Thursday, May 12, 2011

Notes from the board's May 9 business meeting

Below are some of my notes from Monday's business meeting. Business meetings are almost always a repeat of the previous week's work session, however, this business meeting was chock full of very enlightening new information. My notes are lengthy and will appear in two posts - one today and one tomorrow.

Quenterious Tolen (graduating student member of the board) – DCSS – a haven of comfort, hope and joy. Next Friday I will graduate with honors from Columbia HS – what I believe is the best education I could be offered. I have been esteemed at the honor of being on the DeKalb County board of education. Now I leave to you my final words of wisdom. I remind this county of the charge that it has. You have charges to keep buildings running, however today I remind you of your charge to educate. To educate means to empower students. Go back to what makes leading a school system worthwhile. That landmark is love. Where is that love? In power, popularity, prestige? I call upon all in DeKalb county to lay aside our differences and focus on the students. Never offer a complaint without offering a solution. We need a humble teacher to stand and lead us into the promised land of brotherhood.

Welcome Dr. Sylvia Hooker - Georgia DOE, Deputy Superintendent for School Turnaround

Presentation led by Dr Beasley:

DCSS - Recipient of $34 million in RTTT
$400 million in total to GA
Our Focus – Graduation from high school, teacher training (Class Keys, Leader Keys – new evaluation system) Data – Teach For America – Merit Pay – Address lowest achieving schools

4 core areas:

A - Recruiting, preparing, rewarding & retaining effective leaders & teachers (priority from Dr Hooker – support effective teachers and weed ineffective ones)

B - Adoption of standards (common core GPS)

C - Building data systems – teachers have 24/7 access

D - Turn around lowest achieving schools

A – Interviewed 99 candidates – selecting up to 75 Teach for Am candidates – select 2 teaching fellow – train to be APs – Will train at Columbia University
B – July 2010 – renamed to GPS – all will be addressed – Common Assessments being developed – implemented in 2014-15 -- Phase 1 – administrators, Phase 2 – teacher leaders, Phase 3 all teachers
C – Data system (Instruction Improvement System). To be seamless. All teachers have access and will use the data. Used p-20. State will use the data as well.
D – Turnaround schools – 4 intervention models: Turnaround, Charter EMO, School Closure & Transformation – We’ve selected the Transformation model. Have identified schools. Towers application looks good so far. Must ensure extreme instructional makeover – Clarkston & McNair implementing improvements now. STEM – all ES and MS make Science the 2nd AYP indicator in lieu of attendance beginning in 2013.

[NOTE; The Turnaround Model requires replacing the principal and removing at least 50% of staff]

Dr. Hooker – collaboration with the state

Board and super – it’s a pleasure to stand before you. You have shown that it’s not only head, it’s heart driving these initiatives. I encourage you all to listen to what Mr. Tolen mentioned. It’s about heart – what we need for turnaround.

20 schools in GA that we’re working with. DCSS selected Transformation. We’re in the right zone – headed for great things. I look forward to more students in the future like Mr. Tolen.

DeKalb county - $34 million. You bought into the following:

Summer leadership academy – required to attend. Rollout common core and evaluation standards. Keys – will be streamlined. Everyone needs standards-based instruction and assessment. Collaboratively with state DOE. Re-emphasizing the roles of school administrators – remove 'administratia' so that principals can get into the classroom. We also expect the students to do their part and step up their game in the next 2-3 years in this strategy. Seek to entice Teach for America teachers so that they decide to teach as a career. This district has asked me to look at candidates for the turnaround model. I expect great gains in these schools because I saw what the teachers want for the schools and I’ve seen the leadership ask for guidance. Yes, there will be struggles, but I don’t find a struggle working with DeKalb schools as you have asked me in on the front end.

Dr Walker – excited about this – I wish the governor would have appointed someone from DeKalb on this RTTT committee. He has someone from everywhere but DeKalb, and we got the money - but we don’t need it cause we have Dr Hooker.

[NOTE: DeKalb does have representation on all committees related to RTTT. I will post the input I received from the DOE communications officer in the comments.] 

