Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Georgia School Rankings- How did your school do?

Georgia School Rankings- How did your school do


 The state's report card grades on a scale of 0 to 110. The overall score is made up of four components: Achievement points are based on results of CRCT tests in grades 3-8 and end-of-course tests in grades 9-12, readiness for the next academic level, and graduation rates. Schools can earn up to 60 points. Progress points are based on students' academic growth on state tests. Worth up to 25 points. Achievement gap points are awarded to schools for closing achievement gaps. Worth up to 15 points. Challenge points are awarded to schools with significant number of economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities meeting expectations, or if they exceed the state targets in college-ready programs. Worth up to 10 extra points.  

One teacher helps his students tweet their way to a Revolution

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted

      It is nice when students can have their voice be heard through a Twitter account. For Xian Barrett and his middle school students, they had enough time to share their feelings through a classroom account of the historical implications ranging from Emmitt Till to Eric Garner. For students that do not feel like they have a voice, using a teachers twitter account where he posts the account and they link to other like minded sites gives them a voice. In the article posted by Teaching Tolerance, Barrett uses classroom conversations (I do not know if it is standards based)and students give personal accounts of their experiences with police.
"There are some things that we can never change it seems...#racism #EricGarner #TrayvonMartin #EmmettTill #RekiaBoyd #Ferguson "-DS 8th
"This makes youth of color feel threatened in our own communities because even eye contact w/an officer could mean death #EricGarner"-TG 8th
"I don't feel anything. It's a misfortune he died, but things like this happen all the time, which is pretty sad to say. #EricGarner"-MG 7th
These are just a few tweets from seventh- and eighth-graders who were doing more than expressing their views on the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others: They were completing a classroom assignment.
Last week, Chicago middle school teacher Xian Barrett had his students insert their voices into conversations about these cases by creating a special activity: After reviewing and discussing the details of each case in class, tweet about them. He then shared these tweets on his own Twitter feed (while maintaining students’ anonymity).
Barrett recently shared with Teaching Tolerance his inspiration for the project and the most meaningful takeaways for him and his students.
What inspired you to document your students’ thoughts on #Ferguson and #EricGarner, and why through Twitter? 
Personally, what drives me on the violence issue is that I’ve had to bury too many students. It’s seven now from my classes, but there have been a lot more young people lost from the communities I’ve taught in. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a teacher. They should be putting us in the ground 40 years from now, not vice versa.
But that’s not all. When I did peace circles with my high school students, they would describe being stopped by police 10, 15, 20 times over three-month periods. At the same time, they were terrified of the violence in the neighborhood. I mean, I just heard shots down the block as I’m typing this.
… I’m angry like much of America about the #EricGarner and #MikeBrown cases, but this has been happening forever. It’s part of the same culture that had police working with white supremacist groups to lynch and terrorize people of color for most of our nation’s history. I teach that history, and now that mainstream America is finally discussing these issues more, I want my students to be part of that discussion. How can we hope to address deep institutional criminalization of black and brown youth if we don’t respect them to lead these discussions?
Barrett said, "I want to make sure [my students] are thinking deeply and using their voices. I think long-form writing is still important—we will do several longer papers this year—but I want them to get used to using platforms for power, not just to get a grade for a class."
What was the classroom context for this project? Was it an assignment?
Yes, we studied the background details. It’s important to acknowledge the nuances and the differing perspectives.
In all this work, I try to refrain from sharing my perspective until after they share theirs. In this latest project, some of the students (as you can see in the tweets, it was just a couple) were very sympathetic to the officers. But most were not—as has been my experience in the three settings I’ve taught at in Chicago. Even those with relatives in law enforcement tended to focus on the need for all police to act ethically and de-escalate violence so their colleagues could be safer rather than justifying deadly force.
After reviewing the facts (and the details, like how a grand jury works, etc.), they spoke in groups and then individually wrote their tweets.
How do you teach about Twitter?
It is definitely a teaching tool. I think most of the youth can see that an essay they write gets seen by one or maybe 30 people if you do peer sharing, but a tweet can be seen by thousands. That motivates them. We talk about what makes a good tweet in the same way we discuss what a good persuasive essay looks like. We have looked at other tweets on the hashtags where organizers are using them to rally people and run on-the-ground logistics. But it’s still something we are developing. We’ll see where they want to take it. 
As of now, I do a lot of modeling. As you can see, only a few of my students got parental permission and tweeted their own tweets [@OldSpiceManny, @SebasOrtiz17 and @Tiristaran]. [T]he logistics are difficult—especially with the younger voices.
What were your goals for this activity? What were you hoping the result(s) would be?
I want them to be able to analyze difficult situations and have big takeaways. The youth who linked Emmett Till to Michael Brown or Eric Garner in a short thoughtful sentence are already making the deep connections that transform the study of history from a trivial pursuit to work that transforms the present and future.

