Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year !

Of course, I'll be alseep by ten.
But I'm told this is the kind of thing that goes on during
new years celebrations.

So, if you're out late drinking with your superintendent,
make sure you have a designated driver
take you home. You just can't count on every trooper to do it.

Massachusetts lets center use shocks for one year

Extension requires a series of changes

State authorities have given a controversial special education school in Canton a one-year extension of its authority to use electric shock treatments on students, provided the center makes a series of significant changes.

Among them, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center must prove that it uses shock treatments only for the most dangerous and self-destructive behaviors and that the aversive therapy actually led to a reduction of those harmful actions.

The center must also stop electric shocks for "seemingly minor infractions," such as getting out of a seat without approval or swearing. And it must show greater commitment to phasing out shock treatments, especially for those about to leave the school to enter mainstream society...

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton uses electric shocking devices similar to this for many of its students. (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF/FILE 2006)

This from the Boston Globe.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Students React to the upscale Indiana [No] DUI principal

He blew twice the legal limit after police stopped him for swerving his car and hitting curbs at 1 a.m. But instead of being arrested, police play taxi. Now comes word that after drinking at his superintendent's home, Scott Syverson made another stop.

So the board of education decided it needed an investigation. So who do they call upon? Why, the superintendent he had been drinking with, of course.

This from the Indianapolis Star: Video screenshot from Fisher Police video shows Syverson with his BFF Officer Kevin Kobli.

Charges may yet be filed in the case of Fishers High School Principal Scott Syverson, who a week ago was stopped and then driven home by a Fishers police officer, even though police said Syverson failed roadside sobriety tests.

Hamilton County [Indiana] Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp [told the Indianapolis Star] Friday that she could complete her investigation by the end of next week. The prosecutor and the Hamilton Southeastern School Board and superintendent initiated investigations after Fishers police revealed Thursday, following inquiries from news media, that the principal was considered to be drunk when a police officer stopped his weaving car just after 1 a.m. Dec. 22 and then drove him safely home. There was no arrest and no police report of the incident.

Board President Jeff Sturgis said the board's investigation shows Syverson had left a party hosted by Superintendent Concetta Raimondi two hours before his traffic stop and continued drinking elsewhere....

...Superintendent Raimondi, who is leading the district's investigation into Syverson's conduct that night, was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Sturgis, the School Board president, said members recognized the potential conflict involved with the superintendent's investigation into drinking that may have occurred at her home.

Sturgis said he and the board members also are gathering information, however, including the details that show Syverson had been drinking elsewhere, too.
Hamilton County high school students share their thoughts about the incident involving Fishers High School Principal Scott Syverson:

• "It sends a message that is against what they tell us we can and can't do. I'm shocked that the police let him go. I'm wondering what was up with that. . . . It seems that something should happen to him, even if he wasn't arrested. . . . I talk to him a lot, and he is one of the administrators I like the most. But everyone is going to give him a hard time after this."Kevin Schlatter, 16, Fishers High

• "Just by him getting away with it shows that he tried to use his power. If he tries to send that message to us, I don't know if anyone can take it serious anymore," especially considering how alcohol and drug warnings are frequently given to students. "They have us attend these convocations about drinking and drug use before the prom, so it's kind of ironic that this would happen."Craig Murray, 17, Fishers High

• "I've heard a bunch of students from HSE (neighboring Hamilton Southeastern High School) making jokes about it."Josh Heltsley, 17, Fishers High

• "I think it is unfair that he got off because anyone else would have gotten a DUI, and yet they let him go because of who he was."Chris Rogers, 16, Hamilton Southeastern High, Fishers

• The lesson was that "if you know certain people, you will get off. . . . Now, maybe kids who are better off will think they can get away with things, too."Daniel Porter, 16, Carmel High School---
For many Hamilton County high school students, Friday's lesson was hypocrisy -- with an introduction to irony.
Daniel Porter, 16, who attends Carmel High School, said his classmates had heard
about it, too. The lesson, he said, was that "if you know certain people, you will get off." "Now, maybe kids who are better off will think they can get away with things, too."

In Memoriam

Mrs. Patricia Ann 'Patsy' Meadors
April 09, 1944 - December 27, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stumbo brings Dateline and Perverted Justice to Bowling Green

It's day three of our undercover investigation here in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- population 50,000. Our first guest arrives at noon, right on time. Jeremy Todd West, 27, pulls in the driveway and our decoy invites him in.

Decoy: Hey.

West: How's it going'?

Decoy: Good. How are you?

West: Tired.

Calling himself bandit8077, he starts chatting online with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl. After only about 20 minutes he says he'd like to meet. Two days later he asks her this...
They're at it again. Chris Hansen brought the road show to Bowling Green Kentucky. And as always...there's film. But of the perps who show up on the MSNBC website...only one was from Kentucky. The perps. Most, like West, came from Tennessee.

During the first attorney general sting in Louisville about a year ago, seven men were arrested. All were convicted of a felony.

During the second sting last April -- again with Dateline not present –- 11 men arrived at this house in northern Kentucky.

And all 11 were arrested.

One man has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. The other 10 have pleaded guilty.

Stumbo Video.

Greg Stumbo: We know that-- that predators are now saying, "We're not coming to Kentucky. They're watching for us. So Kentucky’s kids are safer.”

Commish says KDE will eliminate $11.5 million in grant appropriations

This from the Herald-Leader:
Colleges consider ways to cut budgets

FRANKFORT --A 3 percent budget cut means a $34.5 million hit to the state university and community college system, which includes $10 million at the University of Kentucky.

While Kentucky's public schools will be spared from the budget cut that Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday, the state's public colleges and universities will be looking for ways to trim expenses in the short term and seeking out new strategies to meet long-term goals...

...Jon Draud, the state's new education commissioner, said the cut will cause the Kentucky Department of Education to eliminate about $11.5 million that had been appropriated for grants but hasn't been spent.

Draud, a former Republican state representative from Edgewood in Northern Kentucky, said he empathized with Beshear having to grapple with a shortfall that is "not his fault or Ernie Fletcher's," referring to the previous governor, who lost to Beshear in November.

Draud said the biggest problem caused by the state shortfall is "you can't do a lot of long-range planning." ...
Or, one might suggest, the problem was actually caused when the legislature and the governor failed at long term planning in favor of satisfying more immediate concerns.

Principal gets drunk with Superintendent, blows twice legal limit, then gets a pass from police

Today's Indianapolis Star decried the decision that excused a high school principal Scott Syverson from arrest for drunk driving. Syverson was stopped shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday while driving home from a Christmas party hosted by Hamilton Southeastern Schools Superintendent Concetta Raimondi. According to Fishers Police Chief George Kehl , he should have been arrested and taken to jail. A breath test showed him at twice the legal limit.

A Fishers Indiana police officer's decision to take an intoxicated high school principal home instead of arresting him for drunken driving was the wrong one, Fishers Police Chief George Kehl said. "It doesn't make us look very good," said Kehl.

Matter of principal: No arrest
was big mistake
Our position: The public was badly served by an officer's decision not to arrest a high school principal accused of driving drunk.

No one accused of drunken driving should ever get the breaks that Fishers High School Principal Scott Syverson received last weekend.

Syverson, according to Fishers Police, badly failed a roadside sobriety test after he was stopped for driving erratically at 1 a.m. Saturday. The high school educator, a leader of impressionable teens, recorded a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent on a portable breath test, more than twice the legal limit.

Syverson should have been immediately arrested. He should have been hauled to jail. He should now be facing a court date on charges that could carry a heavy fine, possible prison time and the loss of his license.

