Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Looking down the barrel on campus

Police have no means of differentiating 
“bad guys with guns”  
“good guys with guns”

Do we want guns on campus? Well, they could be on the way, and they could get here before you know it. Now pending before the Kentucky General Assembly are three measures that would allow guns on all school campuses.

Many shooters target a location based on an emotional grievance or an attachment to a particular person or place. An FBI study of 160 active shootings between 2000 and 2013 (defined as a shooter actively attempting to kill people in a populated area, regardless of the amount of fatalities) shows that of the shootings that occurred in commercial or educational areas, the shooter had some relationship with the area in 63 percent of the cases, and in the vast majority of cases shooters in school-related incident were students of the school. In about 10% of the incidents studied the shooter targeted a current, or estranged, love interest.


HB249 would force all KY PUBLIC K-12 SCHOOLS and UNIVERSITIES to allow permit holders to conceal carry on their property. This bill covers all government buildings including LIBRARIES, COURTHOUSES (except courtrooms), DMV, REST STOPS etc. There are very few exceptions (police stations, health facilities, government meetings). This bill is currently in the House Education Committee.

HB316 is the sister bill to SB7. This bill eliminates the permit requirement (training/safety class and background check) to conceal carry. This bill is different than SB7 in that it keeps the age to carry at 21. Gun lobby groups are working hard to pressure KY legislators to support this bill. It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

SB7 was pulled for the Veterans Affairs Committee meeting last week and did not get a vote. Gun lobby groups are pressuring Senators to revive the bill and support it. 3 additional co-sponsors have been added.

If you want to influence legislative action, it is important to act immediately. These bills could very quickly be moved out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote.

Citizens can call the KY Legislative Comment Line: 1-800-372-7181

Leave a message for your state representative and the whole Education Committee advising them on how to vote on HB249, HB 316, and SB7

While most concealed-carry permit holders are responsible and law-abiding, it will only take a fraction of irresponsible owners for additional fatalities to rack up on our campuses, argues Nate Kreuter.in this piece from Inside Higher Ed:

Concealed in Our Classrooms

On Aug. 1, 1966, in the city of Austin, Texas, on the campus of the University of Texas, gunman Charles Whitman arguably began the tragic trend of campus shootings that continues today. When I was in my second year of graduate school, attending classes and teaching quite literally in the shadow of the tower that Whitman had fired from, Texas Monthly published an excellent reflection on the event to mark its 40th anniversary. During Whitman’s assault from UT Austin’s iconic central tower, locals with firearms of their own returned fire. Notably, they used long rifles, not the handguns that many citizens carry today in legal concealment. They were not firing with sidearms at close quarters but with more accurate weapons over greater distances.

According to the 2006 Texas Monthly article, witness Clif Drummond reported, “Students with deer rifles were leaning up against telephone poles, using the pole, which is rather narrow, as their shield. And they were firing like crazy back at the Tower.” In the same article, witness Brenda Bell recalled, “I don’t know where these vigilantes came from, but they took over Parlin Hall and were crashing around, firing guns. There was massive testosterone.”

Even in 1966, opinion was mixed as to whether this citizen response had been harmful or helpful. Eventually Whitman was killed by police officers who stormed his position. Some of them claimed that the covering fire provided by citizens had reduced Whitman’s ability to take more lives than he did, while some victims present in the melee claimed that the return fire of untrained civilians created confusion and itself jeopardized the safety of those fleeing Whitman’s rampage. Importantly, by barricading himself in a protected and tactically advantageous position, Whitman’s assault was very different from most subsequent campus shootings. In those, assailants frequently appear to move from position to position and to not always choose those that offer the physical protection Whitman fired from. Had Whitman been moving about, he would have been more exposed, but the confusion of those firing back would also have been greater -- as would their chances of hitting an innocent bystander.

Now Texas, both the state and its public university system, finds itself at the fore of how to move forward within a society in which campus shootings are no longer novel but assumed to be nearly inevitable. Recently passed legislation has made it legal for students, staff and faculty to carry concealed weapons, but the law has left large portions of its implementation up to individual campuses. Only private colleges and universities in the state can opt out entirely from allowing concealed weapons on their campuses, and virtually all of them have, including conservatively aligned Baylor University. University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, a retired admiral and no stranger to the violence weapons are capable of, opposed the legislation.