That said, there’s going to be a wide spectrum, but I saw growth in all of the students, including those with big obstacles in their normal schooling. They in particular engaged far beyond my expectations. I think it’s worth remembering that, in addition to race, the students with disabilities are far more likely to run into trouble with the police, so I’m very hopeful that they’ll find this work useful.
What have you learned from this experience, as a teacher?
There’s a weird dynamic these days where everyone talks about “having high standards” and what they mean is that you attack the young people if they don’t conform to very narrowly defined standards. I find it to be particularly damaging to youth of color—many of whom aren’t likely to want to conform to standards defined by affluent white communities [and pushed] onto them. I learned that if you break down those high expectations from “Hit this test score” to “Dream some stuff that you are passionate about and make it real,” they do a lot better.
I said that losing a student to violence is the worst thing that can happen to a teacher and it’s true; it’s absolutely awful.
That said, I think probably the worst thing that a teacher can do is to be complicit with the forces hurting and killing our students. I can’t say that I am able to avoid that entirely—we are all complicit in some way—but through projects like this one, I firmly believe that my students teach me to support them better in their struggles for justice in this unjust society.
Editor's note: For more resources on similar topics, visit our Web package Teaching About Ferguson: Race and Racism in the United States.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How can schols help students and families do better with digital citizenship?

Schools must have a digital citizenship policy. It is far more complex than what everyone could possibly imagine. What one parent wants, another could never allow their child to follow. What about the apathetic or confused parent. Some parents could care less what their kids do or look at and most parents have no idea what a digital citizenship policy is beyond knowing a school has one. The following is from an article by Alissa Sklar from Teaching Tolerance Magazine.

Digital Community
by Alissa Sklar
Implementing a BYOD policy is the perfect opportunity to emphasize digital citizenship as part of your school’s culture.
Set up clear guidelines. Schools need to inform students and families about when devices can be used, who is responsible for damage and what the consequences will be if devices are misused.
Talk about empathy and community. Defining your school’s expectations of digital citizenship goes a long way towards avoiding problems. Integrate concepts of safety, rights and respect for self and others—online and elsewhere—into classroom activities and homework. Check out this example of proactive, pro-technology guidelines from the Trafalgar School for Girls in Montreal, Quebec.
Teach about privacy controls. It can be tempting to trade privacy for high follower counts on Instagram, Tumblr or Twitter, but this leaves students open to cyberbullying, trolling, identity theft and the possibility that their digital footprints can come back to haunt them. Consider asking students to research privacy settings as part of an assignment.
Emphasize that passwords are personal. Sharing passwords is too often viewed as a sign of trust in a relationship or friendship, but true friends would never ask you to divulge this information and make yourself vulnerable.

What happens when Johnny does not bring his own cell phone to class?