Mosely – Redistricting: closing 8 schools nearly complete. HR has developed procedures for reassignment. No staff member will lose a job. Scheduled and conducted meetings in each school for staff. Held meetings with principals to discuss plans for transition. Scheduled open houses for students and parents. Mailed 7000 letters over spring break. Installed a redistricting phone line for parents to ask questions. Plans to merge PTAs and transportation has reviewed bus routes. Athletics has a plan for relocating equipment. Collaborated with state for eligibility. Facilities has a decommission plan for each school. To Edler - Fernbank’s SST program (a countywide program with 200 slots) from Avondale MS will be a part of STT at new assigned school. Avondale’s ROTC program will move to Arabia HS. MIS moves all technology. Capital needs will address design needs of receiving schools. Voting precincts associated with the closed schools will also be reassigned. PreK lottery recipients at Sky Haven will attend PreK at Meadowview or McNair D&L. Funding will go to Rainbow and Allgood. Cunningham – community is confused about PreK assignments. Also asked about custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers – still have the same job reassignment process as teachers, etc. filling vacancies. To Jester – Dunwoody situation – changing the 4-5 academy to k-5. Dunwoody is more complicated due to grade level changes within the schools. Need to make sure we have the right teachers & administrators. Cunningham – what about block schedule? If they change how does that effect? Mosely – changing over the summer is no problem. Again, parents are confused on the subject. Edler – have we anticipated an increase in NCLB transfers due to redistricting and have we given thought to the annex situation which I find problematic. Beasley – we’ve decided already to move current annexes to main buildings and it’s not our intention to offer annexes in the future. Tucker MS at Stone Mt MS will exist next year, but will be phased out. Womack – when will we migrate from the block and go to the 7 period. Tyson – BOE put that on my plate when I took over and it’s been in the queue, but I haven’t had time to get to it.

===
For more info on the RTTT, visit this link at the GA DOE website;
http://www.gadoe.org/RT3.aspx

30 comments:

Cerebration said...

Regarding Gene Walker's statement that DeKalb does not have a seat on the RTTT committees, the DOE spokesperson sent this in an email clarification to my question on the subject:

Race to the Top - Georgia has three steering committees working on the various components being created through this program.

The three committees are Value Add/Growth; Evaluations; and Other Surveys. Each committee includes representatives from our Race to the Top partner districts (LEA - Local Education Agencies), members from Georgia's education agencies, teachers' associations, PTA, business community representatives, and more.

Each of our Race to the Top partner districts are allowed to serve on one of the three committees AND are able to attend any of the other two committee meetings to observe and provide feedback. Dekalb County (represented by Dr. Paula Swartzberg) is a member on the Surveys Committee, which focuses on the development of "quantitative surveys" that will be used for the evaluation process of non-core course teachers and administrators.

Here's the breakdown of Representatives on each of the committees:

Evaluation Steering Committee: Gwinnett County, Ben Hill County, Bibb County, Burke County, Doughtery County, Muscogee County, Gainesville City, Rockdale County, Henry County, GAEL (Georgia Association of Educational Leaders), USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce

Value Add/Growth Committee: Atlanta Public Schools, Richmond County, White County, Carrollton City, Cherokee County, Clayton County, Dade County, Treutlen County, Valdosta City, USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators), GSSA (Georgia School Superintendents Association), Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Other Surveys Committee: Hall County, Savannah-Chatham, Dekalb County (Represented by Dr. Paula Swartzberg), Rabun County, Griffin County, Peach County, Meriwether County, Pulaski County, USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GSBA (Georgia School Board Association), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PTA (Parent Teachers Association), DECAL (Department of Early Care and Learning), GAE (Georgia Association of Educators), GPEE (Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education).

I hope this information answers your question. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,
Jon Rogers

Race to the Top (RT3)
Communications Director
Email: jonrogers@gadoe.org
Office: 404-463-1522

sharon said...

Although Mr. Womack wants to go back to 7 period days-many parent, teachers and students do not. Druid Hills is now doing a survey to see what its teachers, students, and parents prefer. Under a 7 period day the maximum credit hours taken is 28. Under any form of block the maximum is 32. There are several types of block schedules, 4 by 4, hybrid, and AB are the most common. Hybrid and AB allow year long study on a course. All the studies made on block schulign shows that block schedules reduce discipline and incidents of violence in schools. I am glad for one that Ms. Tyson still has this one in the to do list.

SHS said...

@ Sharon

Paul Womack and 7-period Days

Please provide documentation from credible, respected sources for your claim that block schedules "reduce discipline" [problems] "and incidents of violence in the schools."

