Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Non Profit Returns $25,000 Payment from School District

I don't have comparative data, but the number of contracts issued to outside agencies to do work for the Fayette County Schools during the Shelton administration felt excessive. Perhaps that was because the nature of such contracts seemed to change as well. Got a problem with the personnel in your financial services division? Hire a consultant. Get a bad report from the State Auditor? Hire a consultant. The repetitive nature of the outsourcing left one to wonder if the FCPS district office lacked the capacity to run it's own shop.

 It apparently became normal business for FCPS to contract with civic non-profits to provide services that are more typically thought to be volunteer work. As I recall, Junior Achievement was one such group. Volunteers would come to class and share experiences and information with students about the our economic system, work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. But these days the district pays Junior Achievement - we hear, $22,000 per year - to send volunteers. What's up with that?

Today it was reported that another non-profit, United Way of the Bluegrass, apparently re-thought their arrangement, and decided to return $25,000 to the district. Good for them. The contract was reportedly signed by Shelton on his last day in office, and bypassed the board because the item came out of the Superintendent's budget, and was below the allowable limit. And what a contract it was.  Written in aspirational terms, the year-long agreement called for United Way and FCPS to pilot an effort to "improve the way the district uses limited resources to improve student outcomes."

 

"To charge the school district to help the worst-rated elementary school in the Commonwealth was not something we wanted to do," 

-- United Way of the Bluegrass CEO Bill Farmer

_ER14549.JPGFlanked by a team of specialists from the district who are helping, Jones presented his plan to improve student achievement.

In a new initiative since statewide test scores were released in October, some principals of low performing schools in Fayette County are asked to appear at board meetings to share their improvement plans.

But the presentations aren't blame sessions.
"The public needs to understand the challenges you face and how proactive you've been in addressing those needs," school board chairman John Price told Jones at a March meeting. "It takes time for these things to happen."

Price told Jones he wanted more information on what William Wells Brown needed.

"The board needs to better understand the needs that you have so we can try to build a budget," Price said.

With the board set to approve a tentative budget Tuesday, Price said this week that the 2015-16 budget has very little money to help William Wells Brown and other low performing schools. He said the board was looking for more money in the 2016-17 budget.

Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm has said it's possible the district will be able to address some of William Wells Brown's needs with federal money.

In terms of demographics, 96 percent of the school's students receive free or reduced-price lunch. About two-thirds of the students are black and 12 percent Hispanic.

With a score of 34.4 out of 100, William Wells Brown Elementary was the lowest rated among elementary schools statewide in Kentucky's testing and accountability program in 2013-14.
It is classified by the state as "needs improvement" as opposed to "proficient" or "distinguished." William Wells Brown also is classified as a "focus" school, meaning that it is underperforming in closing the achievement gaps between poor, minority and disabled students and other students.
The school's plan for moving to proficient includes Jones working closely with a mentor provided by the school district — a retired principal — and with the district's elementary director.

Jones is focusing on improving teacher and principal effectiveness, trying to increase the school's engagement with families and the community, and on creating a safe learning environment.

Jones is trying to increase the number of students who are prepared for kindergarten with two full-day preschool classes in the fall of 2015. He is trying to increase minority hiring, and to better monitor daily instruction. Students are getting instruction in small groups and teachers are getting more professional development.

A new reading program has been purchased for the school.

"I believe I have the hardest working staff in the district. They come in early. They stay late and are always going above and beyond to meet the needs of students," Jones said.

Officials from Fayette County's 16th district PTA, an organization that provides support to individual school PTAs, have been helping to train parents in the William Wells Brown PTA.

A service team from the district has been helping with community engagement, with lesson planning, testing, data analysis, monitoring special education services and with a school-wide behavior plan.
Data analysis is the foundation on which school officials monitor how well students are learning and what kind of classwork they need.

Academic data is analyzed twice weekly by teachers and an instructional leadership team. Data is also analyzed at the school's monthly decision-making council meetings.

Regular classroom test results are monitored, and instructional coaches work with teachers if scores drop.

Behavior data is examined, including data on students who get sent to the principal's office for infractions. Incidents are analyzed by teacher, location, time of day, day of week, type of infraction, grade level, gender, and ethnicity.

Out-of-school suspensions have decreased by 57 percent.

"Kids are struggling academically so it doesn't make sense to send them home," the principal said.
Instead the school is trying after-school detention.

