Monday, April 30, 2007

Commissioner-select Erwin's awards confirmed

The question raised by a Courier-Journal reader is now resolved. A little smoke. No fire.

The reader was concerned by the quote, "She was named Texas Superintendent of the year in 1997 and 1998," so I checked it out. After some difficulties (the Texas Association of School Administrator's website was down for a while this morning) I got confirmation from Lisa Gross at KDE and finally the TASA website.

Later, I got this frrom AASA: "Amy Vogt (TASA) has asked me to respond to your question regarding Barbara Erwin. Yes, in 1999 when she was a superintendent in Texas she was that state’s representative in the National Superintendent of the Year program. If you have any further questions, please let me know. Darlene S. Pierce, Director, National Superintendent of the Year Program"

The Texas recognition program is tied to the American Assoication of School Administrators program. The way the AASA's national program works...Each state selects one nominee as its representative. Four national finalists are selected from among the state representatives, and the National Superintendent of the Year is chosen from four finalists. Erwin was the Texas representative for 1999.

She was the TSBA winner in 1997; the TASA winner (and as such, a nominee for the national AASA award) in 1999.

The news reports should have read, "She was named (TSBA) Texas Superintendent of the Year in 1997 and (TASA) Superintendent of the Year in 1999."

What are your thoughts about the identification of Barbara Erwin as the leading candidate for Kentucky Commissioner of Education? Let 'em know here.

Student: Teacher told me to urinate in bottle in corner of classroom

A middle school teacher instructed an eighth grader to urinate in a bottle in class instead of allowing him go to the bathroom, the boy and his mother said Friday.

Thirty-one classmates heard Michael Patterson, 14, relieve himself into an empty Gatorade bottle in a corner, they said.

"He said, 'Do what you got to do,"' the boy recalled of Tuesday's exchange. "I said, 'I've got a bottle,' and he said, 'Go in the corner.' So I just handled my business."

When he was finished, Michael said, his science teacher told him to go to the restroom to wash his hands and dispose of the bottle.
So...let me get this straight: He wasn't allowed to go to the restroom when it was appropriate, but was sent there later!?

This from CNN.

Campbell Co. principal fired...or demoted?

Ginger Webb, principal of Campbell County High School, has been released from her contract, effective June 30.

"I really don't understand why this has happened," Ginger Webb said. "He told me he felt it was the best decision in order to move the school forward, but the school has moved forward in every respect."

Superintendent Anthony Strong said he could not comment on personnel matters. Administrative contracts are one-year contracts and can be renewed each spring for the following school year.

Webb said in Strong's last year as principal, the overall Commonwealth Accountability Testing System index for the school was 73.8. In her first year, she said it went up to 74.7. Last year it jumped to 77.4.

"We've also had less teacher turnover and less discipline incidents," Webb said.

Several teachers, parents and students have voiced their displeasure through e-mails, phone calls and visits to Strong last week, and several are expected to speak out at today's 7 p.m. board meeting at the central office.

This from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Note: Administrative tenure was eliminated with KERA and principals can be demoted easily, but they retain their tenure, and consequently their due process rights, as teachers. Demoting principals has become more common in recent years. Firings...not so much. Strong's reference to an "administrative contract" leads me to assume this is really a demotion.

Arrrgh..Matey. Cyber foolishness causes problems for "Drunken Pirate"

Millersville University: Protecting children from
once-drunken pirates since 2007.

A woman denied a teaching degree on the eve of graduation because of a MySpace photo has sued the university.

Millersville University instead granted Stacy Snyder a degree in English last year after learning of her Web-published picture, which bore the caption “Drunken Pirate.”

The photo, taken at a 2005 Halloween party, shows Snyder wearing a pirate hat while drinking from a plastic “Mr. Goodbar” cup. It was posted on her own MySpace site.

Although Snyder apologized, she learned the day before graduation that she would not be awarded an education degree or teaching certificate.

Jane S. Bray, dean of the School of Education, accused Snyder of promoting underage drinking, the suit states.

Boycotting Brinkley Students Return to Class

Students who had boycotted the Brinkley School District last week are back in their classrooms.

About 300 black students began the boycott to call attention to a lack of black administrators and how black students are treated. Sixty percent of the 842 student district is black.

Superintendent Randy Byrd says he met with parents and heard their concerns.One of the boycott organizers, Willie Branch, says truancy worries led some parents to send their children back to school.

The boycott coincided with the first day of the Arkansas Benchmark Exams, standardized tests that are taken by third- through eighth-grade students. The district has been given an extension until Friday to finish the testing.

This from KATV 7; and this.

P.E. Classes Turn to Video Game That Works Legs

They rushed, past the Ping-Pong table, the balance beams, the wrestling mats... toward two TV sets looming over square plastic mats on the floor. In less than a minute a dozen seventh graders were dancing in furiously kinetic union to the thumps of a techno song called “Speed Over Beethoven.”

Bill Hines, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, shook his head a little, smiled and said, “I’ll tell you one thing: they don’t run in here like that for basketball.”

It is a scene being repeated across the country as schools deploy the blood-pumping video game Dance Dance Revolution as the latest weapon in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity.

While traditional video games are often criticized for contributing to the expanding waistlines of the nation’s children, at least several hundred schools in at least 10 states are now using Dance Dance Revolution, or D.D.R., as a regular part of their physical education curriculum.

This from the New York Times. Photo by Michael Temchine for The New York Times.