Like McRaven, campus law enforcement leaders and associations oppose legislation that would allow concealed weapons on campuses, not on ideological grounds but for the simple reason that, if they do ever have to respond to an active shooter, they will have no means of differentiating “bad guys with guns” from “good guys with guns.” And in fact, they are trained in active shooter situations to fire at any civilian with a gun immediately, before any other assessment of the situation. They also are entirely unconvinced, as law enforcement professionals, that concealed weapons would make college campuses safer.

The Texas legislation has not taken full effect yet, but in terms of employment, UT Austin is already beginning to feel its effects. A prominent dean cited the legislation as a factor in his recent decision to leave the university, while another candidate for a deanship withdrew from a job search, citing the legislation as his singular reason for doing so. Recently, a University of Houston presentation slide regarding the new Texas campus-carry legislation went viral, primarily because it made explicit the chilling effect that many educators anticipate guns will have on classroom discussions and university life.

Just a little over three years ago, as my own state of North Carolina considered similar legislation, I wrote a column contemplating the idle fantasy that perhaps I would quit my job if guns were permitted in my own state’s classrooms. The backlash I experienced from pro-gun individuals and groups was striking, widespread and bordering on libelous. I remain, despite owning guns and understanding them well, strongly opposed to allowing students, faculty and staff to carry weapons on college campuses.

I will readily concede and agree that the vast, vast, vast majority of concealed-carry permit holders are law-abiding citizens. And because they have gone through the proper processes to obtain permits, they are likely to be more law-abiding than citizens who own guns but have not obtained similar permits.

I also am not really concerned that the average concealed permit holder would ever intentionally threaten me or another member of my campus community. Thousands of permit holders walk around daily, experiencing the routine frustrations and maddening conflicts of contemporary American life without pulling their weapons and making threats. The average concealed-carry permit holder realizes the inappropriateness of such behavior and truly reserves his or her weapon for life-threatening situations. And fortunately, even though life-threatening situations precipitated by assailants are all too common in our culture, the average concealed-carry permit holder never has occasion to pull their weapon in response to a threat. They are armed against possible threats, even though such threats are statistically unlikely to face the average concealed-carry permit holder. All of which I believe is fine, the vast majority of the time.

I also believe that those who advocate for allowing guns on our campuses generally mean well. They truly believe -- mistakenly -- that such weapons will make us safer. I disagree with them on that point, but I do acknowledge that they, like all of us, want our public places to be safe and free of violence. Their philosophy of how to prevent violence is, unfortunately, bolstered primarily by frequently unverifiable anecdotes and inaccurate “scholarship” by gun-rights advocate John Lott.

And while most concealed carry permit holders are responsible and law-abiding, it will only take a fraction of irresponsible owners for additional fatalities to rack up on our campuses. There will be accidental discharges, suicides and gun-backed altercations that otherwise will not exist.

There are two primary arguments for why guns should be allowed onto our campuses, both equally unconvincing.

The Deterrence Argument. Advocates for allowing students and faculty members with appropriate permits to carry guns on college campuses often argue that the presence of concealed weapons will deter acts of violence. Because the weapons are required by law to be kept concealed, the logic goes, would-be perpetrators of violence will think twice before initiating their violent plans, possibly abandoning them entirely.

But while there is a certain Occam’s razor simplicity to this logic, repeated college campus shootings have shown us that attackers often do not expect to survive their rampages. They seem in many cases to anticipate taking their own lives or inflicting as much damage as possible until brought down by law enforcement, which leads to the second argument. Rather than entirely deterring an attack, the presence of concealed weapons seems likely to simply encourage an attacker to strategize further, finding scenarios where concealed weapons holders are likely to be absent or without their weapons.

