Archive for the ‘Cobb County’ Category

Annual paid teacher leave: Average is 13.6 days for veterans. Fulton gives teachers 20 days.

Of Georgia's largest systems, Fulton offers the most teacher leave, according to a new study.  (AP Images)

Of Georgia's largest systems, Fulton offers the most teacher leave, according to a new study. (AP Images)

The print AJC offered several provocative education stories over the past few days, including one on the paid leave afforded teachers in large school districts.

The story was based on a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, which noted wide differences nationwide in leave policies and amounts. (Before commenting, please try to read the report as it explains in detail how leave is defined.)

Who provides the least teacher leave? According to the report:

Of the 26 districts which offer 10 or fewer days of general leave, nine are located in Florida. California, Louisiana, and Texas each have four districts with relatively little leave.

The TR3 district with the least amount of general leave is Desoto County, Mississippi, which only gives teachers 9 days.Teachers working for the DeSoto County (Miss.) school system get the fewest days  — nine.

Who gives the …

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Fulton and Cobb school chiefs: Making changes, taking heat

The AJC ran profiles this weekend of the Fulton and Cobb school chiefs. The two men are part of the wave of new school chiefs who arrived in metro Atlanta over the last three years.

Here are excerpts from both AJC profiles:

First, from the profile of Cobb’s Michael Hinojosa, who came from Dallas where he was credited with many improvements.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Going into his second year, Hinojosa, 55, said he has few regrets. “I wanted to build trust and confidence, but we still have to move quickly, ” he said. “I hate waiting. But I want to take a punch and for it to have staying power.”

Hinojosa has received national recognition for his six-year stint in Dallas for raising at-risk students’ test scores and turning around several schools. During his tour of the district, Hinojosa learned of Cobb’s strengths: Its parents are heavily involved. It has four of the highest performing high schools in the state.

And he learned of its struggles: The school board was fractured over …

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Symphony says Cobb high school choirs not performing to give other schools a chance

Several upset Cobb parents alerted me to this story, but their version of why the Lassiter and Walton high schools choirs are not performing with the Atlanta  Symphony Orchestra this year differs dramatically from that of the orchestra leadership.

The orchestra contends it has nothing to do with the lack of racial diversity of the two choirs, but reflects the need to give other choirs a chance to perform with the ASO.

To be fair to the symphony, I have seen several holiday shows over the years, all with different local choirs. I am uncertain why there would be any expectation that once invited, a choir would be back every year.

According to the AJC:

For the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it never rains but it pours.

On top of money troubles and bitter ongoing contract negotiations, the ASO has provoked a nasty public backlash when it was reported that the orchestra disinvited choruses from Lassiter and Walton high schools from the ASO’s holiday programs because the choirs …

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A delicate dance: When parents ask for specific teachers

Should you be able to request a specific teacher for your child? (AJC file photo)

Should you be able to request a specific teacher for your child? (AJC file photo)

One of the most controversial elements of teacher assignments is whether schools will consider parent requests for specific teachers.

While most systems say they don’t honor parent requests, many principals over the years have told me that they will do so when they can.

Savvy parents get around “no request”policies by asking not for a specific teacher, but for specific characteristics that they maintain enhances their child’s learning. There are a lot of web sites guiding parents on how to request a teacher using this approach. EduGuide offers a sample letter.

On the Great Schools site, parents offer advice on this delicate negotiation. One parent wrote:

At my son’s school, there was one older teacher who had a reputation for being very soft-spoken, and putting on lots of rehearsed “historical re-recreations” of events  (dress up in period costumes and recite “old English.”) My son is dyslexic, …

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Cobb votes tonight on fining drivers who go around school buses. Sounds great to me.

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

UPDATE: Cobb did vote to approve a contract for a private firm to track drivers who go around stopped school buses via cameras and hit them with steep fines.

I hope the Cobb school board votes tonight to become one of the first and largest Georgia districts to allow an a private  company to issue $300 citations to motorists they film driving around stopped school buses.

I am stunned how often I see Georgia drivers darting around stopped buses. I am also stunned how often drivers fly through crosswalks with schoolchildren in them. Visit any metro school and prepare to be outraged by the hordes of drivers barreling through crosswalks and around buses unloading children.

Drivers do not see it as their responsibility to watch for children exiting buses, despite laws requiring they do so.

Nor do Atlanta drivers respect the slower speeds posted in …

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Cobb’s great adventure in technology. We all should watch and learn.

Cobb County is about to experiment with integrating the technologies that dominate children’s lives into the classroom through an ambitious pilot project at three middle schools.

This is a growing trend, but one for which effectiveness has yet to be proven.

According to an Education Week story:

While there is much on-going research on new technologies and their effects on teaching and learning, there is little rigorous, large-scale data that makes for solid research, education experts say. The vast majority of the studies available are funded by the very companies and institutions that have created and promoted the technology, raising questions of the research’s validity and objectivity. In addition, the kinds of studies that produce meaningful data often take several years to complete—a timeline that lags far behind the fast pace of emerging and evolving technologies.

For example, it is difficult to pinpoint empirical data to support the case for mobile learning in …

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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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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, …

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Cobb teacher: Leading the Culture Committee

Cobb teacher Ryan Lund Neumann sent me this wonderful essay. Enjoy.

By Ryan Lund Neumann

If I only knew then what I know now.

Sometimes the old adages are true. Even if they are fragments. Six years ago, I was a brand new teacher. Fresh out of graduate school, juiced up on rhetoric and radical ideas, not only was I convinced I would change a student’s life for the better, I was going to change the whole darn teaching profession for the better.

I would, no matter how arduous the journey, no matter how ridiculous the interruption, find a way. Somehow. Someway.

I would, no matter how arduous the journey, no matter how ridiculous the interruption, find a way. Somehow. Someway. It was going to happen.

So, I decided I needed to challenge myself.

“You’ve gotta put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, Ryan. If you really want to find out what kind of person you are, you have to venture into uncharted territory. You have to put yourself out there in ways you never have …

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Not true that urban schools fail all students: Intown white high school students outperform suburban counterparts.

Jarod Apperson, a Midtown reader, sent me an interesting analysis of Georgia SAT scores, similar to one that I ran a few years ago, showing that white students in metro schools outperform suburban counterparts.  Except he went a bit deeper.

Here is why he compiled the data and what he hopes we learn from it:

Since my analysis has some newer data and focuses on specific schools, people might still be interested in it.  I think the fact that North Atlanta is the No. 3 public school in the state for white high school students could be a strong talking point for APS school chief Erroll B. Davis trying to get more middle-class families to stay in the public education system.

It’s a narrative that’s not heard enough.

To answer your question about how I came to look at this, I became interested in education reform a few years ago when I read a book by Paul Tough called “Whatever it Takes.”  I’ve always felt that excellent public education was the best way to create economic …

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