Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

The power of school music programs: Students come for the music and stay for the math

Melissa Walker, a professional jazz vocalist and president and founder of Jazz House Kids in Montclair, N.J., and Peter Smagorinsky, Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia, joined forces to write a piece on the benefits of music education.

Here is their essay:

By Melissa Walker and Peter Smagorinsky

Public schools, in general, have become incriminated in the public mind for having failed society. They must be re-envisioned, restructured, reassessed, and refinanced if they are to serve the public good, according to commentators ranging from folks waiting in line at the post office to governors and national policymakers. Given that schools provide the one common experience that all Americans have, it’s easy to blame them for anything that might follow from attendance, no matter how tenuous the connection. If something’s wrong with society, it must be a problem that schools and teachers are responsible for.

One approach to …

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Henry County reports rise in SAT scores this year

henry

Henry County sent out this release on its performance on the 2012 SAT:

The SAT scores for Henry County Schools’ 2012 high school graduates have been released by the College Board. Several schools saw improvements in subject areas and composite scores. While scores nationally either fell or remained the same in scoring areas, the district followed the same trend as the state and increased its scores in all measured areas and the composite score.

Henry County Schools’ scores are slightly behind the state averages; however, the district’s composite score rose by 12 points, or 5 points more than the state’s composite score.

Scores for the test are measured in the areas of critical reading, math, and writing. Those three scores are combined to give each student a composite score. The highest composite score a student can receive is 2400, or 800 per subject area.

Six of the district’s high school senior classes increased their composite scores with five …

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Fulton’s surprise bonuses: Do they create two classes of educators?

Fulton County is using surplus funds to award teacher bonuses this year, a move that ought to be cheered by the county’s teaching force. But the decision is proving divisive given the plan to award classroom teachers  $1,000 and those who “support teachers”  $500.

The school board voted last week to spend $9.4 million in surplus funds on employee bonuses to make up for missed raises.  Classroom teachers will receive $1,000. All other full-time employees in support roles and in central office will receive $500. See the AJC story here.

An educator who falls into the support category said she was unhappy with school chief Robert Avossa’s explanation for the disparity, an explanation that she felt denigrated her efforts, commitment and professionalism.

“Most of us would agree that in a school system, you have two groups of employees – teachers and those who support teachers,” said Dr. Avossa. “We value the contribution that every employee makes to our system, so everyone …

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Schools rediscover the joy and benefits of building blocks

This young builder at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., impressed President Barack Obama with her building block skills earlier this month. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

This young builder at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., impressed President Barack Obama with her building block skills earlier this month. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

There is a Peter Allen/Carole Bayer Sager classic that proclaims,  “Everything old is new again.” We see that a lot in education.

And here is an example from The New York Times — a story on the resurgence of blocks and block play centers in schools as a counterbalance to prescriptive learning.

The story, which opens with college-educated parents at a workshop on block play, reports that schools and parents are eager to return to foundational activities that encourage exploration and creativity in children and don’t entail filling in the bubbles or sitting in front of screens.

Most parents can attest that there’s no more winning combination than kids and empty cardboard boxes. But I have to wonder how many parents at the blocks workshop also provide their youngsters laptops, iPads and other …

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A notable mother and son share their views on education and CRCT cheating

J. Tom Morgan

J. Tom Morgan

A few weeks ago, I ran a father-son essay about the value of a college degree. Now, I have a mother-son piece penned by Virginia Morgan, a retired educator from the Dougherty County School System, and local attorney J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb County district attorney and author of “Ignorance is No Defense, A Teenager’s Guide to Georgia Law.”

As J. Tom Morgan explained in a note, “Normal families play Scrabble and play cards when they get together. Mom wanted to write after I told her about the APS and Dougherty scandals.”

Dr. Morgan writes the first part; her son shares his view after her and they collaborate on the conclusion.

First, Dr. Morgan writes:

In 1955, at the age of 25, I began my professional career with the Dougherty County School System. Still stands the dusty classroom where hundreds of children began their formal education. The Dougherty County School System is currently under investigation by state special investigators appointed by the …

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Schools without computers — by choice and conviction that they don’t help kids

If you read Tuesday’s blog entry on the startling numbers of babies and toddlers parked in front of TVs and computers screens, take a look at this New York Times story on how many Silicon Valley computer execs — including the chief technology officer of eBay — send their kids to the Waldorf school, a school that shuns technology in its classrooms.

(There is a Waldorf school in Decatur.)

According to the story:

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is …

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Alfie Kohn: The real cheating in APS and other schools is little meaningful learning

Education author and lecturer Alfie Kohn believes that we have yet to address the real cheating scandal going on in Atlanta schools and many others around the country.

“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,” said Kohn, author of 12 books on education and parenting, including “The Homework Myth” and “Unconditional Parenting.”

“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,” said Kohn.

“Focusing on the CRCT as a matter of policy writes off low-income kids of color by turning their classrooms into sterile test-prep centers.”

An influential voice in what is known as “progressive education,” Kohn expounds on these themes with equal amounts indignation and passion in his new book “Feel-Bad Education.”

In a …

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Rights and wrong: Using Facebook to defame teachers

Facebook.0607 (Medium)As many of you predicted, a Douglas County middle school has backed off plans to suspend three students for Facebook postings because of the privacy issues implicated by the principal’s actions in forcing one of the students to log on to the social network at school and show her the postings calling a teacher a “pedophile” and a “rapist.”

And as many of you also predicted, the parents are considering suing. They ought to be grateful, not litigious.

If these were my kids, I would tell them that they got a break this time, that they are walking away from a dangerous mistake that in the future could cost their jobs.

I would tell them that they attempted to ruin someone’s good name for kicks and that is a sign that they are immature children and that I will now have to treat them as such, no phone, no computer, no parties, no movies. At least one of the parents has taken some of those actions, but I wonder if the reprimand will be undermined by the parents’ thoughts of going to …

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When money runs out, line up the usual suspects: Arts, music, PE and counselors

Remember those warnings that next year will even be tougher for schools than this year? It appears they were accurate.

The drastic reductions in staffing and programs under consideration in metro area school systems reflect the ongoing fallout from a bad economy. Clayton was considering one of the region’s most extreme responses: Cutting its school year by 37 days and adding two hours to each day. Instead, the county will lay off more than 75  elementary school art, music, physical education teachers and counselors despite opposition from parents  — the lost positions represent half of the arts, fine arts and PE staffs.

“I don’t see a way of saving a five-day school week and arts and music at the same time,” said Clayton Superintendent Edmond Heatley.

About 600 Clayton parents showed up at a meeting this week, most to protest the elimination of the positions that they say are essential to provide children with a well-rounded education. The superintendent says aggressive …

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Young people don’t know the financial score

I ran this op-ed today from a recent UGA graduate on the Monday education page as I thought it was a good topic.

Katie McCabe recently graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in international affairs and economics. She is originally from Sylvania, but now lives in Atlanta. She is the founder and CEO of Your Score Matters, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness about financial literacy among young people.

Read her blog and follow her Twitter account at Urscorematters@twitter.com. If you know of a group in the Atlanta area that would benefit from free seminar on a basic financial topic, please contact her at yourscorematters@yahoo.com

Enjoy

By Katie McCabe

Having attended the University of Georgia, I feel like I acquired some smart friends — pre-med, business, mathematics, philosophy. I knew kids who were taking some of the hardest classes offered at UGA.
And many of these students came from some of the best high schools and most well-to-do areas of …

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