PAGE One Magazine, May-June 2015

Page 1

May/June 2015

Southwest • Westside • Jordan Vocational • Harlem Dublin • Albany • Kendrick • Johnson • Lanier • Be • Irwin County • Osborne • Crawford County • Tayl County • Lamar County Comprehensive • Creeksid Monroe • Putnam County • Central Gwinnett • Tho County Central • Apalachee • Appling County • We • Randolph Clay • Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. • Mount View • Cedar Grove • Dooly County • Groves • Nort How Some Georgia Southwest • Mitchell County • Jordan Vocational • Schools Are Realizing • Dublin • Johnson • Kendrick • Albany • Lanier • B Jumps in • IrwinHealthy County • Osborne • Crawford County • Tayl Graduation Rates County • Lamar County Comprehensive • Creeksid Monroe • Putnam County • Central Gwinnett • Tho County Central • Apalachee • Appling County • We Osborne • Crawford County • Taylor County • Lama County Comprehensive • Creekside • Monroe • Pu County • Central Gwinnett • Thomas County Centr Apalachee • Appling County • Westside • Randolph • Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. • Mountain View • Cedar • Dooly County • Groves • Northeast • Lanier • Bea • Irwin County • Osborne • Crawford County • Tayl County • Lamar County Comprehensive • Creeksid Monroe • Putnam County • Central Gwinnett • Tho County Central • Apalachee • Appling County • We • Randolph Clay • Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. • Mount

Rising Rates

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Contents May/June 2015

Vol. 36 No. 5



08  Rising Rates How Some Georgia Schools are Realizing Healthy Jumps in Graduation Rates

Jordan High School



5  From the President Want Meaningful Insight on Recruitment, Retention and Compensation? Ask a Teacher.

Legislative 12  Day on Capitol Hill Promotes Healthy Synergy with Legislators

Legal 23  Educators Must Precisely Follow Special Education Requirements

News and Information 22  Meet 2015 Georgia Science Teachers of the Year

13  2015 Legislative Summary

25  PAGE Network Attorney Stan Baker Sworn in as Federal Magistrate Judge

Foundation News 28  STARs Shine at 2015 State PAGE STAR Event

7  From the Executive Director Opportunity School District Plan Won’t Provide Opportunity to Struggling Students

16  Coweta County Teacher in Open Letter to Superintendent Richard Woods 18  Educators Share Insight on Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Compensation

Technology in the Classroom 26  Using Music as the Heartbeat of Instruction

31  Parkview Wins 2015 PAGE GAD State Title

Professional Learning 20 Student-Centered Instruction Promotes Engagement and Learning


25 PAGE ONE magazine Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Providing professional learning for educators to enhance professional competence, confidence and leadership skills, leading to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.

May/June 2015



Editor Tim Callahan

President Larry Lebovitz

Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta

Associate Editor Meg Thornton

Publisher John Hanna

Production Coordinator Megan Willis

Contributing Editor Lynn Varner

Editor Lindsay Field

Advertising/Sales Sherry Gasaway 770-650-1102, ext.145

Associate Editor Jacqui Frasca


From the President

Want Meaningful Insight on Recruitment, Retention and Compensation? Ask a Teacher.


n my countless visits with teachers in my role as 2014-15 PAGE president, I have encountered a common theme: Teachers are using every available resource to engage their students, and students are learning more than ever. The disappointing news, however, is that Georgia educators feel very unappreciated for all of their hard work. Pam Williams, a member of the Governor’s Education Reform Committee and a PAGE member, recently brought more than 30 educators together to voice their ideas regarding teacher recruitment, retention and compensation (see article on page 18). The teachers asked for annual steps on the pay scale, cost-of-living adjustments, funding of National Board Certified Teachers, a guaranteed continuation of the Teachers Retirement System, uninterrupted planning periods, help with Response to Intervention, mentoring and more money for classroom materials. The teachers also said that they are very concerned about the emphasis on standardized test scores — scores that will impact their TKES evaluation and could eventually impact their salaries. Instead of classrooms that focus heavily on improving standardized test scores, teachers know that the best way to optimize student learning is for the educators to teach based on a deep understanding of their students: What are their interests? How do they learn best? What activities most engage them? With the insight offered by teachers who attended the forum hosted by

May/June 2015

Leslie Mills

Williams, as well as the input of the thousands of Georgia educators who responded to the PAGE survey on testing, we implore Georgia policymakers to process this feedback and act in the best interest of education. CARRY ON AS POINTS OF LIGHT

Prior to becoming president of Georgia’s largest and most influential professional association for educators, I was very proud to be a Georgia educator. Now that I have met so many of you and have witnessed firsthand the great work you do, I am not only proud but also humbled and honored to have been your president. At each PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition banquet I attended this spring, STAR students recounted how their STAR teachers impacted their lives. The banquets are truly celebrations of achievements in Georgia schools. Although all teachers cannot be formally recognized as STARs, they are all points of light in the hearts of the students they teach. As George H. W. Bush said, “We are a nation of communities ... a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” As my year as PAGE president ends, I challenge all Georgia teachers to carry on as points of light in our state. If together we shine like blinding lights, policymakers will be compelled to listen. Thank you for allowing me to serve as n your voice during this academic year.

Instead of classrooms that focus heavily on improving standardized test scores, teachers know that the best way to optimize student learning is for the educators to teach based on a deep understanding of their students.



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From the Executive Director

Opportunity School District Plan Won’t Provide Opportunity to Struggling Students


hile this was not a banner year for education legislation, several key actions occurred that educators need to inform themselves about. One is the Education Reform Commission announced by Gov. Nathan Deal in his State of the State address. More about this later, but know that PAGE has been working to make sure that this group truly hears the voices of teachers across the state. Perhaps the legislative action that is broadest in scope and is most critical for educators is the governor’s “Opportunity School District” plan, which passed and will come before Georgia voters in the fall of 2016 as a constitutional amendment that will read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?” That simplistic and misleading statement may serve the purposes of plan sponsors seeking voter approval, but it most certainly will not fully inform the citizens of our state. Worst of all, the proposed OSD “solution” won’t provide opportunity to struggling students. As planned, the OSD would allow the governor to take over as many as 20 schools per year, schools that would be “run” by a superintendent answerable only to the governor. The primary action of the takeover would be a change in administration and structure of the school. For example, a school taken over under OSD might become a charter school operated perhaps by a private for-profit company; it might be a publicly run charter school; it might

May/June 2015

function under an entirely new and, as yet unexplained, arrangement with the local school district; or it might be closed entirely and its students and staff dispersed. Perhaps this hostile takeover model works in business or industry. But when we consider the children who are struggling in our schools and the reasons for their struggles, we can clearly see a change in management does not address their challenges and will offer no promise of increased opportunity for our students. Young children, our earliest learners, who arrive at school lacking in vocabulary, health, nutrition and parental guidance start out well behind their peers. As they mature and the conditions of their lives do not improve, they remain behind and their learning struggles deepen. Students of any age who are hungry, ill-clothed, not sure where they will be sleeping from night to night — or even if they will be sleeping — have a range of needs that educators have tried to meet even as the number and proportion of these students across our state have increased in the past several years. Research and our experience tell us that unless those basic needs are met, the vast majority of these students will struggle to learn, and the likelihood of their failure will rise exponentially. A look at the list of schools the governor believes are ripe for takeover demonstrates the implications of poverty, not a rampant lack of management or concern on the part of the faculties at these schools. In fact, many of the schools are working hard and making progress — a progress that OSD will snuff

Dr. Allene Magill

out in its misdiagnosis of the problem and its myriad causes. Our policy leaders surely must be aware of the learning “undertow” that students of poverty face. Taking over schools, replacing leadership and threatening the staff with layoffs may work in the business world, but these actions will do nothing to alleviate the conditions that impede learning for the students in those schools. There are clear needs in the lives of these students. Why do the OSD proponents refuse to even see n them, much less address them?

A look at the list of schools the governor believes are ripe for takeover demonstrates the implications of poverty, not a rampant lack of management or concern on the part of the faculties at these schools. In fact, many of the schools are working hard and making progress.