The Intervention Argument. Advocates of on-campus concealed carry also argue that when a shooting does commence, law-abiding concealed-weapon carriers will be able to intervene and therefore cut short the time and scope of the attacker’s rampage. The biggest hole in this argument is that permit holders of concealed weapons by and large are not trained for how to respond to active-shooter situations. Certainly some concealed-weapons carriers have a military or law-enforcement background wherein they did receive such training, but they are a slim minority. Concealed-carry classes do not train permit holders how to respond to hostile fire or active-shooter situations.

Instead, such classes, which can be completed in a single day in most states, are concerned with educating students about the laws governing their concealed-carry permits, about basic gun safety principles and basic gun use. In other words, the highly difficult active-shooter response training, which military and law-enforcement personnel spend dozens upon dozens of hours practicing in simulated environments, is simply not a part of concealed-permit class curricula. Having a concealed permit tells us nothing of whether or not the permit holder is competent to respond to an active shooter. Indeed, during the recent attack at Umpqua Community College, a military veteran carrying a legally concealed weapon made the prudent decision not to attempt to intervene, citing concern about interfering with the police response or being mistaken for the murderer.

Most concealed-carry permit holders have not experienced combat and been trained how to fire accurately or judiciously in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, the idea that citizen defenders will neutralize the mentally ill assailants who more and more routinely threaten campus safety is a fantasy. It is the boys’ dream of being a hero, but carried often by those who have not been taught how to act with heroism, as our military and law-enforcement personnel have been trained.

My idle fantasy of three years ago, of quitting if guns come to my campus, was just that, idle fantasy. I rely on my job and according to my colleagues and students am good at it. What will I do if concealed carry is permitted on my campus? Unhappily, I will begin carrying a gun, hoping never to have to reveal it, let alone use it, and on who? A student? A colleague? In a last-ditch effort at self-defense because our society has decided that the only last option is for the innocent to take up their own defense? I will worry every day that a fellow gun carrier might behave irresponsibly, creating an accidental discharge in my classroom or overreacting to a situation that is not at all life-threatening.

The new Texas legislation allowing students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus will take effect on Aug. 1, 2016, the precise 50th anniversary of Charles Whitman’s rampage.
Nate Kreuter is an assistant professor in the English department at Western Carolina University, where he teaches writing and rhetoric.

Hat tip to Carolyn, and The Trace.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pruitt to hold News Conference on the State of Public Education

This from the Kentucky Department of Education:


Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt will present a report on the State of K-12 Public Education in Kentucky during a news conference on Wednesday, February 22 at 10:30 a.m. ET in the State Board Room (5th floor, Room #514) at the Kentucky Department of Education, 300 Sower Blvd., in Frankfort.

 During the news conference, the commissioner will discuss KDE’s priorities in the coming year and discuss what he sees as next steps to improving public education and ensuring all Kentucky public school students receive educational opportunities they will need to succeed in life. 

Pruitt also will use the address to highlight Kentucky’s educational gains, and identify challenges that still lie ahead, including discussing a KDE analysis that examined opportunity and achievement gaps between different groups of students. The information is meant to be a catalyst for change and ensure equity in educational opportunities for all students.

The address will be recorded, and made available online by Thursday, Feb. 23.

And the hits just keep on comin'

This from the Herald-Leader:
Troubled Kentucky pension system might need billions more than assumed
Kentucky Retirement Systems, the state pension agency that officially faces an $18.1 billion unfunded liability, might be in far worse financial shape than previously thought. That means taxpayers could be on the hook for much more money to honor pension commitments to about 365,000 public employees.

KRS made serious math errors in recent years by relying on overly optimistic assumptions about its investment returns, the growth of state and local government payrolls, and the inflation rate, KRS board chairman John Farris told his fellow trustees Thursday at a board meeting.

For example, KRS assumed that it would earn an average of 6.75 percent to 7.5 percent on money it invested, but it earned an average of 4.75 percent, Farris said. KRS assumed that public payroll would grow by 4 percent a year through pay raises or more government hiring — a larger payroll means larger pension contributions by employees — but public payroll has dropped overall because of repeated budget cuts, he said.
By giving inaccurate numbers to its actuarial advisers, KRS got back inaccurate numbers concerning its liabilities and how much the state and local governments needed to contribute, Farris said. He called for a new analysis of KRS’ financial health so the next state budget, covering fiscal years 2019 and 2020, reflects the pensions’ true needs.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Farris, a Lexington economist whom Gov. Matt Bevin appointed to the KRS board last year. “We wonder why the plans are underfunded. It’s not all the legislature’s fault. It’s the board’s responsibility to give the correct numbers.”

