Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

 

 

By David Bass

 

For many Georgians, past criminal conviction can be the most significant hurdle to overcome in getting a job. On this front, there is good news: Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a bill (SB288) into law that allows formerly incarcerated individuals to petition the court to have certain misdemeanor convictions erased from their record four years after the completion of their sentence. 

 

The new law excludes certain offenses, including sexual offenses and DUIs. In a crucial move, the law also creates incentives for employers to make “second chance” hires.

 

This new law allows for an easier transition back into the workforce for a segment of Georgia’s population that has paid its debt to society and stayed on the straight and narrow.

 

“This new law is monumental because it takes Georgia off the list of only a handful of states where a criminal offense stays on an ex-offender’s record perpetually,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of policy at Georgia Center for Opportunity. “We know that unemployment is a key way to help ex-offenders not repeat their crimes. Particularly in the COVID-19 era, breaking down any barriers to employment that we can is always a huge win. We applaud Gov. Kemp and the Georgia Legislature for making this law a reality.”

 

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond

Microschools, hybrid options, and online classes: Education during COVID and beyond 

 

By Eric Wearne 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the afternoon of Monday, July 20—just a few weeks before schools would normally be opening—the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta announced that their schools would in fact all be opening for live classes in August. The Superintendent’s statement suggests “…the benefits of in-person instruction, compared with remote delivery, far outweigh the possible risks involved.” Families uncomfortable with in-classroom instruction may choose online instruction, following individual school plans.   

Just a few hours before the announcement from the Archdiocese, Gwinnett County Public Schools—the largest public school system in the state—announced that they would be starting the school year completely online. Though the system had announced earlier that it would give parents the choice between in-person and online learning, the most recent statement says, “The current COVID-19 situation required a change in those plans.” This has led to significant online anger and multiple protests at the system’s central office.

Both the Catholic Archdiocese schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools say they based their decisions following federal and state health guidelines and the advice of medical and educational experts. Why, then, such opposing decisions from the two school systems? Are the health guidelines contradictory? Are the Archdiocese and Gwinnett cherry-picking the medical and educational experts they listen to?     

Likely none of the above. What we may instead be seeing is simply that smaller entities can be more nimble. And that larger entities would be well-advised to do what they can to learn from that agility. 

At an event earlier this month, the founder of the growing microschool network Prenda, Kelly Smith, suggested that an important lesson all school systems might learn from smaller organizations—especially given the large health, economic, and educational issues presented by the pandemic—is  that they should accept and in fact facilitate more segmentation among their constituents. This may be particularly true for public school systems like Gwinnett, which encompasses a relatively large geographic area and serves over 180,000 students in 141 different schools. Many students would benefit from more choices in schooling even under completely normal circumstances. At a time when everyone’s circumstances are even more unique and individualized because of the differential impact of the pandemic on families, more flexibility is even more important.

A major complication in this debate is that the reasons families want to return to school vary so much.  That is, for some families, the dynamics of learning at home simply do not work well. As examples, some families have students with special needs who require particular kinds of attention. Some families must work outside the home to survive financially. (A number of services are cropping up around Gwinnett County and elsewhere to facilitate online learning or simply childcare, set up by gyms, YMCAs,  performing arts centers, or other places that are typically not full during the school day. While this is an example of civil society and the market responding to fill a need, it comes at a cost—sometimes a few hundred dollars per month, which many families cannot afford). 

Some believe any school openings for face-to-face learning means the school/system will not adapt no matter what circumstances arise and that such decisions are consigning people to die.  Of course that is not true. The Archdiocese of Atlanta and other private and public schools who are offering face-to-face schooling will continue to monitor schools and said they will close down quickly if necessary.

It is too early to know whether opening schools in-person will lead to a worse health crisis, or keeping them online will lead to even worse economic and psychological crises.  Other creative solutions, like moving as many classes as possible outdoors, or operating on a hybrid home school-style schedule (2-3 days per week) might be worth exploring to a greater extent than they have been so far. 

One thing both public and private schools should absolutely do in this moment is learn to be more responsive to smaller groups of constituents, rather than imposing singular, large-scale solutions.  Families must, one way or another, find their way through this school year. They are already building solutions for themselves, outside of the constraints of their school systems. Legislators in Colorado, among other states, are considering whether to fund families directly in response to school closures. School leaders need to adapt, quickly, or risk being left behind.