Instead, Fishers Police Officer Kevin Kobli simply gave Syverson a ride home. He was allowed to sleep off in his own bed the evidence of a dangerous crime. Kobli even drove Syverson's wife back to the scene to retrieve the car....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

PolWatchers reports: Beshear calls for immediate budget cuts of 3%


Gov. Steve Beshear said the budget outlook is so dire that he's asking state agencies and universities to find ways to cut 3 percent of their budget for the rest of the year.

The move comes as state revenue projections have shrunk by several hundred million dollars over the last year, leaving the state with a $289 million gap in this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The financial situation is "much worse than anticipated," Beshear said.

Beshear gave details about Kentucky's budget at a 1 p.m. press conference and said he would offer more about how he planned to tackle it next week. He acknowledged that he has asked state agencies to come up with ways to skim 3 percent off their current budget...

This from H-L's PolWatchers blog.

Just this morning the Courier-Journal was asking,

It is possible to blame Ernie Fletcher for some of the budget dilemma that Steve
Beshear faces -- a dilemma the new governor calls "dire," and a circumstance he
rightly describes as "serious disarray." ...

...When Gov. Fletcher and the lawmakers did tax reform, they could have established a base that would finance essential services. Instead, they opted for "tax reform lite" and continued to pass structurally unsound budgets. The General Assembly continued to raid the trust and agency accounts, and kept right on approving each other's pet projects in order to agree on a budget bill.

It was the lawmakers who gave teachers bigger raises than Dr. Fletcher proposed, which is fine, but they didn't incorporate that and other big spending into a budget plan that really would stand the test of time or the pressure of lagging revenue. Add the looming demands of Medicaid financing and public employee pension funding and what you get is a mess...

Apparently Beshear did not blame Fletcher. But then again, he didn't have to. Kentuckians know the score.

Georgia School as a Laboratory for Getting Along

At an unusual elementary school outside Atlanta,
more than half the 380 students are refugees from some 40 countries.

DECATUR, Ga. — Parents at an elementary school here gathered last Thursday afternoon with a holiday mission: to prepare boxes of food for needy families fleeing some of the world’s horrific civil wars.

The community effort to help refugees resembled countless others at this time of year, with an exception. The recipients were not many thousands of miles away. They were students in the school and their families.

More than half the 380 students at this unusual school outside Atlanta are refugees from some 40 countries, many torn by war. The other students come from low-income families in Decatur, and from middle- and upper-middle-class families in the area who want to expose their children to other cultures. Together they form an eclectic community of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, well-off and poor, of established local families and new arrivals who collectively speak about 50 languages.

“The fact that we don’t have anything in common is what we all have in common,” said Shell Ramirez, an American parent with two children at the school.

The International Community School, which goes from kindergarten through sixth grade, began five years ago to address a pressing local problem: how to educate a flood of young refugees. It has evolved into a laboratory for the art of getting along, a place that embraces the idea that people from different cultures and classes can benefit one other, even as administrators, teachers and parents acknowledge the many practical difficulties...

Article and video, from the New York Times: Photo by Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times.

National Teacher Salaries, 10-year Trend

The National Education Association reported recently that over the past 10 years, teachers' salaries have increased 1.3 percent in constant dollars and the average percentage change in teachers’ salaries from the 2004-05 to the 2005-06 fiscal year was 2.9 percent. This according to “Rankings and Estimates.”

Principals the focus of pay for performance study

The Center for American Progress has released a study of principal compensation which views performance pay for principals as a necessary precursor to merit pay for teachers.

This from the Center for American Progress:

Principal Compensation:
More Research Needed on a Promising Reform

School reforms and improvements depend crucially on the implementation of strategies at the school level—from human resources to curriculum to parent involvement. And the successful implementation of these strategies in turn depends largely on principal leadership.

Few studies link principal attributes directly to student achievement, and of those that do, some are methodologically limited by data constraints. Tracing the impacts of principals on student achievement is also difficult because their actions may affect students through both direct and indirect avenues. For example, principals may directly affect students through curricular choices and indirectly affect them through hiring decisions that determine the quality of teachers in their schools. Despite these constraints, it is clear that principals have a profound influence: They play a crucial role in shaping their schools’ environments, which in turn influences the quality of
teachers in them.

Given the importance of principals, and the role of compensation in determining the quality of people who opt to pursue this career path, it is striking how little is known about the structure of principal compensation. We know how much principals are paid nationally on average and relative to teacher salaries, and how this has changed over time. Yet we have only a scattershot picture of issues such as the extent to which principal compensation is linked to specific principal credentials or characteristics, or covered by collective bargaining agreements; whether principals are financially rewarded for taking tough leadership assignments; and whether there is a link between their compensation and measures of their performance...

President Bush approves $59.2 billion Education Budget

Budget Raises Title I, Cuts Reading First

Yesterday President Bush has signed into a law a $59.2 billion bill that will increase federal education spending by 2.9 percent in fiscal year 2008.

The appropriation for U.S. Department of Education programs during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 is part of a larger budget drama in which Democrats largely gave in to a hard-line White House stance that earlier measures contained too much in domestic spending increases.

In signing the bill, a $550 billion omnibus measure that includes fiscal 2008 spending for most other Cabinet agencies as well as the Education Department President Bush complained that the bill contains nearly 9,800 earmarks, totaling more than $10 billion.

“These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful government spending,” the president wrote.

Education Week reports:

The measure will provide $13.9 billion to the Title I program for disadvantaged students, an 8.6 percent increase over the $12.8 billion appropriated for the program in fiscal 2007. But the amount is about 2 percent less than what was proposed for the program in a bill vetoed by President Bush in November.

By contrast, the Reading First program was cut significantly under the legislation, dropping from $1 billion last year to $393 million in fiscal 2008. That is slightly more severe than the $400 million proposed for the program in the vetoed spending bill.

Reading First, one of President Bush’s highest priorities under the No Child Left Behind Act, came under fire in a series of highly critical reports over the past 15 months by the Education Department’s inspector general that found favoritism for certain textbook publishers and other management problems in the program’s early years...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Free KY high school dental clinic to offset widespread neglect

This from the New York Times, photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. — In the 18 years he has been visiting nursing homes, seeing patients in his private practice and, more recently, driving his mobile dental clinic through Appalachian hills and hollows, Dr. Edwin E. Smith has seen the extremes of neglect...

...Dr. Smith has a rare window on a state with the highest proportion of adults under 65 without teeth, where about half the population does not have dental insurance. He struggles to counter the effects of the drastic shortage of dentists in rural areas and oral hygiene habits that have been slow to change.

“The level of need is hard to believe until you see it up close,” said Dr. Smith, who runs a free dental clinic at a high school in one of Kentucky’s poorest counties. He also provides free care to about half of the patients who visit his private practice in Barbourville.

Kentucky is among the worst states nationally in the proportion of low-income residents served by free or subsidized dental clinics, and less than a fourth of the state’s dentists regularly take Medicaid, according to 2005 federal data...

Shockwork Orange: Hope as justification for cruelty

As a young principal - I confess - I joked more than once that I'd like to have a device that would combine the effects of a television remote control and a small spark igniter.

In my imagination, every student would have a number. Then, if a child did not listen to their conscience, say, and did something evil anyway - I could punch up their specific number and press a button which would cause them a little shock.

This aversive therapy is what behaviorists call negative reinforcement, with an attitude.

The theory is that the recipient of this little reminder would come to associate bad feelings with bad acts; and, in time, would cease the bad acts.

As the person in charge of discipline for 500+ students, I couldn't help but think of this piece of Clockwork Orangeian administrative efficiency with an evil smile - one, no doubt, deserving of a little shock itself.

Today's New York Times did a follow up to the recent Judge Rotenberg Educational Center story that gives readers a little better peek at what is at work here.

Parents Defend School’s Use of Shock Therapy

Nearly a year ago, New York made plans to ban the use of electric shocks as a punishment for bad behavior, a therapy used at a Massachusetts school where New York State had long sent some of its most challenging special education students.

