Saturday, October 6, 2007

Well, the Sky Hasn't Fallen...Yet

I don’t have to explain that there has been quite a debate over school vouchers, so many might be actually surprised that Georgia, one of the lowest carvings on the education totem pole, has actually instituted a voucher program. During debate regarding the Special Needs bill many Georgia legislators argued the program was simply a method of bringing private school vouchers into the state through a back door method. Basically the back door consists of changing the word “voucher” to “scholarship”, but providing parents with a check is the same no matter what you call it.

I’m not necessarily against the program; however, I’m just very interested in how this will all work out……

As with many new initiatives in education Georgia’s new Special Needs Scholarships got off to a minimal start mainly due to timing and notification.

Here’s the way the numbers currently look based on news articles that appeared last week-----The Georgia Department of Education notes there are currently 200,000 students classified as special needs. Of the 200,000 only 5,750 actually applied to attend one of the 115 private schools deemed “approved” by the Georgia DOE. However, out of the 5,750 students who applied for scholarships ony 904 will actually receive the monetary award for this school year.

What could the reasons be?

Well, one of the main requirements state the student has to have an IEP not just a 504 plan. Even though parentals rights are covered at annual meetings with special needs parents that part of the meeting is often rushed and I get a general feeling that many parents don’t educate themselves on the whole process. As with anything in education some special education teachers do a great job of communicating effectively with parents while others.....

Another requirement is during the previous school year students had to have attended a Georgia public school between the FTE count days in October and in March. Unfortunately my experience with many of the special needs students is they move frequently and play school and school system hopscotch.

Another problem has to do with the date the bill became a law. Governor Sonny Perdue signed the legislation in May, 2007 which meant education officials had to scramble in order to notify private schools regarding an application process to be eligible for students and to notify the parents of special needs students. Obviously there were holes in the process.

By the time parents learned of the opportunity many of Georgia’s private schools had already closed their registration process for the upcoming year, and the state DOE didn’t finalize their list of eligible private schools until July. Many Georgia systems begin their school year during the first week of August.

It would seem, however, that more growth will expand the scholarship program as time goes by much like Florida’s Mackay Scholarships.

A list of the private schools in the program as of July can be seen here.

What do you think about the scholarship process to provide more choice for special needs students?

Monday, October 1, 2007

More Student Excuses...

The other day I posted 13 excuse notes received by teachers.
Here are a few more:

1. Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his fathers fault.

2. Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.

3. Sally won’t be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.

4. My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the Marines.

5. Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.

6. Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Received an Award!

Many thanks to Eric over at Secondhand Thoughts
for awarding me with his Wednesday award where he spotlights various blogs. I sincerely appreciate the mention. Eric stated in his post he would like to see regular posting going on here at Best Practices. I would too!

There are certainly enough topics in education for me to be snarky about….and being snarky is one of the indulgences I allow myself now that I’m inching ever closer to the wonderful world of retirement.

Eric, I’ll try to do better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kid Nation/Sad Nation

I understand that reality television is now entrenched in American culture, but I don’t watch it. Believe it or not I don’t even watch American Idol. I don’t have to. It’s become so mainstream all I have to do is watch the news or listen to conversations around me to know who was voted off or who did what. Why waste time watching?

Kid Nation is the latest reality show offering to be seen shortly on CBS. I believe with any media craze there are lines of decorum and what is proper. I believe the production of Kid Nation has crossed that line.

There are several instances surrounding this Lord of the Flies redoux that don’t seem to be following best practices.

*I find it disturbing that a group of program creators sat around in a room brainstorming new programing ideas and decided it would be a great idea to take a deserted ghost town in the Santa Fe desert and drop 40 kids there simply to see what would happen. Let me repeat that……to simply see what would happen.

* I find it sad that people employed by various networks cannot come up with any type of creative programming other than shows that often humiliate participants and help to feed voyeur tendencies. Hollywood unions have also begun to charge reality television is merely a greedy ploy by production companies and media outlets to avoid expenses for storylines and scripts. In a recent AP article union officials charge that reality shows do have writers that should be compensated according to union guidelines and that some of the contestants/performers/participants could be covered under collective bargaining agreements. If charges like this is what it will take to finally end garbage television (not that it was that great to begin with) I’m all for it.

*It disturbs me greatly that parents signed away their rights including decisions regarding medical attention for the sum of $5,000. A New York Times article reported parents had agreed to allow their children to “do whatever they were told to do by the show’s producers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or risk expulsion from the show.” Decisions regarding medical attention were left entirely up to CBS and producers. As a parent I find this fact appalling considering four children drank bleach. There had to be a cameraman around…..why didn’t someone stop them?

*I’m also disturbed that in order to film the episodes students had to miss several weeks of school including the month of April. That’s testing time in my neck of the woods, and in my district I believe those six weeks of absences would be unexcused. Oh, but wait. Silly Me! Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Parent----nevermind----- it’s ok because your child is going to be A STAR!

*Screen Actors Guild representatives became involved after complaints from parents, members, and former young performers who were “appalled at the way [the] kids [from the Kid Nation show] were treated.” After taking a look at the contract the Kid Nation parents signed the deputy national executive for SAG said, “it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such egregious provisions for any performer, let alone children.”

This article from September 5th discusses the contract parents signed a bit further. The lanuguage of the contract prevents parents from suing CBS even if their child died during the “inherently dangerous” shoot.

The article continues: The contract said that the show was “inherently dangerous” and could expose the minor children to “uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness or death.” In the first paragraph it reads, “By signing this Participant Agreement, I represent that I have read, understood and voluntarily agreed to abide by it’s terms and conditions and have explained to the Minor the contents and the meanings of this Participant Agreement to the Minor.”

Just in case Junior didn’t grasp the legal ramifications explained to him, the contract posted at goes on to say, “I acknowledge that by signing this Participant Agreement, I will be giving up certain legal rights on behalf of myself and the Minor.” Parents also signed a clause that released liability in case of “emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, pregnancy and death.”

*A May article in Variety states: the goal for the children is to build a functional society. They have to pass laws, choose leaders, and build an economy. There are situations where children are given choices between things they need and things they want. The producer, Tom Forman, suggested real-world tasks such as preparing a group breakfast, doing hard physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. While many educators simulate economic situations in their classroom to teach the basics of economics, I wonder how many of my colleagues would still be teaching if we allowed even a modicum of the things we see presented in the show's trailer?

*There are no eliminations on the show and children can leave anytime they want, but a five pointed carrot is waved in front of participant’s faces. The ultimate gold star is given away in each episode…….it is worth $20,000. Even my very young students would understand how helpful that would be to family finances. Should this sort of pressure be placed on children twelve and younger? I don’t think so.

If mom and dad want to be reality tv stars and air their dirty laundry so be it, but it is a sad day in America when we allow children to be the focus of a “What if” experiment.

My policy of not watching reality television will continue.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Carnivals Are Open

The Georgia Carnival can be found at What a Concept!

The Education Carnival can be found History Is Elementary.

….and I find this appalling! One of the kids involved was 14. They were returning to school after the lunch hour with the things they were stealing including loaded guns.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Carnival Is Town!

The 136th Education Carnival can be found over at History Is Elementary.
Make sure you check out Elementaryhistoryteacher's other posts as well. I always learn something when I head over to her blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remember 9/11

Find out more regarding this progect at Brave Faces