Rising Rates

How Some Georgia Schools Are Realizing Healthy Jumps in Graduation Rates

By Christine Van Dusen


hey call it the War Room, where hundreds of index cards are posted on the wall like shingles on a house. Some cards are tacked to a green backdrop, others to yellow or red, and each card is printed with the name of a senior at Sol C. Johnson High School in Savannah. If your card is in the green zone, you’re on track to graduate. Yellow means you’re in danger of not getting your diploma. Red means you’re in serious trouble. Orange dots on the cards denote which classes you’ve passed. The door to the War Room may be closed most of the day, but the teachers and administrators are always thinking about what’s behind it — and what they can do to get more cards into the green section and leave the red and yellow zones vacant. They’ve crunched data, set up credit recovery programs, fought to inspire students and pushed for parental involvement, and the efforts have paid off. The number of seniors graduating from Johnson High increased by about 43 percent from 2011 to 2014, with more than 76 percent of the students graduating in that last year, according to Georgia Department of Education statistics. The 800-student Chatham County school certainly doesn’t boast the highest graduation rate in the state, and its administrators aren’t satisfied with their stats. But at a challenging time for Georgia’s public 8  PAGE ONE

high schools — faced with rising poverty, pressure to hit certain goals on standardized test scores and legislation that gives states more latitude to decide how to hold educators accountable — there are lessons to be learned from schools like Johnson High, as well as Westside High School in Augusta and Columbus’ Jordan and Kendrick high schools. Against the odds, they’ve all seen a marked rise in their graduation rates over the past three years. “We’re working hard, and taking steps,” says Bernadette BallOliver, principal of Johnson High. “It’s about building that culture, of saying, ‘from here, we graduate.’”

Post-Secondary Advisor, Online Make-Up Work, Teachers Pulling Extra Hours Scott McClintock is hesitant to pat himself on the back for the improved graduation rate at Westside High School — a 740-student school in Richmond County with high poverty and a transient population — that went from graduating just shy of 58 percent of its seniors in 2011 to almost 74 percent in 2014, an increase of about 27 percent. He credits several initiatives with the improvement. First: the College Advisor Program, which came to Westside six years ago and is funded through the University of May/June 2015

when we make progress, we make a big deal of it: ice cream parties, tangible things that the kids like. We can’t save them all, but we do our best.”

Academic Coaches Assess Students, Create Models and Support Teachers

Georgia. The advisor’s sole job is to discuss with students the importance of getting a high school diploma and what to do after graduation. “She lets them know all of their post-secondary options,” McClintock says. “Whether you want to go to the military, get a job or go to college, you’ll likely need to graduate high school. She’s been instrumental in having our students come up with a plan.” What’s also helped at Westside is the school’s use of Ingenuity, an online program that serves as a safety net for students who are falling behind. A teacher can build a unit so that a student can redo a class online during one period a day. All stuMay/June 2015

dents work at their own speeds. “We try to make sure students stay caught up. If they fall behind, we give them grade recovery, and hopefully they will get the credit to pass the class,” McClintock says. “If they don’t, we put them in Ingenuity to get them on track to graduate. They have criteria to meet, and if they’re not at a certain percentage by a certain time, they’ll be taken out of Ingenuity and put into a classroom with a teacher.” The teachers have also played a key role. “We’re not Title I, but our teachers come in early and stay late all the time to help students stay on track,” McClintock says. “And

At Jordan High School in Columbus, with its student body of about 800, and 100 percent on free or reduced school lunch and about 20 percent with Individualized Education Programs, the administration has zeroed in on securing grants for programs aimed at improving the vocational and academic school’s graduation rate. A recent School Improvement Grant was used to hire academic coaches, update technology and beef up professional development for teachers. The addition of academic coaches “was probably the wisest use of the money,” says Alton White, Jordan High’s principal. “We have full-time academic coaches in math, science, social studies and English. They look at the data with teachers and help write assessments. They do team teaching, create model lessons and truly support the teachers. And they’re not coming back to me and tattletaling; they are truly here for the teachers.” To keep the grant, the school was required to add 45 minutes of teaching time to the regular day. The grant paid for PAGE ONE  9

the teachers’ extra hours. “For students who were still behind in credits, we were able to use that time for credit recovery,” he says. “We used the Georgia Virtual School to get them back on track.” Lastly, Jordan High set up a freshman academy, moving all freshmen into one of the school’s two buildings. “We kept them all together all day long,” he says. “In that first year, we ended up having a repeat rate of less than 3 percent. It gets kids off on the right foot so they can stay in school.” A new grant has allowed the school to expand its vocational classes, adding robotics, aircraft maintenance and other careerfocused courses. “They can either go to a post-secondary school or enter the workforce with these high-level skills,” White says.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Jordan High School Administrators at Kendrick High School in Columbus, a 900-student Title 1 school, credit the again,” says Alonzo James, principal. Georgia Department of Education’s The PBIS program, which initially Response to Intervention program and emphasized improving student behavthe Positive Behavioral Interventions and ior, now works to incentivize students Supports program with helping boost to pass tests and push for achievement. the graduation rate from 48.9 percent in “We reward those who pass. We have big 2011 to 69.4 percent in 2014, a 41.9 percelebrations, give out shirts and prizes,” cent increase. says James. Under the RTI program, each weekday These measures have helped increase focuses on a subject area in which stuthe ninth-grade promotion rate from dents are struggling. After the results of 72 percent to 92 percent and have put unit exams are analyzed, teachers rememore students on track to graduate, says diate for two or three days, using data James. “Test scores improved, the overall from the exams to create computer-based culture was transformed and the graduainstruction. “Then, the kids take the test tion rate improved,” he adds. Kendrick High has also edged up parental involvement by sending caregivers regular progress reports and by requiring conferences. “We believe that’s critical, keeping parents informed as to where kids are, academically, even prior to getting the progress reports and report cards,” James says. “We also require parents to pick up report cards. We’re getting Sol C. Johnson High School better turnout from parents, but it’s a challenge.” 10  PAGE ONE

Harnesses the Teens’ Competitive Spirit and Offers ‘Twilight’ Program At Chatham County’s Sol C. Johnson High School, a Title 1 school, a parent facilitator has been designated to help engage parents with their children’s academic progress. “Parental involvement can drop off in high school; the parents think that the kids don’t need them as much as they did in elementary school, but they really do,” says Principal Ball-Oliver. “We want to see the involvement before senior year; we want them at ninth grade. Getting them out of the gate correctly can reduce the failure rate.” The school also harnesses the competitive spirit of teens to fuel achievement. For example, ninthgraders push the senior class. The classes often compete, putting up posters in the common area and cafeteria that reflect class progress — or lack thereof. “The seniors say, ‘we have to beat out the freshmen.’ They love this kind of healthy competition,” Ball-Oliver says. “They police each other, saying ‘we don’t want to be behind the juniors.’ We’ve taught them to care about the data.” Another successful measure is Johnson High’s Twilight program, which offers students extra classes and tutoring after school and in the evenings, funded in part through a 21st Century Grant. “During junior year we also hold ‘Leave No Graduate Behind’ meetings,” Ball-Oliver says. “We analyze students’ transcripts and determine what it is they need — be it tests, community service, etc. We share those details with the parents so they can figure out what they need to do. Maybe summer school, maybe Twilight. It’s like a GPS to graduation.” And then there are those color-coded index cards hanging on the wall in the War Room. “Any kid with a yellow or red card has to sit with me,” says the principal. “The second time they end up in yellow or red, they have to sit with me, the parents and the guidance team. We’ll get them mentors. If they can’t get here on time, we’ll wake them up and pick them up. I’m like a mama bear. They know I will go off on them. I tell n them, ‘You are my future.’” May/June 2015

% Change in Graduation Rates 2011 to 2014 2011










Laney HS






Southwest HS






Mitchell County HS






Jordan HS






Harlem HS






Dublin HS

Dublin City





Johnson HS






Kendrick HS






Albany HS






Lanier HS






Beach HS






Irwin County HS






Osborne HS






Crawford County HS






Taylor County HS






Lamar County HS






Creekside HS






Monroe HS






Putnam County HS






Central Gwinnett HS






Thomas County Central HS






Apalachee HS






Appling County HS






Westside HS






Randolph Clay HS






Maynard H. Jackson Jr. HS

Atlanta Public Schools





Mountain View HS






Cedar Grove HS






Dooly County HS






Groves HS






Northeast HS


% 54 46 45 45 44 44 43 42 41 35 35 35 33 33 32 32 32 31 29 29 28 28 27 27 27 27 27 27 26 26 25

Georgia public high schools with the largest increases in graduation rates since 2011, when Georgia joined other states in using a common formula that tracks students who graduate within four years of starting ninth grade. (Only schools with more than 50 graduates are represented). Source: Georgia Department of Education statistics. May/June 2015