But state officials trying to limit New York’s association with the school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, southwest of Boston, and its “aversive therapy” practices have found a large obstacle in their paths: parents of students who are given shocks.

“I understand people who don’t know about it think it is cruel,” said Susan Handon of Jamaica, Queens, whose 20-year-old daughter, Crystal, has been at Rotenberg for four years. “But she is not permanently scarred and she has really learned that certain behaviors, like running up and hitting people in the face, are not acceptable.”

Indeed, Rotenberg is full of children who will run up and hit strangers in the face, or worse. Many have severe types of dysfunction, including self-mutilation, head banging, eye gouging and biting, that can result from autism or mental retardation. Parents tend to be referred there by desperate education officials, after other institutions have decided they cannot keep the child.

While at Rotenberg, students must wear backpacks containing a device that allows a staff member to deliver a moderate shock to electrodes attached to the limbs, or in some cases palms, feet or torso, when the students engage in a prohibited behavior.

Both the children’s parents and a court must consent to the shocks.

Michael P. Flammia, the lawyer for Rotenberg, defended the practice in an interview.

“People want to believe positive interventions work even in the most extreme cases,” he said. “If they did, that is all we would use. Many of these kids come in on massive dosages of antipsychotic drugs, so doped up that they are almost comatose. We get them off drugs and give their parents something very important: hope.”

But for state officials, many behavior experts and even some former Rotenberg parents, the shock therapy at the school represents a dangerous, outdated approach to severe behavioral problems, reminiscent of the electric shock helmets used on some autistic patients into the 1980s and now discredited...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Goodnight.

Once again this year the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) will track Santa Claus' journey from the North Pole beginning at 4 a.m.

The Day family is fortunate to have little ones at home for Christmas this year, so we'll be keeping watch.

Tombstone will read: Here lies NCLB. Killed by Unrealistic Targets.

I'm what they call a podcaster.

Actually, that's not a very accurate term for what I really am...which is a podcatcher. I listen to a series of weekly podcasts that others have produced., in that sense, I catch them. I get them through iTunes. (I may podcast my "Foundations of education in Kentucky lectures" from EKU this spring...but that's not a done deal...and is another story anyway.)

One of my regular programs is KCRW's "To The Point," with host Warren Olney.

This past week, Olney was interviewing President Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, about the recent Global Warming Conference in Bali, Indonesia, and the scientists' talk about long-term goals for curbing the negative effects of climate change (and replacing the Kyoto Protocol). At this meeting targets were discussed -much like the targets imposed by No Child Left Behind - and the European Union's growing frustration with the United States.

It was a remarkable example of how natural scientists eschew the kinds of heavy-handed and unrealistic targets that have made NCLB the object of so much derision from teachers and many others.

The prevailing sentiment among developed nations is that mandatory targets are necessary for success. The Bush administration opposes any targets claiming that the other nations are "prejudging the outcome" and therefore America won't agree to anything. President Bush prefers an aspirational long-term goal ...and then leaving each country to do whatever it thinks best.

But when it comes to prejudging the outcomes in America's schools - the Bush administration has no such problem.

During the discussion Olney asked Claussen a question that might have come right out of NCLB discussions.

Olney: "What's the point of setting targets that are so difficult to meet that it might be impossible?"

Claussen: "Well, I think, myself, that that's really silly. We ought to set targets, and I believe that they ought to be mandatory. But they have to be something that is possible to achieve. Otherwise, the currency is worth nothing. I mean, you say you're going to do things, and you never do them."

There you have it. NCLB's twisted logic and the resulting rejection of an otherwise worthy ideal, exposed in a nutshell.

It's big-hearted, but empty-headed.

As Kentucky School News and Commentary reported in May,
"Education Trust has finally admitted that "every child proficient in reading and math by 2014" is much better as a slogan and aspiration than as the operating principle for a serious accountability regime.

It's the classic overreach, the epitome of excess. This pronouncement-cum-policy has encouraged states to play games: mucking around with "n-sizes" and "confidence intervals" to avoid the "every child" component, racing to the bottom with their definitions of "proficiency," and back-loading their timelines in the expectation of a miracle in the last year or two before the 2014 deadline.

Ed Trust appears to have gotten the picture. Regarding "every child," its proposal would allow states with high standards (those that indicate readiness for college and work) to aim for 80 percent of students in every subgroup achieving proficiency rather than 100 percent. (Ninety-five percent of students would have to achieve a "new basic" level, "indicating preparation for active citizenship, military service, and entry into postsecondary education or formal employment training.") Furthermore, it would differentiate between those schools that miss their performance targets by a mile and those that fall short by a few inches."

But it's too late for NCLB.

A reasonable scheme might have saved it, but the locked-down position taken by Margaret Spellings on behalf of the Bush administration appears to be its undoing.

As the New York Times reported yesterday,

"Teachers cheered Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton when she stepped before them last month at an elementary school in Waterloo, Iowa, and said she would “end” the No Child Left Behind Act because it was “just not working.”

Mrs. Clinton is not the only presidential candidate who has found attacking the act, President Bush’s signature education law, to be a crowd pleaser — all the Democrats have taken pokes.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has said he wants to “scrap” the law. Senator Barack Obama has called for a “fundamental” overhaul. And John Edwards criticizes the law as emphasizing testing over teaching. “You don’t make a hog fatter by weighing it,” he said recently while campaigning in Iowa.

This was to be the year that Congress renewed the law that has reshaped the nation’s educational landscape by requiring public schools to bring every child to reading and math proficiency by 2014. But defections from both the right and the left killed the effort.

Now, as lawmakers say they will try again, the unceasing criticism of the law by Democratic presidential contenders and the teachers’ unions that are important to them promises to make the effort even more treacherous next year.

“No Child Left Behind may be the most negative brand in America,” said Representative George Miller of California, the Democratic chairman of the House
education committee...

...Republican lawmakers...say the law intrudes on states’ rights, and...Democrats, ...say it labels schools as failing but does too little to help them improve...

...Even though the candidates hedge their criticism of the law with statements supporting accountability, it is hard to imagine their accepting revisions that fall short of a thorough overhaul — and that could be difficult for Mr. Bush to stomach, said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Even Mr. Bush’s catchy name for the law is likely to disappear in any rewrite, he said.

“I can’t imagine that Democrats could write a bill that would satisfy their caucus but not be vetoed by President Bush, at least in the current environment,” Mr. Petrilli said.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kathy Stein to sponsor Creepy Teacher Bill

The Herald-Leader reports that Representative Kathy Stein, (D) Lexington, will take over sponsorship of former Rep J R Gray's ...what? ...Creepy Teacher bill?

The bill (not yet drafted) seeks to criminalize the behavior of teachers and aides who prey sexually on their 16 and 17-year old charges. The approach seems to be focused on the age of consent rather than a straightforward declaration that being a teacher confirs a higher standard of behavior on all who act in loco parentis and would punish those who abuse their trust with any P-12 child. I assume there are sound legal reasons for the approach.

It is also unclear if the bill will cover other classes of "teachers," such as clergy, counselors and others.

In any case, thank you Kathy.
This from the Herald-Leader

Key lawmaker takes over bill to
criminalize teacher-student sex

FRANKFORT, Ky. --A key lawmaker will champion proposed legislation that would criminalize sex between teachers and older teens who are not protected by Kentucky's age-of-consent law.

State Rep. Kathy Stein, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, took responsibility for the legislation after its originator resigned to take a job in the Gov. Steve Beshear's fledgling administration.

"Boys and girls, when they have a teacher or an aide in a position of authority, are extremely vulnerable, and they deserve protection from that," she said.