Some of the other KRS trustees protested that they had thought that the assumed numbers were correct because the agency’s actuarial adviser, Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, did not balk when it received them.

“I rely on the actuaries to, on some level, verify our assumptions,” trustee Joseph Hardesty said. “I’ve never heard our actuaries say that our assumptions were unrealistic.”

“Payroll growth was negative and you assumed 4 percent (growth)?” Farris asked. “Were any of you paying attention?”

Bevin’s personnel secretary, Thomas Stephens, who sits on the KRS board, said the optimistic numbers were approved by then-Gov. Steve Beshear’s personnel secretary, Tim Longmeyer, who previously sat on the board. Longmeyer knew perfectly well that the state workforce was shrinking and that most state workers had not received raises in years, yet he went along with the assumed 4 percent payroll growth rate, Stephens said.

In coming weeks, KRS will select a company to perform a more accurate assessment of its financial health so the board can decide by December what contribution rates to recommend to the state and local governments. The next two-year state budget is scheduled to be adopted next spring.

The state and local governments paid $950 million to KRS last year for their contributions as employers; public employees matched that with $307 million from their paychecks. Those contributions will need to grow if KRS acknowledges that it used overly optimistic assumptions, KRS executive director David Eager told the board.

“It’s going to be an immediate impact on costs,” Eager said. “A big one. And the board shouldn’t shy away from this, in my opinion.”

In a statement Thursday, Bevin praised the KRS board for discarding the “alternative data” it previously used. Bevin rebuilt the board last year by removing its chairman, Louisville banker Thomas Elliott, and adding four more gubernatorial appointees. Several of the agency’s top employees since have been replaced.

“Today’s unsettling revelations reaffirm that our state pension system is indeed in much worse shape than many stakeholders realize,” Bevin said.

“I commend chairman Farris and the new board for making transparency a priority and for exposing the truth about our pension crisis by using real data. As I have said repeatedly, our failing pensions are the most significant financial challenge facing Kentucky, and we cannot adequately address this challenge until we accurately understand its full scope,” Bevin said.

Last year, KRS paid $1.9 billion in pension benefits, up from $1.8 billion in 2015. There were 102,725 public retirees collecting pensions and 261,985 more people who would be owed pensions by KRS when they retire.

In his State of the Commonwealth Address last week, Bevin warned that Kentucky needs to raise more revenue to address its unfunded pension liabilities. Bevin said the state owes $82 billion to KRS and its other major pension agency, Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System, which covers educators, not the $33 billion that is officially owed to the two systems using their own assumptions.

KRS reports that its primary state pension fund has only 16 percent of the money it’s expected to need to honor its future commitments.

“That’s not a pension system,” Bevin said. “That’s a checking account, and it’s about to go bankrupt.”
To get the $82 billion estimate, Bevin assumed that KRS and KTRS will earn investment returns of about 3 percent, which is about what “risk-free” 30-year treasury bonds are paying, Farris said. That’s a realistic assumption, he said. KRS is so badly funded that it no longer has enough assets available for long-term investments that pay generous returns, he said.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article133142369.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bevin flings hyperbole at JCPS

The strange and temporary alliance of former Senator Ted Kennedy and former President George W. Bush (along with their corporate allies) that led to No Child Left Behind and its romance with test data has also provided fodder for all kinds of claims about the public schools.

Critics and candidates for public office tend to scour the data for weaknesses that might be exploited for their own political gains. School reformers look to the data to argue for more adequate and equitable support for the schools and their vital mission in support of our citizens and our economy. Still others look at the school data and marvel at the public's general lack of understanding about just how far American schools have come.