While test scores are important, Jones said he also looks for steady progress, academically and socially, as indicators of a student's success.

Jones said he was pleased with the support he had received from district officials, but he told the school board he needed a new program to help students with math, more training for staff and more staff members.

The school district gave the United Way of the Bluegrass a $25,000 contract to work with the district's office of Family and Community Engagement to recruit, train, and place volunteers at the school. But Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm said United Way officials recently returned payment they had received from the district, saying United Way officials had determined they could help the district without receiving money.

"To charge the school district to help the worst-rated elementary school in the Commonwealth was not something we wanted to do," United Way of the Bluegrass CEO Bill Farmer told the Herald-Leader Friday.

Farmer said that while there was a cost associated with the work, "we felt it was more important to provide the services than to be paid."

Farmer said the United Way also wanted to help the other elementary schools in Fayette County that are classified by the state as "needs improvement."

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/05/25/3869082/william-wells-brown-elementary.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rand Paul: Not Opposed to National Testing

Well, first, Rand Paul never took a National Test because there wasn't one. He probably did take many nationally-normed standardized tests. But that's hardly the same thing.

Second, being in favor of a national test but opposed to allowing all students to know and practice the same curriculum in order to be successful on that test, is crazy as an instructional strategy.

This from Politics K-12:
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and 2016 presidential candidate, talked education during an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, during which he said that he's not against national testing, despite his anti-federal-meddling attitude. Though to be sure, he's still very much opposed to a national curriculum.

The interview largely focused on foreign affairs issues, but crept into the edu-world when host Chuck Todd asked Paul about an idea in his book, Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America.

The idea, loosely explained, is that a superb teacher should be teaching millions of students via online classes, not 20 to 30 students in a small classroom.

Here's the idea explained in Paul's own words:
"One of the big leaps forward for America was when we started becoming a meritocracy and everybody was open for education. There's still some people in America, but particularly in other countries, who are trapped in poverty and don't have access. When the Internet expands this access and someone in the recesses of the jungle can learn from the best calculus teacher on the planet, we're going to discover a genius who will allow progress and mankind to improve, and I think it's going to be a huge leap for technological progress. But it's by having larger classrooms, which is counterintuitive, not smaller. They will be virtual classrooms, and they will be extraordinarily cheap."
Specifically, Todd pushed Paul to explain why this idea of having one teacher teaching an entire nation— a teacher who presumably creates his or her own curriculum—is different than a national curriculum, which Paul explains in his book that he opposes.

"How is that not in contradiction to being against the Common Core [State Standards], but for nationalized teaching, like what you describe?" Todd asked.

Paul's libertarian ideals plant him firmly in the "get government out of my life" camp—in fact, if he had his way, he'd abolish the entire U.S. Department of Education—so the question was meant as a bit of a gotcha. (And, side note, the common core is a set of standards—not a curriculum, as it's often characterized by those who oppose it.)

"I'm not saying this comes from government," Paul said in response to Todd's question. "I think this comes more than likely from the innovators you meet in Silicon Valley or the innovators you meet in Austin, Texas."

When Todd pushed back, saying that it doesn't sound like the local government mantra he's so fond of, Paul clarified: "I'm not arguing against any kind of national communication or even national testing. I took national tests when I was a kid," Paul continued. "What I'm arguing against is centralized control in one body of the government."

You can listen to the entire exchange here. Scroll across to minute 41.

That education made it into the 10-minute interview at all is a big deal, and bodes well for education being a major issue in the 2016 election cycle, especially debate over the ever divisive common-core standards.

Giving Tradition a Bad Name

Well, we know Angela Allen is not bigoted, closed-minded, or against things that are not like her, because she told us so. 

Angela Allen
But I'm still confused about just what it is that upset an otherwise intelligent-sounding member of the Danville community, to the point that she felt compelled to leave a baccalaureate service, in anger, because a Muslim student exercised her first amendment right to religious expression as a citizen of the United States, to read and chant a passage from the Quran. Allen says she is not particularly religious herself. Is she anti-American, or opposed to civil rights somehow?

Other students at the ceremony offered religious expressions to the same God. But Allen specifically doesn't care to be swayed by that logic. "To tell me that I need to be educated and need to understand that both sides are worshiping the same God is futile — tell the two sides, not me," Allen writes.

Her explanation for her anger relates to a perceived assault on tradition. She explains that a baccalaureate service is "a Traditional Christian event dating back to the 1400s" and objected to the travesty of evolving tradition occurring before the audience of - not a religious event -  but "a Christian event in the Bible Belt." 

