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MyraBlackmon

MEMBER FOR 3 years 38 weeks

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Blackmon: School testing regimen is a crippling lunacy

@proftom: You can trace that for federal elections if you persevere. Opensecrets.org has lots of data on those races. The Georgia Ethics Commission--or whatever ridiculous name it has this year--has a tedious, multi-step search at www.ethics.ga.gov. Of course you can't tell who put money into the PACs that are making the contributions.

posted @ Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 13:52

Blackmon: School testing regimen is a crippling lunacy

@jimgeiser3: Jim, With the passage of the Quality Basic Education Act in 1985, Georgia implemented consistent statewide standards, called the Quality Core Curriculum. A few years later, a study showed these were not up to the level of other state standards around the nation. So we went to the Georgia Performance Standards, which were modified several times. Today's high school students have attended school under as many as four different sets of standards.

Each iteration of the standards has made them more rigorous, with major concepts being introduced at earlier, often inappropriate, ages.

The problem is not standards, not at all. I support consistent standards and accountability. The problem--or a large part of it--is the punitive, unhelpful nature of testing.

I am aware of many more attempts to raise the standards even higher (even while so many of our children struggle to meet the ones we have) not to lower them. While you are determined to see "poor results", I see a steady improvement.

The high-stakes testing is a major reason our children don't achieve at the levels we would like to see--they spend way too much time preparing for and taking tests that don't really measure what they set out to measure.

posted @ Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 13:36

Clarke school district seeks to become charter system

Enough with the battle of the cartoons! Good grief!

To address a couple of points: CCSD has made a lot of cuts in central administration and some in administration at schools. I don't have the numbers, but I can count five positions at the central office off the top of my head.

Several reasons we have more administrators than we did 40 years ago:
1) There is a lot more federal and state funding with strings attached. Many of those sources require a dedicated staff person just to manage that particular grant pool
2) There are MANY more students in schools now than there were then, but we haven't built new schools to accommodate them. So schools are bigger and bigger, which requires more people in administration at the school level.
3) A deluge of federal and state laws about what happens in schools, what has to be documented, and how has required an increase in central office folks and added huge paperwork burdens on teachers. A case in point is disciplinary records: 40 years ago, they kept records only of egregious infractions that led to expulsion and/or suspension. Now every elementary principal has to record every child sent to the office for whatever infraction. With details on the child, the teacher, the offense and the action taken. Even a good talking to from the assistant principal generates a record.

We can't start having TFA fake teachers in our district unless the board agrees to it. We need to pay attention and let them know what we expect!

If Clarke County becomes a charter district, the elected school board will still bear the ultimate accountability and authority for the schools. Their job of setting policy, setting the budget, hiring and supervising the superintendent and long-range planning will not change. What changes is that more parents and community members are involved in an advisory capacity, there is more flexibility in a lot of rules--not just class size, but also length of instruction periods, structure of curriculum and more.

posted @ Saturday, June 28, 2014 - 09:47

Blackmon: Government must be open about tax abatements

@RoyBoy: you--and other commenters--raise good questions. I'm working on answering some of them. Kroger got, I believe, a 20-year tax abatement on the real property and a 15-year abatement on "personal property," i.e. cash registers, equipments and such.

The explanation I got for incentives for that store was that Kroger makes a list of cities where it is considering expanding, then goes "shopping" for the best deals. Allegedly, had we not offered the tax abatement, we would have gone to the bottom of the list.

While that argument may have some merit, as I wrote earlier, grocery stores base their decisions on market forces and the new northside Kroger is in a rapidly growing area.

I hope to do one more piece on this and can hopefully answer more questions.

posted @ Monday, June 23, 2014 - 09:04

Blackmon: Compromise is real work of governing

@The Eagle: And I guess all that money you say is being "thrown at education" includes the $4billion in cuts the last ten years.

posted @ Monday, June 2, 2014 - 18:02

Blackmon: Compromise is real work of governing

@The Eagle: You will notice that there are also questions about balancing the budget and accomplishing other things that have little or nothing to do with financing public education. I included that particular question because one candidate for state school superintendent--a Democrat--proclaimed in a mailer "I will fight for increased funding for public schools."