 

Eric Wearne is a faculty member in the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University.

He is also the author of Little Platoons: Defining Hybrid Home Schools in America, forthcoming from Lexington Books. Learn more about Eric. 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

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How Can I Support My Child’s Virtual Teachers This School Year?

How Can I Support My Child’s Virtual Teachers This School Year?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

“Supporting virtual teachers is just as important as supporting traditional classroom teachers and making the connection with the virtual teacher will be key to your student’s success.”

Making the swap from brick-and-mortar schooling to a virtual setting might be a challenge for some families. In fact, it may seem daunting. But with a few simple tips and reminders, families can make virtual schooling feel as normal and natural to the family lifestyle as traditional school ever was.

 

There is one crucial factor that makes a student successful in the virtual setting—an involved parent or learning coach. After years as an educator, the last seven of those at a virtual school, I know for certain that the students who adapt to virtual schooling, achieve high grades and test scores, and make advancements in their education are those who have a support system at home to help them and encourage them. This is true of a traditional brick-and-mortar school setting as well, but it is especially vital in the virtual setting. Because the teachers, faculty, and administration have physical barriers in the virtual setting, it is imperative that the student have someone in the home environment who can serve as their support system, advocate, and daily encouragement.

 

Not only is this support system key for the student, it helps the teachers as well. Supporting virtual teachers is just as important as supporting traditional classroom teachers and making the connection with the virtual teacher will be key to your student’s success.

 

One of the main things you can do as the new school year begins is remember to treat the virtual teacher with the same respect that you would a traditional classroom teacher. These are professionals, trained and certified in the exact same way as traditional classroom teachers. Most, if not all, have been traditional classroom teachers at some point in their careers. In fact, in many school districts, the virtual teachers will actually be the classroom teachers who are now moving to virtual platforms due to the pandemic. Be respectful of their knowledge, passion, and drive to see your student succeed.

 

So what else can you, as a parent and learning coach, do to support your student’s virtual teachers?

 

  • Read all emails and communications. Pay attention to details, updates, deadlines, expectations, and requirements.

 

  • Set calendar reminders for yourself to help remind your student about important deadlines, etc.

 

  • Communicate with the teachers frequently. Don’t be afraid to send an email or pick up the phone to ask clarifying questions.

 

  • Learn the virtual platforms. This may seem overwhelming but learning at least enough to check your student’s gradebook and communicate with the teacher will go a long way. Parent training on this should be provided by your school district.

 

  • Check regularly to make sure your student is logging in and completing work on time.

 

  • Check your student’s gradebook weekly, at minimum.

 

  • Attend any online open houses, orientations, and/or parent conferences. Take the opportunity to get to know your student’s teacher.

 

  • If you want to show appreciation like you occasionally would in the traditional classroom, send the teacher a kind email, voice message, or even a gift card via email.

The greatest thing you can do to support the virtual teacher is show patience. Parents feel uncertainty right now and have many questions. Teachers have these same feelings and questions. Some teachers face the same issues that you do—how to work while their own children are home and educating virtually, how to balance the work/family dynamic, and how to live day to day in a nation swirling with insecurity. Showing patience as we move forward together sets a wonderful example of resilience and bravery for our students.

 

Teachers who are passionate about their profession will meet the challenges of educating virtually in a pandemic with courage and ingenuity. They will create engaging, exciting lessons for your student and will do everything in their power to form relationships with your child, exactly as they would in a traditional classroom.

 

Take the time to reach out with any questions and concerns, but your encouragement is also appreciated. Let your student’s teacher know how much you appreciate their hard work and preparation for a challenging school year that will certainly turn out to be historic. Make a commitment now with your student and the teacher to work together to make the virtual education experience exciting, engaging, and an integral part of your child’s development.

 

Virtual education was once a wonderful option for families, but in this pandemic has become a requirement for many who weren’t expecting it. We’re all learning together and a positive attitude will go farther than anything else. We teachers encourage you to take advantage of this time in our history to make memories with your child so that one day they will look back on this time not remembering what they “missed” by not being in a traditional classroom, but what they gained by having the opportunity to learn virtually. Certainly history will reflect that the option of virtual schooling provided a nation of students the education they needed in a time when caution was most important.

 

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

What Your Virtual Teacher Wants You To Know

What Your Virtual Teacher Wants You To Know

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

It is a different world. Things are changing daily; numbers, statistics, and educated guesses are becoming the norm. It is in this climate that we are attempting to educate a nation of children in an unprecedented way—virtually.