Sexual misconduct allegations led states across the country to take action against the teaching licenses of 2,570 educators from 2001 through 2005, according to a seven-month Associated Press investigation, the results of which were published in October. Young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases, and more than 80 percent of those were students.

In Kentucky, officials handled nearly 100 instances of teacher sexual misconduct over the five-year-period the AP reviewed, ranging from minor violations like using sexual language to more serious, criminal acts such as inappropriate touching and even sodomy and rape...

...The Kentucky legislation would be aimed at adults who abuse their positions of authority to draw teens into sexual relationships. The bill, however, exempts married couples, even when an underage spouse is married to an adult...

Paducah Sun editorial supports stronger laws prohibiting teacher/student sexual contact

One of the problems in Kentucky's public schools is the tendency of the state to resist strong action against teachers who may be shown to be incompetent, who cheat on state tests or who violate the public trust by engaging in sexual contact with their charges. The Paducah Sun (subscription) says this must change. They're right. State education officials would benefit from a stronger set of laws that would encourage action.
State should criminalize teacher/student sex

The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board
receives at least one complaint every month
about a teacher having sex with a consenting student

In Kentucky, a public school teacher can have consensual sex with his — or her — 16-year-old student. And for parents who discover their sons or daughters have been in sexual relationships with teachers or coaches, there is no legal remedy.

That must change.

Fortunately, state Rep. J.R. Gray is doing something about it. The Benton Democrat has prepared legislation for the next term of the legislature to make it illegal for teachers, as well as anyone else in a position of trust, to have sex with anyone under age 18. Although Gray won’t be able to introduce the legislation himself, as he has taken a cabinet position in Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, he has ensured it will be introduced.

Kentucky is behind many surrounding states with this protection. But in those states that have criminalized teacher/student sex, resistance has come from some unlikely quarters.

In Louisiana, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers objected to that state’s law. Steve Monaghan asked, “Why are you centering on one group of individuals that has contact with this age group and ignoring legislators who have pages, the clergy and others?”

The short answer is that legislative pages and minor parishioners should also be protected. But public school teachers have a particular responsibility since education is mandatory in the United States. Kids don’t have any choice but to attend, unless their parents can afford private education or can teach them at home themselves.

Under American law, schools serve in loco parentis — in the place of parents. A teacher, especially the president of the state teachers’ union, ought to know this. He ought to, in fact, be the first to insist on the strictest of standards.

Monaghan’s question is based on what he sees as an underlying assumption that teachers are particularly prone to such violations. He said, “It is creating a perceptual problem that we have a monopoly, that educators are somehow the only profession that has this problem.”

Well-publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, Protestant clergy and private day care workers provide ample proof that the problem extends throughout society. But the fact is, stories about school teachers, coaches and band leaders having sex with students have become far too common. The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board receives at least one complaint every month about a teacher having sex with a consenting student.

Most sexual abuse in schools is never reported, according to Whistleblower magazine, which cited statistics to back up that premise. The most exhaustive study to date, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and published in 2004, revealed that 10 percent of public school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees — with the behaviors ranging from sexual comments to rape. And a study by the American Association of University Women Education Foundation determined that 290,000 public schools students experienced some form of physical sexual abuse by school employees during the decade of the 1990s.

In one study, only two of 225 New York City public school teachers who admitted sexually abusing students lost their teaching licenses, and not one of the cases was reported to police. And in another study, two-thirds of the 159 coaches in Washington who were reprimanded or warned about prior sexual misconduct with players continued teaching or coaching.

With unnerving frequency, the teachers and coaches caught in sexual misconduct with students are popular among students and in their communities, and their targeted victims are often shy and unaccustomed to attention from such high profile people. The teachers frequently break down the barriers slowly, winning trust, and making the students believe they are responsible — and therefore less likely to speak up. And like sexual abusers in other situations, teachers who get away with it repeat the behavior, sometimes for years.

This is not to say that every teacher accused of sexual misconduct is guilty. Students have made false accusations for reasons ranging from not enough playing time on the court to revenge for discipline and even as a twisted prank.

Teachers have the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty — not only in court, but in public opinion.

Society should honor those who dedicate their lives to teaching, men and women who sacrifice the higher salaries and less demanding work they might otherwise enjoy for the noble calling of molding the next generation. But society must also demand high standards for behavior from those who teach. Teaching is a sacred trust, and it must not be abused.

Sexual contact between teachers and students is an abuse of that trust. Students are in too vulnerable a position to give reasoned consent. The legislature must strengthen the law to protect the young people of the Commonwealth.

More Kentucky blogs begin to moderate comments

When Kentucky School News and Commentary began there was a problem to resolve. How does one manage the natural conflict between free speech (a very good thing) and the abusive name-calling (a bad thing that detracts from the public debate) that can dominate the comments section of a blog.

Should KSN&C allow anonymous comments and take whatever we get? And if we do, would that drive the tone of the blog into the mud and undermine legitimate authority?

Or is it better to require all commenters to identify themselves, perhaps stiffling legitimate comments from insiders who may have something to lose when commenting on matters of public policy, or politics?

I chose to moderate the blog.

Recently, I've noticed several other blogs ("liberal" and "conservative") following suit.

Over at PolWatchers, John Stamper wrote,
"We've had to spend way too much time the past few days deleting comments that don't comply with our comment policy. It's getting old. Therefore, those who comment must now submit a valid e-mail address before their comment will be published."

Pat Crowley noticed the same problem at his Northern Kentucky Politics blog and wrote,
"I busted five posts this morning. I'm going to do my best to kill the comments [w]here public officials and potential candidates are called "morons" and are the focus of gossip and rumors. Not going to happen. I'll allow criticism all day, but every comment I busted made some decent points except for the name-calling and rumor-mongering. It's a few days before Christmas folks. Make your points, but don't be so darn nasty."

Earlier in the week at vere loqui, Martin Cothran said,

"I'm instituting a new policy on comments, which is that I'll let your comment run as long as you don't needlessly insult someone or call into question someone's honesty or integrity without some kind of justification. There are people who want to post on this blog without giving their names and want to hide behind their anonymity while calling other people's integrity into question.

What's particularly ironic is when, while using anonymity to avoid responsibility for their own behavior, they accuse me or someone else of hypocrisy. I'll just call it hypocrisy squared."

Naturally, I applaud these decisions - much as I applaud anyone who agrees with me on just about anything. My hope is that the overall tone of public debate in Kentucky will achieve a kind of civility that is far too often missing on too many blogs. Rather than advancing useful ideas, "flaming" seeks the most outrageous expression of dissent, that is often personally destructive, whether it advances a legitimate argument or not.

Will this kind of decision reduce the sum of comments received on the blogs? Probably. But I'm OK with that, if in turn we get a more reasoned tone that creates a free space for expression without creating fear that one's comments might produce personal retaliation.

KSN&C continues to invite comments whenever a reader is moved to contribute one. Make a strong point if you wish - all we ask is a professional tone. We also invite tips, copies of official memoranda or other documents that illustrate official practice. Feel free to email the moderator - but take care to indicate if you wish your identity to remain anonymous on the blog.

Some may consider this censorship -not government censorship - but censorship nonetheless. In a literal sense, I suppose that's true. There are blogs out there that seem to invite personal attacks. If that's what you're looking for, you can find it. But not here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Case Dropped Against Principal Arrested While In Drag

After an extensive public shaming over his arrest while cross-dressing, and a thin suggestion by the Catholic officials that it may have been a halloween costume, Bardstown principal Paul Schum resigned his position. Now his case has been dropped by the Jefferson County Attorney's office for lack of evidence.

This from WKYT.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Prosecutors have dropped the case against a former Catholic high school principal who was charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

Jefferson County Attorney's Office spokesman Bill Patteson told The Courier-Journal that prosecutors felt the evidence against 50-year-old Paul Schum of Louisville wasn't strong enoughto take to trial.