She's not bigoted, she says, but suggests that Danville High School folks should have known better than to try such a thing around here. Then Allen issued a challenge. "Want to take me on about my objection to the cancer of political correctness? To how weak it makes us individually and collectively? THEN BRING IT ON!"

Interesting challenge.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Allen is correct, and that our precious traditions must be protected from outside forces that threaten to break down society as we know it - all in the name of political correctness, or diversity. 

If Allen is correct, then our precious fifteenth century English traditions would still hold that...
  • she must be silenced immediately, and chastened against the chance that she might repeat her offense of offering her opinions into the matters reserved to men
  • by virtue of her inferior sex, her husband, father, uncles, or other responsible men in her family should take her in hand, or risk punishment themselves
  • she is not an individual under the law and has no rights; she is chattel, submissive and subject to her husband; she can be bought and sold
  • being more carnal than man, defective in formation from the outset, the bent rib...she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives, and therefore should not be listened to
  • she is a foe to friendship, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, and the source of all carnal lust, which, in a woman is insatiable, and from which witchcraft derives
  • she is not accorded any civil rights, is not allowed to appear in court, unless on behalf of, and at the behest of, her husband 
If Allen is correct, we have been made weaker as a nation for our toleration of women in political discourse, and we should all regret allowing the inferior sex to vote.

You get the point. I like traditions as well as the next guy. But, I like civil rights more.

School officials reacted appropriately and supported the minority student's civil rights. 

It seems to me that Danville, Kentucky has moved well past the 15th century. At least, most if it.

 Danvile High School baccalaureate service stirs controversy

This from the Advocate-Messenger:


An event meant to honor the diverse beliefs of the 2015 graduates of Danville High School has instead caused a rift to develop among adults in the community — some with no children in school.
“We wanted to represent all diversity,” said Virginia Bugg. “The goal of the baccalaureate — as parents in this community, we are here to support them in their faith, whatever that may be, to raise them up to be good citizens of the United States.”
This year, the program included words from students of various beliefs, including atheism, Christianity and Islam, as well as a speech from Lee Jefferson, assistant professor of religion at Centre College, and music from the men’s choir of First Baptist Church, Second and Walnut streets, and from a hispanic student at the school.

The baccalaureate service, held Sunday night, is a yearly event connected to the festivities for graduating seniors and, at Danville High School, is initiated by parents and seniors.
However, it was the words spoken by a 17-year-old graduating senior that have created the most buzz.

The senior is of the Muslim faith and, true to her faith, chose to read for her classmates a passage from the Quran in both Arabic and English, an excerpt which says, “In the name of God, the infinitely compassionate and merciful. Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds. The compassionate, the merciful. Ruler on the day of reckoning. You alone we do worship, and you alone we do ask for help. Guide us on the straight path, the path of those who have received your grace; not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wonder astray.”

Those words caused one set of parents to leave the service and write a blog post denouncing it. Angela Allen, writer at www.wickedblog.com, was there with her family and recorded the event online.

“I honestly can’t describe the anger that rose in me,” Allen wrote in her blog. She and those she was with left the event early, waiting outside until it was over.

Allen writes in her blog that she is not a particularly religious person, but that her issue with it is the tradition involved.

“I’m not a bigot, closed-minded or against everything that’s not like me. I’m neither a religious nut of any flavor, nor am I in alignment with many who would spew hate from the other side of the fence,” she writes. “What I am totally against is this ‘politically correct’ society that continually tramples the traditions of others in the name of open-mindedness and progressiveness.

“If our differences are what make us wonderful — and they are — then quit trying to homogenize my world.”

Allen said her issue with the program was that it went against the traditions of the baccalaureate service.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the baccalaureate dates to medieval times, roughly 1649, as a service when a sermon was delivered. Dictionary.com goes on to explain that it was the 1600s when the word was coined; however, the more modern meaning arose about 1864 when it became a “religious farewell address to the graduating class.”

In recent years, the meaning has continued to transform, with some schools taking the religious context out entirely.

At Danville High School, participants in the baccalaureate have transformed it over the years to be an interfaith service, one that is dedicated to the diversity of the student population.

It has been held at the school for the past several years; however, it is not a school-sanctioned function. The committee that arranges the baccalaureate consists of parents who are also in on the planning for Project Graduation.

