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local education

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Staff, parents protest Atlanta school turnaround plans

Days after Atlanta school superintendent Meria Carstarphen unveiled her plans to improve low-performing schools by closing some and putting others under the management of charter school groups, school employees, parents and others sharply criticized those plans during a standing room-only school board meeting on Monday.

“Why do we want to take neighborhood control away from the neighborhoods?” JaTawn Robinson asked the board. “I beg of you to turn around and revamp your strategy.”

Carstarphen announced late Thursday plans to close one school, merge four others and put five others under the management of charter school groups. It’s an attempt to improve the schools and keep them out of state control if voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan this fall.

After the meeting, APS volunteer Duane Milton said he applauded Carstarphen’s “immediacy.”

“What she’s doing is what has to be done,” he said.

» MAP: Which Georgia schools got an "F" on the 2014 CCRPI?

If the Opportunity School District is approved, the state would be able to take over a limited number of Georgia’s lowest performing schools and close them, run them or convert them to charter schools.

Some of the changes Carstarphen recommends would happen next school year, including putting Thomasville Heights Elementary School under the management of a nonprofit affiliated with Atlanta’s Drew Charter School. That nonprofit — Pupose Built Schools — would eventually manage four schools, including Carver High School.

Carstarphen said Monday that the charter school organizations that would manage schools—Purpose Built Schools and Kindezi, which currently operates two Atlanta charter schools—have a record of success. Those groups would be able to make changes that the school district couldn’t on its own, she said.

“They’re choosing to label it privatization or charter schools,” she said of critics. “It’s not.”

The board votes on Carstarphen’s recommendations March 7.

School lunches: Here’s what your kids will be eating if this bill passes

A bipartisan Senate agreement expected to be voted on Wednesday will include some changes to the meals your children will be offered at school, and it may be changes that would bring them to the table.

The bill, which is expected to be passed by the full Senate, will offer more flexibility to the nations nearly 100,000 public schools as it eases requirements on the use of whole grains and delays a deadline to cut the level of sodium in school lunches.

The legislation has grown out of complaints by some schools that the requirements for their meals – changed in 2012 with the support of first lady Michelle Obama – are burdensome and that children are not eating the food.

To qualify for federal reimbursements for free and reduced-cost meals, schools are required to meet federal government nutrition guidelines. The guidelines set in 2012 imposed limits on the amount of fats, calories, sugar and sodium that meals could include.

Many schools balked at the standards, saying children would not eat the healthier options. Wednesday’s vote comes after a bill that would have allowed schools to opt out of the program entirely failed in 2014.

Per the bill, the Agriculture Department would be required to revised the whole grain and sodium standards for meals within 90 days of its passage.

Here’s how the legislation would change what school lunchrooms are serving:

Grains: Currently, all grains served in public schools must be whole grains, meaning the food made from grain must have been made using 100 percent of the original grain kernel. The new legislation requires that 80 percent  of the grains used be whole grain or more than half whole grain. (Currently, schools may request waivers from the whole grain requirement.)

Salt: The implementation of stricter standards for the amount of sodium in school meals would be delayed until 2019 under the new legislation. The bill would also fund a study into the benefits of lowering salt levels in school meals.

Waste: The problem of waste is a big one in school lunches. Under the new legislation, the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be tasked with coming up with a way to reduce what is not eaten by students – particularly fruits and vegetables. Children are currently required to take the food on the lunch line, but many toss them without touching a bite.

Summer programs: More money would be allocated for summer feeding programs – where school lunchrooms offer meals for children who qualify.

DeKalb teachers to get pay raise

The DeKalb County Board of Education has approved Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green's proposal to increase salaries for teachers, principals and other certified school-based personnel. 

More than 8,700 employees, including 6,000 teachers, will receive the raises beginning with their January 15, 2016 paycheck. 

Green says "With these salary adjustments we are making an investment in the quality of teaching and learning in our schools."  He says the primary focus is to improve academic performance of students. 

The $21.5 million annual increase will make salaries more competitive. 

The board decided based on extensive analysis of five metro Atlanta school districts, not including Atlanta Public Schools, the DeKalb County School District was well below the metro average for teachers with 7 to 17 years of experience.  These teachers will receive a pay raise that brings them up to the metro average.  All other teachers will see a pay hike of 2-percent. 

High school principals will see their pay increase 5-percent; principals in middle schools 3-percent; and elementary school principals will get a 2-percent raise. 

Media specialists, counselors, psychologists, Lead Teacher for Special Education, social workers, academic coaches and instructional specialists will also get raises. 

Salaries for certified pre-K teachers will be included and adjusted based on levels of experience and certification. 

Instructional paraprofessionals on Tier 6 and above on the salary schedule will get 2-percent raises.  Any parapro below Tier 6 will get one-percent added to their paychecks.

No Child Left Behind overhaul: What the new guidelines may look like

The House is set today to vote on a rewrite of the controversial No Child Left Behind education bill that has, for nearly a generation, increased the federal government’s role in elementary and secondary education in America.

The update to NCLB, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” (ESSA) will loosen some of the restrictions the NCLB placed on schools and transfer much of the job of measuring school progress to the states.

Here’s what NCLB is, what it requires and how it will change under ESSA

What is NCLB? 

The No Child Left Behind Act increased the role of the federal government in elementary and secondary education holding schools responsible for the academic progress of all its students – particularly focusing on  poor, minority and special education students and students for whom English is a second language.

It was not without many critics who railed against its heavy federal involvement  in local school  districts, the goals which many came to believe were unrealistic and the penalties that were deemed  harsh for “underperforming” schools.

How will it change under “Every Student Succeeds” Act, or ESSA?

  • States set their own goals for educating students and the rate at which the goals should be met. Under NCLB, the government  set the goal of every child in American public schools being proficient in math and reading by the end of the  school year in 2014. No state made that goal.
  • States still have to test students in math and reading in Grades 3 through 8 and then one year in high school. The results must be publicly reported.
  • Each state must come up with a way to judge a school’s performance. What would now be considered an “underperforming” school would be one which sits in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state.
  • Goals in judging how a school performs would have to include test scores, graduation rates and English proficiency rates. States,  however,  can include other factors they consider important to a school’s performance.
  • Instead of the sometimes severe actions underperforming schools could face under NCLB, each state will decided what action will be taken and how long the school could be considered “underperforming” before the action is taken.
  • The federal government  can no longer threaten to withhold funding as a means to force states to use test scores to evaluate the performance of teachers.
  • States would be able to use different (approved) tests in different parts of the state, instead of having  to use one test to measure for the entire state.
  • The Education Department may not give states incentives to use any particular set of teaching standards such as the curriculum guidelines  found in Common Core.
  • Title 1 money would not follow a low-income student to another school of their parent’s choice.  It would stay at the school to which it was first issued.
  • The new law would encourage caps on the time students spend taking standardized tests.
  • The language released Monday is based on a framework agreed to this month by a conference committee composed of lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress.

Click here for the final text of a compromise bill that rewrites No Child Left Behind.  


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Parent outraged after daughter is assigned to pick cotton

A Washington state mother is outraged a teacher at Redmond Middle School assigned her daughter to pick cotton in class.

Black history school meal of fried chicken, watermelon offends many

A student effort to come up with a special menu for Black History Month backfired at Carondelet High School in Concord.

APS cheating scandal as the AJC reported it

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