Louisville police issued a citation against Schum on the night before Halloween after allegedly observing him dressed as a woman hanging around an alley in his car. The neighborhood where he was observed is known for drug trafficking and prostitution.

Police records indicate Schum was wearing an all black leather outfit with fishnet stockings and a pair of fake women's breasts.

The Fight Before Christmas: Parents Brawl at Elementary School Program

This from FOX 8, WGHP, High Point NC:

HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) -- An apparent ongoing dispute between three parents erupted into a physical fight at an elementary school's Christmas program Tuesday night.

Children in the first through third grades at Oak Hill Elementary School had just completed about three-quarters of the program when three parents began fighting.Witnesses said the fight lasted about 10 minutes, and, according to an account by principal Sara Roberts, started when a father approached a student about pushing his daughter while on stage:
According to witnesses, the argument started by a father who approached another student about pushing his daughter while on stage. The one parent (not of the student who pushed) told the father to not talk to a child about that but to take it up with the principal. At that point, two other parents (twin sisters) began yelling and shouting. I had to stop the program and remind everyone to be respectful to the children on stage. However, the yelling escalated further and thus the fight began. The police were called to help by multiple members of the audience as well as a staff member who was directed to call by me. Once the police arrived, only a few people who were actually involved were questioned. However the twin sisters had left the
school property by then.

In the account, Roberts writes that chairs were thrown, obscenities were yelled and three mothers physically punched each other while two other mothers attempted to break up the fight....

Video of the fight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shocking story out of Massachusetts

This from ABC News: Steven Senne/AP Photo.

An apparent prank phone call to a Massachusetts special-needs school led to at least two students unnecessarily receiving electric shock therapy treatment, according to a spokesman for the school.

"This [incident] happened, we reported it and we've taken steps necessary so that this doesn't happen again," said Ernest Corrigan, spokesman for the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, where the shock therapy was mistakenly administered. "This was not a normal day at Judge Rotenberg."

The prankster, believed to be a former student of the Canton, Mass., school, reportedly posed as a member of the administration and phoned in instructions for shock therapy on Aug. 26, according to a report by the Department of Early Education and Care, the organization that licenses the residential program at the school and is conducting the investigation.

Unaware that the phone call was a prank, school officials delivered 77 shocks to one student and 29 to another, according to the report.

Both victims, males under the age of 22, were seen by medical professionals after the incident and later cleared, according to the school. Only one of the students has remained at the insitution since. The names of the victims have not been released.

"I think it's fair to say that [giving someone] 77 shocks is unusual," said Corrigan. "It is excessive to what is normal protocol. Giving 22 shocks is also excessive." ...

Related Story: School of Shock

Kentucky Safe School Data Report 2007

The Kentucky Center for School Safety reports:

The eighth annual report produced by the Kentucky Center for School Safety and is cause for celebration. Most importantly, these data show a dramatic reduction over the five-year period under study here in:

• Total disciplinary actions for Part I offenses,

• Total disciplinary actions for Part II offenses, and

• Disciplinary actions for the most serious offenses of aggravated assault, arson, larceny/theft and burglary.

Additionally, no criminal homicides or forcible rapes were reported for the same fiveyear period.

Furthermore, encouraging developments can be seen in:

• The steady decline in disciplinary actions for board violations that has occurred over the past four years

• A 32.06% decrease in drug abuse incidents from the 2003-2004 peak in these incidents,

• A 2.66% decrease in suspensions for board policy violations from last year's total, and an 8.30% decrease from the 2003-2004 peak in these incidents; and

• A 2.7% decrease from last year in the number of days students were suspended from school and a 9.8% decrease from the 2003-2004 peak.

Nevertheless, not all the news from this report is good news. For the first time in five years, the number of disciplinary actions for both Part I and Part II Law violations increased slightly.

Furthermore, despite the overall decrease in the five-year trend for these offenses, both aggravated assault and arson increased from 2005-2006 to 2006-2007. Additionally, disciplinary actions for drunkenness and prescription drug possession have increased dramatically over the past three years.

These findings suggest that, at least for some law violations, the encouraging trends of decreases over the last four years may be over.

The reports below are the results of that analysis for the 2006-2007 academic year.

The Kentucky Center for School Safety serves as the central point for school safety information, technical assistance, data analysis and research, successful school safety programs, research results, and new programs.

Hot pants

This from the Herald Leader:

Fireworks in pocket explode, injuring student


PHELPS --A Pike County high school student was injured in an explosion Wednesday that also sent five other students to a hospital as a precaution.

Trooper Scott Hopkins, a Kentucky State Police spokesman, said the 16-year-old girl brought some recreational fireworks to Phelps High School.

About 10 a.m., the fireworks exploded in her pocket as she sat down in a classroom.

The girl's clothes were torn, and she had burns on her legs.

Hopkins said she was taken to Pikeville Medical Center. He did not know the extent of her injuries but said they were not life-threatening...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Student sues Carter school district for failing to stop sexual harassment

This from the Herald-Leader:

He started showing up at her lunch table. And then Clayton James allegedly pulled the then-16-year-old student out of her classes at East Carter High School so he could talk to her. Soon Lindsey Savage was receiving e-mails from James, some of which were sexually explicit.

The former school resource officer was arrested by Kentucky State Police in January on charges of official misconduct, and he later pleaded guilty to the charge.

But in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Ashland, Savage and her family says officials with the Northern Kentucky school system should have done more to stop James from harassing Savage from June to October 2006.

Moreover, James had allegedly harassed another teenage girl at East Carter High School before he started harassing Savage, the lawsuit says...

...It wasn't until Savage's father called the Kentucky State Police, which initiated the investigation, that school officials told [Grayson Police Chief Keith Hill] ...about the problem. James was then removed from the school.

James pleaded guilty to the charge of official misconduct, a misdemeanor.

He was sentenced to 60 days of home incarceration and paid $178 in court costs and fines, court records show...

Ned Pillersdorf, Savage's lawyer, alleged
  • James' behavior, included walking the girl to class, pulling her out of class to bring her to his office and sending inappropriate e-mails from his school computer
  • James tried to arrange meetings with her on school grounds to engage in sexual relations
  • that Savage complained to school administrators, including a school counselor
  • Principal Ada Steele was informed of the problem by teachers
  • the school system was deliberately indifferent to an ongoing campaign of sexual solicitation and failed to report the alleged abuse
  • James was told to stop the inappropriate behavior but no formal action was taken

The Kentucky State Police statement:

Misdemeanor Arrest in Carter County

Kentucky State Police in Ashland have arrested an Olive Hill resident this date following an extensive investigation into inappropriate behavior by a School Resource Officer (SRO) at East Carter High School. Officer Clayton James from the Grayson Police Department had been assigned as the SRO for East Carter High School whereas a complaint was filed by the parents of a 16 year old female student alleging a series of inappropriate emails sent to the female by James from October 16-27, 2006. James sent the emails from the school computer to the female's home computer. The emails contained information that led investigators to believe James had enticed the female to meet him after school.

James was dismissed from Grayson Police Department shortly after the complaint was filed.

James was arrested at his residence without incident and lodged in the Carter County Detention Center.

** The investigation is continuing by Detective Mark Padgett**

Manual catches 2 student hackers

This from the Courier-Journal:
Jefferson teachers toughen passwords

Computer passwords will get tougher for thousands of Jefferson County teachers, after two duPont Manual seniors were involved in a scheme to hack into school computers to boost grades, erase absences and post coming tests.

Jefferson County Public Schools is upgrading its password policy and changing teacher log-ins after the breach, said district technology director Cary Petersen.

The district also is looking at using fingerprint scanners on computers and is asking some Manual teachers to verify grades, he said.