A fresh allegation regarding the Kentucky Education Commissioner-select's Vita

You'll recall, on Friday, the Courier-Journal opined that the selection process for the new commish, Barbara Erwin, was less than "perfect."

Then came an online comment from someone screen-named "nowisright."

"Credibility comes into question when the claim that "she was a two-time superintendent of the year in Texas in the 1990s" appears to be misleading at best, and a flat out lie at worst. If you look at the Texas Association of School Boards, she is on the list once, not twice. Also notable, this is NOT the first time she has made this claim."

The KDE press release and numerous news reports repeat the claim that "She was named Texas Superintendent of the year in 1997 and 1998. " This sounds like she won the same award twice, but she didn't. Is this a case of shaky news reporting, or shifty candidate spin?

The TASB list verifies Erwin's 1997 selection, as does the Dallas Morning News, 8 Oct 1997.

In 1998, the winner was Gerald Anderson from Brazosport, whom I met when he visited with Fayette County school administrators around that time.

On 12 January 2000, the Dallas Morning News wrote, "Dr. Erwin was named 1997 Texas Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. The Texas Association of School Administrators selected Dr. Erwin as the Texas nominee for the 1999 National Superintendent of the Year." The 6 February 2000 Arizona Republic verifies the nomination as well.

The winner of that award was Gerry House from Memphis Tenn.

But I still haven't been able to independently verify either a 1998 or 1999 award. The TASA website ( has been down. Here's the AASA's list of past winners.

I have written to the AASA and KDE for more information. In the meantime, I welcome information from any readers who can help verify (or refute) the second award claim.

What are your thoughts about the identification of Barbara Erwin as the leading candidate for Kentucky Commissioner of Education? Let 'em know here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dad gets a "D" on his 12-year-old daughter's homework

Joe knew just what to do when his daughter, who was studying Roman history, came home with an assignment to build a catapult.

He ordered a catapult kit from the Internet and put it together himself.

The task, he was sure, was not in his 12-year-old daughter's skill set, and he wanted to give her a hand. Apparently, it wasn't in his skill set either. His effort earned a D.

What most annoyed Joe about the "silly" project was that other catapults – clearly built by parents with more expensive kits – got higher grades.

"It was obvious parents made them all," he said.

The episode underscores a growing tension over how much parental involvement in daily homework and projects is appropriate and who is to blame when parents cross the line.

This from the Dallas Morning News.

School newspaper editorial prompts teacher transfer

A high school teacher who faced losing her job after a student newspaper published an editorial advocating tolerance of gays can continue teaching at another school.

Amy Sorrell, 30, reached an agreement that allows her to be transferred to another high school to teach English because she could not afford the cost of fighting the school district over her discipline.

"The school administration has said in no uncertain terms that she's not going to be given a journalism position," Proctor said.

School officials in the conservative northern Indiana community about 10 miles east of Fort Wayne said Sorrell did not comply with an agreement to alert the principal about controversial articles.

Sorrell said she is "very proud" of Megan Chase, the student who wrote the editorial calling for tolerance and acceptance of gays, and the Tomahawk's other writers and editors.

This from CNN.

Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort

Eli Broad and Bill Gates, two of the most important philanthropists in American public education, have pumped more than $2 billion into improving schools. But now, dissatisfied with the pace of change, they are joining forces for a $60 million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race...

Under the slogan “Ed in ’08,” the project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers and a national network of operatives in both parties.

“I have reached the conclusion as has the Gates foundation, which has done good things also, that all we’re doing is incremental,” said Mr. Broad, the billionaire who founded SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home and who has long been a prodigious donor to Democrats. “If we really want to get the job done, we have got to wake up the American people that we have got a real problem and we need real reform.”

Mr. Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, responding to questions by e-mail, wrote, “The lack of political and public will is a significant barrier to making dramatic improvements in school and student performance.”

The project will not endorse candidates — indeed, it is illegal to do so as a charitable group — but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures.

While the effort is shying away from some of the most polarizing topics in education, like vouchers, charter schools and racial integration, there is still room for it to spark vigorous debate. Advocating merit pay to reward high-quality teaching could force Democratic candidates to take a stand typically opposed by the teachers unions who are their strong supporters.

Pushing for stronger, more uniform standards, on the other hand, could force Republican candidates to discuss the potential merits of a national curriculum, a concept advocates for states’ rights deeply oppose and one that President Bush has not embraced.

This from the New York Times.

Massachusetts Acts to Save the Country’s First Public High School

The New York Times reports:

English High was founded in 1821 as the United States’ first public high school, and its graduates include J. P. Morgan and Maj. Gen. Matthew Ridgway from the Korean War. Today, its student body, dressed mostly in baggy jeans and do-rags, is one of the most diverse in the city, and one of its lowest-performing, too.

Most schools that scored as poorly on standardized tests as English High School would have been shut by now, Superintendent Michael Contompasis of Boston said.

“I would have closed English, if it wasn’t English,” Mr. Contompasis said.

Instead, the state has moved to salvage English. The school will be placed under state supervision next year, enrollment will be reduced to 800 students from about 1,200, and many union-negotiated work rules will be suspended to give more power to the headmaster and allow longer school days.

By contrast, Boston Latin, the oldest private high school in America, was founded in 1635, built its first schoolhouse around 1645, and thrives today.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

School News from around Kentucky

Friday, April 27, 2007

Kentucky Board of Education Embarrased - MUST READ

See today's post on Mark Hebert's blog, On the Mark at WHAS in Louisville.