Following a JCPS Board of Education resolution in support of their immigrant students (consistent with the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v Doe) Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin chose the critic's route and flung hyperbole at the district calling JCPS an unmitigated disaster. The timing is also contemporaneous with Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt's order to audit the management of the district, which has put Superintendent Donna Hargens under the microscope. It's a hot time in The Ville.

In Plyler v. Doe, (457 U.S. 202 (1982)), SCOTUS ruled that any resources which might be saved from excluding undocumented children from public schools were far outweighed by the harms imposed on society at large from denying them an education.

As a candidate, comments like Bevin's would be expected. But as a governor, not so much.

This from Joe Gerth at the Courier-Journal:

Matt Bevin is courting 'disaster'

It’s a damn good thing business leaders around the country don’t have the internet.

‘Cause if they did, they’d probably read that the Jefferson County’s public education system is a “disaster” and an “absolute unmitigated mess.”

They’d know that if they opened shop in Louisville, they’d find the students here wouldn’t be prepared to go to work for them and don’t have the skills necessary, because the education they got here is a “disaster.”

These aren’t the words of unscrupulous business recruiters from Cincinnati or Indianapolis, or Birmingham or Chattanooga.

The Governor.

Of Kentucky.

There are issues in the Jefferson County Public Schools. We know that.

Far too many of the district’s schools are underperforming. In fact, 18 of them are considered persistently low-achieving schools based on annual tests, according to the state Department of Education website. There are only nine other such schools in the rest of the state.

But there’s no district in the state that’s anywhere near as large as Jefferson County — and that poses problems all its own. Students in Jefferson County schools speak 136 different languages and 7 percent of them have limited ability to speak English.

And more than 60 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunches, meaning that they live in homes with low incomes — a key indicator that puts them at risk of failing in school.

The state Department of Education announced Tuesday that it was undertaking a full-blown management audit to see if it needs to step in and handle the district’s finances, administration, operations and other responsibilities.

Students have been physically abused at the hands of teachers and administrators, and the district hasn’t done an adequate job of tracking and recording instances in which school personnel have had to restrain students.

But an “absolute, unmitigated mess?” A “disaster?”


The district, overall, meets the proficiency standard.

DuPont Manual High School has 44 national merit semifinalists this year. It is one of four Jefferson County schools that have gold or silver status in U.S. News & World Reports' national rankings. Those four schools — Atherton, Brown School and Male are the other three — rank in the top 12 of all Kentucky High Schools.

Doss High School, which is one of the under-performing schools, recently posted the seventh-largest gain in overall achievement of any high school in Kentucky.
Western High School students — also on the list of under-performing schools — saw students complete 1,606 dual-credit hours last year. More than half of the 2016 graduating class received college credit and 10 students this year are on pace to graduate with not just a diploma, but an associate’s degree as well.

And this:

Gov. Matt Bevin calls JCPS an 'unmitigated disaster'

Gov. Matt Bevin called Jefferson County Public Schools an "unmitigated disaster" Wednesday and blasted the state's largest school district for poor educational results in some of its schools.

Bevin, in a morning interview with conservative talk show host Leland Conway, said that "JCPS is a disaster in terms of the educational results. They have more failing schools than the entire rest of the state combined. It is an absolute, unmitigated disaster …"

He also took the JCPS board to task for passing a resolution Tuesday that calls JCPS a safe haven for immigrant students and their families. Bevin said the resolution was illegal and "a smokescreen … a distraction from the fact the system is broken."

Bevin did say JCPS has some schools that "are gems, some of the finest schools – arguably the finest schools in the state." He said the district needs to focus on why some schools are so good, yet others have "failed generation after generation."

"These are the things that JCPS needs to focus on, not trying to skirt the law to win kudos from their liberal friends," Bevin said.

JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens responded to Bevin's comments, saying that "JCPS has many of the top schools in the state and it also has the challenges of educating students who come to school with a variety of social and emotional needs." She said the district is proud of its inclusive and diverse learning environments.

"The doors of our schools are always open, and JCPS welcomes a collaborative and constructive conversation with Gov. Bevin about how we can continue boosting student achievement, not only in this district, but throughout our commonwealth," Hargens said in a statement.

