Monday, April 13, 2015

Why aren’t teachers valued more?

This from Dr. H's Blog:
Recently, I had the privilege to attend the 5th annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Banff, Canada. I was part of a U.S. delegation comprised of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, teacher union
Ky Ed Commish Terry Holliday
representatives, classroom teachers (including a teacher from Spencer County, Ky.), chief state school officers from North Carolina and Nebraska and support staff from U.S. Department of Education. 

The international summits began in New York City and have expanded each year as their location has moved around the world. The primary focus has been to bring countries together to highlight key issues to enhance the teaching profession and take actions to address issues.

This year, one of the many interesting presentations came from Andreas Schleicher, who works at the Organization for Economic Collaboration and Development (OECD). Andreas is one of the world’s leading experts on education issues and he always has excellent presentations that are loaded with great information and policy recommendations. His presentation was based on a recent report from OECD titled Schools for 21st Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, and Innovative Approaches. 

One chart showed teacher perceptions of the value their society places on the teaching profession. It was no surprise to see that many Asian countries, Finland and several other European countries had the highest percentage of teachers saying that their society valued the teaching profession. One of the lowest countries in the survey was the United States. Why do U.S. teachers believe that our society does not value the teaching profession?

Recently, I spoke to the annual Kentucky Education Association Delegate Assembly and I offered a couple of reasons as to why teachers in this country do not think that the U.S. society values the teaching profession.
     1.  Over emphasis on testing – the U.S is the only country in the world that seems totally fixated on annual testing. The U.S is fixated on using student test scores to evaluate teachers. The media reports are constantly focused on the singular issue of rankings on test scores and too many of our policy leaders “blame” teachers for poor academic performance of students in poverty.
     2.  Lack of teacher voice and leadership – throughout the recent international summit, a key theme emerged: that we must engage teachers in decision making and provide opportunities for teacher leadership in our schools without teachers having to completely give up teaching. Most of our international competitors have been working on career pathways for a number of years. In the U.S., we have always focused on years of experience and postgraduate degrees for teacher pay increases rather than focus on teacher performance and leadership roles.
     3.  Working conditions – it comes as no surprise that teachers do not believe society values the teaching profession given working conditions survey results in areas like school leadership, professional development, time, resources, community support and facilities. 
     4.  Teacher pay – in many countries starting teacher pay is similar to what comparable professions pay. In the US, starting teacher pay is well below what a starting engineer would receive.
     5.  Selectivity of teacher candidates – for years, the public has been bombarded with the concept that our teacher training programs are not recruiting from the best and brightest high school graduates. Countries like Singapore, Finland and South Korea are pointed to as examples of teacher training programs that recruit from the top 10 percent of high school graduates. An interesting slide in the presentation showed that this is not necessarily the case. This is an area that will need more research.
As I look forward to my retirement after 43 years in education, I am very concerned about the public’s perception of public schools and even more concerned that teachers in the U.S. do not feel that the public values the teaching profession. If policy leaders at the local, state and national level do not address teacher perceptions in this area, we will have extreme difficulty in the future recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers.

In the coming months, Kentucky will receive the 2015 results from the TELL Kentucky working conditions survey. Kentucky has the highest percentage of teacher respondents of any state in the nation. Using the results from this survey to address key policy issues during the 2016 session of the General Assembly could go a long way in addressing teacher concerns about the value the public puts on the teaching profession.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

TELL Survey Gets Big Response, Results expected in May

This from KDE (via press release):

Kentucky educators have set a new record with their response to the 2015 Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Kentucky Survey.

Nearly 45,000 – 89.3 percent – of school-based certified educators completed it, surpassing the 2013 response rate of 87 percent and setting a new national record among states that administer the working conditions survey.

The TELL Kentucky Survey is designed to gather a variety of information from teachers, counselors, principals and other administrators who know best the working conditions in our schools. The survey includes questions on the adequacy of facilities and resources; time; empowerment; school leadership; community support; student conduct; professional development; mentoring and induction services; and student learning. The web-based survey is voluntary, anonymous and confidential.

As an incentive to educators to participate in the TELL Kentucky Survey, the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, the Hope Street Group, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky School Boards Association contributed prize money for weekly drawings throughout the survey period. No public money was used for the prizes.

School winners received $1,000 and were drawn from schools that had at least a 50 percent response rate.

The educator winners’ schools were selected from the schools with a 100 percent participation rate. The school then held a drawing for the individual educator winner who took home $1,000.