What I was getting at--and apparently it went over your head, or was filtered out by your prejudice against most anything I write--was that people are claiming they will fight for and do things that they can't possibly do without the cooperation of others. Read the whole piece and think again.

Cheers, yourself.

posted @ Monday, June 2, 2014 - 17:59

Blackmon: Standardized tests aren't useful tools

[quote][b]The Eagle[/b] - Myra...I think the smoke of rising from your rant must have obscured your solution since I could not see one. It is far from clear what you are advocating. Cheers[/quote]

I alluded to my solution and have written about it before. I believe it is a combination of test scores, observation by experts (including but not limited to principals), and surveys of parents and students. Survey questions can be devised that will identify specific things the teacher does and how the teacher responds to certain behaviors of the students. That would give us a good 360-view of a teacher's work, instead of the one-dimensional look we get now.

Here is the link to one piece I wrote about this last year: http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2013-01-12/blackmon-effective-teacher-ev...

Georgia was on the path to a good evaluation system, but the Legislature negated it with its own idea: test scores.

posted @ Monday, April 28, 2014 - 16:01

Blackmon: Standardized tests aren't useful tools

[quote][b]snarkydude[/b] - Nobody can correct a child, because to do so might damage their self-esteem, and parents don't back the teachers up when discipline is needed.[/quote]

Don't know where you get that! I see plenty of that going on in the schools I'm in--and have been known to do it myself.

posted @ Monday, April 28, 2014 - 15:53

Noisy church service in rural Athens area prompts complaint

Contrast that interaction with the interaction that went on between the St. Joseph's Catholic Church and the adjacent Holly Hills neighborhood. It took several years and a lot of compromise to come up with plans that met the church and school's needs and addressed the neighborhood's concerns about noise, traffic and lighting. It wasn't--and still isn't--perfect, but we seem to be living in harmony now. I was head of the neighborhood association and was impressed with the church's willingness to be a good neighbor.

That said, there were some folks in the neighborhood who would have been satisfied only if the church had abandoned its plans and left the area undisturbed.

Most anyone can get along when both sides exhibit respect and good faith in working out problems.

posted @ Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 10:58

Developer plans $88M for new Jekyll Island hotels

Yes, and it will all be done in the name of "making it possible for more Georgians to enjoy 'their' island." One more beach where moderate-income families are being priced out of the market. Sigh.

posted @ Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 10:51

Blackmon: An Easter prayer for love and forgiveness

@The Eagle: There is indeed a restorative justice movement within Islam. Just like in Christianity, all Muslims do not subscribe to the same code of behavior. Here is a scholarly law journal about it: http://works.bepress.com/susan_hascall/3/

And if you Google "Islam Restorative Justice" you will find there is a Facebook Group devoted to it, and a number of other references.

If you assume all Muslims are alike, you do a great injustice to some wonderful people. As in Christianity, only radical elements buy into the "anti" stuff, believe beating their women is OK, etc. It's a huge religion with a great deal of diverse opinion in its ranks. As for any religion, the radicals get all the press, while the every day people who do justice and love mercy get no notice.

Finally, my piece was on restorative justice, and I linked it to the three major Abrahamic religions. It was never intended to be an "article about Easter."

posted @ Monday, April 21, 2014 - 14:12

Huckaby: Recycling some sage advice on planting

I grew up in Washington, GA, next door to Dr. Van Saun, a retired Presbyterian minister. He always hitched up his mule and planted on Good Friday. I believe it was an exercise of his faith.

Honestly, I've planted things on Good Friday only to have them freeze and die. But I've always loved remembering Dr. Van Saun and his mule, plowing and planting on Good Friday, no matter the weather or the forecast.

posted @ Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 20:30

Blackmon: 'High-stakes' testing at a low point

Thanks, Stephanie. I have followed the New York movement pretty closely and really admire how they are handling all this. I've been in touch with two parents whose children--in the same class--will refuse the test. I'm sure there are others. But I also know some parents who like to brag on their kids' test scores, but claim to be opposed to high-stakes testing!

Anyone who is paying attention can see that at best, the CRCT is a snapshot of a single point in time, and in no way an indication of real educational practice.

posted @ Monday, April 14, 2014 - 18:23

Blackmon: Improving education is simple question of will

@cornish531: Please see my response to The Eagle. I believe in holding teachers accountable for what they actually can control, not for solving problems at home and in their communities that they have zero influence or control over.