A JCPS spokeswoman said that Bevin has not visited any JCPS school since becoming governor. Bevin’s children were enrolled in Portland Christian School when he was elected governor in 2015.

Rob Mattheu, parent of a freshman at duPont Manual High and a frequent attendee at JCPS board meetings, said he was disgusted when he saw news reports of Bevin's comments Wednesday.

"We all agree (JCPS) could be better," Mattheu said. "But the way of fixing that is not just saying it's a disaster. ... You have to be a fair critic of what's going on and understand the challenges they face."
Mattheu said he is tired of politicians and others "attacking JCPS with no real knowledge of the system." He noted that JCPS has to educate every child that comes to it, regardless of their background. Mattheu invited Bevin to talk to parents and teachers in Jefferson County to get a clearer understanding of the challenges the district faces.

Gay Adelmann, co-founder of the community group Dear JCPS, said there "absolutely" are problems with JCPS and that "district leaders most definitely need to be held more accountable."

But, she said, "we don't need state leaders who don't understand the complexities of our district coming in and constantly dismantling things that are working, making change for the sake of change."

Bevin's comments about schools in JCPS that have failed "generation after generation" echoes sentiments made by former Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in 2013 when he derided the lack of progress at some JCPS schools as "academic genocide." (Holliday in later months applauded gains made at some of those schools.)

Brent McKim, president of the county's teachers union, said that JCPS faces "more challenges than any other Kentucky county," but that JCPS has been improving "faster than the state in many ways." He said JCPS parents and students need more support and resources from Bevin, "not criticism of the schools where educators are working their hearts out to help all their students succeed."

He added that "the governor fully funding the (Kentucky) Teacher Retirement System helps us attract and retain good teachers."

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Louisville Urban League, said that people should stop "political grandstanding" and instead work together to focus resources on how to help children.

"The governor should be encouraging the school boards to get behind their leaders and execute a plan with equity and closing the achievement gap in mind," Reynolds said in a statement.

She also said that "children benefit from being exposed to people who are different from them. Failing at this, we risk growing them into myopic tyrants who lead in ways that endanger us all."
She said "we should be ashamed" that declaring schools to be safe havens is even a question.
The school board on Tuesday evening approved the safe haven resolution in a divided vote, with three of its seven members abstaining and four in support. The resolution says that JCPS will resist requests from federal immigration officials to share data or resources — unless compelled by a valid court order — that could help identify students or families who are potentially undocumented.

It states that JCPS employees, contractors, volunteers and others cannot disclose information about a student or family's immigration status to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a valid court order or permission from a parent or guardian. And, among other things, it says immigration enforcement personnel can't be given access to JCPS campuses without the superintendent's review and approval.

The resolution lays out what has already been district policy and practice. Board member Lisa Willner on Tuesday stressed that the board is "not advocating for disobeying federal law, state law, local law."

Board Chairman Chris Brady, who proposed the safe haven resolution, said it is meant to reassure students and families that JCPS is doing everything it can to provide a safe, welcoming environment that is conducive to learning.

Brady said Wednesday that he did not hear Bevin's interview on the radio but said that "anyone can review the resolution and note that it adheres to the rule of law."

Indeed, K-12 student information is already protected by federal and state privacy laws. In addition, public schools in the U.S. may not ask about the immigration or citizenship status of students to establish local residency, thanks largely to a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled that children are entitled to a free public education regardless of immigration status.

Board member Steph Horne abstained from the vote on the resolution Tuesday, saying that she had concerns that passing such language could cause unnecessary problems and draw ire from state and national leaders.

"Setting up our board of education as an antagonist against our governor and president is a fight that is not in the greater interest of our students," Horne said. She added that one of the board's duties is to not take actions that could "put JCPS or students at risk of a cutoff of state (or) federal funds."

Also in Wednesday's radio interview, Bevin asked why JCPS was still busing children.

"Are we really helping these children by taking them from one community, putting them on a bus … to another community where arguably they should be getting a better education but frankly they may or may not be, and then pulling them out of there before they can participate in any kind of extracurricular activities …" Bevin said.