Day on Capitol Hill Promotes Healthy Synergy with Legislators By Guest Contributor Tom Mark, Ed.D., Director of Alternative Education, Tift County Schools


t this year’s PAGE & GAEL Day on Capitol Hill, teachers and administrators from throughout Georgia descended upon the state capitol to meet with legislators and leaders from the Georgia Department of Education, including State School Superintendent Richard Woods. The event was cohosted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders. Although a winter storm nearly cancelled the event and hindered the travel of many in the northern part of the state, the meeting was well attended by nearly 200 educators, including a strong contingent from south Georgia. “The high number of people attending, in spite of the bad weather, is indicative of the fact

that educators are passionate about the issues that affect the students in their classrooms,” says Richard Fisher, principal of Len Lastinger Primary School in Tift County. During the morning session, DOE leaders addressed the newly implemented Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Many of the comments from educators were delivered with negative implications, as concern was expressed about the high number of tests being given and the loss of educational time due to the state-mandated examinations. On a more positive note, Jimmy Stokes, GAEL executive director, informed the group that Georgia legislators were debating about awarding diplomas to the thousands of former students who earned the

required number of Carnegie Units but did not pass the standardized graduation test. Since then, the legislation did pass. In his keynote address to the educators, Superintendent Woods delivered hope that the amount of testing would be studied and that it was his hope that testing would be restructured so that students could be evaluated in a more diagnostic manner, instead of the test results reading like an autopsy report. “It is good to see that a connection is being established between the educational associations and the state government,” says Mickey Weldon, chief academic officer of Tift County Schools. “There is a type of synergy being developed that is important if we are to continue to make n progress in public education.”

Following his keynote address at PAGE & GAEL Day on Capitol Hill, State School Superintendent Richard Woods (center) gathered with Tift County educators (from left) Dr. Tom Mark, director of alternative education; Mickey Weldon, chief academic officer; Richard Fisher, principal of Len Lastinger Primary School; and Debbie Brown, assistant director of Sixth Street Academy Alternative School.


May/June 2015

2015 Legislative Summary By Margaret Ciccarelli, Director of Legislative Services


he 2015 General Assembly focused on medical marijuana, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and transportation but also passed several important education bills. Below is a summary of education-related legislation passed in 2015. The bills and resolutions were sent to Gov. Nathan Deal, who had 40 days after the end of session to veto any legislation. The governor did not veto any education bills this year, so all of the legislation summarized below becomes law July 1, 2015, unless another effective date is specified in the legislation. Please note that in the electronic/online version of this PAGE legislative summary, whenever possible, we have included links to supporting documents and legislative voting records for some bills. Please take the time to see how your House and Senate members voted and to learn more about the legislative issues.


SB 133 and SR 287 contain Governor Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment and companion legislation, allowing the state to take over local schools. If approved by voters in November 2016, the plan would allow an Opportunity School District, run by an OSD school superintendent answering directly to the governor, to take over local schools that receive three consecutive failing scores on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index. Four reorganization options would be available to the schools: closure, charter conversion, governance by the OSD superintendent or entering into a memorandum of understanding with the local school district. When the OSD legislation was being considered in committee, PAGE testified and described the need for additional support services for students attending the targeted schools. PAGE suggested that policymakers look to success stories occurring in notable Georgia high-poverty schools for a road map to turnaround and cited concerns regarding the staff in OSD schools. PAGE also requested that legislators prohibit for-profit charter school companies from operating in the Opportunity School District. When SB 133 and SR 287 passed, votes generally fell along party lines, May/June 2015

with most Republicans voting for the legislation and many Democrats voting against. There were outliers on both sides of the aisle, however. One Republican representative explained his opposition to the plan due to its duplicative creation of school services. Several Democrats speaking in support of the amendment cited frustration with and mismanagement by their local school boards. Georgians will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment in the fall of 2016. The amendment will read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?” TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM LEGISLATION

SB 152, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), changes Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System to a hybrid or blended plan. The bill was not heard in committee, nor did it receive a vote on the House or Senate floor. However,

the legislation will be viable next year if retirement committee members vote to send it for an actuarial study over the summer. A date for this joint House and Senate Retirement Committee meeting has not yet been set. MOVING ON WHEN READY

SB 2 allows high school students who pass post-secondary entrance exams to enroll in colleges, universities and technical schools and to obtain their high school diplomas simultaneously with their post-secondary degree or certificaPAGE ONE  13

Legislative tion. The legislation was sponsored on behalf of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta). SB 132, the Move on When Ready Act by Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton), repeals the current dual enrollment law and replaces it with a new one, which allows students in ninth through 12th grades to participate in dual enrollment at high schools and postsecondary institutions. Program funding will be administered by the Georgia School Finance

Commission and is subject to appropriation by the legislature. REPORTING CHILD ABUSE

HB 177, by Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), requires that DFCS notify school personnel who have reported potential cases of child abuse about whether the abuse was confirmed. Similar legislation almost passed during the 2014 session. HB 268, by Rep. Mandy Ballinger (R-Canton), broadens Georgia’s man-

dated reporter statute to require that mandated reporters who learn that a child is being abused by an employee of or volunteer at a hospital, school, social agency or similar facility notify the person in charge of such facility. TRANSPORTATION

The transportation bill’s impact on state and local education dollars changed significantly as HB 170, sponsored by Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), moved through the legislative process. In its final form, the bill is intended to generate about $1 billion annually in new transportation dollars by converting Georgia’s current two-tier system of motor fuel tax to a single excise tax. Upgrades to roads, bridges and transit will be funded by new fees on hotel rooms, heavy-duty trucks and electric vehicles. The bill eliminates some existing tax breaks for Delta Air Lines and drivers of electric cars, and it also allows counties to levy voter-approved sales tax for transportation.


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to inspire I chose GRU. GRU’s new Ed. D. in Educational Innovation allows educators to research school challenges and to implement innovative change.


The fiscal year 2016 education budget funds formulaic increases for student enrollment and educator training and experience. It also includes a partial restoration of the ongoing education austerity reduction. The FY 2016 $280 million partial restoration is intended to allow local school districts the ability to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries. However, the funding is unlikely to enable all local school districts to accomplish each of these important goals. Though the governor’s original budget recommendation eliminated state health insurance for classified school staff working fewer than 30 hours a week, fortunately, the final version of the budget restored the insurance. Unfortunately, a large portion of the partial education austerity restoration will be used by local districts to cover the increased cost to insure these employees. The local district contribution rate for these employees will increase from $596.20 per member, per month to $746.20 per member, per month. This amounts to a $102,825,000 cost to local districts. Other education budget highlights include: •  $300,000 increase for the Young Farmers program in Turner, Union, May/June 2015

Johnson and Burke counties; •  Equalization grant increase of $18.8 million; •  $9.4 million increase in local fivemill share; •  Increase of $1.2 million for differentiated pay for newly certified math and science teachers; •  $631,357 increase for school nurses; •  Increase of $275,000 for Positive Behavior Intervention Supports trainers; and •  $2.4 million increase for personnel for 17 teacher and leader effectiveness support positions, one teacher induction position and two district effectiveness positions. OTHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION

SR 80 requests the State Board of Education rewrite the Advanced Placement U.S. History framework. Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), the same legislator behind the push to withdraw Georgia from the Common Core standards, authored SR 80. HB 91, sponsored by House Education Chair Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), enables students who have fulfilled every other high school graduation requirement but have failed to pass the outdated High School Graduation Test to receive a high school diploma. This legislation was signed by Governor Deal March 30 and became law. HB 502, this year’s Title 20 Rewrite Bill by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek), makes small changes to current education law, including the names of several school district governance models. IE2 districts will now be known as “Strategic Waivers School Systems.” The bill also eliminates existing terminology referring to “status quo” school districts and renames these systems “Title 20/ No Waivers Systems.” The final version of HB 502 contains language from SB 116, the Celebrate Freedom Week Bill by Senator Ligon and from America’s Founding Philosophy and Principles Act. SB 89, the Digital Classroom Act by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), encourages all textbooks to be in digital format by 2020. HB 414 was attached to SB 89 before the combined legislation ultimately passed. HB 414 contains student data privacy recommendations from last summer’s Study Committee on the Role of the Federal Government in Georgia May/June 2015