Apparently a lot of folks are mystified by the process the state board followed in the selection of the new commish.

First, on April 7, Mark Hebert reported the state board met in executive session, narrowing its commissioner search down to three individuals but refused to release the names. Hebert was told the board only planned to release the name of one finalist, the person the school board planned to hire. He was later told the board might release the names of the three finalists AFTER the board interviews them in a few weeks.

State board chairman Keith Travis told the Herald-Leader "When we started the search process the entire board agreed on an entire process to go through” because they wanted to get a large number of qualified applicants while ensuring their confidentiality. In the past, three finalists had always been announced to allow a period of time for public input BEFORE finalizing the selection, but that is not required by state law.

Much to his credit, Governor Fletcher urged the board to name their 3 finalists publicly so that state lawmakers could offer their opinions on replacing former Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, who resigned in November. "Public awareness of this important selection promotes dialogue and disclosure that otherwise would be lost, two critical components in assuring the selection of the best candidate," the governor said.

The next day the board did announce their 3 finalists - claiming, unconvincingly, that they planned to do so all along.

I posted numerous news clippings about Barbara Erwin from Scottsdale and St. Charles (and material on the other two finalists) the next day. (Search this blog for "Barbara Erwin", or to see all postings on the subject search "Kentucky Education Commissioner.")

But I also shared that information with the state board, before they met!

So when state board chairman Keith Travis indicated he was unaware of a possible down-side to Erwin's selection, I got suspicious.

To make sure the information was received, I wrote to Lisa Gross, who is in charge of communications for KDE.

I asked, "Did your office assure that all comments received from the public, before the state board met to select the new commissioner, actually made it into the hands of the members?"

Lisa assured me that she, personally, opened every message, "copied the content and pasted it verbatim" into a document. She then "summarized the comments by breaking them out into themes...which they all read and discussed."

The sum of all information shows cause for concern in areas related to openness with the press and an overall tendency toward disharmony and combativeness.

Let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was on the "right side" of every issue. But how can we tell if she won't talk about it?

So what does it mean now that the state board of education met again, selected their one finalist, and chose to defer final action until May 9th or 10th?

Is this a period of public discussion - so that the board may confirm, or change its mind - depending on the public input or new information brought to light?

Or is the decision made - and the state just needs a couple of weeks to work out the details - in which case, we can all just stay quiet, because it's a done deal?

And, did Governor Fletcher just get publicly disrespected by the state board - after agreeing to more openness, they clearly circumvented the governor's intent by quickly returning to their original plan to name one finalist? (Late yesterday, I wrote and asked that question of the governor's press secretary, but haven't heard back yet.)

Evidence suggests that Fletcher did convince the state board to release the names of three finalists - then as quickly as possible, the state board apparently returned to its original plan, and named one finalist.

On the other hand, if the chairman Travis is to be taken at his word, then we must conclude the possibility that the committee may have "outsourced" their responsibilities.

See also today's Courier-Journal.

"All those who thought the process for choosing our new Jefferson County school superintendent was flawed should take a look at what happened in the selection of a new Kentucky education commissioner.

The Kentucky Board of Education conducted its search the supposed right way: picking three finalists whose names were made public so that their careers could be open to public scrutiny. But when Barbara Erwin, who was about to retire early as the superintendent of a 15,000-student school district in suburban Chicago, emerged as the apparent choice, only then did it surface that she had left behind a poisonous residue in an earlier tenure as superintendent in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Despite the perfect process, state board chairman Keith Travis said he didn't know anything about that history."

Common Features of Effective Principal Preparation Programs Identified

Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, argued that supporting leadership development is a “good investment” for states, and one of the least-developed areas of education. He was responding to a new report identifying effective practices in the preparation of school principals - a crucial position in building effective schools.

The study examined eight programs, chosen on the basis of expert recommendations, that represented a variety of approaches to preservice and in-service preparation and had evidence on effectiveness as shown by the quality of their graduates. It was prepared by researchers at Stanford University in collaboration with the Washington-based Finance Project, a policy-research group.

“The findings show that high-performing principals are not just born, but can be made,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, the lead author of the report and a professor of education at Stanford. The bad news, she said at a session here April 20, during the spring forum of the National Conference of State Legislatures, is that most states lack the infrastructure to support such programs.

Since the early 1990s, the training of school principals – who play a vital role in school improvement – has been widely criticized as inadequate. Yet, hard evidence on the kind of
training and development that leaders need to help schools and students succeed has been in short supply.

The report – Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs – provides a guide for school district leaders and state policymakers to reinvent how school principals are prepared for their demanding jobs. Available documents include: Overview, Review of Research, Executive Summary, Case Study Summaries.

The report: recognizes the close link between the quality of school leadership and school performance; examines the essential skills of good leadership; key features of effective principal education programs; structures of effective programs; and successful financing and policy reform strategies.

At a time when expectations of schools are skyrocketing, school principals must play an increasingly important role in helping to transform schools and classroom performance.

This report provides new details about the characteristics of programs that are most effective in developing school leaders who can carry out the complex work of overhauling school culture, organization, curriculum, and instruction to ensure that all children achieve high standards.

Researchers examined eight exemplary programs and the policy contexts in which they operated. They found that that exemplary leadership preparation programs were intensely focused on instructional improvement and offered a hands-on approach that closely integrated internships and coaching with academic coursework.