Below is a list of the winners from each week of the survey:

·         Week 1 School: Browning Springs Middle School (Hopkins Co.)
·         Week 1 Educator: Cheryl Thompson, Pat Thompson, Kela Wright and Shelly Scott, Joe Harrison Carter Elementary (Monroe Co.), split the $1,000 prize
·         Week 2 School: Taylor Elementary (Bracken Co.)
·         Week 2 Educator: Tina Mullins from Pembroke Elementary (Christian Co.)
·         Week 3 School: Harlan High School (Harlan Independent)
·         Week 3 Educator:, Erin Reyes, Daviess County Middle School (Daviess County)
·         Week 4 School: Watterson Elementary (Jefferson Co.)
·         Week 4 Educator: Michelle Gullette, Shearer Elementary (Clark Co.)

The overall school winner was Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette Co.).
Of the state’s traditional public schools with at least 10 teachers, all but three schools met the minimum response rate of 50 percent needed to participate in the drawing to receive school-specific reports of the results. All 173 school districts in the state exceeded the 50 percent threshold for reporting. School and district completion rates are posted on the TELL Kentucky website at

It is anticipated the initial results will be released to schools and districts the week of May 11. Educators, stakeholders and policymakers will use the survey results to make evidence-based decisions on policies and practices that will improve student achievement and increase teacher retention.

25 Years After Reform Effort, Poorest Schools Still Lag

I was contacted by AP reporter Claire Galofaro recently. She was seeking the names of the student plaintiffs in the Rose Case (1989), which I provided. It looks like she traced a few of them down and several had become teachers.

Bert Combs had argued for equity and adequacy. The legislature responded to the Rose decision with KERA's SEEK formula, which was intended to provide both. But in the end, adequate funding would require the legislature to continue to nurture the schools. Following the '89 court case, and the '90 law, the last year it could be said that the legislature kept its promise by providing equity while continuing to work toward adequacy - was the 1991-92 school year. It's been mostly down hill since then.
This from Claire Galofaro and Adam Beam for ABC News:
It was late, and Bob Stephens needed a drink.
The former chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court was wrestling with an opinion in a school funding lawsuit. It was 1989, and what Stephens was about to write would dramatically alter public education in one of the nation's poorest states, then serve as a blueprint for school reforms across the nation.
"He said, 'I'm going to have a little drink of vodka here, and I've decided what I'm going to do is throw out the entire educational funding system in Kentucky. We're going to start from square one,'" Andy Stephens, Bob Stephens' son, recalled 26 years later. ""I said, 'Dad how many little (drinks) have you had already?"

That opinion, written by the late chief justice at a Kentucky horse farm with the help of some vodka, put a dramatic final flourish on one of the first lawsuits across the country to challenge the way states paid for public schools. Based on language in the state constitution requiring "adequate" public education, it ignited a sweeping public education overhaul and prompted other states to follow Kentucky's lead.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act, signed 25 years ago this week, promised to close the vast funding and achievement gaps between the state's richest and poorest schools.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'man, I'm part of something big here. But we had no idea how big it was going to be,'" said Barrett Bradshaw, one of 22 children in Kentucky's poorest school districts who signed up to speak for thousands of other students in the lawsuit. He was 13 in August 1987 when he testified about what his school was failing to teach him.

But a quarter-century later, education advocates say public schools are back where they started. A crippling recession, runaway public pension debt and dramatic increases in Medicaid costs have gobbled up precious resources in state budgets across the country. In response, state officials have reduced the percentage of taxpayer money spent on education, leading once again to the type of disparity that Stephens' unprecedented court order set out to end.

"The formula was put in place to provide equity, not adequacy," said Tom Shelton, president of the Council for Better Education, the group that brought the lawsuit in 1985. "It has to have the right amount of cash put into the formula."

Greg Stumbo, a young lawmaker in 1990, wept on the House floor before the final vote over what it meant for the poverty-stricken children in his home region of Appalachia. Now speaker of the House of Representatives, he acknowledges that progress has been halting but says the law was never funded as it should have been.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act included a $1.3 billion tax increase, gave parents a say in hiring principals and launched a daring, first-of-its kind accountability system for teachers based on how much children were learning. A study commissioned by the Council for Better Education last year found that Kentucky spends $7 billion on education each year, about $2 billion less than it should.
Kentucky ranks 28th in the country in per-pupil spending, a higher standing than before the reforms but still about $1,000 less per student than the national average.

The group will ask lawmakers next year to find new ways to fund education.

Stumbo doubts the legislature will approve another massive tax increase, and the Republicans running for governor say more money is not the answer. The speaker is proposing to legalize casino gambling in Kentucky - a challenging political proposition in its own right in a conservative state - with half of the money funneled to elementary and secondary education.

