Archive for the ‘Clayton schools’ Category

Are school budget cuts leaving teachers “overstressed, overburdened and overwhelmed”?

The AJC has a good story on shrinking school budgets. The question is how these deep cuts will affect the classroom and student learning.

According to the AJC story:

In their budgets for the 2013 fiscal year, which began Sunday, many of the biggest school districts cut their teaching staff, which will drive up the number of students in each classroom. Most also imposed furlough days, meaning teachers will lose time for planning lessons or hold class fewer days.

Among metro Atlanta’s biggest school systems, only Fulton County escaped significant cuts. That’s because Fulton curbed spending in prior years, shaving about $200 million since 2009. The rest of metro Atlanta’s big school districts — Atlanta and the systems in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties — slashed around $150 million collectively, cutting at least 2,000 teaching positions.

The loudest uproar was in DeKalb, where about 500 teaching positions and 600 support positions were eliminated as part of …

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Fayette, Forsyth and Decatur lead metro area on CRCT. But all have poverty levels of 25 percent or less.

Speaking of how the CRCT is graded, the Georgia Department of Education released system-wide data today on the 2012 scores.

The highest-scoring metro systems were Fayette, Forsyth and Decatur City, all of which are high-performing systems with relatively low poverty rates.

In terms of low-income students, as measured by students eligible for free/reduced lunches on the most recent state report cards:

19 percent of students are low-income in Forsyth

22 percent of students are low-income in Fayette

25 percent of students are low-income in Decatur

In comparison, consider that Clayton, one of the low performing systems, has 82 percent of  its  students qualifying for free/reduced lunch.  The state average is 57 percent. In Atlanta,  76 percent of students are low-income.

Here is a link to an AJC database of the district scores.

According to the AJC:

Students in Fayette, Forsyth and Decatur City school systems outperformed their metro-area peers on 2012 state exams, according …

Continue reading Fayette, Forsyth and Decatur lead metro area on CRCT. But all have poverty levels of 25 percent or less. »

Si puedes leer esto, gracias a un profesor de español. (If you can read this, thank a Spanish teacher.)

I received several reader emails asking if we could talk about a story on the front page of today’s AJC about the expansion in foreign language classes in Georgia schools.

(Also, here is a link to a related essay by a Dunwoody High language arts teacher.)

The AJC story reports record-setting demand for language courses. In the past four years, the number of Georgia students studying a world language has increased from 17 percent to more than 23 percent, according to the state Department of Education.

AJC reporter Jaime Sarrio says the growth reflects changes in Georgia’s high school diploma track, which now requires all students to earn a college-ready certificate. While foreign language is not a requirement to graduate, students are advised to take at least two years of it.  (Georgia colleges require two years of foreign language for admission.)

The story focuses on Atlanta, which is one of the only school systems in the state to offer foreign language instruction at …

Continue reading Si puedes leer esto, gracias a un profesor de español. (If you can read this, thank a Spanish teacher.) »

Equalization grants: Are poor systems driving Pintos while Gwinnett cruises in a Lamborghini?

Catlady, a longtime poster to this blog, has been asking the AJC to look at the strange calculus of Georgia school equalization grants through which Gwinnett out earns many poor Georgia counties.

The equalization grant program forces wealthier school districts to share money with lower wealth districts. While similar grants have been controversial in other parts of the country,  the program has not roused widespread opposition here.

I am happy to report that AJC reporters James Salzer and Nancy Badertscher examined this year’s $436 million grant program and found some odd stuff.

Among their points: Somehow, Cobb and DeKalb don’t qualify for equalization grants, but Gwinnett and Henry do.

As Quitman County’s school chief Allen Fort said about the formula:  “What we have is a Ford Pinto. What Fulton and Cobb have are a Cadillac and Ferrari. What Gwinnett has is a Lamborghini. When their Lamborghini has a flat tire, they get an equalization grant. When our Pinto has a flat, …

Continue reading Equalization grants: Are poor systems driving Pintos while Gwinnett cruises in a Lamborghini? »

State DOE releases list of Alert Schools today

The state Department of Education released its list of Alert Schools today.

The new DOE accountability designations — priority schools, focus schools and reward schools — replace the “needs improvement” label in No Child Left Behind that educators deemed unclear and unhelpful. These three designations target  “Title I” schools that have a high percentage of low-income students. DOE also designated a fourth category, “alert schools,” so the state can focus on struggling schools that do not necessarily have a high percentage of low-income students.

DOE defines Alert Schools are those that need to raise student achievement on statewide assessments in the areas of graduation rate for high schools and subgroup performance and subject performance for elementary and middle schools. Alert Schools can be Title I Schools or Non-Title I Schools.