Rather than waiting to see who would enroll, the programs work with districts to recruit candidates who are known as excellent teachers with strong leadership potential and who reflect the local population of teachers and students. The programs choose their faculty based on their knowledge and experience of school leadership. The programs also provide the candidates with mentoring by experienced administrators. The professional development programs provided real-world guidance on how to become instructional leaders. The successful programs are part of a system of training that begins with the preparation of principal candidates and continues throughout their careers as principals. The graduates of these programs analyze teaching practice and learn to evaluate and support teachers, plan professional development, and manage
change. They also receive coaching from peers and mentors, and participate in long-term study groups and networks so that they can continue to share their experiences and talk about problem-solving strategies.

“Research has shown that school improvement efforts simply won’t succeed without effective leadership,”said Wallace President M. Christine DeVita.

Pre-service programs evaluated for the report were sponsored by four universities: Bank Street College in New York City; Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.; the University of Connecticut; and the University of San Diego. The in-service programs were sponsored by the Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools; Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools; Region 1 in New York City, and the San Diego Unified School District.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Barbara Erwin named first woman Education Commissioner

Of course, she won't be the first woman to lead the state schools. In the early 80's, when we elected our state superintendent, Alice McDonald ran the show. In those days the superintendent was something of a political hack and McDonald actually fought against school reform.
Regarding the selection process for the new Commish, maybe somebody can explain this to me...

First, Mark Hebert reported the state "board met in executive session, narrowing its commissioner search down to three individuals. Board chairman Keith Travis referred [Hebert's] questions to search committee chair Bonnie Lash Freeman who refused to release the names of the three finalists for the state's top education job. Freeman initially told [Hebert] the board only plans to release the name of one finalist, the person the school board plans to hire. Freeman later said the board had not etched that plan in stone and might release the names of the three finalists AFTER the board interviews them in a few weeks."

Then, much to his credit, Governor Fletcher urged the state board to name their finalists - which they did....claiming, all evidence to the contrary, that they planned to do so all along.

So what does it mean when the state board of education meets, selects their finalist and then choses to defer action until early May? Is this a period of public discussion - so that the board may confirm, or change its mind - depending on the public input or new information brought to light? Or is the decision made - and the state just needs a couple of weeks to work out the details - in which case, we can all just stay quiet, because it's a done deal?

Evidence suggests that Fletcher did convince the state board to release the names of three finalists - then as quickly as possible, the state board returned to its original plan, and named one finalist.
There is a good article in this morning's Courier-Journal which looks at the pros and cons of the selection; and some fluff in the Herald-Leader that tries very hard not to say anything negative.
Erwin apparently won the job by drinking deeply from the hopeful kool-aid.

Last month, Kentucky Department of Education officials told the board that fewer than 40 percent of the state's public schools are on target to meet those goals. Board members said the state needs to develop a "sense of urgency" to find a solution.

"I think it's a doable task," Travis said. "That will be the main objective of whoever the new commissioner will be."

Erwin said she thinks it is possible for every child to be proficient by 2014.

"Absolutely," she said. "That is why I need to meet the department staff and local superintendents as quickly as possible, so I can see who may need additional support. I believe it is our moral and ethical responsibility (to see) that all children can reach those goals."


Is it fair for us to hold her to her word?

Should she be fired, and villified in the press if she fails? Or do we already know 100% proficiency is not going to happen on a bottom-of-the-barrel budget?

Don't we just love it when our leaders tell us we can do the impossible; on the cheap?

Most Nations Fall Short of NAEP Proficiency, Analysis Finds

Education Week reports:
Outside of a handful of Asian nations, the typical 8th grader in many foreign countries would not meet “proficient” levels on U.S. tests of mathematics and science, according to a reanalysis of international achievement data being published today. Then again, the study also shows, neither do most American students.

The American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based research organization, posted a press release and the new analysis comes from AIR’s chief scientist, Gary W. Phillips.

Mr. Phillips’ idea was to statistically “link” scores from two well-known testing programs: the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, which is given every few years to students in more than three dozen countries, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a congressionally mandated program known as the “nation’s report card.”

Spellings Testimony requested by House Education committee

Chairman George Miller has requested testimony from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on the Reading First and federal student loan messes.

The letter to Spellings says, "Recent events pertaining to the operation of our Federal student loan programs and the Reading First program have raised serious questions about the oversight and management activities of the Departemnt of Education."

This Week in Education reports May 10th as the probable date.

Miller says "New York Attorney General Anderew Cuomo and others have uncovered disturbing arrangements between institutions of higher education and student lenders" that have "disadvantaged students through higher loan costs" and less favorable terms and conditions... He cited "inadequate oversight" and the department's failure to provide the committee with requested information on how the department was responding to the "still developing crisis."

"Additionally, committee investigators have uncovered serious conflicts of interest and mismanagement issues in the Reading First program," Miller wrote.

In light of the recent testimony of Attorney General Gonzales, and President Bush's praise of it, one imagines Spellings practicing for her big moment under the spotlight: "Congressman, I do not recall the Reading First program." "Student loans? I don't remember any discussions about student loans."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Top 10 places to get free books

This ditty from Friedbeef's Tech.

Is Barbara Erwin Kentucky's new Schools Chief?

Calling Erwin "the leading candidate" for the job, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports and the "board decided in a closed-door session on Tuesday that she was their top choice."

“The three finalists all brought excellent qualities to the table, and we believe that Erwin will carry forth the board’s vision and mission to benefit all of Kentucky’s public school students, parents, teachers and administrators,” said Keith Travis, chairman of the board.