Education. Among other things, the bill requires that the state DOE create a chief information officer position and develop new policies regarding how it handles student data. HB 164, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), was brought on behalf of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. The bill extends the moratorium on educator PLU requirements until 2017, when the GAPSC’s new professional learning requirements will be in effect. HB 198, the Jason Flatt Act, sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), requires local school districts to provide staff training on suicide awareness and prevention. The legislation contains a hold harmless clause limiting liability for local districts. HB 209, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), requires that school districts provide parents of students eligible for Georgia’s special needs voucher program with specific written notice of the student’s eligibility at initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. HB 313, by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), allows public employees to use up to eights hours of accrued leave per calendar year for the purpose of promoting education in Georgia. Using such leave for political purposes or agendas is expressly prohibited. SB 126 allows doctors or nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for autoinjectable epinephrine and albuterol inhalers to public and private schools so that schools may stock the medicine in case of emergency. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). SB 164, by Sen. Emmanuel Jones (D-Decatur), encourages local boards of education to implement the PBIS and Response to Intervention behavioral programs, particularly in high-need schools. HB 131, the End to Cyberbullying Act by Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers), prohibits bullying of students and school staff through use of computers or other electronic devices, regardless of whether the electronic communication originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic communication is directed specifically at students or school staff, if it is maliciously intended for the purpose of threatening the safety of students of staff or substantially disrupting

the orderly operation of the school and if it creates a reasonable fear of harm or has a high likelihood of succeeding in that purpose. HB 372, the Utopian Academy for the Arts Act by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), was amended to include language from HB 474 by Rep. Margaret Kaiser (R-Atlanta), providing for enrollment priorities in charter schools for educationally disadvantaged students. SR 564 creates a Senate study committee on school construction. HR 620 urges local boards of education to provide educational awareness regarding renewable energy. HR 765 creates a House study committee on the role of school counselors. FAILED LEGISLATION

Because 2015 is the first in Georgia’s two-year biennial session, the following legislation is eligible to pass in the 2016 General Assembly: HB 243, the Education Savings Account Act by Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), seeks to allow kindergarteners and first-graders that never attended public schools to use public funds to attend private schools. The legislation would enable parents to use the state portion of public dollars allocated for their child’s education by depositing the funds in an Education Savings Account to be used for private school tuition, private tutoring, textbooks or homeschool and higher education expenses. HB 240, by Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), is PAGE-supported legislation requiring that at least one member of the board overseeing the State Health Benefit Plan be a retired or active educator or state employee covered by the plan. The bill is a muchneeded move to add transparency and accountability in decisions related to state health insurance. HR 4, a proposed state constitutional amendment by Rep. Tom Taylor (D-Dunwoody), seeks to allow for the creation of new city school systems. HB 100, by Rep. Tom Dixon (R-Cohutta), attempts to change the age by which students can start kindergarten. The bill would change the current requirement that a student turn 5 by Sept. 1 in order to begin kindergarten to Aug. 1 for school year 2017-18, and to n July 1 for school year 2018-19. PAGE ONE  15

Legislative Coweta County Teacher in Open Letter to Superintendent Richard Woods:

‘Please protect my instructional time. I want to teach my students.’


n a compelling open letter to Georgia State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Susan Barber, a teacher at Northgate High School in Coweta County, tells how standardized testing has affected students and teachers in her school. She asks Dear Superintendent Woods, Welcome to your new job. I cannot imagine being in this position at this time, but you have stepped up to take the lead in Georgia’s education system. I was highly encouraged to read your letter to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, explaining your concerns with today’s standardized testing crisis. While you have studied and spoken with

that Georgia policymakers find ways to give teachers more instructional time and reduce pressure to “teach to a test.” Barber’s letter, posted in February on her blog, “Teach With Class,” was published by The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

multiple teachers and administrators, I would like to share how standardized testing affects my students, my school and me. I have been teaching in Georgia at Northgate High School for the past seven years primarily instructing juniors and seniors from remedial classes to AP. I love students, and I love teaching. I want to be a teacher who is “part of the solution and not part of the problem,” which is

harder and harder to do in education today. While I have little control over decisions on a large-scale, my mind is continually thinking on and dreaming of ways to make my classroom, and our system, better. I believe the greatest and most under tapped resource in Georgia’s education system today is Georgia teachers, but the good teachers are starting to leave. I have three degrees, two at the gradu-

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ate level, but my performance, training and knowledge is almost always assessed through my students’ standardized tests scores or through a teacher evaluation system, which is seriously flawed. While I am committed to the standards on which we are measured, a quick stop in my room by an administrator, who is also overworked and held to absurd standards, is not how I want to be assessed. Come to my room anytime to see what we are learning and doing, but please take time to do more than check off the requirements I am meeting. My classroom experience is far bigger than a checklist. Talk to my students. Talk to me. If I am going to be measured on how well my students read and write, I need more time to teach them to read and write. Some days I feel I spend more time getting my plans properly formatted, administering standardized tests and going to professional development meetings on the state evaluation system or Georgia Milestone than I do teaching. These things are needed and necessary, but when they interfere with my ability and time to teach, there is a serious problem. Please protect my instructional time. I want to teach my students. My students need me to teach them. Please protect our administrators’ time by allowing them to be about the business of curriculum planning, strategic and longterm goal setting and spending quality time with teachers and students. In addition to instructional time being used for testing, the amount of money

‘Almost $108 million has been designated for the Georgia Milestone assessment. As department chair at my high school, every year I have to tell my team that we will once again not get new textbooks. We have been through three adoption cycles now without new books. I beg that state money will be funneled to where it is most needed: students.’ devoted to testing is mind-boggling. Almost $108 million has been designated for the Georgia Milestone assessment. As department chair at my high school, every year I have to tell my team that we will once again not get new textbooks. We have been through three adoption cycles now without new books. I beg that state money will be funneled to where it is most needed: students. Students do not directly benefit from testing, yet that is where the money goes. I understand this is a complex issue with federal and state requirements to be fulfilled, but our students are suffering while political gains are being made. We must put a stop to this. Testing does offer some advantages. I am not a proponent of throwing out tests all together. Schools should be held accountable on student learning as well as teacher instruction, but we have swung so far to one side that there is no longer balance in the system. Testing does not measure a student’s growth in his or her

love for learning or the development of grit. Testing does not measure a student’s thought process or style of writing. Testing does not measure the ability to apply knowledge or creative problem solving. I would like to think that these are some of the most important skills students learn in school today, yet they count for nothing in regard to my evaluation or my school’s performance. The system today is defined by terms such as CCSS, TKES, LKES, CCRPI, GHSGT, GAPS, SACS, CRCT, GMAS, SGAs, SLOs, yet all I want to do is teach SCHOOL. Give me and my colleagues the freedom to do what we are trained to do and what we love doing. I voted for you and am now looking to you to be a sensible leader who will not play political games but will advocate for students and teachers. Susan Barber English Department Chair Northgate High School


‘Some days I feel I spend more time getting my plans properly formatted, administering standardized tests and going to professional development meetings on the state evaluation system or Georgia Milestone than I do teaching.’ May/June 2015


Legislative Governor’s Education Reform Commission

Educators Share Insight on Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Compensation


bout 40 Georgia educators weighed in on teacher recruitment, retention and compensation this spring as guests of a subcommittee of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission. The subcommittee is headed by PAGE member Pam Williams, 2011 Georgia Teacher of the Year. “It was a lively afternoon!” said PAGE Board Member Kelli

De Guire of Gordon County. “As educators, it is vital that we keep up and stay informed. This commission will be changing the (QBE) school funding formula or create a new one, and it will affect our employment, compensation and retirement.” Summarized below are comments submitted to the commission by several PAGE members invited to attend the subcommittee meeting.