If you can't document your claims -- if you are just repeating hearsay or making it up as you go along -- then please do not post those claims on this blog.

We have serious problems in DeKalb County School System and we need serious people who are critical thinkers to help resolve these problems.

fedupindcss said...

Womack has been obsessed with mandating a 7-period day for all schools since he got in. Yes, the block has it's obvious problems, including lack of continuity, teachers who can't fill up the time, etc. But a 7-period day is just grinding, for the kids and the teachers. When it was a six period day, it was fine, but 7 is awful. And try that with AP classes. By the end of the day, your brain is numb (talk to teachers who have math classes during 7th period and ask them how well their students absorb the material).

What DCSS really needs is some form of rolling schedule, where you have 7 classes but only 6 per day (and no, it isn't complicated, plenty of public schools do it, and Shamrock and Henderson used to use a form of a variable schedule for electives in middle school). However, this will never happens because of STT, drivers ed, and joint enrollment, which demand a fixed daily schedule. But wouldn't it be great to jot have the same class at the end of the day every day? They might actually learn something.

UGA Dawg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
teacher said...

Most schools up North that had block scheduling have since gone back to the regular schedule, because it was not an effective way to teach the children.

A child's brain should hurt at the end of the day. That means that they actually used that muscle. All too often our children aren't thinking and are skating by with minimal skills. At the end of the day, if a child's brain isn't working it's because we've required so little of them from the very start of their education.

travelingjoe said...

A hybrid 7 course schedule where courses are taken for the entire year is the best schedule IMO. this allows for several long courses each week for labs/arts/etc. This is the schedule used by Fulton schools such as Riverwood and North Springs. Driver's Ed is pretty much history in high schools.

Fedup, you are wrong about STT and joint enrollment. Students from schools with both block and 7 period days currently take dual or joint enrollment courses. So do those on a hybrid schedule.

Crawford Lewis refused to change from the 4X4 block because it was easy (no homework) and it gave students who perpetually flunked courses more opportunities to re-take courses so they can graduate. But it is awful for math, foreign language and other courses that need continuity.

I've researched all the different schedules and never read about discipline problems. Sandy, I suspect that this is simply a presumption that the more times kids are in the hallways changing classes, there is more opportunity to be disruptive.

fedupindcss said...

Travelingjoe: if that is true about STT and drivers ed, that would be great. However, whenever questioned about the possibility of a hybrid rolling schedule, administrators would blame it not happening on those programs.

teacher: if that is true, why do the schools make sure the kids take all the standardized tests earlier in the day? Because by the end of the day they are exhausted. And many of the teachers on the 7 period day are beat from working their brains all day, too.and they are crankier (kids would always complain about how mad their teachers were by 7th period).

I have always wondered: do teachers on the 4x4 block teach fewer students per day than on the 7-period?

SHS said...

Just to be clear ... in no way am I suggesting any support for Paul Womack and his desire for a 7-period day.

I am saying to Sharon and others that it is necessary to cite sources -- credible, respected sources -- to back up claims. Sharon says that block schedules "reduce discipline" [problems] "and incidents of violence in the schools."

So far, Sharon has provided no documentation to back up her claims regarding block scheduling. Womack has not cited any sources -- credible or otherwise -- either, to support a 7-period day.

Undocumented claims -- just repeating hearsay -- have no place on this blog. Just the facts, please -- documented facts.

We have serious problems in DeKalb County School System and we need serious people who are critical thinkers to help solve these problems.

Daniel said...

I used to substitute at a school in Gwinnett that had 4x4 block. Foreign language was offered so that you took the 1st year during the fall and the 2nd year during the spring (if you wanted to continue, you could take 3 and 4 the next year and so on). DCSS seems to refuse to do this and continually offers the even year courses in the spring and odd courses in the fall. That's an easy fix. Since we seem to be enrolling most students in Math and Math support, math has become year long as well on the block schedule so that takes care of that continuity problem.

Cerebration said...

This comment was originally in this post, but was lost in Blogger's meltdown. It is the response from the rep at the state DOE regarding the committees for RTTT. Gene Walker stated that DeKalb is not represented, however, we clearly are. Our rep (as stated below) is Dr. Paula Swartzberg, who serves on the "other surveys" committee.