The state board plans to ratify a contract worth $220,000 annually at their May 9 and 10 meeting in Bowling Green.

Erwin would become the first woman to hold the position since Kentucky began naming a commissioner in 1990. Prior to that, Kentucky elected superintendents of public instructions.

Also from the Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal and the KDE press release.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Former Miss America gives intruder a lesson in trigger-nometry

Eighty-two-year-old former Miss America Venus Ramey shot out the tire of an SUV after she found trespassers on her land allegedly there to steal scrap metal, according to a report in the Interior Journal.

The Lincoln County newspaper reported that Ramey, a Kentucky native who was Miss America in 1944, got her snub nose .38 after hearing noises about 6 p.m. on Friday, April 13.

Ramey, who ran unsuccessfully for the Kentucky General Assembly and for Cincinnati City Council and worked to save historic buildings in Over-the-Rhine, apparently held her gun in one hand while she steadied herself on her walker with the other, according to reports.

Deputies responding to a 911 call arrested Curtis Parish of Ohio for trespassing.

Parish complained to deputies that Ramey tried to shoot him in the leg.

Lincoln County Deputy Sheriff Danny Gilliam told the Interior Journal, "I think she shot exactly where she intended to shoot."

Stop me if you've heard this one....

A 15-year-old West Virginia high school freshman faces prison after police linked him to a handwritten ransom note demanding $20,000 - to keep him from blowing up the school with students inside.

The boy, told police it was a joke.

The police told the boy he was facing one to three years in prison and a $2,000 fine.

School News from around Kentucky

Mike Rebell weighs in on the Class Size debate - Harrison Elementary goes against conventional wisdom to raise scores

EduWonk Andrew Rotherham opines that reducing class size without addressing teacher quality more broadly is akin to continually adding pitchers to your bullpen without worrying about whether any of them can even throw a fastball.

And Mike Rebell tells the New York Daily News, "As co-counsel for those who brought the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, I know how important class size reduction ultimately will be. But improving the quality of our teachers and principals must be priority No. 1. And a premature class-size reduction mandate is likely to lower the general quality of the teaching staff at a time when we desperately need to be raising it."
Arguably THE most consistent variable that affects student achievement is teacher quality and there is no substitute for that. But class size reductions help good teachers help struggling students.

Locally, some have misunderstood the class size issue - and have done away with the effort all together. In the past year, following a 12-point gain and the removal of the principal, Harrison Elementary doubled its class sizes - and promises to raise scores. Harrison has a high percentage of low SES kids and a fierce mobility rate. Reports indicate that about half of the students who begin the school year at Harrison, finish there. Student behavior has been described to me as a daily concern.

Not knowing anything first-hand about programs at work in the school this year, I'll bet a nickle that Harrison loses all or part of its 12-point gain in the next testing cycle. I'd bet more...but the test has been reworked and we don't really know how the new test will equate to the old test.

Class size really matters. But not as much as teacher quality.

Bribing kids for good behavior - is bad for behavior

Parents buying off kids for good behavior

Experts caution against bribery,
urge rewards that make sense

The old axiom in education is that it's not bribery if the action preceeds the reward. But does it breed - the dreaded - sense of entitlement in children?
“It’s definitely more our generation,” Kirsten Whipple, a 35-year-old mom in Northbrook, Ill., says with a quiet laugh. “I’m sure our parents would be appalled if they knew how much we bribe our children.”

She can see why they might be — but she and her husband try not to overuse rewards and have found they work best for smaller things. For instance, they might offer their boys, ages 5 and 8, a special dessert or a chance to rent a video game if they listen to their baby sitter. A good report card might earn a dinner out to celebrate.

Whipple has noticed a downside though — what she calls a “sense of entitlement.”

This from MSNBC.

This Week in ... Reading First

Alexander Russo's collection of quotes from the Reading First hearings.

“This hearing made it pretty clear that there was a very incestuous relationship among a small group of people in the Education Department and among contractors. They were very clearly using this program … for profit.”

"That sounds like a criminal enterprise to me," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, which held a five-hour investigative hearing. "You don't get to override the law," he angrily told a panel of Reading First officials. "But the fact of the matter is that you did."

"I'm very disappointed and saddened by the information that was provided at the hearing today," said former Bush reading advisor G. Reid Lyon, who had been a strong defender of Reading First. "The issues appear much more serious than I had been led to understand."

From This Week in Education.

And this from the Washington Post.

An "apolitical" Commissioner of Education?

Today's editorial in the Herald-Leader calls for an "apolitical" Commissioner of Education.

Good. And, good luck.

But, based on politics alone, the H-L's position suggest that one of the candidates might not be the best fit for Kentucky. The H-L says, "The commissioner must have the skills and ability to work with the governor and legislature without becoming embroiled in partisan politics."

One of the three finalists, Richard La Pointe, carried political water for former Virginia Governor George Allen (of "macaca" fame) when he was state superintendent in Virginia.

The Richmond Times Dispatch noted, La Pointe a former education official in the Reagan and Bush administrations "has been criticized by some in the legislature as too ideological." La Pointe backed graduation standards that reduced focus on the arts, and he supported the controversial Family Life Education program.

When a more moderate Republican Governor James Gilmore succeeded Allen he chose not to reappoint La Pointe as Superintendent. Philosophical about his disappointment La Pointe said, "I've carried out what Governor Allen has asked me to do, and I'm terribly pleased with the opportunity I had."