Bradshaw and several of the other 22 children whose names were on the lawsuit grew up to be teachers. They say their students, as well as their own children, have access to education they never could have imagined.

The Campbell County school district where Bradshaw teaches has an auto body shop, aviation classes and college-level courses. But it's hard to calculate how well the law has kept its promise, said Rhonda Shriver, another student who testified and grew up to become a teacher.

Similar questions nag at Dale Duvall, an Elliott County teacher who signed his daughter up for the lawsuit all those years ago. There's a lot more work to do, he said.

"KERA definitely brought about improvement, but I don't think it brought equality," Duvall said. "I think there's still better times to come."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Report focuses on collaborations for early childhood success

For preschool, Head Start and child care programs

This from the Lane Report:
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence released a report [yesterday] that provides details about elements of successful collaborations across the state involving state-funded preschool, Head Start and child care programs.

Pre-K Collaboration in Kentucky: Maximizing Resources for Kindergarten Readiness is designed to provide information for school leaders, early care and education professionals and advocates on possible avenues for providing high-quality services while dealing with the realities of limited resources.

The report said factors to consider when developing a collaborative program include:
  • Leadership that is committed to and focused on early childhood programming
  • Facilities – whether in a school or a community-based child care program
  • Staff and professional development to ensure that instruction is delivered by qualified teachers with support from classroom assistants
  • An understanding of the different regulatory requirements that partner programs must meet
  • Financing that focuses on maximizing state and federal resources
  • Transportation costs that can be major expenditures, particularly in rural communities
  • Recruiting students by offering services that meet the scheduling needs of working families

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Report: Students With More Exposure To Common Core Standards Learn Faster

This from WFPL:
Some Kentucky students working under the umbrella of the recently adopted common core standards are showing signs of faster progression and heightened college and career readiness levels than students in older curriculum models, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research.

Zeyu Xu, principal researcher on the study, said the findings should not serve as an “assessment of common core itself.”

“The motivation of this study is to look at student experience during the transition years of common core,” he said.

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 43 states as of October 2014. Kentucky began implementing the standards during the 2011-2012 school year.

Researchers in this study compared the ACT performance of three cohorts of 8th grade students who started high school with similar levels of academic proficiency, according to the study.

The first Kentucky cohort took the ACT in 2010–11, so it was not affected by the common core standards implementation. The second and third cohort took the ACT in 2011–12 and 2012–13, one and two years after the initial implementation of the common core standards.

Xu said students in the latter two cohorts outperformed students in the first cohort in terms of ACT composite score and in subjects directly tied to the common core standard reform, like math and science.

In fact, the students in the latter cohorts outperformed other students by up to .25 points on the ACT composite score. That is equivalent to about 3 months of additional learning, the report claims.

The progress was consistent for students in both high and low poverty environments, Xu said.

Xu stressed that the heightened performance of the students with more exposure to the common core cannot be directly attributed to the common core standards.

“We are very careful not to draw any causal conclusions there, because around the time of common core there were a lot of other things happening,” he said.

This includes a new set of education standards, curriculum reform, education evaluator system reforms, new testing reforms and new school accountability system in Kentucky, he said.

“With all of those changes you can imagine all that is happening in schools, everyday,” he added.
To determine if the progress students are making is truly due to changes brought on by the common core, Xu said “we would have to nail the question of what would have happened without the common core.”

“That is really the key,” he said.

Xu believes more data and evidence is needed to be able to answer the question of if the common core standards “work, or not.”

For instance, Xu said data regarding social development and behavior outcomes should also be studied, in addition to test scores.

But, in the short term, he said the evidence seems to be clear that students seem to be making progress despite transitioning curriculum.

FCPS redistricting committee to present final recommendations Tuesday

This from H-L:
A contentious and controversial yearlong redistricting process in Fayette County is now finished, officials said. The proposed final maps for elementary, middle and high school attendance zones will be presented to the public Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in Norsworthy Auditorium at the district office, 701 East Main Street.

Alan Stein, chairman of the redistricting committee, said the public will be able to speak and ask questions during the meeting.

The committee will not revisit any of its decisions, Stein said.
"However, the members of the Fayette County Board of Education will be in the audience that evening to hear all of the public comments, because the decision will now rest with them," Stein said.

"It is important for everyone to understand that the school board will have the final authority to approve the new school attendance boundaries, and they may choose to make changes to our proposal."