 

Many states have had virtual schools for some time now, but not many states have attempted virtual education through large school districts all at one time like we are seeing in our nation as we approach a new school year. Each district has different plans and expectations, but all have the same goal—to give your student the highest quality education and help them achieve academic success.

 

As the school year begins, there are some things that your student’s virtual teacher will want you to know, prepare for, and pay attention to. In order for your child to be successful, give these points some careful consideration.

“…all have the same goal—to give your student the highest quality education and help them achieve academic success.”

  • Virtual teachers are real teachers. In most schools, teachers have extensive training, certifications, and degrees in education and content. They continually attend professional development to hone their craft and they are professionals who are passionate about what they do.

 

  • Virtual teachers are still learning. Every day new technology is developed that can help engage your child in exciting lessons and teachers are constantly learning how to implement these tools into the classroom.

 

  • Please read all messages from the teacher carefully. Information is easy to come by if you commit to reading messages, emails, announcements, and communications from your student’s teachers, school, and school district.

 

  • Your child is expected to be in class. Just because the platform might be virtual does not mean that the schedule is flexible. Students need to stay on the schedule set out by the district, school, and teacher.

 

  • Teachers want your support! They need you to be engaged and aware of what’s going on in the virtual classroom so that you can be your student’s support from home.

 

  • Teachers want to communicate with you. They are available to answer your questions and address your concerns—just reach out!

 

  • Students need a calm learning environment free from distractions. When learning virtually, it’s very difficult for teachers to compete with the TV, cell phone, or other distraction at home. Please help keep those to a minimum during learning time.

 

  • Teachers don’t expect perfection—just engagement! Students who show up, try, and make an effort are those who will reflect the most success.

 

  • Virtual education can provide everything your student needs—if your student is willing to take advantage! Relationships can be built in a virtual setting just like in a traditional school and what’s more, your student can form relationships with students and peers they might never had have the chance to know otherwise!

 

  • If your student is struggling, please let the teacher know. Typically your teacher will already be aware, but please don’t hesitate to reach out for extra help, support, and guidance.

 

  • While there are certainly challenges that many families will have to address, don’t forget the advantages of virtual education:

 – Some flexibility in location for your student to learn

–  More quality time at home making family memories

–  Certified teachers who will be teaching your child, no matter if your student is at home    with you or in a childcare setting

–  No parent has to create their own curriculum—it’s all provided by professionals

–  Meeting new people in the virtual classroom they might not have the opportunity to meet otherwise

–  Saving money on school clothes and supplies

–  Exploring classes that might not be offered in a traditional school

–  Learning new technologies via the virtual classroom

Virtual education was once a wonderful option for families, but in this pandemic has become a requirement for many who weren’t expecting it. We’re all learning together and a positive attitude will go farther than anything else. We teachers encourage you to take advantage of this time in our history to make memories with your child so that one day they will look back on this time not remembering what they “missed” by not being in a traditional classroom, but what they gained by having the opportunity to learn virtually. Certainly history will reflect that the option of virtual schooling provided a nation of students the education they needed in a time when caution was most important.

 

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

Many of us got a little taste of what virtual schooling could feel like back in the spring when the spread of Covid-19 forced nationwide school building closures and a shift to virtual education. At that time, our nation’s educators faced a mountain of challenges: lack of information, lack of understanding of virtual platforms and how to make them work for students, lack of preparation, and for many students, a lack of reliable internet or computer resources in the home. Parents faced a lack of education themselves while also confronting issues with childcare. The shift came without much warning and the unpreparedness teachers felt was not their fault. Many veteran virtual educators came together to develop resources to help new online teachers become successful.

Students got a taste of virtual education in the spring as well, but as we prepare to return to school in the fall, the expectations of virtual education will be different and you should prepare your child for the changes and enhancements they will see in the virtual setting.

The key to preparing our students to have a successful school year is in how you present the information. Your student will react to your attitude, so the more excitement and enthusiasm you show, the more likely your student is to feel the same way. Positivity is key when facing a new challenge. What a wonderful thing it is that we live in a time when virtual education is an option to keep our nation going during a pandemic!