Race to the Top - Georgia has three steering committees working on the various components being created through this program.

The three committees are Value Add/Growth; Evaluations; and Other Surveys. Each committee includes representatives from our Race to the Top partner districts (LEA - Local Education Agencies), members from Georgia's education agencies, teachers' associations, PTA, business community representatives, and more.

Each of our Race to the Top partner districts are allowed to serve on one of the three committees AND are able to attend any of the other two committee meetings to observe and provide feedback. Dekalb County (represented by Dr. Paula Swartzberg) is a member on the Surveys Committee, which focuses on the development of "quantitative surveys" that will be used for the evaluation process of non-core course teachers and administrators.

Here's the breakdown of Representatives on each of the committees:

Evaluation Steering Committee: Gwinnett County, Ben Hill County, Bibb County, Burke County, Doughtery County, Muscogee County, Gainesville City, Rockdale County, Henry County, GAEL (Georgia Association of Educational Leaders), USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce

Value Add/Growth Committee: Atlanta Public Schools, Richmond County, White County, Carrollton City, Cherokee County, Clayton County, Dade County, Treutlen County, Valdosta City, USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators), GSSA (Georgia School Superintendents Association), Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Other Surveys Committee: Hall County, Savannah-Chatham, Dekalb County (Represented by Dr. Paula Swartzberg), Rabun County, Griffin County, Peach County, Meriwether County, Pulaski County, USG (University System of Georgia), PSC (Professional Standards Commission), GSBA (Georgia School Board Association), GASPA (Georgia Association of School Professional Administrators), PTA (Parent Teachers Association), DECAL (Department of Early Care and Learning), GAE (Georgia Association of Educators), GPEE (Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education).

I hope this information answers your question. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,
Jon Rogers

Race to the Top (RT3)
Communications Director
Email: jonrogers@gadoe.org
Office: 404-463-1522
Cell: 404-357-7661
www.doe.k12.ga.us/RT3.aspx

Cerebration said...

We've discussed the block vs the 7 period day before. You may be interested in these old posts on the subject.

Back to the topic of the block

But then again, the block can be an enlightened way to educate

And this is from our notes at the Feb 9, 2009 board meeting:

There was much conversation about the block. The Board didn't discuss the block very long. They made a decision to review it over the course of the 09-10 school year (Gloria Talley said high schools are making their schedules now and to change the whole system would throw them into turmoil. Callaway, at the beginning, said that the deadline to request a change is Dec 31. It's basically been deferred until Dr. Lewis decides to bring it back as an action item. I did understand Dr. Walker to say that when he taught, he factored in "student progress" on his grades. (Inferring, I guess that he doesn't really value standardized tests that much.) McChesney also cited that 60-70% of teachers need more training on the block (along with his factoid that the block takes 5-7 years to really implement.) I wish he would cite where his research came from. The promise was made that the principals and Area Supers would ensure that teachers are teaching "bell to bell"...

Redovian wondered if we weren't losing good teachers who prefer to teach on a 7 period day. Lewis said teachers felt they couldn't get through the textbook on a 7 period day. (I have actually heard the opposite - it's harder to get through the textbook on the block even though classes are longer, they're only half a year as opposed
to all year. Also, this may be why students do better on tests, they get daily math, English, etc - it's fresher and input more steadily.)


So, you can see that block scheduling is yet another topic that has been discussed endlessly, but never really researched nor acted upon with reason.

Daniel said...

Just wondering, if we're supposed to be preparing our students for post-secondary, what college uses either a 7-period day or a 4x4?

teacher said...

Preparing our students for college, means that they should have a thorough grasp of the material that they are learning. I don't know any child on a 4x4 block schedule who has teachers who utilize the time that they have, so that a solid year of material is taught in half a year and that the children really understand it to move on to the next class the following year.

travelingjoe said...

Daniel, I know lots of parents with kids at high schools on both the block and 7 period. Chldren on block are not as well prepared for college because they do all their homework and reading in class which is not the case in college. I think my son on 7 period schedule will be much better prepared. I have also observed that 7 period AP courses complete all the course material plus have time to practice for AP Exam. This did not happen on block as it is difficult to finish the material in half a year. And just think, when school was closed for a week for snow, the block students missed the equivalent of 2 full weeks of school!