The committee made slight adjustments this week to the boundaries of Beaumont Middle, Leestown Middle, Winburn Middle, Bryan Station High, Henry Clay High, Lafayette High and the planned high school on Winchester Road, which will open in the fall of 2017.

Materials, including links to videos of the work from meetings, and updated maps are being posted online at There also is an online engagement tool called "Let's Talk," where residents can submit comments to be shared with the school board.

Go to to submit input.

Read more here:

Eastern Ky basketball player claims Harassment during Lex Cath Tournament

"Hey No. 3, I hear you're a faggot."
-- Unidentified Bryan Station player

Bryan Station Players Accused of 'Gay Slurs'

This from WYMT:
Officials for two Kentucky school systems say they are investigating after an article detailing a gay Eastern Kentucky high school basketball player's account of being outed and harassed by an opposing team was posted to a sports blog.

Dalton Maldonado
The story about Dalton Maldonado, a senior at Betsy Layne High School, made headlines last week after told his story to national blog Outsports, which is part of the website SB Nation.

It wasn't until the story involving the teen went viral on April 1st that school leaders in Floyd County and Fayette County's Bryan Station High School learned about the alleged incident. Administrators with both school systems told our sister station WKYT that they are investigating the claims.

In the article, Maldonado said the incident happened in December during a high school basketball tournament being held at Lexington Catholic High School. During the tournament, Betsy Layne lost by 32 points to Lexington's Bryan Station High School.

The teen told Outsports that he was verbally harassed on the court and the harassment continued when players for the opposing team followed his team to their bus.

After being questioned by his teammates, Maldonado told Outsports, "I finally stood up and said, 'I'm gay, I'm gay, okay?'"

"Reflecting back to this moment I realize that there was nothing I could do about it. My coach came back in and said, 'one of our players is in pain, you all need to be there for him'," Maldonado told the blog about how the incident prompted him to come out to his teammates.

As the Betsy Layne players got back on their bus to go to the hotel, the article says some of the Bryan Station players continued to shout gay slurs and got in their cars to chase the bus.

Maldonado spoke with WKYT Wednesday evening. He said the players were yelling gay slurs as the Betsy Layne players boarded their bus to go to their hotel. Maldonado included a picture that he says shows the Bryan Station players shouting as the Betsy Layne players boarded their bus. He said some of the Betsy Layne players' parents and other bystanders got those players to leave, but that's when he says they got into their cars and began to follow the bus. Maldonado said the players followed closely behind the bus as they headed back to their hotel. He said his mother called 911. Eventually, Maldonado said the bus turned around and went back to Lexington Catholic where their coach spoke with the Bryan Station coach.

Lexington police spokesman Sherelle Roberts told WKYT that no official police report was made. However, Roberts said the department was contacted by a Betsy Layne coach who was concerned. He told police one of the opposing players said "We know where you're staying," during the post-game handshake. Roberts said an officer spoke with the coach at the hotel.

Officials with Floyd County Public Schools and Fayette County Public Schools said they were unaware of the details of the incident until the article was posted.

"When the story appeared and raised allegations of harassment and discrimination directed toward a single player, we were shocked and began an investigation," said Mike Henderson, principal of Bryan Station High School. "We're still gathering information but we have found several gross inaccuracies that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the story."

Henderson told WKYT the results of that investigation would be released upon completion.

When asked about the story involving Maldonado, Lexington Catholic Athletics Director Brad Carter said there was "an unfortunate incident between two visiting teams." He described it as "bad sportsmanship" and words exchanged between players on and off the court.

The Kentucky High School Athletics Association, which governs high school sports in the state, says it was also not aware of the incident until the article was posted four months later.

"The KHSAA has asked the school district to assist in determining the accuracy of any accusations, and if school officials believe any KHSAA rules were broken or involvement by our office is necessary. While this Association strongly believes that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated, it is important that our member schools be given the first opportunity to deal with specific situations and determine both the veracity and remedy for any situation that occurs," said Joe Angolia, KHSAA communications director, in a statement released to WKYT.

Maldonado said he went public with the story in hopes of helping other people who might be struggling with their sexuality. He said he didn't want to bring negative attention to the opposing players.

WYMT has also reached out to Dalton to share his story on Issues and Answers, and that invitation is still open.

This from Outsports:
"Hey No. 3, I hear you're a faggot."

It was the last thing Dalton Maldonado expected to hear as he and his team lined up to shake hands at a Kentucky high school basketball tournament last December. His Betsy Layne High School team had just gotten thrashed by an opposing team by 32 points. The opposing team was a staple of the state's top 25 this year; Maldonado and his team just couldn't hang with them that game. The Betsy Layne starters - including Maldonado - had sat most of the fourth quarter, given the blowout. When the game clock hit zero, tempers were low.