I think its fair to say that not all schools are equal and when it comes to technology, this is especially so. One school has hardwired computers but a poor WIFI system or smart boards only go to math classes and the rest of the classes do not have that luxury. In my own classroom, we embrace technology and use it every day. Saying that, I have two computers for class exploration and I often ask students to bring their phones for a variety of activities. These include Socratic, Kahoot.it and dictionary.com. But what happens when Johnny or Jane do not have a phone? Do they have to sit out the activity or do a paper and pencil activity because the district either cannot offer an I-Pad or a parent cannot afford or by principle allow their child to bring a device to school. In the article from Teaching Tolerance Magazine, they look at this issue and I bring you a portion of it with some solutions to this problem.

BYOD? [Bring Your Own Device]

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project recently asked over 1,600 experts what they thought the future of the Internet would look like. Respondents replied that the Internet would essentially become the equivalent of electricity—something so integral to our daily lives that it is practically invisible.
Compelled by a similar vision of the future and the increasingly technology-driven nature of our society, more and more U.S. schools are adopting “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, encouraging students to bring personal computers, tablets, mobile phones and other Internet-compatible devices to class to serve as learning aids. According to the 2014 Digital School Districts Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association, the percentage of schools using BYOD has jumped from 34 to 56 in just the last year.
So why BYOD instead of “one-to-one,” a system in which schools provide one device per student?
“Fundamentally, it’s school finance,” says Julie Evans, chief executive officer of Project Tomorrow, a California nonprofit that promotes innovation in math, science and technology education. “Administrators have bought into the idea that having a personalized computing device in the hands of every student is a good idea. But they have not been able to figure out how to pay for that on an ongoing and sustainable basis. In many cases—in most cases—they have backed into BYOD as a solution to that problem.”

There are several things that can be done to help those that do not have the means to use technology in the classroom. 

1. Ask students to share technology such as a laptop or cell phone. If you are playing an online game, put them on a team and have them share. You have cooperative learning in a nutshell. 

2. Check out a laptop/I-PAD cart. If your school has one, plan ahead and have clear goals for students on policy, sharing and so forth. 

3. Have your technology person install activote software on your computer so all students can compare. 

I like using the data to drive instruction. Using electronic devices where all students can be heard helps drive instruction and students can be retaught by class, group or individually. 

I suggest districts/counties/principals and teachers apply for grants. Best Buy has a major grant for technology but that is geared for teachers that write outstanding grants. Mr. Akers 

 To read the rest of the article from Teaching Tolerance, click here. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Today's Entittled generation is using the internet to help pay for college and your invited to help

     Many aunts, uncles and friends of a student would like nothing better than to help a child in need of paying for college or a finishing school achieve their goal. It seems like today's 'Entitlement Generation' already has enough Barbie dolls, video games and Christmas toys that end up in broken piles a few weeks after Christmas and never end up with the memories that make the Toy Story franchise dear to our hearts.
Sites charge a processing fee to host the accounts, and users market their projects or causes to potential donors through a collection of stories, photos and updates.
So what can you do to the generation that seems to have multiples of everything. Think about crowd funding. What it is is a student or organization can put t
heir financial wish list from paying for college, planning a missions trip or research project and invites those that might contribute information on what they will do with the money

It may not be as sexy as receiving an envelop at graduation with a fresh Benjamin or three but can help connect those that need the money with people vested in helping someone achieve a financial goal. 

Crowdfunding sites are plentiful and some do a better job than others. One common theme is the person desiring money uses a description for the financial request, uses links to show the requests are legit and even has rewards that give contributors everything from monetary rewards to DVD's that show the money was actually spent for the purpose requested. 

      In an article written in the AJC by Janel Davis, the sites allow people to use either their credit card or Pay Pal to fund worthy causes for churches, use birthday or endowment money to fund a students educational needs and the list goes on. The money raised is no joke. Many products, student requests and even mission trip requests are 100% funded and the time frame to raise the money has an end date.

  Here is the story.