The criteria used to identify Alert Schools are:

(1) Graduation Alert Schools: High Schools whose subgroup graduation rate falls at …

Continue reading State DOE releases list of Alert Schools today »

With budgets shrinking, should middle schools cast off sports?

Many countries, including Finland, do not offer sports at schools. Sports are community-based rather than school based.

I wonder if that could eventually become the U.S. model as schools struggle to decide which programs to jettison to cope with diminished budgets. I don’t see high school sports disappearing, but I am hearing about middle schools cutting back on their sports offerings or shifting more costs to parents.

Here is a recent AJC story on the dilemma:

Clayton County Public schools is negotiating with the county’s parks and recreation system to assume operation of its middle school sports teams in hopes that the district won’t have to terminate its sports programs to balance next year’s school budget.

As it stands now, Clayton’s school system needs to cut $16 million from next year’s budget. Scrapping the middle school sports program would save the district nearly $900,000 a year, superintendent Edmond Heatley told the school board recently. The issue is likely to be …

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Teacher absenteeism: Are mental health days on the rise?

Teacher absenteeism can adversely affect students. (AP Images)

Teacher absenteeism can adversely affect students. (AP Images)

The AJC has an interesting piece this morning on absenteeism among metro Atlanta teachers. The story by education writer Ty Tagami and database specialist Kelly Guckian is subscriber only and will not appear online so I can’t share a link. But I can provide a summary.

The AJC analyzed metro Atlanta attendance data for the past three years and found that teachers in nearly all districts missed on average more than 10 days due to illness, training, personal leave or jury duty. Sickness was the most common cause.

The story examines whether “mental health” days are increasing because of class size, diminishing respect and increasing responsibilities and accountability.

“It used to be that teachers only worried about teaching,” said Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators. “Now, they have to worry about paperwork, evaluations, test scores, data management, keeping your students happy …

Continue reading Teacher absenteeism: Are mental health days on the rise? »

DOE releases list of 156 schools on its new “focus” list

Under its new accountability system, Georgia has created a tier of schools known as focus schools. Today, DOE released the list of 156 focus schools.

Focus schools  — which include schools doing well by a lot of students, but not by all students — will be served by DOE for three years with supports beginning in June.

(Since I posted this yesterday, the AJC has put up a news story that lists the local schools. See it here.)

The new DOE accountability designations — priority schools, focus schools and reward schools — replace the “needs improvement” label that educators deemed unclear and unhelpful. These three designations target  “Title I” schools that have a high percentage of low-income students.

Earlier this month, DOE released the names of the 78 schools on the priority list, a label that brings the greatest level of intervention to address chronic under performance.

The reward designation goes to high-achieving schools. DOE will also designate a fourth category, “alert …

Continue reading DOE releases list of 156 schools on its new “focus” list »

Clayton spends $40,000 to trace school chief rumors to no avail. Couldn’t a simple denial suffice?

Dr. EdmundHeatley (Clayton schools)

Dr. Edmond T. Heatley (Clayton schools)

I am not a fan of reality TV shows, but the Clayton County school system could command a following with its unique dramas, the latest of which is spending $40,000 on what AJC reporter Tammy Joyner described as “a futile effort to pinpoint the source of a rumor involving its superintendent’s conduct.”

In her investigative piece, Joyner notes that the school board approved the rumor probe without public discussion or a public vote when the district was dealing with budget cuts that have resulted in layoffs, delays in book purchases and a shorter school calendar.

While the four-month investigation failed to find out where the rumor started or any wrongdoing by Edmond Heatley, it did uncover 400 sexually explicit pictures on school board member Trinia Garrett’s district-issued laptop. The board wound up dismissing the case against Garrett during a hearing Jan. 23, but not before possibly costing the district several thousand dollars …

Continue reading Clayton spends $40,000 to trace school chief rumors to no avail. Couldn’t a simple denial suffice? »

Porn on school board member’s computer. Why is it always Clayton?

As an AJC editorial writer for 12 years, I spent a lot of time writing about the problems of Clayton schools and its dysfunctional school board. So, it saddens me to read accounts of continued problems with the adults running the system, which has many dedicated teachers and committed students.  (I saw them at the many public hearings and rallies that were held during the loss-of-accreditation days.)

Clayton also has some of the weirdest stuff — stuff that takes away from the core mission of education and makes me wonder about the caliber of its school board. And this is an example.

Board member Trinia Garrett was accused of  downloading 400 pornographic pictures to her district-issued laptop. There was a hearing Monday on whether Garrett’s actions constituted an ethics violation, but the 5-2 vote was not sufficient to sustain a violation.

Garrett contends that she did not download the porn and that the computer was out of her hands at times being fixed, but an audit could …

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