Bugg, who was one of the parents on that committee, was shocked at the reactions from the community, especially from individuals who were made aware of the nature of the baccalaureate service.

“Everyone got emails — all parents got it. If anyone had a problem with it, they needed to come be a part of our committee,” she said.

Invitations were sent out to parents, which said, “The event will consist of speeches, readings and music that contain both secular and religious components that reflect our diverse student body.”
Three years ago, the older brother of the young student spoke, also sharing his Muslim beliefs. No issues were raised then, according to their parents, but now they fear for their daughter, who has been the brunt of negative statements from community members. Her peers have celebrated her in speaking, they said.

Their faith is one of peace, not the extremism so widely displayed on mainstream media, they said.
“Trying to represent all of the students is a great aim,” said Jaemi Loeb. Loeb, an assistant professor of music at Centre College, is of the Jewish faith. She has a close friend who's child is a junior at the high school. “If people have a problem with other beliefs, then we have problems. Danville is relatively diverse.”

No students are required to attend baccalaureate, and some chose not to.

“It was totally optional. Only about 40 or 50 people came,” Bugg said.

While the event was not a school-run event, Danville Independent Schools issued a statement Monday evening in support of the diversity shown at the baccalaureate.

“At the event, words of hope, acceptance, well wishes, and joy emanated from a diverse set of presenters, which included a student of Muslim faith, the men’s choir of the First Baptist Church, a parent, and a professor of religion from Centre College.

“Though neither the Board of Education nor the school district organize or sponsor baccalaureate services, we take this opportunity to express our congratulations to the wonderful diversity of students that compose this year’s graduating class, like many before and many more to come. In the Danville Schools, all means all…”

Keith Look, superintendent, said he was in the buildings on Monday, partially to see if there were any problems aligning with the community firestorm buzzing on social media.

“Every place was a happy, functioning center of education,” he said.

DHS Principal Aaron Etherington said he was proud.

“We have so many at Danville High School that represent diversity with high regard. I’m proud of our senior class and all the individuals in the class,” Etherington said.

Friday, May 15, 2015

University of Louisville Releases Financial Auditor’s Review Following Court Settlement

This from WFPL:
The University of Louisville on Monday released a financial auditor’s review that had been kept out of the public’s eye for more than a year, the result of a court settlement with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The February 2014 assessment, prompted by a series of high-profile thefts and embezzlement, found a system that had been susceptible to fraud and inappropriate disbursements, among other shortcomings.

“Because the circumstances that allowed the frauds to occur have not substantially changed, we believe the University is still at risk for future fraudulent activity,” the report notes.

The analysis from Louisville-based auditing firm Strothman and Co. offers a detailed, qualitative look at financial oversight issues and includes a series of recommendations, nearly all of which the school later adopted.
 
After public records requests were rebuffed, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in December filed a civil suit in Jefferson Circuit Court seeking the release of Strothman’s 17-page analysis.
The news organization sought a declaration that the university willfully withheld records related to the consultant’s examination of the school’s financial management. U of L claimed the documents were a preliminary draft and not a final report.

As part of a settlement of the lawsuit, the university agreed to release the initial report provided to the school by the auditing firm. The case was dismissed Monday by Judge Olu Stevens...You can see the report here.

U of L spokesman Mark Hebert released the following statement:
“Settling the lawsuit at this juncture is the prudent course of action for the University. The litigation was becoming costly, protracted and a burden on university personnel. While we believe the attorney general’s opinion (14-ORD-181) supports our position that the document in question is a draft and not subject to public disclosure, we respect the media’s right to differ. While we believe settling this issue is in the best interests of all involved, it should not be construed as precedent for the University’s obligations under the Kentucky Open Records Act.”

“We are committed to improving our financial controls and accountability. We are following an aggressive timetable for implementing the recommendations from Strothman. Many of their recommendations are already in place and we plan to have all others implemented by the end of the year,” the statement read.

The Strothman assessment became the basis for a more broad university “consulting report” released in July that highlighted changes the university was undertaking or planning to take. That document provided an overview but did not cite details on particular findings.

Among its many recommendations, Strothman said U of L should hire a chief financial officer, add a layer of review in the Finance Office, standardize security across its computer system, and improve controls over the payroll system.

The school has paid Strothman more than $160,000 for its work and has previously authorized an additional $100,000 for the firm to help implement the recommendations.