Bevin said such students "don’t actually belong to any community anywhere." He called them "educational nomads that are moving around on JCPS buses."

He called busing "an antiquated approach that frankly needs to be re-examined."

Brady said that, as a parent of JCPS students, he's thankful the district has an assignment plan that gives him a choice of where to send his children.

"All of our students in JCPS and those in public schools across the state need the governor's support, not attacks," Brady said. "We welcome the opportunity to have a constructive conversation and (find) common ground from which we can work to benefit all students."
 And this:

#NotADisaster: JCPS teachers respond to Bevin

In response to Gov. Matt Bevin labeling Jefferson County Public Schools an "unmitigated disaster," teachers and administrators on Thursday started a social media campaign refuting the remark and inviting the governor to visit.

Hundreds of JCPS teachers, principals and parents posted photos of classrooms and students accompanied by the hashtag #NotADisaster. Some also added the hashtag #wearejcps.

A JCPS spokeswoman said Wednesday that Bevin has not visited any JCPS school since becoming governor. Bevin’s children were enrolled in Portland Christian School when he was elected governor in 2015.

Robin "MeMe" Ratliff, co-founder of teacher-led connection group JCPSForward, said she isn't sure who first started the hashtag but, "by this morning it was going pretty hard." JCPS educators began spreading word of the movement to each other via direct message, email and text message.

"It was an extension of the anger lots of folks are feeling with the state of the government in general, not just in Kentucky but across the nation," Ratliff said of the hashtag. "I think you're seeing teachers use social media not just for the Kardashians but as an advocacy resource — standing up for your profession, standing up for what you believe in and for public education."

Kelly Armstrong, a special education teacher at Semple Elementary, was one of the teachers who joined the campaign to firmly challenge Bevin's perception.

"I'm a 16 year special education teacher and my classroom is NOT an unmitigated disaster. Come visit. #notadisaster," she wrote on Twitter.

Bryan Quillen, a 10th grade English teacher at Fairdale High School, tweeted, "Hey @GovMattBevin. Maybe you should stop by Fairdale HS. I would LOVE to see you eat your words. Room 218. #notadisaster #wearejcps."

Southern High School teacher Alison Moore posted photos of her AP U.S. History students working and "discussing Social Darwinisim and laissez-faire capitalism" along with the hashtag.

Hite Elementary School computer teacher Beth Kolodey tweeted a photo of her third-grade students building geodesic structures along with the hashtag.

Kolodey is a JCPS graduate, as are her husband and their two children. She was an accountant before switching into the teaching profession in the early 2000's, a change she said was inspired by the need to make a difference.

"I think it's one of the most important things we can do for our future generations, to protect our children by educating them," Kolodey said.

Ratliff said the quickness with which the #NotADisaster spread "goes to show the passion and collective pride that JCPS educators have" and demonstrates the ferocity with which they reacted to Bevin's comments.

Bevin, in a morning interview with conservative talk show host Leland Conway, said that "JCPS is a disaster in terms of the educational results. They have more failing schools than the entire rest of the state combined. It is an absolute, unmitigated disaster …"

Bevin also slammed the JCPS board for passing a resolution Tuesday that calls JCPS a safe haven for immigrant students and their families. Bevin said the resolution was illegal and "a smokescreen … a distraction from the fact the system is broken."

Bevin's statements "invalidated and degraded the work of 6,700 educators in our district," Ratliff said.

Terry Brooks, the executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Thursday he agrees that there is a lot of great work happening on JCPS campuses, saying five of his grandchildren go to the district’s schools. And he said those successes should be noted and rewarded. But he said just looking at the “individual heroes” does not give a big enough look at how well the district is performing as a system.

“Folks rightfully say we have great teachers and principals,” Brooks said. “At the individual classroom and school level, there are a myriad of school successes. But they’re in spite of the district’s leadership, not because of the district’s leadership.”

Brooks also pointed to a recent district survey that found that only half of school-based certified staff think that JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens and other central office administrators are providing effective leadership in support of schools.

Hargens responded to Bevin's comments Wednesday, saying that "JCPS has many of the top schools in the state and it also has the challenges of educating students who come to school with a variety of social and emotional needs." She said the district is proud of its inclusive and diverse learning environments.