Newport News Daily Press lamented that "Richard La Pointe's management of the department created serious morale problems" and his replacement was moving the department "toward a moderate education policy and away from the perceived ideological bent."

This from the Herald-Leader.

Choosing an education commissioner in the shadow of a governor's race demands a laser-like focus on what's best for kids.

The state school board must pick a commissioner whose qualifications as an educator will stand up, no matter which way the political winds blow in November.

The next commissioner faces challenges aplenty: There are the perennial questions about student testing and accountability. Kentucky needs a more effective approach to helping struggling schools and must do more to attract the best people to teaching.

The state also will be looking to the next commissioner to help recharge the Kentucky Education Reform Act as it nears its 20th anniversary in 2010.

KERA shifted responsibility for overseeing the public schools from a popularly elected state superintendent of public instruction to a commissioner appointed by the state school board.The commissioner must have the skills and ability to work with the governor and legislature without becoming embroiled in partisan politics. The post has remained refreshingly apolitical through three commissioners.

The board should choose someone who is, first and foremost, an educator who can continue that tradition.


Finalist Barbara Erwin seems to have an embattled past that does not lean toward openness with the public.

In July 2005, Erwin, received a new, five-year contract with St. Charles School District 303 (far west suburb of Chicago between Elgin and Aurora) that would have extended through June 2010.

Despite this commitment, Erwin announced in October 2006 that she would retire in July. The Daily Herald quipped, "Erwin certainly is prepared for retirement" and pointed out that she would now receive as much as $70,000 in annual pension money from districts in Illinois, Arizona, Texas, and possibly Indiana. (Indiana data is apparently unconfirmable.)

Lack of communication with the public was at issue in Scottsdale, Arizona where Erwin was once superintendent. In January, a former school board member wrote in the Arizona Republic, “We must demand that our elected officials give us information on matters of public concern…During my four years on the board, I communicated regularly with the public through every available means…No one other than former Superintendent Barbara Erwin and her cronies ever suggested my activities violated the Open Meeting Law.”

The Arizona Republic also talked about Erwin's successor in January 2006. “To appreciate how far Scottsdale Unified School District has come with Superintendent John Baracy, you've got to remember how bad things were when he got here. After years of infighting and political maneuvering, School Board meetings had devolved into shouting matches. The board president had filed a lawsuit against three of her colleagues and Barbara Erwin, the outgoing superintendent. Not to mention that 571 students -- 2 percent of the district's enrollment -- had jumped ship that year, taking $2.4 million in state funds with them. Eighteen months later, the petty squabbles have vanished. There's civility among board members, and employees now smile on a regular basis. Everyone involved in the district has learned, as Baracy says, "to agree to disagree without being disagreeable." Barcy also reduced payments to legal firms from $650,000 annually down to $200,000.
And it seems that Mitchell Chester has never run a school, or a district, let alone a state organization? That's potentially a BIG problem. An otherwise strong Candidate pales if he can't deal with the snake pit a large organization like the Kentucky Department of Education can be.

But that being said, Mitchell does bring experience in an important area for the future of Kentucky schools. His background in value-added assessment is a major
plus. As Kentucky continues its push for high standards for all children, Mitchell's understanding of the complex nature of social science assessments may prove crucial. He seems to be open with the public and knows how to frame his responses to the press. He has been on the front line of assessment during the nation's most expansive period of school reform. IF he also possesses the necessary personality traits for leadership of a large organization...he could be the right choice. That seems less likely for La Pointe and Erwin.

2 Franklin County girls send threatening note, felony charges filed

Two Franklin County High School students face criminal charges after writing a threatening note and signing another student's name to it, school officials said yesterday.

The writers, two freshman girls, mentioned the Virginia Tech shootings and named school resource officer Capt. Gregg Muravchick as a target. The writers signed the name of a third freshman girl but included their own names in the note as people who would be asked to help with the violent act.

This from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jefferson County panelists warn of school changes

Court case could mean segregation

More low-performing and segregated schools might appear if the Supreme Court rules against Jefferson County's student assignment plan, panelists said at a community forum held by the local NAACP last night.

"It would be a travesty if we had to go back to segregated schools," said Stephen Imhoff, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education. "We need to keep doing what we're doing because of diversity."

This from the Courier-Journal.

School News from around Kentucky

“differences in philosophy” cited in Edu Commish finalist Erwin's early departure

In July 2005, Kentucky Education Commissioner finalist, Barbara Erwin, received a new, five-year contract with St. Charles School District 303 (west of Chicago between Elgin and Aurora) that would have extended through June 2010.

Despite this commitment, Erwin announced in October 2006 that she would retire in July. The Daily Herald quipped, "Erwin certainly is prepared for retirement" and pointed out that she would now receive pension money from districts in Illinois, Arizona, Texas, and possibly Indiana. (Indiana is apparently unconfirmable)

Josh Stockinger of the Kane County Daily Herald reports:

This is at least the third public education job Erwin has sought since announcing in October her early retirement from St. Charles District 303.

The veteran educator said Thursday she reconsidered retirement after being contacted by job recruiters for school systems in at least three states.

She added she wasn’t completely sold on retirement when she decided to leave St. Charles — a move she attributed to “differences in philosophy” with the school board.

“I would’ve stayed in St. Charles had the leadership been different,” she said.

Superintendents “serve at the will of the board, and there were just very significant differences in philosophy,” Erwin said. “I chose to retire. I never intended to go home and knit.”