As part of its examination, Strothman tried to determine how many bank accounts existed in the name of University of Louisville, University of Louisville Physicians or any derivative. The firm requested information from all banks in a 50-mile radius. The university provided a list of 11 authorized accounts at PNC Bank, as well as one account in the name of the University of Louisville Athletic Association.

The firm ultimately found more than 20 additional bank accounts linked in some manner to U of L. They include accounts for the German Club, the U of L Sports Administration Club, U of L Parking, and more.

Strothman also learned of several accounts linked to University Medical Associates, the previous incarnation of University of Louisville Physicians. However, Fifth Third Bank told Strothman that they were unaware of any accounts in the name of the university.

The auditing firm later found additional accounts linked to previous entities tied to University of Louisville Physicians, according to the report.

Strothman determined the banking account matter needed follow-up.

For all the bank accounts, “management should ensure that follow-up procedures be performed to determine that these accounts are not being used for fraudulent or inappropriate purposes,” the report noted.

The consultants wrote: “As an example, someone who wished to steal receipts from University of Louisville Athletics could set up a bank account in the name of ULA, LLC and make deposits into that account if they were able to physically divert the check.”

The firm repeatedly called for increased oversight and accountability.

In making a case for creating a CFO position, the auditing company noted that U of L doesn’t always “compel corrective action” when deficiencies are identified.” And improvements “recommended by the University’s internal auditors and others often do not get implemented on a timely basis.
University controls and policies are often applied inconsistently or not at all. It was unclear to us who had primary responsibility for this area.”

U of L later hired Harlan Sands, who earlier this year stepped into the combined role of chief financial officer and chief operations officer.

A handful of other findings stand out. Strothman found that a manager requesting a disbursement in at least one department is the same person to approve the disbursement.

The consultants also sought more oversight in the hiring of temporary and student employees. There’s potential a manager “would be in a position to add a fictitious employee to the payroll system.”
The February 2014 Strothman analysis was presented to U of L trustees in the board’s April 2014 meeting. Trustees were given 30 to 40 minutes to review the draft report, but couldn’t keep copies, according to board member Steve Wilson. At the time, school spokesman Mark Hebert said the company was still working on the document.

The university released its own broad “consulting report” in July. Officials had agreed with nearly all of the firm’s recommendations, though details on the firm’s findings were sparse. School leaders noted that many of the changes were already underway. Read that report here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting It Right and Getting It Wrong on the “Real Costs” of Higher Education

This from the Academe Blog (April 6):
In the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Paul F. Campos has offered his opinion on “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much.” [The whole piece is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/the-real-reason-college-tuition-costs-so-much.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0]

Campos argues that attributing the rise in tuition costs to reductions in state funding is a fairy tale that administrators have been telling to cover up the tremendous increases in administrative positions, administrative compensation, and administrative support staff that have been the major drivers of increased costs.

He has gotten it half-wrong and half-right–if one is feeling very generous toward him..

Campos asserts: “In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.”

He provides no sources for these numbers, but using 1960 as a baseline is very problematic for several reasons: (1) none of the baby boomers had yet entered college; (2) to accommodate the baby boomers in the 1960s and 1970s, every institution is the country dramatically increased the size of its facilities and its faculty, many new institutions were established, and the public community college system was dramatically expanded; (3) to keep college affordable, very inclusive federal grant programs, such as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (BEOG), were established. All of these things dramatically increased the expenditures on higher education. If the G.I. Bill opened college to many veterans, the expectation in the 1960s had become that anyone who wanted to attend college would be able to afford to do so. In a very real sense, using 1960 as a baseline for tracking increases in spending on higher education is comparable to using 1935 as a baseline for tracking increases in defense spending.

Moreover, Campos’ assertion that defense spending is 1.8 times higher now than in 1960 is very dubious. In July 2013, Time magazine ran a series on the real cost of Defense, and the second article in that series explored how the calculations that the Department of Defense commonly uses to understate the increases in Defense spending are markedly different from the calculations used to track every other area of government spending and every other type of economic activity. The full article is available at: http://nation.time.com/2013/07/16/correcting-the-pentagons-distorted-budget-history/ It includes this chart, with the black line showing the increase since 1945 measured in current dollars:
Defense Spending
In addition, it must be noted that since the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001, the budget of the Department of Defense has not included either the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the costs associated with Homeland Security. In any case, the Defense Budget in the 1960s accounted for 50%-60% of all federal spending; so if that is the baseline, Defense spending started at a much, much higher level than federal spending on higher education, and so comparing the degree to which the two amounts have increased as a percentage is almost inevitably going to be very, very misleading.