I reject your premises, so there is rally no reason to argue them.

posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 16:53

Blackmon: Improving education is simple question of will

[quote][b]drdonna[/b] - I would make one small edit--I would say learning that was "developmentally-appropriate" rather than "age-appropriate."[/quote]

Dr Donna, you are absolutely correct. That is my error. I had used that sentence after a couple of sentences about when is the "normal" time for children to read. I had taken those sentences out, but failed to change from age- to developmentally-appropriate. But I don't think that corrupted my argument.

As to in-school support, you are spot on. I may do a column on that, but it's what I was alluding to when I said we need to let teachers teach, not spend their time on menial tasks and paperwork. That work should be done by teaching assistants or parapros. The guidance counselors, reading specialists, front-office staff members all play an essential role in making education work.

posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 16:50

Blackmon: Improving education is simple question of will

[quote][b]The Eagle[/b] - But why does every argument you make in every article you write always come down to yoir belief that spending more money will solve the systemic failures of public education? [/quote]

First, Eagle, I'm not suggesting that simple spending more money will solve the problem. I'm suggesting proven solutions that, like everything else, cost money.

Second, I believe that how a government allocates its money reveals its values. If we truly valued education, we would re-allocate the money we have to accomplish whatever it takes.

On the federal level, a good example is the jets the military says it no longer needs nor uses, being kept in the defense budget by Congress because their manufacture supposedly keeps jobs in their districts. If we spend those hundreds of millions on education, there would be a different kind of economic development that would create new jobs.

In Georgia, we give tax credits to donors to secretive organizations that provide "scholarships" to schools with zero accountability to the public. We give tax breaks left and right to business, even though research is showing that many of those breaks don't actually pay off for the state.

Finally, I just don't buy your idea of "systemic failures" in public education. As a nation, our test scores are higher than they have ever been, our drop out rate is the lowest in our history. The "measurement" that "proves" your contention is a slew of expensive, high-stakes standardized tests that measure neither teaching nor learning, simply how well the children can learn to take tests.

I could go on....

posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 16:45

Galis: Common Core honors founding principles

@cornish531: Grady, I would go back and pull all those solutions from previous columns, but I have too much other research and writing to do.

I am pleased that we are holding charter schools to higher standards of accountability, but I can't find news about the school in Clayton County. I believe what you and I fundamentally disagree about is how we structure that accountability. The use of test scores as the be-all and end-all in "accountability" is inaccurate, shallow and unfair. And that's before we get to what it does to the children!

posted @ Monday, March 10, 2014 - 12:19

Galis: Common Core honors founding principles

[quote][b]cornish531[/b] - Sadly, opponents of these reform efforts are distinguished by the aspects they oppose rather than what they propose to improve the performance of public school education.[/quote]

Grady, you haven't been listening. I've put forth all sorts of ideas about how to measure learning, how to evaluate teachers and how to solve some of the root problems that impact education. I doubt you will hear them because they don't jive with the rhetoric about accountability, which is really about beating up teachers and public schools.

That said, You've inspired me to write a column. Soon I shall be very specific about what I am "for." It isn't utopian, it isn't impossible. Just very different from what we are seeing today.

posted @ Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 21:22

Blackmon: Common Core is just symptom of real problem in education

[quote][b]cornish531[/b] - A substantial paradigm shift is required if Georgia’s education system is to support powerful learning for all students. There must be a strong embrace of standards and accountability. Moreover, education professionals and political leadership of the state and localities must be held accountable for identifying and implementing the systemic changes that improve student achievement. This will not happen until there is more coalition building within and among that portion of the electorate who val[/quote]

You are right, Grady. But certainly all my efforts to build coalitions where folks don't agree on the central purpose of education, much less on the processes and issues in education, have fallen flat. Despite polite overtures, credit where it is due, and other positive outreach, the folks who support the corporatization and privatization of public education don't want to listen to me, they only want to talk to me.