Stephanie Davis Howard, Marietta High School, Cobb County, PAGE President-Elect Attrition rates are higher in middle and high school teachers than elementary teachers, especially in math and science. Factors that contribute may include the following: Increased Teacher Accountability: Teachers are accountable for student progress, regardless of transiency, truancy, motivation and other socioeconomic factors. Additional Duties: With beforeand after-school, lunch, restroom and between-class duties, teachers often cannot monitor students as they enter the classroom. These demands also cut into time to assist students and prepare lessons. Under TKES, teachers are also expected to attend more evening and weekend programs. Encroachment on Planning Periods: Planning periods used for professional training and parent/teacher conferences, for example, can be scheduled more efficiently. Many teachers feel that meetings are held just to document collaboration. Infringement on Instructional Time: Teachers are held accountable for student progress, but students are often excused for field trips, assemblies, pep rallies, school programs and club duties. Testing: Test preparation, test review and testing take up much of the school year. In addition, changes in assessment are made before good data can be collected and students can benefit. Consider implementing a new cohort when major changes are made in curriculum or assessment. Student Behavior and Discipline: We need a paradigm shift regarding discipline. Disruptors in the classroom impede student learning, but perhaps we should shift to more positive measures. We know that minorities receive


punitive outcomes at a higher rate. The key is consistency in administration of the discipline policy. (Teachers are held accountable for student progress, even if a student is suspended, transient or frequently absent.) Compensation and Pay for Performance: Furloughs, salary freezes and job losses due to decreased funding have significantly impacted educators. Salaries should be commensurate with duties. Teachers used to rely on summer jobs to supplement their 10-month income, but the school year now begins in late July and many teachers spend summers completing professional learning and/or preparing for the school year. If teachers are to work for a full year, their compensation should reflect this. Furthermore, teacher salary, compensation and retirement should be studied as a comprehensive package, not piecemeal. Look to packages offered by countries and states with high student success rates. Until educators become more confident with TKES, it should not be tied to the salary schedule. Reliability of SLDS, student and parent surveys, student transiency and student motivation all influence performance, but how will evaluations by less-than-effective administrators be addressed? How does the system address content area teachers versus teachers of electives? Secondary science teachers, which have the highest attrition rate, generally have both a lecture component and a lab component. These teachers likely feel undercompensated. Guard Against Burnout: Give teachers an opportunity to hold a variety of positions. Some packages offer leadership opportunities, complete with a stipend, concurrent with teaching duties.

Contrary to what we’d like to believe, a highly effective teacher does not multitask well. One can do two different jobs adequately but not necessarily well. An opportunity to come out of the classroom every few years — as a teacher mentor, content area coach, administrator or as a Response to Intervention or Student Support Team coordinator, for example — without penalty, may strengthen teachers and give them a valuable new perspective. An alternative is to offer a paid sabbatical during a teacher’s tenure. Teacher Recruitment: Many people, including some policymakers, still harbor the attitude that, “If you can’t, teach.” Likewise, many intellectual students choose to study pre-med, pre-law, engineering, etc. Teaching is sometimes one’s back-up plan. We must recruit talented youth beginning in secondary school. Ineffective teachers still navigate through the system because the right questions are not being asked. Someone who does not like children should not be in the classroom. Someone who cannot “deal” with a diverse population should not be in public school. It does not take three to four years to determine if this is the case. In fact, our faculty and administrative staff should reflect the district demographics. Georgia has several military installations. Service members who are separating or retiring provide an excellent pool of potential educators. Many are competent in working with a diverse population of young people. Georgia’s adoption of Green to Gold or similar programs to move these individuals quickly through a certification process has been effective.

May/June 2015

Kelli De Guire, Sonoraville High School, Gordon County Money: We can dance around it all we want, but if you don’t pay teachers a better wage or if we continue to dissolve teacher benefits, which in the past were recruitment and retention tools, we will never be able to keep teachers. Advancement: Teachers need a way to advance themselves and their pay outside of an administrative role. We should reexamine the Master Teacher system for those who teach non-standardized tested subjects. If the state wants teacher leaders, we need a clear path and the pay to go with it. Standardized Testing: We need less testing and more teaching. And we certainly don’t want 50 percent of our pay dependent upon those tests. Evaluations: Fair evaluations require evaluators who are experienced in the subject area. Gifted Classes Testing: For gifted classes, the growth model provides limited or no information or even causes a negative indicator. (I have data supporting this.) Laura Perryman, Blackmon Road Middle School, Muscogee County •  Reduce classroom size. •  Reduce days spent testing and allow more instructional time. •  Return to block scheduling. •  Schedule teachers for one subject and grade level. •  Stop changing the standards, especially for math. •  Provide better disciplinary support. •  Provide parenting programs for parents with children who are repeat behavior offenders. •  Equip every classroom with closed-circuit television. •  Consider the following methods of enhancing teacher compensation: Assist with student loan debt; eliminate state tax for teachers or allow a tax credit/deduction; provide a sign-on bonus; issue annual cost-of-living raises and eliminate salary caps; provide a matching 401K program in addition to the current TRS; increase retirement multiplier to 2.5 percent per year; initiate a home-purchase assistance program; provide local fitness center/season passes to the theater/special events to help with work/life balance.

May/June 2015

Dr. Susan Mullins, Central Educational Center, Coweta County •  The polarization of education along political lines in Georgia and the U.S. has done nothing to improve schools, instruction, quality of teachers or student performance. A key component of quality education is quality teachers. The polarized climate discourages prospective teachers, particularly young students who are told by parents and their own teachers, to stay away from the field of education. Until faith and confidence in the teaching profession have been restored, efforts to improve education “top down” are likely to have little effect. As with any business, growing your own workforce by targeting prospective employees from your own ranks is vital to growing the education workforce. The points above work against this. Georgia has middle and high school programs that recruit high achieving and highly motivated students into the teaching profession, but the committee members didn’t seem to be aware of these programs. •  We have structures in place to allow our state superintendent and the Department of Education to work with failing schools. Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District would create another layer of government, which could include privatization. The manager of the school also gets ownership of school properties, and more local control and local property tax money would be stripped away. Would Governor Deal allow the federal govSusan N. Wilson, Blackmon Road Middle School, Muscogee County •  Teachers wouldn’t mind TKES if we could do away with student surveys. Also, veteran teachers do not need six evaluations. •  There’s been a push for us to click on the SLDS link to get “points” on the CCRPI score. We actually go on the site for meaningful information, but to just click on the site for points every day is a waste of our time. •  There are too many changes each year — different standards, different tests. •  Georgia has a lot of academic coaches for teachers who need it. It seems that money could be better spent on helping students. •  It seems that blame always falls on teachers — not parents, not students, etc.

ernment to do that to failing schools? Likely, he would not be a fan of such an action, so why would he propose a plan that could allow local communities’ and citizens’ tax money to be handed to others who do not have local ties? •  Many teachers appear to feel quite powerless, fail to register to vote or to participate in voting and fulfill the prediction that we often hear from legislators that teachers hold no political power in the state. We must get teachers to realize that each vote counts. •  Accomplishments of Georgia students touted by former Superintendent John Barge in past years are often forgotten or not highlighted when legislators convene in Atlanta. •  Leading businesses in Georgia should back our schools within their local communities by investing time and effort in local schools. Business partners are wonderful additions to our schools. •  Teacher training should follow the model of businesses by having practicing educators instruct in colleges of education. College of education courses should be taught within a school building and within authentic classroom settings with more time apprenticing within the profession. •  Efforts in states such as North Carolina to save money by streamlining salary scales, discouraging advanced degrees, eliminating pensions and reducing the teaching workforce have negatively impacted student achievement and the quality of the teaching workforce. Denise Fox, Academic Dean, Aaron Cohn Middle School, Muscogee County •  SLOs are not a fair and consistent measure of teacher performance. •  25 percent of teacher evaluations should not be derived from student surveys. Students have a difficult time equating a rigorous teacher with a teacher who “cares” about them. •  Reduce class sizes. •  Get rid of furlough days. •  Give districts and administration the freedom to deal with discipline issues. •  Step raises are not given after year 19. Why? •  Public perception about education needs to change: Do more to highlight the positives that are rarely reported to the media. n


Professional Learning PAGE Assistant Principal Teacher Leadership Academy

Student-Centered Instruction Promotes Engagement and Learning By Ricky Clemmons, PAGE Professional Learning


s a result of the PAGE Assistant Principal Teacher Leadership Academy, Marilark Murray of Ashworth Middle School in Gordon County now spends her days differently. “I changed directions and made instruction my No. 1 focus,” says the assistant principal of the northwest Georgia school. “I had been trying

to get the ‘yucky’ stuff done so that I would be free. But then I admitted to myself that the paperwork wasn’t going anywhere. From running more focused meetings to planning lessons with specific design qualities in mind, the APTLA process focuses on teaching and learning.” Now, Ashworth teachers routinely empha-

‘I changed directions and made instruction my No. 1 focus. I had been trying to get the ‘yucky’ stuff done so that I would be free. But then I admitted to myself that the paperwork wasn’t going anywhere.’ – Marilark Murray, Assistant Principal Ashworth Middle School (Gordon)

‘Our school is now laser focused on motivating students to want to learn. We emphasize our students’ real world, right here, right now.’ – Monicca Bohannon, Assistant Principal Metter Middle School (Candler)

‘Discipline referrals decreased consistently over the two-year period of implementation. CRCT scores increased as well.’ – Karen Wild, Principal Carrollton Elementary School, in reference to her former school, Ithica Elementary (Carroll)