As Maldonado turned to see which of the opposing players called him out, he noticed several people staring at him awaiting a response to the slur. Some of them had suspected Maldonado was gay. Others had heard rumors. Only two teammates had ever heard it from his mouth.

Maldonado shot back with all the wit he could muster.

"Yeah baby, can I have your number?"

It was the perfect response - smart and biting. Maldonado had defused the moment, taking the power out of the player's slur. "Put up a strong front," he told himself. "Don't let them know they hurt you."

Inside, he was devastated.

Moments later in the locker room, Maldonado broke down. He had struggled with his sexual orientation for years, confiding in just a small group of people including one of his best friends and teammate McKenzie Akers. He had just that week told his parents that he was gay. While they weren't sure how to take it, they said they still loved him no matter what.

Away from the court with only his team in the locker room, Maldonado slammed his fist against a locker, fell onto a bench and cried.

"I sat back down and realized that I had just came out, and it was definitely not the way I wanted to. Reflecting back to this moment I realize that there was nothing I could do about it. My coach came back in and said, 'one of our players is in pain, you all need to be there for him.'

"My teammates asked what was wrong, and what he had said to me. McKenzie told them to stop questioning me, but they kept asking and asking. It just built up this pressure in me.

"I finally stood up and said, ‘I'm gay, I'm gay, okay?'"

Maldonado hadn't wanted to come out while he played sports at all, a byproduct of years of subtle messages about gay men not being capable athletes. Moments after feeling the crush of the gay slur, Maldonado had - in a fit of emotion - come out to his entire team.

"If you weren't there, it's hard to describe how emotional Dalton was," Akers said. "He was crying so hard he was shaking. Like, physically shaking. I felt awful."

It was about to get worse.

After collecting their clothes and bags the team headed to the bus, where some of the opposing team had assembled. They were yelling at the "faggot," ordering him to stay out of the bus and face them. When Maldonado boarded, the opposing team proceeded to pound the nearest window of the bus with their fists as they yelled more gay slurs. When a couple opposing players tried to board the bus to get to him, Maldonado's teammates and coaches forced them back. Once the Betsy Lane team was inside, the bus pulled away.

The opposing team wasn't done. Several of the players got in their cars and pursued the bus. Whether they actually wanted to assault Maldonado or not, they certainly wanted to scare the hell out of him.
"They were making gestures like they were trying to shoot at the bus," Akers said. "And they kept yelling bad things at Dalton. It was scary."

Maldonado's team called the police and school administrators. They were, unbelievably, in a car chase with another basketball team pursuing them because one of their players was gay. As the bus was chased down the streets of Lexington, the opposing coach stepped in and calmed his team as the police met the Betsy Layne team at their hotel and defused the situation.

The team and Maldonado were safe but shaken.

Yet the problems weren't over. They were in the middle of a four-day Christmas tournament, and they had games left on the schedule. The hotel was put on "lock down," with only the Betsy Layne team allowed access to a particular floor. Tournament organizers and school athletic directors were called. The team leaders had known or suspected Maldonado was gay, and they were shaken by the gay slur and ensuing chase that so clearly had an effect on their starting point guard. They still had a couple games left in the tournament, so the question was whether to stay and play the rest of the games or go home.

They would leave it entirely up to Maldonado.

*  *  *

The story sounds unbelievable, something out of a movie. Yelling gay slurs and trying to attack a player because he's gay? Getting into your car and chasing down a school bus?

When Maldonado contacted Outsports to share his story we were a bit skeptical. There had to be some embellishment. In 2015 it seemed at least 20 years past the point when something like this was possible.

"It's all true," Betsy Layne assistant boys basketball coach Brandon Kidd assured us. Kidd has known Maldonado for many years and played at Betsy Lane a decade ago. Maldonado also sent us photographs of the incident.

"They kept yelling that word," Akers said, wary of saying "faggot" out loud. "They wanted to get to Dalton. It was intense."

The name of the opposing school has been left out of the story because the school is on spring break and administrators were not able to answer emails and phone calls to the principal and athletic director.

While it was a soul-shaking experience for the entire team, in the end it was deeply affirming for them. Kentucky is one of the increasingly shrinking number of states where same-sex marriage is illegal. Only a third of the people in Kentucky support marriage equality.