If you have suggestions about how to go about such consensus-building efforts, I would be delighted to hear. But I will continue to fight bills that I believe are ill-conceived and unjust.

posted @ Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 21:19

Dudgeon: State lawmakers working hard to provide excellent public schools

First, I will apologize for missing the master teacher program change.I wrote the column before the revised version was passed. I shall email Rep. Dudgeon with that apology as well.

As far as the rest of my opinions expressed in the piece, I stand by them.

I would respectfully submit to Rep. Dudgeon that, after cutting $4 billion from education in the last decade, "new funding" is a misnomer. It's called "restored funding" and is a pittance. The net increase to teachers from the much-touted pay raise won't be enough to buy a week's groceries for most of them. I didn't see much to write about there, especially since the state has shifted all pension costs and all step increases (mandated by law) to local districts.

HB 897 is 48 pages long. It was impossible to address every provision in my brief column.

Giving local districts more "flexibility" in class sizes does nothing to ameliorate the problem that there are many thousand more students enrolled in Georgia schools (I believe the number is 35,000 more) in the last ten years, and some 3000 fewer teachers.

Just because that nonprofit foundation was included in a law passed in 2012 doesn't mean it's a good idea. I still find it appalling. I will not accept that charter schools are public schools until they have to take any student who wants to go, including special education student; until they have to meet state requirements for teacher certification and until they can no longer "dump" difficult students back to true public schools in the course of the year.

I say that if their actions in the last few years--charter school amendment, establishment of special tax credits to support private schools and many more, are pro-public education, I would hate to see what legislators would do if they were against public education.

I watched online all three hours of the House Education Committee's hearing on SB 167, which I still view as a disaster. More than once, when a committee member asked Sen. Ligon about the impact of a provision in the bill, he responded, "That wasn't the intent." One member had to remind him that Georgians take their laws literally.

My remarks were about the Legislature in general, and not Rep. Dudgeon, whose commitment to public service I appreciate. And I especially appreciate that he sends his own children to public schools. Too many under the Gold Dome choose to do otherwise.

posted @ Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 20:57

Blackmon: Best aspects of teaching can't be evaluated

Grady, I think you miss the point. It is not an effort to preserve the status quo. There are many things we would like to see changed. If you start with the premise that schools are failing--which many of us reject--of course you will believe that "maintaining the status quo" means doing nothing to improve education. If you believe that our schools are doing amazing things and that we cannot or are not willing to invest in valid measurement and evaluation, then improving on what we have is the most efficient, effective course.

The Common Core and its related testing are blowing up all over the country. The are not age and developmentally appropriate, they are full of errors and they send children into paroxysms of anxiety and despair.

The CCSS was never field tested; several of the panel that designed them refused to sign off on them because they saw major problems. But the big money folks pushed and pushed and got them in place anyway. That's because money talks. But parents and teachers and principals know far more about what it really takes to educate children beyond teaching them to fill in bubbles on a multiple choice test.

And if you believe there is a "paucity of evidence" to support current practices, you haven't been reading the current independent research.

posted @ Monday, February 10, 2014 - 13:38

Blackmon: Best aspects of teaching can't be evaluated

Thanks, all, for your good responses to Grady's comments. I've been out of town and off the grid, but I couldn't have said it better!

Fight on!

posted @ Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 20:30

The Editor's Desk: Local school officials make good call on snowy weather

CCSD sent out an email Monday night that said, "Right now our best guess is an early release. We will make a decision by 6 a.m." Then they sent another email a little after six. My granddaughter's teacher--and many others, I'm sure--has a system of texting parents and she relayed the message to those who might not have access or otherwise not gotten the email. CCSD announced late afternoon for today.

posted @ Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 12:52

Blackmon: Even with short legislative session, plenty of questionable ideas in play

@melmarino: No, of course not. But the Legislature's job is not to manage, it's to make the rules. It's the Executive's job to manage. One would think, though, that lawyers making the rules would have some idea of consistutionality, basic research and such.

posted @ Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 17:34

Blackmon: Even with short legislative session, plenty of questionable ideas in play

[quote][b]melmarino[/b] - 82% of our legislators in Georgia have bachelor's and beyond.[/quote]

And Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver told me this week that only 11 percent of them are lawyers. No wonder they write such bad legislation!

posted @ Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 15:26

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