on test scores.

I wondered what Kohn, author of “The Case Against Standardized Testing” and other books, thought about the indictments Friday of former APS school chief Beverly Hall and 34 others.

I asked him a few questions for an editorial I am writing for the print AJC.

Here are his answers in full:

Standardized tests are lousy measures of thinking. They assess some combination of (a) family wealth and (b) how much time has been diverted from real learning in order to make kids better …

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Seeing teachers as technicians ignores what else they give students: confidence, moral support and inspiration

Spurred by federal policy, many states, including Georgia, want to move to evaluations that consider student progress on tests. But a rising chorus is challenging the reliability of testing to define a good teacher.

Spurred by federal policy, many states, including Georgia, are moving to teacher evaluations that consider student progress on tests. But a rising chorus is challenging the reliance on testing to define a good teacher. (AJC photo)

Frequent blog contributor Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia and recipient of the 2012 Sylvia Scribner Award from the American Educational Research Association for conducting scholarship that has influenced thinking and research of learning and instruction and that represents a significant advancement in the field’s understanding.

Here is a thoughtful piece he wrote on teacher evaluations.

By Peter Smagorinsky

When I was a kid growing up in Fairfax County, Va., my father became head of the school PTA at one point. Among his goals was to institute a merit pay system to reward the school’s best teachers.

Around the house, he’d say, “There’s no one more overpaid than a bad …

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Instant heat in response to NRA study calling for armed officers and gun-carrying staff in schools

tb1605There are many passionate responses from education leaders today to recommendations from a National Rifle Association- sponsored study that schools hire armed security officers and allow trained staff to carry weapons to prevent another Newtown tragedy by reducing response time. The recommendations were released at a press conference today.

Here is a statement from Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund:

“Why is the NRA afraid of the truth? The truth is there is no evidence that armed guards or police officers in schools make children safer. Columbine High School had an armed guard, and Virginia Tech had a full campus police force.

Today’s report is nothing more than a continuation of the NRA’s attempts to prey on America’s fears, saturate our schools with more guns and turn them into armed fortresses. It must be soundly rejected.

It is long past time for us to protect child safety instead of guns. We must not allow the gun lobby to enrich gun …

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Criminal indictment of Beverly Hall: Is it illegal to be an overly demanding boss?

Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall doesn’t dodge the hard stuff. Proving it again today, he dons his legal robes  — he is an attorney –  and discusses the nature of the charges against former APS school chief Beverly Hall.

He is not the only one questioning the breadth of the criminal charges facing Hall and other educators as a result of a cheating scandal first exposed by an AJC investigation of test score disparities.

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 people indicted today in APS cheating scandal.  (AJC photo)

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall is among the 35 people indicted in APS cheating scandal who must surrender at the Fulton County Jail today. (AJC photo)

The Concerned Black Clergy is holding a 10 a.m. press conference today where local attorneys are scheduled to speak about the overreach of the charges.

The press conference is being held at the Fulton County Jail where the 35 accused APS administrators, educators and others indicted Friday are due to surrender.

A 65-count indictment accuses former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall …

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Calendar wars: DeKalb school board calls truce tonight with parents. Delays change to balanced calendar.

The DeKalb school board delayed a new calendar that would have brought kids back to classes earlier in the summer.  (AP Image)

The DeKalb school board delayed a new calendar that would have brought kids back to classes earlier in the summer. (AP Image)

The new DeKalb school board responded this evening to parental concerns about the haste with which the district adopted a balanced calendar, which features a shorter summer and more breaks during the year.

The board voted to delay the change to a balanced calendar, which had been favored by the former superintendent.

The “balanced” calendar approved by the old school board and now reversed by the new one lopped nearly two weeks off summer break and distributed the vacation days in fall and winter.

Former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said the new calendar was better because students forget too much over the long summer break. Surveys showed parents opposed the idea but two-thirds of teachers liked it.

The balanced calendar is followed by neighboring Decatur Schools. Public opinion there varies on the appeal of the calendar, which benefits …

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