May/June 2015

size student needs. “Teachers talk about their students’ needs and they research strategies. They work together to develop engaging lessons. More and more, we have incorporated choice into learning — choice in learning preferences, as well as in learning needs. Differentiation is a big focus. We are still in the growth phase, but we talk about it every day,” she says. The school’s professional learning communities span all content areas, from math and literacy coaches to science and social studies teachers. “Our teachers are leading more and more initiatives,” Murray says. “I know the teachers better. I know the students better.” Monicca Bohannon, assistant principal of Metter Middle School in Candler County, says her ATPLA experience gave her with the tools and confidence to design “relevant, rewarding learning experiences.” Her school is now laser focused on “motivating students to want to learn. We emphasize our stu-

dents’ real world, right here, right now.” Real-world learning at the south-central Georgia school includes robotics, Google Classroom, Quiz Bowl teams and lessons driven by student input and by design principles. Karen Wild, who participated in the PAGE Principal Leadership Network when she was principal of Ithica Elementary School in Carroll County, reports that “discipline referrals decreased consistently over the two-year period of implementation.” CRCT scores increased as well, she added. Today, as principal of Carrollton Elementary School, Wild is cultivating a culture of student engagement. The principal, assistant principal and several teachers are involved in APTLA. “Our vision has shifted to instruction that engages students. As we continue to focus on the ‘who’ in designing engaging lessons, the immediate result is fewer behavioral interruptions,” she says. “There is a significant mind-shift nec-

essary and this takes time,” Wild says. “There is the awareness and understanding phase, the implementation phase, the reflection phase and the refinement phase. My belief is that initial results will be seen through discipline, which will facilitate the opportunity for achievement gains.” ATPLA brings administrators and teachers together in a stress-free, focused environment. There is time to talk and think and collaborate. “We underestimate the level of creativity required to develop engaging and challenging content,” Murray says. “Creativity cannot be boxed into a five-minute time frame; it has to be cultivated. At the start of APTLA discussions, I often find myself thinking about all of the things I could be doing. Then I remember how much happier I am with my role as a leader.” Bohannon adds, “The opportunity to network and learn from other assistant principals has n been invaluable.”

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Meet the 2015 Georgia Science Teachers of the Year The following three outstanding educators each hold this year’s title of Science Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Science Teachers Association. HIGH SCHOOL Brandie Freeman AP Environmental Science Teacher Woodland High School Bartow County Brandie Freeman’s students “walk away with excitement and real-world interests in her content area,” said colleague Heather Lovelace Carter. Claire Haley, a second-year honor student at the University of Georgia, agrees. “Once I arrived at college, I began to realize the full impact of Mrs. Freeman’s teachings. In my international affairs courses, I am regularly asked to analyze concepts [regarding] international environmental issues that were first introduced to me in detail by Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Freeman did not shy away from difficult or advanced concepts, but rather pushed her students to think critically about the tough issues.” According to Woodland High Principal Melissa Williams, PhD., Freeman is an excellent teacher-leader. “She is knowledgeable of current research and trends in education and provides amazing insight and problemsolving skills to complex situations.” 22  PAGE ONE

Freeman has been using the flipped classroom model for the past couple of years. Due to her technology initiatives and blended classroom approach, she was chosen by the district to lead the implementation of the Blackboard virtual learning program. The school has a robust AP science program, and on last year’s AP science test, more than 85% of the participants scored 3 or higher. The mean was 3.79. Freeman has also secured several grants to ensure that students have textbooks, up-to-date technology and labs. One was from the National Weather Association. “Through Brandie’s hard work, Bartow County graciously even bought WHS a classroom set of SPARK Science Learning System tablets,” said Carter. MIDDLE SCHOOL

Robert Hodgdon 7th Grade Advanced Content Science Teacher Richmond Hill Middle School Bryan County Through Robert Hodgdon’s field studies program, students, staff and parents assist area scientists from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Fort Stewart Fish and Wildlife program, Georgia Adopta-Wetland and Ogeechee Riverkeeper in conducting research and in monitoring habitats.

In March, Hodgdon received the SeaWorld Outstanding Environmental Educator award at the National Science Teachers Association conference in Chicago. “Robert Hodgdon has given his students and their families the chance to become more active members of their community, as well as the knowledge and tools needed to practice environmentalism and contribute to the field of scientific research,” said parent Marjorie Freeze. “Former academically talented students often return to be part of his outreach field study programs,” added fellow science teacher Catherine Warren. According to RHMS Principal Dr. William McGrath, “Since 2011, 92% of [Hodgdon’s] students have shown improvement on the science section of the CRCT, while 90% have exceeded the standard.” He does not teach to the test, but rather “challenges students at an advanced level,” added McGrath. Warren said that her colleague accepts the responsibility to teach the most challenging at-risk students, and he tutors children after school. Hodgdon also has secured about $4,000 in grant money for lab and field equipment. May/June 2015


Annette Simpson Target/Gifted Program Teacher Keheley Elementary School Cobb County Annette Simpson has a knack for promoting the thrill of discovery. For example, when a student asked Simpson what kind of freshly caught shark she was holding in a photo, Simpson challenged the student to discover the answer. “My daughter Samantha spent hours of her summer researching sharks (classifications, characteristics, geographic locations, etc.),” said parent Melissa Carlsen. “Annette encouraged and guided her through the process, and when Samantha finally figured out [it out], she was so excited.” Samantha said that her teacher is very good at explanations and providing resources to students to find answers. More importantly, “When we do an experiment, she lets us participate. She makes everything fun!” Simpson’s “relentless pursuit of sharing her love of science and technology with as many students as possible … far exceeds the boundaries of her ALP (advanced learner program) classes,” said colleague Kelly Williams. When the robotics team explored the idea of a “bionic eye” to restore lost sight, Simpson, a team coach, took the 3rd through 5th graders to an optometry clinic. She also ordered cow eyes for the students to dissect. The students, especially those not enrolled in the ALP program “had not ever dreamed of having the opportunity to dissect a real eye from a once-living animal,” said Williams, co-coach of robotics. “The dissection was a huge success and the interest in biology grew exponentially.” Simpson was instrumental in bringing StarLab to the school and launching an extracurricular Science Olympiad team. She also has presented at the Georgia Science Teacher Association n annual conference. May/June 2015

Educators Must Precisely Follow Special Education Requirements By Margaret C. Elliott, PAGE Assistant General Counsel


ach month, the PAGE legal department receives numerous calls regarding special education. The most common questions and violations fall into the following four areas:


Communication and cooperation between the regular education teacher and special education teacher is essential. Lay the groundwork for success prior to the start of the school year by building in joint planning time during the school year. During preplanning, it is also a good idea to speak with your principal about the need for regular and special education teachers to meet frequently throughout the year. Special education teachers should not function as paraprofessionals; instruction should be a shared responsibility, even though, initially, it can be difficult to have someone else working in your classroom. Team teaching provides an excellent opportunity to increase student achievement and content mastery. Furthermore, the two teachers can play off each other’s strengths and learn from each other. Properly carried out, these delivery models can be a win-win for both students and teachers. The key is proper planning and communication. Administrative support can make this teaching model very effective. Also, be sure that both teachers are working with students during TKES observations by administrators. Working with students is the main way to demonstrate teaching abilities for this assessment.


In instances when special education students are physically aggressive and/or off task, follow these guidelines: •  Inform the principal immediately and talk with the special education teacher. •  See if behavior goals are noted on the Individualized Education Program plan. •  See if there is a Behavioral Intervention Plan. •  Contact the special education department of the central office to discuss the behaviors and receive guidance, which may include an observation by a behavior specialist. •  Consider conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment. •  Be sure to keep anecdotal records of behaviors and frequency of behaviors. If the physically aggressive behavior continues, keep your principal and the central office special education representative informed. A review of the student’s IEP may be in order, including the possible development/revision of a BIP and/ or a possible change in placement. After many of these steps have been completed, a consultation with the PAGE legal department may be in order.