Yet even in rural Kentucky, the Betsy Layne team rallying around Maldonado is becoming more the norm than the actions of a handful of athletes from the Lexington-area opposing high school. The people of Vicco, a Kentucky city of only a few hundred, recently voted an openly gay man as their mayor and passed a non-discrimination ordinance. Morehead, a town of a few thousand, has adopted the same.

"To this day I haven't lost a friend over coming out," Maldonado said. "I've actually become closer to them. In fact, the one person in my school and on my team I was scared to tell sung the song ‘Same Love' to me as he told me he would always be here for me and was proud of me.

"It was then that I realized how truly blessed I was."

While we at Outsports were shocked by the anti-gay behavior of one team, many may be surprised by the support of another. High school is a trying time for many, and acceptance of kids who are "different" can be a struggle. Those outside of Kentucky assume the locale makes it twice as bad. While Maldonado is Puerto Rican, he said he has not experienced any harassment about his ethnicity since he entered high school. Since he's come out, it's been all roses.

Despite the public perception of sports as a deeply homophobic institution, sports have long been the ultimate equalizer. Yes, there are still big problems in sports. LGBT people like Michael Sam face powerful discrimination. What we at Outsports have found for years - even in 1999 when we started the Web site - is that when athletes come out to their teams, teammates and coaches rally around them far more often than they reject them. Even in Kentucky.

"He's one of my players," Kidd said. "And we treated him just as good as anybody else on the team. I didn't look at him being a gay player, he was just my starting point guard."

*  *  *

After an hour of slurs, car chases and physical threats, Maldonado chose to finish the tournament.
"If we would've went home it would've looked like I was ashamed of who I am, and I'm not ashamed of who I am. I can stand up for myself, and I had my teammates and coaches by my side. I knew we would be okay. God wouldn't let anything happen to us. We had come three hours to a tournament and we were finally playing as a team and coming together."
While some of the younger players - the school is so small that eighth graders play varsity - did choose to go home, the core group of veterans stayed. With one of their teammates under fire, they wanted to make a statement.

For the rest of the tournament, the team had police escorts to and from their hotel and the basketball court. The opposing team was kept well away from Betsy Layne High School. When opposing players tried to do a shoot-around at halftime of a Betsy Layne game, they were quickly removed.

Maldonado's team, which was ranked as high as No. 17 in the state at one point last season, came together over the episode. They rallied around their gay teammate who had been the victim of the worst explicit hate most of these young student-athletes had ever seen. Instead of rejecting their teammate, finally knowing he was gay bonded the team like never before.

"The other starting four even asked me to move into their room on the trip after this," Maldonado said. "This brought us closer together, and after this trip I felt more close to them than I felt in my whole life."

The shift in the team dynamics after the incident was palpable. While Maldonado was the target of the attack, it was the entire team that absorbed the blows.

"After that incident our team really came together," Kidd said. "Dalton had often hung out with the younger players. After that happened the senior boys really took to him and they accepted him for who he was. It was one of those stories, where they all bonded together. They didn't look at him as gay or straight, they just looked at him as their brother."

One particularly meaningful moment came a few games later. Unbeknownst to most of the players, Betsy Layne was playing against another team that happened to feature Maldonado's ex-boyfriend. During a rough play, Akers knocked the opposing player to the ground. When he helped the player off the floor, Maldonado shot him a dirty look. At the next timeout, Akers asked him about it.

"I don't want you helping him up," Maldonado said. Their relationship had not ended well and there was animosity on both sides. "Would you like it if I helped your ex-girlfriend?"

The team got a chuckle out of that. Maldonado loved that they could laugh about it. On top of it all, Maldonado's team beat his ex-boyfriend in the game.

"That felt amazing."

Word of the gay basketball player spread like teen gossip so often does. Other schools quickly got wind of the news. During one game in particular, Maldonado heard the opposing band chanting "fag-got fag-got."

The word simply didn't affect him like it had weeks before. With his team by his side, he had renewed confidence.

"I felt like I didn't have anything to hide anymore, and the fact that they accepted me made it all better!"

All of the support has not come without some internal struggle for various players. Growing up in rural Kentucky, in a town of about 7,000 people, two hours from the nearest city of Lexington, the rule of the Bible can be as powerful as the rule of law. Gay people are few and far between, and local doctrine demands a lack of acceptance of homosexuality.

"It's been hard sometimes," Akers admits. "But Dalton is my friend. I've known him since we were kids. He's always been there for me when I needed him. Now it's my turn to be there for him."

Maldonado has likely played his last game of organized scholastic basketball. He will probably attend Div. 1 Eastern Kentucky University in the autumn. Maldonado, who played varsity basketball in eighth grade and started his final two seasons, is a good player but he's not that good.