The breach occurred when at least one of the seniors, who were not identified by the school district, apparently installed software on his teacher's computer that recorded each keystroke to help determine passwords, according to officials, who are still investigating.

The passwords provided access to the district's student-data system, where one senior improved his grades and erased several tardies and absences.

He also changed an unknown number of other students' grades and absences to divert attention, Petersen said.

The scheme unraveled when an attendance clerk noticed the changes, and when officials discovered that a Web site operated by one of the students was posting tests and quizzes before they had been given by seven teachers.

Those seven teachers had only one student in common...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

KCTCS head says system's needs not met


Kentucky's community and technical colleges are the most underfunded part of the state's postsecondary education system and are severely shortchanged in a proposed postsecondary budget for the 2008-2010 biennium, an official said yesterday.

Michael B. McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, said in Lexington that KCTCS will need an infusion of $32 million in state general fund money every year if it is to reach state-mandated goals by 2020.

That would be more than three times greater than the $7.5 million that the Council on Postsecondary Education recommended for KCTCS in each year of the 2008-2010 biennium.
The council's proposed amount falls $24.5 million short of the KCTCS request.

"The council's recommendation is not enough for us," McCall said....

...Brad Cowgill, the council's interim president, said in a statement: "The council's budget request for higher education balances the objectives of our separate institutions, aggressively seeks adequate funding and promotes essential affordability and accountability. Its total amount is reasonable and it fulfills the council's responsibility under the law to make a unified request for the postsecondary system." ...

This from the Herald-Leader.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh, well, please, for goodness' sakes, narrate me outta court.

After months of legal negotiations and a spate of national media attention, the families of five Redwood Middle School students and the Napa Valley Unified School District reached a settlement Friday over claims that the school's no-logos, no-denim dress code violated students’ constitutional rights.

The suit is best known because then-middle schooler Toni Kay Scott, one of the plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in the case, was removed from class for wearing socks with the Winnie the Pooh character Tigger. Her sister, Sydni, was reprimanded for wearing a shirt that read, “Jesus Freak.”

Under the settlement agreement, the district will not prohibit lettering or pictures unless allowed by the state education code, which protects the free speech rights of students in California’s public schools.Future dress codes at Redwood Middle School that limit colors, fabrics or patterns must be implemented as part of a school uniform that allows parents to opt out.

The original policy, introduced in the 1990s in response to rising gang activity on campus, prohibited students from wearing denim or clothing displaying stripes, logos of any size or colors other than white, yellow, green, blue, brown, khaki, black and gray. School officials and teachers have said the dress code was successful in mitigating safety concerns.

Scott and other students said the policy crossed a constitutional line.“California law contains strong protections for student speech, and limits schools' ability to restrict students' clothing choices,” said Julia Harumi Mass, an ACLU attorney. Mass said that, “While in the media Toni Kay's Tigger socks got a lot of attention, really the principles behind the case, which are freedom of expression and individuality, are core American values.”

The settlement bars the school from prohibiting logos like those on Toni Kay’s now infamous socks or phrases like those on her sister Sydni’s shirt. Logos and lettering are protected under the settlement unless determined to be obscene, libelous or slanderous, or designed to promote unlawful acts or violation of school regulations, said Mass...

...As part of the settlement, the district will remove any references to dress code violations from the student plaintiffs' records and allow all other students who attended Redwood during the last six years to request that similar references be removed from their records.

[NVUSD Superintendent John Glaser said,] "Now the district will be able to turn its attention — and funds — back to educating students.“ We are glad we were able to settle the lawsuit, which diverted economic resources from our primary mission,” said Glaser. The amount of money spent on litigation instead of education, he said, has been “too much.”

This from the Napa Valley Register.

The Associated Press reported elsewhere that the suit cost the district $95,000 in lawyer's fees.
Thanks Amanda.

CPE told Higher-education Reform Needs Focus

This from Nancy C. Rodriguez at the Courier-Journal:

If pet projects at individual public universities are funded at the expense of statewide higher education goals, then Kentucky's decade-long efforts at reform will fail, a consultant told the state Council on Postsecondary Education yesterday.

Higher-education reform "is not going to get anywhere unless there is discipline and accountability and staying focused," said Aims McGuinness, a senior associate with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Boulder, Colo., and the lead consultant involved in drafting a recent report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

The report -- which urges the state to redouble its efforts to dramatically increase the number of residents with college degrees -- calls on elected officials to commit to better preparing high school students for postsecondary education, guaranteeing affordability and reducing turf battles over funding.

None of that will happen unless the legislature and the governor become more involved in setting goals, strategies and funding, McGuinness said. ...

And this press release from CPE.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

CRPE says growth of Charters slowed

The number of charter schools increased nationally by about 4 percent between 2005 and 2007, a rate of growth that has slowed considerably since the 10 percent increase between 1994 and 1999."

This is drawn from a report titled, "Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2007." It was written by the National Charter School Research Project, a nonprofit organization that conducts research and provides information about charter schools for the general public.

CRPE director Paul T. Hill says,

Charter schools, like all schools, are difficult to run and need strong leaders. They require a lot from teachers and not all teachers are suited to them. They demand a lot from parents and students. They need as much money as the traditional public schools with which they compete—and they need to prove their merits on the same tests and outcome measures as other schools. Like traditional public schools, they also require strong oversight, both from governing boards and authorizers...They are a significant laboratory in which dedicated reformers can conduct small, powerful experiments to illuminate how to reshape governance, strengthen school culture, improve teaching and learning, and promote accountability and more options for families... charters now need to seize the opportunity that their laboratory status provides and demonstrate their ability to live up to their promise for distinctly different and more effective public schooling.

Either way you spin it, Kentucky is tops in restricting school junk food

Kentucky faired well in a recent study about junk food sales in the nation's schools. Here's Education Week's glass half-full spin on the story:

Junk Food Survey Gives High Marks to Standout States

Oregon and Washington can brag about being most improved when it comes to states with the healthiest school nutrition policies, based on results in a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group’s latest annual report card .

For the second year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest graded states on whether they restrict the sale and consumption of sugary sodas and items such as candy and chips purchased from vending machines, school stores, or along with the regular school lunch.

Oregon moved from an F in the group’s 2006 report to an A-minus this year, joining only Kentucky with that grade, the highest achieved this year. Washington state moved from an F to a B-minus...

And with their glasses half-empty, this press release from the Center on Science in the Public Interest who produced the study:

Two-thirds of States Get Poor Grades
on School Food Report Card

Lack of Progress Indicates Need
for Strong Federal Action, Says CSPI

WASHINGTON— Kentucky and Oregon top the nation in healthy school foods policies, but two-thirds of states have no or weak nutrition standards to limit junk-food and soda sales out of vending machines, school stores, and other venues outside of school meals, according to a school foods report card from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

“Over the last ten years, states have been strengthening their school nutrition policies,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at CSPI. “But overall, the changes, while positive, are fragmented, incremental, and not happening quickly enough to reach all children in a timely way.”

No states received an A grade, though two states (Kentucky and Oregon) received an A-; six states received a B+ (Nevada, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Washington and New Mexico); nine states earned a B or B-; six states and the District of Columbia received Cs; seven states got Ds; and 20 states got Fs...
The report:
School Foods Report Card 2007

Fueled by concerns about childhood obesity and children’s poor diets, a number of states have strengthened their school nutrition policies. Such policies are important for children’s health and supporting parents’ efforts to feed their children healthfully...

[...Over the last 20 years, obesity rates have tripled in children and adolescents, and only 2 percent of children eat a healthy diet, according to key nutrition recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Despite that, about a third of elementary schools, 71 percent of middle schools, and 89 percent of high schools sell items such as sugary drinks, snack cakes, candy, and chips out of vending machines, school stores, or a la carte lines in the cafeteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study.]