Here are some things that you and your student should know:

  • Teachers have received more virtual education training. At this point, brick and mortar school teachers have had and continue to receive training about virtual platforms and tools and how to use them.
  • Administrators have developed a detailed plan. Students and teachers have been virtually paired together with intention and scheduling has been taken into consideration.
  • Teachers are now aware of more resources to help build a strong virtual classroom and are adding new resources daily.
  • Platforms for live teaching have been purposefully obtained by school districts. Live sessions will be held on a schedule and with the purpose of live instruction.
  • Successful virtual schooling requires support from parents and learning coaches.

So what should you do as a parent to help your student prepare?

  • Once you have your student’s schedule, go over it with your child. Make sure your child knows when to log into live sessions. Set alarms, write it out and post it somewhere close to the schoolwork space, etc. As a parent, you’ll also need to look at your own schedule, childcare plans, and create a calendar that supports your student. Keep in mind virtual schooling will require student attendance and participation daily.
  • Create a workspace at home with minimal distractions. Keep the TV off and the phone put away when students are working on schoolwork. This is absolutely vital for student engagement.
  • Get your student excited about live sessions! Remind them that they will be able to talk to their teacher and engage with their peers, similarly to how they would in a traditional classroom.
  • Communicate with teachers regularly. Read all emails from teachers and be aware of expectations, plans, and updates. This is key to your student’s success.
  • Discuss expectations with your child. Virtual schooling may be challenging for some—learning on the computer is certainly not what they are used to. Talk about why it’s important to pay attention to the teacher, complete work on time, participate in class, and treat virtual education just as seriously as they would if they were in the traditional classroom.
  • Create moments of rest and fun. During breaks from class, make sure your student is up and moving around, getting proper hydration and nourishment, and taking breaks from screen time.
  • Be realistic. We live in uncertain times and plans change from day to day. Give yourself and your student grace and praise for getting through each day and accomplishing daily tasks.

Prepare your child for virtual education by encouraging them with positivity about the situation. Make the new schedule exciting. While you might not be shopping for back to school clothes or lunch boxes, make virtual schooling just as fun in other ways—new school supplies for home, allowing them to decorate their workspace and color their own calendar, etc. Allow your student to choose their “first day of school” outfit for their first day of live classes on camera and help them feel excited about the new way the nation is learning. Remind them they are not alone—millions of children across the country will be learning virtually this fall.

We’re all in this together. Thanks to technology, our children can continue their education with qualified teachers uninterrupted. With gratitude we can take on a whole new view of our current situation and the outlook of our nation. While tomorrow may be unknown, the future is still bright for our students.

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

  

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

GCO reflects on the passing of Rep. John Lewis

 

 

By Georgia Center for Opportunity

 

The Georgia Center for Opportunity team was saddened to learn of the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis on July 17. Rep. Lewis served Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until the time of his passing this year. Rep. Lewis was a crucial figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s—during the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, he was beaten so badly by police that he was hospitalized.

 

Even though Rep. Lewis’ policy prescriptions did not always align with those of GCO, we commend his years of service fighting for equal justice and the chance for all Americans to thrive and prosper. Here are selected reflections from GCO staff members on the life and legacy of John Lewis.

 

Randy Hicks, president and CEO: “John Lewis was a warrior for justice, frequently calling America to live up to its lofty, well-articulated principles. We join with so many others across the state of Georgia and the country in mourning the loss of a man who committed his life to making America better.”

 

Joyce Mayberry, vice president of family formation: “The way civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis lived his life was the epitome of impact. He forever changed my life and the lives of so many others. While I never got the chance to personally thank him, hopefully my personal decision to serve my community daily is an action that would have received his approval. Rest in peace, sir.”

 

Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy: “I am sad that John Lewis passed away. He had courage to stand for what he believed in, even when he knew he would be beaten and he was putting his life in jeopardy. It’s easy to say we have that kind of courage, but he proved it. I’m glad I got the chance to shake his hand. Prayers for his family and friends.”

 

Jamie Lord, director of government affairs: I met John Lewis only once. Though shorter in stature, he loomed large. He was a sort of North Star in the moral quest for justice and equality. Before he was even born, I bought my son Congressman Lewis’ graphic memoir, March. I can only hope Lewis’ story helps inspire my son as it has inspired me. I hope he comes to live, as Lewis did, demonstrating a love of others, a commitment to justice and the bravery to put his very life on the line standing up for what is right. He really was one of the best of us and even in his passing he challenges me to be better, to do more.”