Remember to keep confidential all student records, including those involving academic, discipline, health status and family status issues. Confidentiality is paramount is special education: Not only Continued on page 25 PAGE ONE  23

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is it required by the Family Education Right to Privacy Act, but violations also fall under Professional Standards Commission Code of Ethics for Educators (Standard 7: Confidential Information). These violations frequently come about inadvertently. For example, a parent calls to say her child was hit or bitten by another student. In seeking information about the other student, the parent may ask, “What is wrong with John? Why does John act this way?” Remember, you may not discuss John or his disability with the other child’s parent. You may focus on the incident and how it happened and what you are doing to keep it from happening again. You may also invite the parent to meet with you and the principal about the issue if he or she continues to be dissatisfied with your response. Also, always refrain from discussing students at social gatherings, sport-

ing events, with neighbors or on social media, for example. You never know who is listening. TEST PROCEDURES

When implementing testing for IEP students, follow all testing procedures according to the modifications listed in the student’s IEP. Do not take for granted what an administrator tells you about the modifications; you as the classroom teacher are responsible for implementing the correct modifications. For example, does the student get more time? Can the student write in the test booklet? Are you to read the passages to the student? Are you to read the answers to the student? Does the student mark the answer or are you to mark it after the student answers? The Georgia Alternative Assessment must be administered to students whose IEP teams have recommended that they

participate in an alternate assessment instead of standardized general education assessments. With data and work samples required to be collected throughout the school year, this IEP-driven assessment can be time consuming and teachers can sometimes get behind. It is very important to stay on top of the process. A teacher cannot go back and make up for lost time, such as by creating past work and taking pictures of students in various clothing to fabricate evidence that the GAA has been given over a series of months, when instead it has been quickly and incorrectly implemented in a series of days. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission is painfully aware of shortcuts and is quick to take action against the teacher’s certificate for a testing violation. If you have any questions regarding special education regulations, contact the PAGE legal department at 800-334-6861. n

PAGE Network Attorney Stan Baker Sworn in as Federal Magistrate Judge


ongtime PAGE network attorney R. Stan Baker was sworn in as magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Georgia in February. Baker served as a PAGE attorney in Athens for three years and in Brunswick for five. He represented scores of PAGE members on employment cases, certification cases, criminal cases and civil cases. You may have also seen him at your school giving a presentation on the Georgia Professional Standards Commission’s Code of Ethics for Educators. From left: Dale Gillespie (PAGE), U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker, Crystal Baker and Baker is a product of pub- PAGE staff members Linda Woods and Margaret Elliott celebrate Baker’s appointment. lic education in Georgia. He attended schools in the Clarke County School System scholar, but also taught him life lessons, such as showing and played football and baseball and ran track at Clarke up on time and always sitting in the front row. Central High School. At his investiture ceremony, Baker Baker and his wife Crystal, who are both major proposaid that educators and coaches not only prepared him nents of public schools, actively support the Glynn County n to be a good lawyer and challenged him to be a strong School System, where their daughters are enrolled.

May/June 2015



teach 21st-century learners



This PAGE One column features technology-in-the-classroom advice from tech-savvy Georgia educators.

Technology in the Classroom:

Using Music as the Heartbeat of Instruction By Nick Zomer, Life Science Teacher at Mill Creek Middle School (Cherokee)


Nick Zomer, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Mill Creek Middle School in Woodstock, loves to experiment with technology, especially BYOT/BYLD. He holds a master’s degree in Education in Technology Integration in the Classroom from Walden University. Zomer, a graduate of PAGE Teacher Academy, serves on the PAGE Board of Directors.


y school district recently adopted a Bring Your Learning Device initiative. I embraced it quickly in my classroom, but right away, my students asked if they could listen to their personal music via their devices while they worked. I was hesitant. Would their music be appropriate for school? After hearing the same concerns from my colleagues, I decided to do a little field test: I allowed students to listen to their music while working on independent assignments. Almost immediately, I observed something unseen in my middle school classroom: silent working with intense focus. Students who were normally off task and disruptive began to pay attention to their assigned task. While the occasional student would forget where he or she was and begin to sing along to their music, the vast majority were working harder than I had seen in quite some time. This stunning observation made me realize just how connected students today are to music. Music is the backbone of their lives. For many students, music is more than just something to entertain them for a few minutes or hours. It is their sense of identity and an expression of their emotions and attitudes. Unlike in past genera-

tions, students today have a seemingly endless catalog of music at their fingertips. A HOOK INTO LEARNING

The experience led me to understand that I could use music to help hook my students into learning; I just had to use it as a part of my delivery. Because I’m not vocally gifted, and therefore singing for my students was out of the question, I searched for science-related songs. The results were plentiful. Current and former popular groups have released numerous albums of educational songs, and I found a wealth of rewritten songs waiting to be streamed into the classroom. Since then, music has been the heartbeat of the instruction in my classroom. Each lesson or unit has a theme song — and the best part is that I do not have to sing! Video sharing sites, such as YouTube, are ripe with musical choices for the classroom. Teachers, students and classes have already uploaded to the site thousands of songs and videos on a wide range of topics. Some of the songs are highly creative and interesting; others fall short. My students love the work of Mr. Parr (youtube. com/parrmr). The musician-educator rewrites

Current and former popular groups have released numerous educational songs. I found a wealth of rewritten songs waiting to be streamed into the classroom.

May/June 2015

When I first play a Mr. Parr song, the students think it’s corny and try to sing the “real” lyrics. But after a few days, they begin to sing along with the educational lyrics and start to carry that information into other parts of the instruction. the lyrics of well-known songs to fit a wide range of middle and high school science topics. His videos consist of an artist singing the contentrelated song over a karaoke track. The lyrics are included so that the students can see the information. Whenever I play a Mr. Parr song, the students usually laugh at first at how corny the songs are and they try to sing the “real” lyrics. However, after a few days of repetitive playing, they begin to sing along with the educational lyrics and start to carry that information into other parts of the instruction. Music allows varied forms of instructional methodology. After playing a song a few times, I pause it for discussion. My auditory learners benefit from associating the information with a rhythm or beat. They also hear the information presented in a different manner than how I would present it. The different word choices and explanations deepen understanding. My visual learners benefit from seeing the information presented through the lyrics. My rhythmic or kinesthetic learners focus on the beat and begin to make mental connections. YouTube videos span all topics. Mr. Duey ( has several original songs relating to math. Flocabulary (youtube. com/flocabularyYT) songs cover current events, history, language arts and more. Simply searching for songs related to your topic will yield numerous possibilities. And don’t overlook the classics. For example, Disney-ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock” is available on YouTube. Many songs, even though they were written 20 or more years ago, can still promote learning. Everyone remember “Conjunction Junction?” May/June 2015

Of course, not all songs will work for your lessons. Be sure to preview the song or video before using it. Make sure, too, that the resource doesn’t require you to reteach everything. LET STUDENTS REWRITE LYRICS

Teachers and students have already uploaded to videosharing sites thousands of songs and videos on a wide range of academic topics.

If you cannot find just the right song to address your content, let your students create the resource. After all, in order for them to properly convey information via lyrics, they must understand the topic well. Keep the students’ initial foray into education songwriting simple. Before having them attempt to rewrite the lyrics to a current song, have them begin with a nursery rhyme or a simple childhood song, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Let the students know that their song does not have to match the exact lyrical patterns of the original song. When I began using music to reinforce learning, I was highly skeptical. But then students told me they would play songs for their families and explain the lyrics. Other students told me that they would get stuck on a CRCT question, but would then remember a song we used in class and determine the correct answer. The biggest example of success occurred in the school gym during Field Day. When the original version of a song that I had used in class was played, most students sung the original lyrics, but the students from my science classes belted out the science version — and they sang louder than their peers. Since that day, music has been a cornerstone of my instructional approach. I do not see that changing n anytime soon.

If you cannot find just the right song to address your content, let your students create the resource. After all, in order for them to properly convey information via lyrics, they must understand the topic well.

Educational Video & Song Sites Science

Mr. Parr


Mr. Duey

Current Events, History, Language Arts, Etc.



Foundation News

STARS Shine at 2015 State PAGE STAR Event

2015 State PAGE STAR Student Carter Lewis Guensler (center) is joined by presenters following the State PAGE STAR Banquet awards ceremony. Pictured (l-r): PAGE Foundation President John E. Varner, PAGE Foundation Chair Howard Morrison, Henry W. Grady High School Principal Timothy Guiney who accepted the State PAGE STAR Teacher award from the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation on behalf of teacher Lee Pope, PAGE Executive Director Dr. Allene Magill and AT&T State President Beth Shiroishi.


arter Lewis Guensler, a senior at Atlanta Public Schools’ Henry W. Grady High School, is the 2015 State PAGE STAR Student. Guensler named his AP European History teacher, Lee Pope, as his State PAGE STAR Teacher. Ha Hoang Dang, a senior at the Darlington School in Rome, is the Runner-up State PAGE STAR Student. She chose Julia Dodd, her AP chemistry teacher, as her STAR Teacher. There were 534 local STAR students throughout Georgia this year, the largest number in the program’s 57-year history. More than 300 students, teachers, family members and leaders from business, philanthropy and education celebrated in April at the State PAGE STAR Banquet at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta. The 27 state finalists were composed of PAGE STAR Student Region Winners. Among them, 14 scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT (in one sitting). Popular fields of planned study for this year’s students include biomedical, engineering, math and computer science. The top school choices are Georgia Tech, n Harvard, the University of Georgia and MIT.