Erwin wouldn’t specify the differences, saying she didn’t want to “stir things up” by airing frustrations.

A Chicago native previously named superintendent of the year in Texas, Erwin has spent 36 years in education. She was hired in St. Charles in 2004 and is slated to leave at the end of the school year.

If hired in Kentucky, Erwin would oversee about 1,240 public schools, consisting of more than 650,000 students and 50,000 teachers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

House Panel Grills Witnesses on Reading First

This week's Education Week will report:

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education has referred some of the information gathered in a lengthy audit of the Reading First program to federal law-enforcement officials for further investigation, he said during a lengthy and contentious hearing today before the House Education and Labor Committee.

Inspector General John P. Higgins Jr. told the committee, in response to a question on whether he had recommended any criminal review, that he has made “referrals to the Department of Justice.” He declined to elaborate to reporters at the end of the hearing.

The former director of the Reading First program denied in the April 20 congressional hearing that there were conflicts of interest in the implementation of the $1 billion-a-year federal initiative. He also denied that he and other officials and consultants had overstepped their authority in directing states and school districts on the curriculum materials and assessments that would meet the strict requirements of the grants awarded under the program.

“A distorted story has been written over the past few months based on the worst possible interpretation of events that occurred during the early days of the Reading First program,” Christopher J. Doherty, who oversaw the program from 2002 until last fall, told the education committee during the hearing.

Mr. Doherty disputed suggestions by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the committee’s chairman, that he and other federal officials had drafted the Reading First guidelines to institute “extralegal requirements”—as Mr. Doherty had once put it in an e-mail—that were not specified in the No Child Left Behind Act to essentially compel states to adopt certain commercial reading programs and assessments over others.

“We thought and think those [additional] components [written into the program’s guidelines but not outlined in the law] emanated from the guiding research,” Mr. Doherty said. “In no way was [the guidance] designed to lock in” one particular program, he added.

Spellings v. Russert: Tomorrow on Meet the Press

Sunday, April 229:00 a.m. EDT Secretary Spellings will appear on NBC’s Meet The Press, where she will join a panel to discuss school safety issues.

Will Russert get to ask about ReadingFirst, student loan scandals, NCLB?

Finalist Mitchell comments on multi-state effort to write national algebra II standards

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

NOTE: Mitchell Chester, who is quoted in the article, is one of 3 finalists for Kentucky Education Commissioner.

Educators will soon be able to determine whether students taking Algebra II in Lakewood, Ohio, are learning as much as students taking the same class 490 miles away in Lakewood, N.J.

That's because the two states are part of a nine-state consortium that has developed a common, end-of-course Algebra II exam. It marks the largest effort a group of states has undertaken to develop a common assessment based on common standards...

The exam, which will be available to districts in May 2008, will give Ohio educators an external gauge of how their classes measure up against very similar standards in other states, said Mitchell Chester, associate Ohio superintendent for policy and accountability.

Districts do not have to administer the exam. But interest in such an assessment appears to be high, Chester said.

About 200,000 students in nine states - Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, as well as New Jersey and Ohio - are expected to take the exam.

"This kind of end-of-the-course exam will provide districts with a lot of feedback on how their curriculum is matching up," Chester said. "We have to have our eyes open as to whether our students are leaving high school prepared to compete in a global economy."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dunbar student in crash dies

The 17-year-old died yesterday at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, a day after the accident that also injured three fellow Dunbar students. The four had been on their way to school.

A blown tire caused the driver to lose control of the 1993 Geo Prizm and the car spun, slamming into a vehicle parked in the emergency lane on Versailles Road near Calumet Farm, according to police.

This from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Principal who kissed feet of students enters plea

Robert Holloway resigned from St. Anthony of Padua School in this town west of Cleveland after the 14-year-old students and their parents reported the foot-kissing to police in February 2006.

Holloway told authorities he paid each student $15 and kissed their bare feet 50 times each in the school's library and gym to pay off the bet on a student-teacher volleyball game.

From CNN.

Kentucky Education Commissioner: OpEd

This from the Courier-Journal.

...Gov. Fletcher said "dialogue and disclosure" were "critical components in assuring the selection of the best candidate."

It's also true, as he pointed out, that lawmakers whose relationship with the commissioner is critically important at funding time will want to check out the three choices.

The educational issues facing both the General Assembly and the new commissioner are profoundly important, with candidates for governor suggesting everything from a study of special education vouchers and a new look at more current testing programs to a full-blown review of the entire KERA approach.

With accountability deadlines steadily approaching, and the failure to reach some of the goals now inevitable, real decisions must be made, and fairly soon.

Speak up. E-mail your comments on the candidates to:

Should Northern Kentucky University change its name?

NKU President James Votruba raised that possibility at a campus convocation of students, faculty and staff Wednesday.

Votruba said several community leaders - whom he didn't name - have told him they think the university needs a new name.

"They said we ought to re-brand the university and disconnect it from what they refer to as the directional universities - the easterns, westerns, northerns, southerns - and create a unique niche for the university," he said.

This from the Kentucky Post.

NKU opens door to high school students

Northern Kentucky University has launched a special scholarship program intended to make it financially possible for virtually all graduates of Newport and Holmes high schools to attend NKU.

The new Holmes/Newport scholarships of up to $3,000 a year, when combined with federal and state grants, should cover the cost of NKU's annual $5,900 tuition in almost all cases, NKU officials said.

this from The Kentucky Post.