Campos’ article also includes these paragraphs: “Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

“As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.”
Campos’ choice of 1980 is a very interesting one here because, in most states, 1980 was actually the high-water mark in terms of the percentage of the costs at public colleges and universities that were covered by state subsidies. The Carter-Reagan recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Bush recession of the early 1990s, the Bush recession of the early 2000s, and the Great Recession of 2008, each accelerated what were otherwise steady declines in state spending on higher education as a percentage of the total cost. It is very widely documented and simply unarguable that the increase in costs being borne by students has been the inverse in the decline in support being provided by the states.

Moreover, state support for higher education has been declining even as the demand for higher education, by percentage of the population—and, in particular, by percentage of the traditional college-age population—has been increasing. In the early 1980s, the reductions in state support may not have been in real revenues but, instead, in the sizes of the increases that the institutions had requested, but since the early 1990s and certainly since the 2008 recession, the cuts have been in real dollars. To cite just a very salient example, Bobby Jindal has been cutting state support for higher education year in and year out since he was elected. Because of very ill-conceived state tax cuts, higher education may have to absorb $300-$400 million of the projected $1.4 billion budget shortfall that the state is currently facing. If some miraculous fix is not found, those cuts will have a devastating impact of public colleges and universities in the state. That situation simply has nothing to do with how the institutions are spending available revenues.

Indeed, Campos shifts from citing percentage increases to citing changes in raw dollar totals when doing so suits his argument—and that sort of selective and inconsistent number-crunching undermines the credibility of his analysis: “State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion. And these totals do not include the enormous expansion of the federal Pell Grant program, which has grown, in today’s dollars, to $34.3 billion per year from $10.3 billion in 2000.”

But that brings us to what Campos does get right. He rightly emphasizes that any increases in spending on higher education have not gone to faculty compensation or even to an increase in full-time faculty, despite the steady increases in enrollment: “Interestingly, increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor. Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.”

He then notes the dramatic increase in allocations for administrative positions, administrative compensation, and administrative support staff:

“By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

“Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

“The rapid increase in college enrollment can be defended by intellectually respectable arguments. Even the explosion in administrative personnel is, at least in theory, defensible. On the other hand, there are no valid arguments to support the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators, unless one considers evidence-free assertions about “the market” to be intellectually rigorous.”

Even though he lays out many of the relevant elements, what Campos doesn’t really get at is that, regardless of who is footing the bill, the “real cost” of higher education–that is, expenditures per student–has not risen much since 1970. But what have changed dramatically are the percentages of the institutional revenues that are being allocated to administration and to instruction. The rise in the exploitation of both part-time and full-time contingent faculty is directly related to the transfer of allocations from tenure-track faculty lines to administrative budget lines.

At most public universities, less than a quarter of all spending is now devoted to faculty salaries and benefits and less than half of all spending is devoted to everything that might be even remotely construed as instructional support.

Several years ago, in another post, I commented wryly on our administrations being preoccupied with planning for our institutions’ post-educational futures. I realize now, even more than I did then, that I may have been laughing into the abyss.

Future of KDE technology system in question



This from Kentucky Teacher:

When it works correctly, the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System is a powerful tool to help Kentucky public school teachers become highly effective and improve learning in their classrooms.


But parts of the system, particularly the section that teachers use for the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES), weren’t working right earlier this school year, said Maritta Horne, CIITS manager for the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Knowledge, Information and Data Services.

“It wasn’t performing correctly or like we thought it should,” Horne said.

So KDE officials and Pearson Education reworked the section of the software called the Educator Development Suite (EDS), where teachers enter much of their documentation for PGES.

“It couldn’t just be the flip of a switch,” she said, “it was taking the EDS tool back into development and fixing it over the months, little by little.”

The result: consistency, stability and functionality.

“Now I feel really good about where the program is,” Horne said.

Now KDE officials want to know, should the state continue to provide CIITS as tool for teachers, schools and districts? Or should districts create and fund their own systems?

Commissioner Terry Holliday has been asking his advisory groups, steering committees and superintendents if they believe all or part of the CIITS system should be discontinued after the current school year.

So far the response has been mixed, David Cook, KDE’s director of innovation.

“There may be parts of it they would rather have as options,” he said, “and parts that if the state dropped wouldn’t hurt their feelings.”