While his basketball shoes will stick to pick-up games, he wanted to share his story now because of what he's learned. If he knew his coaches and teammates would have his back the way they did, he would have come out years ago.

"It was so much easier playing my senior year because I didn't have to worry about my parents or teammates finding out because I had already told them. I feel like this can help other young athletes, help them come out. My freshman year I didn't think I would ever come out.

"Now here I am telling the world. "

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Taking the Fall in Atlanta

Holding educators accountable for student test results makes sense 
if the tests are reasonable reflections of teacher performance. 
But if they are not, and if educators are being held accountable 
for meeting standards that are impossible to achieve, 
then the only way to meet fanciful goals imposed from above...
is to cheat, using illegal or barely legal devices.

This from Richard Rothstein at the Economic Policy Institute:
Eleven Atlanta educators, convicted and imprisoned, have taken the fall for systematic cheating on standardized tests in American education. Such cheating is widespread, as is similar corruption in any institution—whether health care, criminal justice, the Veterans Administration, or others—where top policymakers try to manage their institutions with simple quantitative measures that distort the institution’s goals. This corruption is especially inevitable when out-of-touch policymakers set impossible-to-achieve goals and expect that success will nonetheless follow if only underlings are held accountable for measurable results.

There was little doubt, even before the jury’s decision, that Atlanta teachers and administrators had changed answers on student test booklets to increase scores. There was also little doubt that Atlanta’s late superintendent, Beverly Hall, was partly responsible because she had, as a state investigation revealed, “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating—at all levels—to go unchecked for years.”

What the trial did not explore was whether Dr. Hall herself was reacting to a culture of fear, intimidation, and retaliation that her board, state education officials, and the Bush and Obama administrations had created. Just as her principals’ jobs were in jeopardy if test scores didn’t rise, her tenure, too, was dependent on ever rising test scores.

Holding educators accountable for student test results makes sense if the tests are reasonable reflections of teacher performance. But if they are not, and if educators are being held accountable for meeting standards that are impossible to achieve, then the only way to meet fanciful goals imposed from above—according to federal law, that all children will make adequate yearly progress towards full proficiency in 2014—is to cheat, using illegal or barely legal devices. It is not surprising that educators do just that.

And demanding that all students be proficient, by any date, was an impossible and incoherent demand. No Child Left Behind required that states make their proficiency standards “challenging.” But no goal can simultaneously be challenging to and achievable by all students across the entire achievement distribution. A standard can either be a minimal standard, which presents no challenge to typical and advanced students, or it can be a challenging standard, which is unachievable by most below-average students. Some states ignored the “challenging” requirement and lowered their standards so most students could pass a meaningless test. Others succumbed to hectoring by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his colleagues in the Bush and Obama administrations to raise their standards, essentially guaranteeing the cheating scandals that followed. Now, with tests coming online that are aligned with the tougher “Common Core” standards, along with new demands that educators jobs are at risk if all students don’t achieve proficiency, we can be sure that Atlanta’s cheating scandal will not be the last.

Certainly, educators can refuse to cheat, and take the fall for unavoidable failure in other ways: they can see their schools closed, their colleagues fired, their students’ confidence and love of learning destroyed. That would have been the legal thing to do, but not necessarily the ethical thing to do. As one indicted teacher told the judge before the trial, “I truly believed that I was helping these children stay in school just one more year,” something from which they would have benefited far more than being drilled incessantly on test-taking strategies so they could pass tests legally.

Attempting to protect children from curricular corruption by changing test answers may have been an option chosen by many teachers in Atlanta. A curious aspect of the Atlanta scandal is that while cheating on Georgia’s standardized tests was widespread, Atlanta’s performance on a federal sampled test, for which there are no sanctions for alleged failure and on which cheating is extremely difficult, improved at least as rapidly, and in several comparisons more rapidly and more consistently, than performance in other large urban districts for which data are available—with the possible exception of Los Angeles, where impressive gains were similar to those in Atlanta. The gains characterized not only the Atlanta district as a whole, but its most disadvantaged (African American and low-income) students. Could this be because many Atlanta teachers foreswore test-specific instructional distortion and concentrated on delivering quality instruction, while protecting themselves from sanctions by cheating? We can’t know, but it is a possibility.