Crowdfunding your way to a college diploma

By Janel Davis - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two years ago Destiny Nieves was in a bind. The Henry County high school student was excited about starting her college career at Emory University, but not so excited about the price tag.
Grants and a scholarship were paying a large part of her tuition, but the funds were not enough to cover additional fees, books and living expenses. A friend recommended she take her fundraising efforts to the Internet and try crowdfunding.
The social fundraising phenomenon that allows people to solicit online donations has helped raise money for service projects, movies and musicians, and it grew to become a $5.1 billion industry last year. Now, students are using the same power of the Internet to fund their college careers.
“I figured it couldn’t hurt to try,” said Nieves, 21. “The only thing I could do was not get anything, and I didn’t have anything anyway.”
Crowdfunding has been around for years, popularized by sites such as ArtistShare, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter that feature a number of service and personal projects available for funding. This semester, for example, two Emory freshmen used IndieGoGo to raise more than $14,500 to fund their work on a more user-friendly Ebola test, and Georgia State University’s marching band raised $13,000 through crowdfunding to pay travel costs to and from New York City to perform in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And, with the cost of college steadily rising and student loan debt surpassing credit card debt, the general fundraising site GoFundMe has become the go-to choice for students looking to crowdfund their college expenses.
“I think of this as the old patronage system where royalty would sponsor causes and individuals,” said Tyra Burton, a senior lecturer of marketing and professional sales at Kennesaw State University. “Now we see everyday Jan and Joe Smith able to do this.”
Nieves, who has since transferred to Kennesaw State, raised $495 through her crowdfunding account.
The ease of crowdfunding has its appeal. Sites charge a processing fee to host the accounts, and users market their projects or causes to potential donors through a collection of stories, photos and updates. GoFundMe has helped make college more of a reality for people who need help or don’t have strong financial networks or are the first in their family to go to college, Burton said. Those most successful at raising money typically have a compelling story, strong social networks and realistic fundraising goals, she said. She does warn donors that there are risks with donating.
“There is the possibility of being taken advantage of … so that’s why they should be (funding) people they know or are a step removed, like Aunt Sally’s friend,” she said. “The six degrees of Kevin Bacon really applies.”
Morehouse College student Marcus Bracey took his story — complete with a sentimental video and music — and expenses to GoFundMe with hopes of raising enough money to re-enroll in the college and complete his final classes before graduation. Bracey’s story began with the death of his mother in 2011. That led to a downward spiral in his grades, followed by depression. He eventually flunked out of the college, he said, and lost his federal financial aid.
“I thought turning to GoFundMe would be a great way for me to express myself and not feel sorry again,” said Bracey, 25. “It was closure for me.”
His $15,000 goal is far from complete. He has raised just over $2,000 thus far. In the meantime, he’s working to raise money and staying hopeful. “For me, it’s persistence,” Bracey said. “God is in control of our circumstances. I know that my faith will get me through.”
To get through education for her second career, Jennifer Ratcliffe also turned to crowdfunding for help.
Ratcliffe, 54, is an adult learner. “That just means I’m old and going back to schools,” she jokingly explained. The former graphic designer and divorcee decided to reboost her life and enroll in Emory’s nursing school.
Ratcliffe has raised more than $7,000 toward her $10,000 goal to help pay her tuition. About $4,100 was raised through GoFundMe, with $3,000 coming from friends and family who didn’t want to pay through the Internet. The Emory student was so impressed with the crowdfunding experience that she’s encouraged her son to set up an account to help fund his tuition at Georgia Perimeter College.
“I have decided that when I graduate I will give anonymously to a student in a similar situation,” she said. “I think this concept is ideal for students.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Georgia makes it tougher to become a teacher

     It certainly cannot be disputed that anything that improves a profession that serves the public is a good thing. That is why on the surface that Georgia is raising the bar to improve the quality of educators from testing to ethics and improving student performance seems to be a 'win-win' for everybody. 

What seems to be of remiss is the balance between trying to recruit professionals to a field that lags in pay and prestige mixed with intense pressure from schools, administrators and stakeholders including students and parents that are not held accountable when Jack and Jill or the parents do not do their jobs.  I agree that whatever helps a student succeed with proven research is the right thing to do. In an article written by Rose French and Jaime Sarrio  of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the bar to becoming a Georgia teacher is higher than ever. There is nothing wrong with training teachers to pass tougher tests and show they have ethics that add dignity to the profession. 