Most users don’t realize that CIITS is really made up of several different components, Horne said.
“Even though it’s all called CIITS there are different pieces of CIITS that they are using, there are pieces that have functioned properly and have not been an issue,” she said. “And the pieces that were an issue, we’ve done our due diligence to get those addressed.”

The Instructional Management System (IMS) allows teachers to create lesson plans, find lesson plans, align lessons to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and administer assessments.
Teachers can incorporate more than 100,000 third-party resources from KET, PBS, Discovery Education, Thinkfinity and others into their lesson plans, she said. They can create lesson plans in the system or simply upload a tried-and-true lesson plan and align it to the standards.

About 60 percent of districts have added their curriculum with lesson plans in the system and many districts have posted their units for all teachers to use. Data shows that 66 percent of teachers have created and published lesson plans in the system leading to 500,000 lesson plans in CIITS.

“We’ve seen a lot of work in particular districts such as Campbell County, Pulaski County, Fayette County and Jefferson County is doing quite a bit as well,” Horne said.

Recently, Literacy Design Collaborative modules and core tools have been added, she said. Another improvement is a student workspace which will allow students to upload their work for their classes.  KDE is conducting a pilot using student workspace with Art and Music classes across the state.
CIITS

For more information about CIITS usage including reports and maps showing teacher, principal district usage of each component click here.

Another popular tool in the system is the ability to create and give assessments, both formative assessments and districtwide common assessments. Across the state an average of 69 percent of teachers have used the tool to create more than 300,000 assessments.

“It can be as a simple as five pre-lesson questions to see where students are on a particular standard,” Horne said.

Another powerful tool is the school and district data section.

“It’s every single piece of data you can think about for a student,” Horne said, adding that the data can only be accessed by teachers and school administrators.

The system also has year-by-year data, so that teachers can go back and see their students’ progress.
“It’s phenomenal, what it does,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Schools and districts can run reports to help them determine where students are lacking understanding and where instruction might need improvement.

But while teachers, schools and districts have had success with the IMS component, they have faced frustration with the EDS component, Horne said.

“The biggest headache across the state has been the Educator Development Suite,” she said. “But with the instructional management piece, it’s a very stable product. We have had very few issues at all.”

The problems with EDS came to light as teachers tried to use it to submit their sources of evidence for PGES. The program wasn’t consistent, Horne said. In one section it would auto save, in another it wouldn’t. In one section a session would time out, in another it wouldn’t.

For more than four months KDE officials met daily with Pearson officials, Horne said. Once the issues were corrected, KDE officials decided not to accept any more updates to the system for the next year, she said.

“We don’t want to mess it up,” Horne said. “What we’re hearing from the field is ‘we just want it to work.”

In addition, the Kentucky Board of Education voted to change a state regulation to allow teachers to use a method other than ES to submit that information, she said.

The new effectiveness system was part of the reason CIITS was created in 2011. The impetus for the system started with Senate Bill 1 (2009) and Kentucky’s 2010 Race to the Top application. The state was seeking to align assessments with the new standards, use data to support educators, implement a new teacher effectiveness system and provide support for the lowest performing schools.

“CIITS was the central connection point all four of those key areas,” KDE Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd told superintendents during the April 30 Superintendents’ Webcast.

Since it was created, CIITS had surpassed all of its usage goals, he added.

Data shows that every month 45,000 teachers and 3,500 administrators log into the system, Horne said. But when they do, they aren’t using all of the system.

A professional development component called Edivate, previously called PD 360, is not frequently used. Over the last two year, only 9 percent of users accessed that tool, which includes training videos showing best practices, she said.

KDE spends $4 million a year on the Edivate component alone.

“The part that’s costing us the most money is the one people aren’t using,” Cook said.

The total cost of CIITS, including Edivate, IMS, EDS and ASSIST, which is another program districts and schools use to submit improvement plans, was $7.9 million for fiscal year 2013-14. That money comes from a mix of federal and state funds.

“If the state is not providing these resources, the costs would primarily fall to the districts,” Floyd told superintendents. Districts would not receive state funding to implement new systems.
If CIITS were to be discontinued, districts would still have to submit all of the data that CIITS collects for PGES and would still have to teach and assess the Kentucky academic standards without IMS system’s help, Floyd said.

While superintendents were given the survey about whether to continue CIITS, Floyd encouraged them to get input from principals, teachers and technology coordinators.

A decision about the whether to continue the CIITS system is expected by May 30.