State PAGE STAR Student Carter Guensler is presented with the AT&T Cash Scholarship of $5,000 by AT&T State President Beth Shiroishi. May/June 2015

Thank You to PAGE STAR Major Sponsors AT&T Georgia Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Georgia Chamber of Commerce PAGE Foundation Price Gilbert, Jr. Charitable Fund Professional Association of Georgia Educators The Coca-Cola Company The Mozelle Christian Endowment

Photo by Lynn Varner

Runner-up State PAGE STAR Student Ha Hoang Dang (center) is joined by presenters following the awards ceremony at the State PAGE STAR Banquet. Pictured (l-r): PAGE Foundation President John Varner, PAGE President-elect Stephanie Davis Howard, PAGE Foundation Chair Howard Morrison; Runner-up State PAGE STAR Teacher Julia Dodd, PAGE Executive Director Dr. Allene Magill and Georgia Chamber of Commerce Director of Public Policy Jason O’Rouke.

2015 PAGE STAR Student Region Winners (front row, l-r): Ian Clester, Houston County High; Maggie Tyre, Glynn Academy (Brunswick); Farita Tasmin, Columbus High (Muscogee); Lucy Zheng, Glynn Academy; and Steven Feng, Deerfield-Windsor School (Albany); (second row, top of stairs, l-r): Meredith Jones, Holy Spirit Preparatory School (Atlanta); Alex DiCesare; Statesboro High (Bulloch); Mary Boyd Crosier, The Westminster Schools, (Atlanta); Zoe Li, Bulloch Academy (Statesboro); Ha Hoang Dang, Darlington School (Rome); Kaliq Wang, Centennial High (Fulton); Rachel Todd, Union County High; Justin Lee, Northview High (Fulton); Ryan Chen, Brookwood High (Gwinnett); Kyung Min Shin, Northview High; Eileen Chen, Valdosta High (Valdosta City); Katie Irwin, Greater Atlanta Christian School (Norcross); and Sarah Chapman, Newnan High (Coweta); and (back row, top of stairs, l-r): Henry Burns, Augusta Preparatory Day School; Andrew Haygood, Pickens High (Pickens); Haroon Alam, Walton High (Cobb); Sida Tang, Parkview High (Gwinnett); Sanket Mehta, Walton High; Tomislav Zabcic-Matic, Clarke Central High (Clarke); John Shen, The Westminster Schools; Carter Lewis Guensler, Henry W. Grady High (Atlanta City); and Vikram S. Varadarajan, Duluth High (Gwinnett).

May/June 2015


Foundation News

2015 PAGE STAR Teacher Region Winners (back row, l-r): Julia Dodd, Darlington School (Rome); Marie Feazel, Glynn Academy (Brunswick); Ian Altman, Clarke Central High (Clarke); Matthew Reger, Holy Spirit Preparatory School (Atlanta); Tim Hunter, Union County High; Michael Oubre, Pickens High (Pickens); Brad Davis, Centennial High (Fulton); Ross Peters, The Westminster Schools (Atlanta); Chris Michael, Brookwood High (Gwinnett); William Spangler, Deerfield-Windsor School (Albany); Phil Heier, Parkview High (Gwinnett); Bruce Law, Statesboro High (Bulloch); and Luther Richardson, Columbus High (Muscogee); and (front row, l-r): Jill Tucker and Tania Pope, Northview High (Fulton); Laura Byrd, Houston County High; Lizzy Sutton, Hebron Christian Academy (Dacula); Holly Stone, Valdosta High (Valdosta City); Amanda Edwards and Jennifer Phillips, Walton High (Cobb); Karen Whitten, Bulloch Academy (Statesboro); Penney Sconzo, The Westminster Schools; Jo Ellen Gordon, Newnan High (Coweta); Geri Flanary, Duluth High (Gwinnett); Robin Hoy, Glynn Academy; and Donna Love, Greater Atlanta Christian School (Norcross).

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Vice President and General Manager Shan Cooper (center) is joined by State PAGE STAR Student Carter Lewis Guensler and Runner-up State PAGE STAR Student Ha Hoang Dang. Cooper served as mistress of ceremonies during the banquet.

Enjoying The Coca-Cola Reception are (l-r) PAGE STAR Student Region Winners Henry Burns, Ryan Chen and PAGE STAR Teacher Region Winner Chris Michael.

Photos by Robert Matta


May/June 2015

Parkview Wins 2015 PAGE GAD State Title

Georgia Teams Compete at USAD National Competition


2015 PAGE GAD State Championship team and coaches of Parkview High with (l-r) Oglethorpe Power’s Diane McClearen and Mary Long, GAD coaches Samantha Wells and Melodie Carr, decathletes Jordan Billie, Vivien Pendleton, Eric Hollister, Julia Ding, Shawn Allison, Hasan Corley, Sida Tang, Sebastian Posada and Jack Wang. Oglethorpe Power donated $1,000 to the GAD State Championship team to defray travel expenses to the USAD National Competition.

Photo by Robert Matta

winnett County’s Parkview High School, the 2015 PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon State Champions, placed 10th among Division 1 schools in April at the U.S. Academic Decathlon National Competition in Garden Grove, California. All of Parkview’s team members scored in the top 10 in at least one event, and Shawn Allison earned a bronze medal for his third-place finish in speech. In the USAD online competition, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High (Catoosa), Villa Rica High (Carroll) and Chattahoochee County High decathletes won a total of five medals in music, essay and science. About 200 students from 21 high schools in 13 districts competed in the state academic competition. Each ninemember team is made up of three “A,” or honor students; three “B,” or scholastic students; and three “C,” or varsity students. The topic for this year’s competition was “New Alternatives in Energy: Ingenuity and Innovation.” The Georgia Academic Decathlon is sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, PAGE Foundation, Chick-fil-A Foundation, Oglethorpe Power and Georgia Department of Education. Kennesaw State University coordinates the 200-plus volunteers that assist with the state championship event. Charles Richardson, editorial page editor of The Telegraph (Macon), served as the master of ceremonies for the state banquet. For a list of winners or to view a video report on the PAGE GAD state and national competitions, visit n PAGETVgad.

Parkview High team members react when announced as PAGE GAD State Champions!

Other GAD State Championship Winners Division I Division I and State Champion Parkview High School (Gwinnett) Coaches: Melodie Carr, Dave Steele and Samantha Wells First Runner-up Villa Rica High School (Carroll) Coaches: Cynthia Cox, Sarah Triplett and Russell Bennett

May/June 2015

Second Runner-up Berkmar High School (Gwinnett) Coaches: Christopher Pae and Robert Krask Division II Champion Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School (Catoosa) Coaches: Lisa Beck and Ian Beck

First Runner-up Shaw High School (Muscogee) Coach: Natasha Torres Second Runner-up Chattahoochee County High School Coach: Sarita Griggs Rookie of the Year Academy of Richmond County Coach: EJ Sharif



Professional Association of Georgia Educators

Have You Transferred Systems? Transfer Your Payroll Deduction at To transfer payroll deduction from another system to your new system, select “Payroll Deduction Transfer” at or complete a new paper application and include your new system information. Your current membership will expire if not updated with the new system information.

Have You Moved or Has Your Contact Information Changed? Be sure to update all your contact information online.

Update Your Membership or Renew at Benefits begin immediately when you join or renew online.

Georgia’s Largest Professional Association for Educators. 86,000+ members and growing.

OFFICERS President Leslie Mills President-Elect Stephanie Davis Howard Treasurer Lamar Scott Past-President Dr. Emily Felton Secretary Kelli De Guire DIRECTORS District 1 District 8 Amy Denty Lindsey Raulerson District 2 District 9 Dr. Todd Cason Miranda Willingham District 3 District 10 Allison Scenna Shannon Hammond District 4 District 11 Rochelle Lofstrand Dr. Sandra Owens District 5 District 12 Nick Zomer Donna Graham District 6 District 13 Dr. Susan Mullins Dr. Hayward Cordy District 7 TBA Ex-Officio Megan King


The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the Editor: Tim Callahan;, PAGE One magazine; PAGE; P.O. Box 942270; Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555; 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contribution by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2014–15 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One magazine (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, Georgia, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One magazine is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc.; 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210; Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2015

May/June 2015



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