To determine the progress states have made in improving the nutritional quality of school foods, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) evaluated the school nutrition policies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia regarding foods and beverages sold outside of the school meal programs through vending machines, a la carte (i.e., foods sold individually in the cafeteria), school stores, and fundraisers.

Each state policy was graded based on five key considerations: 1) beverage nutrition standards; 2) food nutrition standards; 3) grade level(s) to +which policies apply; 4) time during the school day to which policies apply; and 5) location(s) on campus to which policies apply. These evaluation criteria are the same as those used in our June 2006 School Foods Report Card...

CSPI blames "a patchwork" of state policies where "two-thirds of states have weak or no policies."

Friday, December 14, 2007

C-J editorial on NCLB-lite

Old law left behind?

President Bush has said that "No Child Left Behind" will be a cornerstone of his legacy. And perhaps historians will give the President's education reform an A. But we doubt it.

Scores of educators and legislators are contemptuous of NCLB, and that reaction was manifested anew this week. Though all were invited, only about 15 of the 50 state school superintendents went to hear Education Secretary Margaret Spellings explain important changes in application of the law.

NCLB's critics resent federal micro-management of education without reference to local circumstances, and they resent even more the failure to fund NCLB's demands fully.

Now Ms. Spellings is heralding a new day that will include significant changes. ...

...Unfortunately, given how rarely the Bush administration caves in, these attempts to fix NCLB may be the best that anyone can expect.

Frustration with the law has festered so broadly, and so deeply, that almost all reaction to the changes is cautious at best...

...One fairly upbeat superintendent was moved to say, "I hope it's more than a speech."

We hope so, too. We hope even more fervently that it's not true, as some of NCLB's critics insist, that the law was "built to prove failure," thus helping turn America's public education system over to private alternatives.

This from the Courier-Journal.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

NCLB growth models now opened to all eligible states

All states that meet certain guidelines will now be allowed to take part in the U.S. Department of Education’s experiment with “growth models,” which lets states consider students’ achievement gains as part of the accountability measure under under No Child Left Behind.


When the program began two-years ago participation was limited to nine states. The feds now say that the pilot states have shown it can be done without compromising the goals of the law.

This from the US Department of Education press release:

Secretary Spellings Invites Eligible States
to Submit Innovative Models
for Expanded Growth Model Pilot

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced that she is opening the growth model pilot to all eligible states saying, "our work on reauthorization has shown broad bipartisan support for growth models and now, many states have improved data systems so they can track individual student growth over time."

"A growth model is a way for states that are raising achievement and following the bright-line principles of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to strengthen accountability," Secretary Spellings said. "I believe that extending the growth model pilot for the 2007-2008 school year will promote two important goals. It will allow states another effective way of measuring adequate yearly progress (AYP) by measuring individual student growth over time, and it will continue to expand the flexibility available to states under No Child Left Behind."

The growth model pilot was established by Secretary Spellings in November 2005 and was included in the President's NCLB reauthorization blueprint earlier this year. Nine states currently have approved growth model proposals: North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Alaska and Arizona.

Any state that would like to take part should submit their growth model proposals to the U.S. Department of Education no later than February 1, 2008. A rigorous peer review process-similar to that used for the past two years-will ensure that the selection process is fair and transparent for all participating states. The Department will conduct an initial review of each proposal to ensure that the growth model meets the seven core principles and that the state is making progress in the required areas.

Ensure that all students are proficient by 2014 and set annual state goals to ensure that the achievement gap is closing for all groups of students identified in the law;

Set expectations for annual achievement based upon meeting grade-level proficiency, not based on student background or characteristics;

Hold schools accountable for student achievement in reading/language arts and mathematics separately;

Ensure that all students in tested grades are included in the assessment and accountability system, hold schools and districts accountable for the performance of each student subgroup, and include all schools and districts;

Include assessments that produce comparable results from grade to grade and year to year in grades three through eight and high school, in both reading/language arts and mathematics;

that have been operational for more than one year and have received Full Approval or Full Approval with Recommendations before the state determines AYP based on 2007-2008 assessment results Track student progress as part of the state data system;

and Include student participation rates and student achievement on a separate academic indicator in the state accountability system.

If there are any questions, the Department will contact the state by February 15 and ask for a response by March 14. Proposals that meet the requirements will be sent to a group of peer reviewers who will meet during the week of April 14-18. States that meet the qualifications to participate in the growth model pilot will be notified in May.

Kentucky earns high marks for ...breakfast

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The School Breakfast Scorecard 2007, produced by the national Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), shows that Kentucky ranks in the top 10 among states in the percentage of schools that offer breakfast to students.

The scorecard was released on Tuesday, December 11, and shows that Kentucky ranks eighth in the percentage of schools that offer breakfast and fifth in the percentage of low-income students participating in School Lunch Program who also eat breakfast.

Unlike most other states, Kentucky does not mandate participation in or provide incentives for the School Breakfast Program. Paul McElwain, director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of Nutrition and Health Services, said that the state’s public school districts have a deep understanding of the value of school meals.

“Our districts and schools continue to do the right thing, for the right reason,” said McElwain. “Without incentives or mandates, Kentucky’s public school districts have recognized the connection of good nutrition to student learning.”

Fewer than ten public schools in the state don’t offer the School Breakfast Program, primarily because of a lack of participation.

The FRAC report provides several key findings about the School Breakfast Program nationwide:

In 2006-07, 8.1 million low-income children participated in the program on an average day nationwide, an increase of 391,000 children, or five percent, compared to the prior school year.

In the last three school years, daily participation in school breakfast by low-income children has increased by 1 million, or 14.2 percent. (More than 227,000 children in Kentucky’s public schools participate in the School Breakfast Program.)

Nationally, comparing free and reduced-price school breakfast participation to free and reduced-price lunch participation, 45.3 children ate breakfast for every 100 children who ate lunch in school year 2006-07. (Kentucky’s figure was 56.3 percent.)

New Mexico, at 61.1 percent, became first state to exceed the ratio of 60 low-income children eating breakfast for every 100 eating lunch. The other best ranked states on this measure were South Carolina (59.2 percent), West Virginia (57 percent), Oklahoma (56.9 percent) and Kentucky (56.3 percent). (South Carolina and West Virginia have state laws requiring all public schools to offer the breakfast program. The New Mexico state legislature appropriates money for breakfast reimbursement over and above the federal reimbursement. Only Kentucky and Oklahoma do not have state statutory mandates or state financial inducements.)

The majority of states have implemented promotion activities to encourage school districts to adopt alternative breakfast service models to help increase participation. Several states also have worked to improve the nutritional quality of the meals being served at breakfast.

FRAC also made several recommendations for school breakfast expansion:

Every school should participate in the School Breakfast Program.

States should mandate the provision of breakfast at schools, particularly those with significant numbers of low-income students, and provide state funds to supplement federal funding for the breakfast program.

Schools should make breakfast a part of the school day by implementing universal breakfast programs (breakfast at no cost to all students), and flexible serving methods such as breakfast in the classroom.

USDA should make supplemental federal funding available to school districts for the implementation of strategies to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program.

Local outreach and social marketing by schools, advocates, state agencies, school nutrition organizations and USDA are vital to ensuring that all eligible children who wish to are enrolled and participate in school breakfast.

Schools should improve the nutritional quality of school breakfast in order to attract student participation and provide the best nutrition to students.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States. FRAC works with hundreds of national, state and local nonprofit organizations, public agencies and corporations to address hunger and its root cause, poverty.

More information about the report and FRAC is available online at
SOURCE KDE press release

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Covington's Moreland to retire

Jack Moreland is hanging it up.

Congratulations, Jack.