   What is not addressed are teacher preparation colleges. Many colleges across the country are not much more than paper mills and this includes more professional fields than education. Many colleges stay in business, (yes business) whether they make the grade or not for placing teachers in jobs as successful professionals and pumping out would be professionals whether the market of supply and demand warrants the graduates. Our student loan debt is in the billions and you tell me if a graduate who cannot find a job cares if they can pay back loans approaching six figures. 

School districts and teachers always take the brunt of the educational criticism. While that is fair, it would be more fair if colleges took their fair share of the criticism  and that includes preparing educators for their future careers.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

When gentle discipline does not work for the incorrigible child

     First off, there is no doubt that discipline strategies work for most students, most of the time. There are great resources, books, seminars and the like to help teachers. Saying that, there is no magic elixir for all students in every situation and some students. Some families that send ill-equipped students are pretty dysfunctional and calls from a teacher to a parent will go unrewarded because the parent does not have the skills to effectively build their family unit. In the story below posted in the October 18th, 2014 AJC, this issue is tackled and the bottom line is a financial one for districts to consider. Students who are not disciplined effectively may leave for schools that do it and districts will lose funding in the way of lost students. John Rosemond explains his reasoning and teachers and parents can relate.

Public school discipline policies fail teachers
John Rosemond Parenting
   A first-grade teacher asks what she can do about a girl in her class who is completely undisciplined. After nearly two months of this teacher’s best efforts, the child’s behavior is no better. She is defiant, aggressive toward other kids, and often gets out of her seat and crawls around on the floor. Several years ago, she taught the girl’s older sister, who also had numerous discipline issues. The home is chaotic, so the teacher doubts she can expect much if any help from the parents.    The further problem is that the public school in which she teaches forbids the use of “negative” consequences. She can’t take any privilege, including recess, away from the child. She is restricted to using a visual “red light, green light” system that simply lets the child know what her behavior level is at any given moment in time. At the end of the day, she sends home notices to the parents of those kids who’ve had problems.  With great regret, I told the teacher that I had no suggestions that I’d put any faith in. There are two roadblocks to success in this sort of situation. First, a teacher cannot be expected to get a child’s behavior under control without full cooperation from the child’s parents. That cooperation has to include unmitigated acknowledgment of the problem as well as a commitment to follow through at home when there are discipline problems at school. Lacking that, a teacher is limited to containment strategies with a problem child. Furthermore, she will start every day at pretty much square one. With parent cooperation, a discipline problem can generally be solved quickly.    Unfortunately, there is widespread reluctance on the part of today’s parents to fully acknowledge their kids’ classroom behavior problems. Upon hearing of a problem, too many parents toss the hot potato back at the teacher, claiming that her management of or attitude toward the child is the issue, not the child’s behavior.    The second roadblock, described in this teacher’s communication with me, is public school discipline policy. With rare exception these days, schools tie the hands of teachers behind their backs. As in this teacher’s case, they forbid “negative” consequences like taking away recess or having misbehaving children write sentences. They send teachers to seminars on behavior-modification based classroom strategies that “work” only with kids who would be well-behaved without them. The weaknesses inherent in public school discipline policy virtually guarantee that far too many kids will end up being diagnosed as having “disorders” of one sort or another and given potentially risky psychiatric medications.    A 2004 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that more than 1 in 4 public school teachers put their children in private schools. At the time, that was more than twice the figure for all parents. One of the top three reasons cited by these teachers was better discipline policies. Neither of the two national teachers’ unions would comment on the study. Fancy that.    No one has more investment in classroom discipline than a teacher. Public school teachers are highly likely to opt out of public education for their own kids, in order that they might be disciplined more effectively. It’s time the educrats put those two facts together.    You can visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com  ..