But agree that 7 period day can be grueling and it is very hard to have science labs in 50 minutes. Therefore I feel that a hybrid schedule where courses cover the entire year is best for all students.

Cerebration said...

A hybrid is a good option. So is reducing the graduation requirements to match the state. As it is now, DeKalb requires 4 credits in all of the core subjects, but the state only requires 3 credits in social studies. I'm not sure why we insist on 4. Students who want 4 in SS will take them, but there are many other students who would like flexibility to spend that credit somewhere else. This is much more important on the 7 period day, as you only get the chance to take 28 credits and DeKalb requires 24 to graduate.

Cerebration said...

To read more on Georgia's requirements for graduation, download the pdf document here;

Georgia High School Graduation Requirements

Key Features of the New Requirements:
4 units of English, Mathematics, and Science; 3 units of Social Studies; 1 Health/PE required
23 total units required
7 elective units
4th Science unit can be used to meet career pathway requirements


Here is the link to DeKalb's requirements:

DCSS Diploma Choices

Cerebration said...

Here's the big trip up for high school graduation;

Students must pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests in 5 areas to receive a diploma. A Certificate of Performance is given to a student who completes all course work towards the diploma but does not pass all requirements of the graduation test. A Certificate of Performance can not be used as a diploma and will not assist with any post secondary options for a student. A high school diploma must be received.

Pretty cruel to allow students to pass all their courses, thinking they've learned well, and then when they can't pass the test in the final year, pull the whole rug out from under them.

September said...

I went to a high school that had a 7 period day. Science classes that required a lab were scheduled for 7 class periods a week. Two classes a week were extended across two class periods. So, on Monday you got a 47 minute class, on Tuesday you were scheduled for two classes back to back (94 minutes). You could take an art or music class without sacrificing history or science. I took a full schedule and was well prepared for college. Those extra open class periods could be used for test prep classes, reading/math help, health, or even driver's ed.

Two 90 minute classes a week are equivalent to five 36 minute classes a week. Three 90 minute classes are equivalent to five 54 minute classes a week. If the average 7 period day class is 50 minutes long, how can we say that a student can get through a year's worth of class material in half a year? Did I get my numbers wrong?

I taught block classes in a middle school for a short time. It was difficult. I am not sure that I was able to cover more material in those longer classes. The students required a break or a major change of pace to stay with the topic for that long. Maybe I needed more training. I'm not convinced longer classes are better. That is my personal experience.

Daniel said...

Cere..... as a social studies teacher, I think it is a travesty that the state doesn't require four units of Social Studies. I will also say that most AP courses at my school are year-long despite being on block.

Cerebration said...

To compare graduation requirements, go to this link -
http://mb2.ecs.org/reports/Report.aspx?id=735

These states require 4 credits in social studies:

Alabama, Hawaii, New York, Mississippi and Texas

Cerebration said...

And for a real paradigm shift - read this article reporting on a recent conference for writing teachers in Atlanta. Forget about social studies -- we may not even have to teach proper grammar in the very near future!

Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

teacher said...

Cere, we don't teach grammar. There is very little grammar and writing embedded into our elementary reading program. Shoot our top administrators have difficulty writing and speaking proper English-several principals do as well.

Teaching the English language properly has slowly been done away with. Many of our young teachers don't have command of the English language themselves, so how are they going to teach it.

Thanks for posting the link to this article. What is sad, is that things like this are happening all over in education. This is about a class on Mexican Studies in Tuscon Arizona.

http://purpleground.com/2011/05/13/tucson-we-have-a-problem/

Our public schools are in trouble on so many levels. Hopefully more Americans will wake up before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

vouchers, please.....

Anonymous said...

@teacher - 10:49

Sad, but true. I see the lack of writing skills in my children. They would have been better off home schooled. In a home school program they would have learned more and not be subject to things like an economics teacher teaching his own socialistic views on the world and how bad America is.

Cerebration said...

The article above on the writing teacher's conference in Atlanta really opened my eyes.

This is where we are. This is especially where we are in DeKalb. The "race" issue (which in DeKalb only refers to the African-American race) is what drives every single discussion, argument and decision. We have moved beyond a racially diverse system to one that is a strong majority African American (77%), only 10% white but 11% Hispanic (still unrecognized as a group needing representation) along with some dotting of others.