Our use of tests as the chief way to measure school and teacher performance has corrupted schools everywhere. Because schools have been held accountable only for math and reading test scores, classroom time has diminished for other critically important subjects like social studies and civics, science, physical education, and character development. In many places, drills and test preparation have displaced instruction. Elsewhere, teachers and administrators have studied prior tests to make educated guesses about the specific question types that are likely to appear on the next test; teachers can then practice these question types with their students, while ignoring other types that are just as important in the curriculum. Some districts tend to suspend low-scoring students for alleged disciplinary infractions just before testing day. In many places, principals convene meetings of teachers early in the school year to review prior year test results in order to identify students whose past performance has been just below the passing point; then, teachers can concentrate instruction on these students while devoting less attention to students who are already above the passing point or who are too far below it to be able to improve the passing rate. This strategy is known as “data-driven instruction” and is highly praised by education policymakers. Because it causes less harm to students, the cheating done by Atlanta teachers may be more ethical than the more commonplace forms of corruption.

Michelle Rhee
Test-cheating scandals are widespread. Cheating in BaltimoreHoustonPhiladelphia, and elsewhere did not result in high-profile trials, but has been well-documented. In Washington, DC, former Chancellor Michelle Rhee got great credit for improving student performance. She gave large bonuses to principals whose test score improvements were substantial—and implausible. An investigation found a statistically improbable rate of “wrong-to-right” erasures and corrections on district tests. Rhee, too, created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation.

What is most puzzling is that top policymakers, from the president and Secretary of Education on down, continue to believe that schools can be improved by holding educators accountable for achieving quantifiable progress towards overly simplified and sometimes absurd goals. In 1994, Congress passed a law saying that the United States would be “first in the world in math and science by 2000.” When passing a law proved inadequate, Congress adopted No Child Left Behind, with its demand that all students be proficient by 2014. When it became apparent that testing and punishment for low scores could not accomplish this, the Obama administration attempted to substitute an even more unrealistic goal—getting all students “college and career ready” by 2020. The federal government doesn’t have a monopoly on such foolishness. Governor Rick Scott of Florida has just promised that his state will have the highest graduation rate in the nation by the end of his current term. It becomes not only foolish, but dangerous, when policymakers take such goals seriously, hold educators accountable for meeting them, and then label those who do not as failures.

For years, the overwhelming evidence from other fields has been that accountability by simple quantitative measures does more harm than good, and too often results in corruption or illegal cheating. And it continues to accumulate.

Obamacare is implementing pay systems for doctors and hospitals that reward them for the health of their patients, for example, by increasing payments to hospitals whose patients, within a month of being discharged, have a low rate of follow-up hospitalization. In practice, however, the reward system simply penalizes a hospital for taking low-income patients because, as a report commissioned by the administration itself concluded, “readmissions are difficult to avoid in patients who can’t afford post-discharge medications, have no social support to help with recovery at home, have no way to get to follow-up doctor appointments or are homeless.”

Medicare has adopted a rating system for nursing homes, designed to reward good homes and punish bad ones by directing patients to those of the highest (“five star”) quality. The system includes indicators like staffing levels and quality—how many patients develop bedsores, for example. Both legal corruption and fraudulent cheating has resulted. Nursing homes add staff before scheduled inspections, and reduce staff once the inspectors leave. That’s legal. They also self-report inaccurate quality information. That’s fraudulent. There have been no show trials, however, of nursing home staff, and no nurses have been led off before the cameras in handcuffs because they purposely failed to report bedsores.

Robert McDonald
On Tuesday, Chicago voters will decide whether to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has boasted about the miraculous drop in crime during his first term. The drop in crime statistics, however, was achieved at least in part by police administrators who classified more serious crimes as lesser crimes, or as no crimes at all. There have been no show trials either of Chicago police administrators who cheated on their crime reports.

The most widely reported recent instance of this corruption was the Veterans also lied to federal investigators looking into the cheating; lying to investigators is a crime for which Atlanta educators were convicted, VA employees have not been similarly prosecuted. Instead of being put on trial, supervisors who permitted such practices have been allowed to resign.
Eric Shinseki
Administration’s requirement that its staff schedule appointments within 14 days of a veteran’s request for one. That it was impossible to meet this standard because there were insufficient doctors to see patients within that time frame did not influence the VA to change its standard. So, systematically, nationwide, intake staff cheated, for example by reporting that patients had only called for an appointment 14 days before they received one, not the months that may have transpired. Many staff members

There is another respect in which the VA scandal differed from the one in the Atlanta school district. VA supervisors permitted to resign did not take the fall for those ultimately responsible for enforcing the corruption-inducing standard. Last May, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who had ordered that appointments be scheduled within 14 days, himself resigned because of the scandal. I offer no opinion about whether similar accountability would be appropriate in the Department of Education.