As I have acknowledged elsewhere, I am indebted to Moreland; not just for the beer he bought me at a Kentucky Association of School Administrators summer meeting, but also "for his clear interpretation of the events surrounding what will surely be the hallmark of his fine career in public education."

I was referring to his leadership of the Council for Better Education during the darkest days of the superintendents' suit against the state - when the legislative and bureaucratic heat was on - and after its historic conclusion. Jack (and Frank Hatfield, the Council for Better Education's first president) submitted ot interviews and allowed me to scour CBE records as part of my doctoral study. When the study was recognized nationally in the field of education law, the Council published it.

Moreland wishes the district had made more progress on the state assessment, but he will retire with an uncommonly proud legacy. His leadership is notable for its shear impact on public education in Kentucky; an impact few can match.

The none too flattering photo is a few years old.

This by Kevin Eigelbach in the Kentucky Post:

Jack Moreland started his tenure as superintendent of the Covington Independent Schools in 2000 as an interim, with a state takeover of the district looming.

He leaves it a better district than he found it, if not a perfect one, said one of his bosses.

Moreland, who announced Tuesday he plans to retire at the end of this school year, gave the district the stability it needed, longtime school board member Jim Vogt said. "He came in a time of turmoil. There was a real sense of people being down, and people leaving.

"The focus he brought was a positive, we-can-do-it kind of attitude, and I think that was contagious."

Moreland was hired as the interim after then-Superintendent James Kemp resigned under pressure from the board. A year before, the state Department of Education had reported that in spite of the district's high spending, its students continued to score poorly on achievement tests.

Moreland brought instant credibility because of his role as a founding member of the Council for Better Education, a coalition of districts that pushed equitable state funding for with a landmark lawsuit.

Funding is always a challenge for superintendents, Moreland said, because there's never enough to pay personnel what they're worth. The coalition's efforts resulted in the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, which The New York Times called the most sweeping and ambitious education reform in the 50 states.

"I don't think I'll ever be involved in anything as significant as that was," Moreland said. "I only had a small part to play, but I'm awfully proud of the part I did play."

Moreland, who was superintendent of the Dayton Independent Schools at the time, was the first plaintiff in the lawsuit that prompted the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1989 to declare the state's school funding system unconstitutional.

When 100 Kentucky superintendents reactivated the Council in 2003, they unanimously voted for him to lead them.

The Kentucky Association of School Administrators named Moreland its superintendent of the year that year. This fall, he was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

"It's not hurt us that he's very well respected on the state level," Vogt said.

"Just by dint of who he is ... he was able to find ways to build bridges that maybe weren't there before," Vogt said. "I think that's real important for school systems today, that they not exist in isolation."

Moreland led a reform of the district built around realigning curricula, emphasizing basic reading instruction and increasing opportunities for teachers to get more training. From 2000 to 2006, the overall academic index for the district's elementary schools rose from 47.1 to 66.4. For middle schools, it rose from 39.4 to 49.9 and for high schools from 51.5 to 60.

"We haven't made as much progress as we would like to have made," Moreland said. "However, clearly, we have made significant progress." All-day kindergarten and expanded early reading opportunities stand to help the district make further, long-term gains, Moreland said.

A graduate of Eastern Kentucky and Xavier universities, Moreland began his career in education almost four decades ago as a chemistry teacher in the Newport and Dayton systems. He served as superintendent of the Dayton Independent Schools for 19 years, then was interim president of Northern Kentucky University from 1996 to 1997.

He followed that with another interim job - as chancellor of the technical branch of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System for a year.

He has taught as an adjunct instructor in school administration at Xavier, and is teaching the subject this semester at NKU.

His four-year contract with the Covington board ends with this school year, and he decided not to accept another four-year contract. He would have been 65 when it ended.

"I've been a superintendent for 26 years, and I've got bruises all over my body to prove it," Moreland said. "It's been a great run, but it's a taxing job."

Some of those bruises came in verbal battles with former Kentucky Education
Commissioner Gene Wilhoit.

When Moreland asked the Department of Education for help in 2002, the department responded with a financial audit of the district.

He told Wilhoit of his frustrations at a board meeting in January 2003.

Wilhoit told him he was simply doing his duty to see that every school district in the state has a balanced budget.

The state assigned former school superintendent Dan Branham to the Covington schools for 18 months to help the district solve its budget problems.

"Dan, you say you can't cut your way out of a deficit. Well, I say you can't cut your way into excellence, either," Moreland told him at the board meeting.

Some of the district's financial problems stemmed from efforts to turn its academic problems around, such as spending $400,000 to overhaul its curricula and $300,000 for a security camera system to improve safety.

The district ended the 2003-2004 school year in the black, a year ahead of a state-imposed deadline.

Over the years, Moreland had some intense discussions with his board members, but he never left a meeting feeling he didn't have a chance to express his opinion, he said.

"Whenever you have a board of education, there will be five different opinions," he said. "The Covington board ... we would deliberate and have our say, but in the end, we came together in consensus."

The current emphasis on school accountability, with federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind, isn't all bad, Moreland said.

"In the late '60s and early '70s, when I began my career, I think we had allowed a lot of complacency to come into education," he said. "Just getting to the end of the school year was an end in itself."

But the pendulum has swung too far the other way, he said, so that test scores have become ends in themselves. Many good things that happen in schools never get measured on an accountability score, he said.

He has no plans for his retirement, except to indulge in his love of travel with his wife. "I don't have a real hobby I'm thrilled about," he said. "My hobby has always been school."

Former Deming teacher indicted on rape

3000+ text messages to their 15-year old son during school hours led family members to accuse 33-year old Robertson County teacher of rape. This from the Ledger Independent:

Crystal Wells surrenders to police
Tuesday morning

MOUNT OLIVET -- After being indicted for rape, information has been released by police indicating a former Deming teacher allegedly provided the cellular phone to facilitate communication and alleged sexual rendezvous between herself and her a 15-year-old student.

Crystal Wells, 33, of Carlisle, surrendered to police Tuesday after the six-count indictment was handed down by a Robertson County grand jury."Her lawyer made arrangements for her to turn herself in at the Scott County Detention Center," said Kentucky State Police Lt. John Bradley. "She arrived and was arrested by KSP Detective Jeremy Murrell at 11:33 a.m. She was processed, then she posted bond and was released."

Wells was indicted, Monday by the Robertson County grand jury on six counts of third degree-rape, under KRS 510.060.

According to KSP, in November, family members of the alleged victim, "found text messages on his phone which indicated the possibility of an in appropriate relationship and subsequently learned of both text and verbal communications which they felt were indicative of a sexual relationship ..."The charges presented to the grand jury by KSP investigators were the result of a Nov. 11 complaint, police said.

Wells resigned from her job as a teacher Nov.13.

Wells is accused of having a sexual relationship with the teen including four incidents in August and two after she was suspended from her job for a week in September, over improper text messaging with the boy. From January through April this year more than 3,000 text messages were sent, school officials said at the time.According to police, the encounters of sexual contact did not take place on school grounds or property, rather, "... liaisons were conducted in Wells' vehicle or in privately owned locations."

Robertson County Circuit Court meets in January, 2008, when Wells is expected to be arraigned on the charges.Under the statute, the charge of third-degree rape is a class D felony. It occurs when a person has sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent because he/she is mentally retarded or mentally handicapped or when the perpetrator is 21 years old or more and engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is less than 16 years old. It carries a possible prison term of 1-5 years and a fine of up to $10,000 on each count.

Superintendent Chuck Brown told the Herald-Leader Tuesday that Wells was suspended in September for five days without pay after sending more than 3,000 text messages to the boy during school hours. Brown said local authorities suspected a sexual relationship between Wells and the student, but "there was no evidence of it at the time."

He declined to comment further, saying Wells was no longer a school employee.