Although the historically difficult black/white issue no longer legally drives the school system (which also now employs a vast majority of African Americans), it continues to stop all forward progression on most discussions that should and could have relevance. Issues such as magnet programs, transportation, school consolidation, redistricting, and now even the search for a new superintendent, are all driven from a perspective of race and a perceived need for a black-only administration. The hostility toward "whites" from some of our current leadership on the board is politically palpable and harsh. Whites are still being blamed for everything that ails the black schools in the system - including the notion expressed at the writing teachers conference in Atlanta that our curriculum is now apparently "white" - and therefore damaging to minorities.

Where can we go from here? Very soon, the entire school system will be 80-90% African American. How long can the race issue really drive the discussions? How long can whites be blamed for everything that ails this school system?

Anonymous said...

@teacher @ 10:49
I totally agree with you. A fourth grade teacher at our school wrote an email in the teacher's lounge, asking us to be on the lookout for a box of honey buns that had disappeared. She wrote, please look out for them because there missing. There should have been they're! Oh and she is responsible for teaching ELA since they are departmentalized. I saw the same thing last year on the board in my son's classroom at KMS! Ugh!!

teacher said...

The problems that I saw as a teacher in DCSS are issues that I see in society. As a white teacher in an all black school, there was one other white teacher, and one white child, having my students work too hard or expect them to do what I would want for my own children to have in school was not the expectation of the district. They (DCSS administration at all levels from AP on up) don't want the children to think or problem solve. They don't want the children to suffer consequences for their actions/choices. They don't care if the children are able to speak or write proper English. They do not care if the children have a thorough grasp of basic math skills (I had more than one "gifted" child use their fingers to complete very basic addition and subtraction problems, along with the rest of the class). They do not care if a child truly understands the basic standards taught, as nothing is taught to mastery.

The administration does want the children to feel good about themselves, but they fail to realize that one can only truly feel good about themselves by working hard and reaching a goal. Instead we teach our students entitlement. They are entitled to an A or B. They are entitled to go to college. They are entitled to pass on to the next grade. They are entitled to not complete their homework or turn in work and still pass school.

I think about my grandparents' abilities and not one of them graduated from high school, and they are far superior to many of the children that are graduating today.

As I now stay at home with my son and tutor children, I too often see children that have no vocabulary knowledge. A first grader had no idea what a wink was or other simple words, that my 3 year old definitely has an understanding of. The difference, I spend a great deal of time reading and talking to my son. We play games, build with blocks and Legos and complete puzzles. We go to museums and to the zoo. We don't watch tv, videos, or play video games. I did these things even when I worked full time. Too often while I am out and about with my child, I see parents on their cell phone not talking to their children. Talking to your child, asking him questions, and spending time together interacting costs no money and is the best investment that you can give your child. Knowing what is really happening in the classroom is also another great investment. I believe that many parents would be shocked at the amount of time wasted and the way that children are permitted to act. It really is disturbing to me.

No Duh said...

Teachers misspelling words...

Thirty years ago, one of my journalism classes had to be moved to an auditorium in the "Education Building." A chalkboard in the front of the auditorium (left over from the previous "education" class taught there) contained two misspelled words. My journalism friend and I shook our heads and said "God help us." Prophetic.

Cerebration said...

Well, I at least hope that these 3000 teachers at the writing seminar listened to Michelle Obama's commencement address to the graduating class of Spelman College. Michelle is a testament to a quality education, proper grammar, good manners and extraordinary poise; qualities that transcend race.

"[Your degree is] not a gift with which you can do whatever you please," she said. "It is a commitment that comes with a certain set of obligations, obligations that don't end when you march through that arch today."

She warned them "there will always be folks out there who make assumptions about others" and "who try to raise themselves up by cutting other people down.'

"That happens to everyone, including me, throughout their lives," she said. "But when that happens to you all, here's what I want you to do. I want you to just stop a minute. Take a deep breath, because it's going to need to be deep, and I want you to think about all those women who came before you ... [and] think about how they didn't sit around bemoaning their lack of resources and opportunities and affirmation.

"They didn't go around pointing fingers and making excuses for why they couldn't win a case or soar above the horizon. And instead of focusing on what they didn't have, they focused on what they did have: their intellect, their courage, their determination, their passion.

"You have an obligation to see each setback as a challenge and as an opportunity to learn and grow. You have an obligation to face whatever life throws your way with confidence and with hope."