"The doors of our schools are always open, and JCPS welcomes a collaborative and constructive conversation with Gov. Bevin about how we can continue boosting student achievement, not only in this district, but throughout our commonwealth," Hargens said in a statement.

Ratliff said she is going to Frankfort later this week to invite Bevin to attend a JCPS professional learning event Feb. 24-25 in Louisville.

"I don't need the governor to do a whole school tour," she said. "I'd be happy if he just came to one school and actually talked to educators and students."

Kolodey said she thinks Bevin visiting a school would be a great start.

"It's easy to condemn," she said, "but it's harder to be part of a solution."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Teaching and Learning through Blogging

Sorry for the late notice, but feel free to join us tomorrow if you are interested in academic blogging. 

“Teaching and Learning through Blog Postings”

Wednesday, 15 February 2017, 
EKU Faculty Center
Keen Johnson Building

Dr. Charlie Sweet, Dr. Hal Blythe, Dr. Richard Day, and Dr. Matt Winslow

Participants will learn how blogging fits into the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL). 

Sometimes known as “scholarship lite,” blogging can run the gamut from practitioner reflection to educational research and thus is difficult to place on a department’s scholarship scale. After participating in this workshop participants will be able to:
  • Understand the scope of blogging as a form of scholarship
  • Identify successful blogging strategies

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Coming to Kentucky: A new way of evaluating public schools

This from Valarie Honeycutt Spears: at the Herald-Leader:
In Kentucky, most families want their child in a school rated by the state as “distinguished” or at least “proficient” instead of “needs improvement.”
Kentucky Board of Education

But the labels given in the statewide accountability system that evaluates public schools and districts would change under a proposal reviewed for the first time last week by the Kentucky Board of Education.
Under the proposed system, schools would receive overall ratings that would include the classifications “outstanding,” “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” “concern” and “intervention.”

The labels “concern” and “intervention” would be applied to schools that scored low on a variety of measures. Under the proposal, schools would be evaluated on how they achieve standards instead of based on comparing one school to another school.

The proposal was released to the state board Tuesday by a steering committee of educators, parents, and business and community leaders including Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk.

Several features of the proposed system are similar to those in previous systems, but some, such as the labels or some measures to evaluate schools, would change, state education officials said.

It’s unclear how soon changes would occur to Kentucky’s system, but it won’t be for this school year, state Education Department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said. The results of statewide testing for the previous academic year are released each fall . In some places, such as Lexington, the results can even drive the real estate market when people want to live in a certain school district.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said he thought Senate Bill 1, wide-ranging education legislation that is in the General Assembly, would allow for the changes. Pruitt said he wanted the new system to be simpler and easier for parents to understand, and to improve student success. State education officials said the proposed plan is in development.

Schools would be evaluated for the first time in Kentucky on whether every student has equal access to opportunities, programs and courses. Schools would also be evaluated on whether students have skills to transition to college or the workplace.

Under the proposal:
▪ A student’s proficiency in a subject would continue to be important. There would be new focus on how much English-language learners progress.

▪ Student growth would be measured differently. At the elementary and middle school levels, growth would be based on each student’s progress measured against a personal target for improvement and the school’s work to help the student catch up, keep up and move up.

▪ The achievement gap separating minority, low-income and disabled students from other students would be evaluated to provide more transparency and minimize unintended consequences for schools that have low numbers of students in certain groups. Schools that excel at closing the achievement gap and those that are struggling to close the gap would be easily identified.
Pruitt said that he doesn’t think the development of the new accountability system or education policy in Kentucky would be impeded or significantly affected by the appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary.

The New York Times reported that DeVos’ support for charter schools and vouchers — which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools — has been criticized as reflecting a deep disconnect from public schools.

But Pruitt said, “She seems to be pretty supportive of states’ rights to do what they need to do.” He said that from all indications, she is going to follow federal law.

“There’s been no indication that she’s going to make any major changes,” he said. “At this point, I’m not too worried about it.”

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article131423364.html#storylink=cpy