Value Added Assessment

This from EduWonk

From Tennessee a new website giving parents value-added information about schools in the state. Could raise some interesting questions...This scatterplot shows 2006 data on school performance and poverty in Tennesee. It's all over the place suggesting that those accountability folks are onto something...

Reading First Paying Off, Education Dept. Says

At some point folks ought to realize that there was nothing magical about the particular programs foisted on the Reading First program by unethical bureaucrats. The "magic" comes from giving teachers the resources they need to raise achievement, which Reading First did. These were BIG grants. Had a balanced literacy approach been advocated, I have no doubt the results would have been as great - or greater.
This from Amit R. Paley, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 19, 2007; Page A19

Students in the Bush administration's embattled $1 billion-a-year reading program have improved an average of about 15 percent on tests measuring fluency over the past five years, according to an analysis of data by the Education Department.

The Reading First program, a central part of the No Child Left Behind law, has been criticized by congressional Democrats who say it has been riddled with conflicts of interests and mismanagement. The House education committee is holding an oversight hearing on the matter Friday.

The data, scheduled to be released today, indicate that students have benefited from the program, which provides grants to improve reading in kindergarten through third grade.

"That's the irony," said John F. Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy. "The program was poorly -- even unethically -- administered at the federal level, yet it seems to be having a positive effect in schools."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kentucky Education Commissioner finalist: Richard La Pointe

Finalists for Kentucky Commissioner of Education
Published comments from various newspapers

Richard La PointeAge: 64 Education: Bachelor's degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley; master's degree in Latin American Studies from UCLA; and a doctorate in comparative education from UCLA.
Family: Married with five daughters and four sons

Note: I was unsuccessful finding much on Dr. La Pointe in recent years. I did find his name on lists of conference speakers and on federal vocational grant applications. I assume my difficulties are the product of his assimilation into the vast education bureaucracy.

Richard LaPointe Tapped as New Director of High School, Postsecondary Education and Career Education
From U S Office of Education
News Archives 2002

Assistant Secretary Carol D'Amico is pleased to announce that Richard La Pointe will be joining our staff. Richard has been appointed to the position of Director, Division of High School, Postsecondary and Career Education. As such, he will serve as the principal program advisor to the Office of the Assistant Secretary on matters related to high school, postsecondary and career education programs under the overall purview of the OVAE.

Richard has had an extensive career at the Department of Education. He has held various positions in Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Office of Postsecondary Education, and the Office of the Secretary and is currently working for the Deputy Secretary. Richard also served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, President of a major, not-for-profit literacy organization, and Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

He holds a Ph.D and Masters degree from U.C.L.A. and an A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley. While in Federal service he earned a certificate in Management from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
In October 2001 the following vital was presented for Dr. La Pointe
at a conference on
Study & Learning Abroad.

Richard T. La Pointe is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. He is a former president of Laubach Literacy of Syracuse, NY, and Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Over the years, Dr. La Pointe has held numerous roles within the U.S. Department of Education, including deputy assistant secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, director of the Fund to Improve and Reform Schools and Teaching, executive director of the National Council for Educational Research, special assistant to the Office of the Secretary for Private Education, and deputy director for Postsecondary Relations, Higher Education. He is also a former senior policy advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Dr. La Pointe has been a Fulbright Fellow and a Title VI Foreign Language Fellow. He is a former Henry Toll and W. K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellow and was selected for three Secretary's Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. La Pointe received an A.B. degree in history from University of California, Berkeley, and did graduate work at U.C.L.A., where he earned a master's in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D. in education.
Lifetime of literacy manifest through service
Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT)July 17, 1999

One of Richard T. La Pointe's earliest memories is watching his grandmother read to his grandfather from the Bible. Each evening at bedtime, just before turning out the light, his grandfather would lean back against his pillow, intertwine his fingers together across his chest and listen as his wife shared the night's verse of scripture. It was tradition.

This image has remained through the years with the now 56-year-old Richard La Pointe -- a symbol to him of the enriching power of reading on self and family. This deeply ingrained belief has served him well as a public school teacher and in later administrative positions and will now serve him as the new president of Laubach Literacy, an international literacy organization based in Syracuse, N.Y.

Brother La Pointe, a member of the McLean (Va.) 1st Ward and a member of the stake high council, took over the reins of the organization June 1 when the former president, Robert F. Caswell, retired after 17 years. The new president was chosen from among 172 candidates after a nationwide search.

In a Church News telephone interview, he expressed his pleasure in his new post. "I'm a teacher. Teaching those who cannot read and write is a pretty noble challenge. My whole career has been involved in literacy, teaching people to read and write. This position is just a logical extension."Laubach Literacy, a non-profit educational organization, is dedicated to helping adults of all ages learn to read, write, and gain math and problem-solving skills.

Founded in 1955 by literacy pioneer Frank C. Laubach, the organization has 1,100 member programs throughout the United States and 69 partner programs in 36 developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. The vast majority of those involved are volunteers -- some 90,000 -- who either teach people in their communities to read or train tutors themselves.In addition, Laubach's international programs have collaborated with Latter-day Saint Charities, the Church's relief and development agency, in literacy and self-development projects in Bangladesh, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Mexico and Uganda. The current literacy section of the Church's Welfare Services exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City includes photos of projects in which Laubach has cooperated with the Church.

To Brother La Pointe, literacy helps people unlock the door to their educational and spiritual potential. Ultimately, he declared, education is "to make life more enriching. It's the key to unlocking the door to happiness. We don't seek education for just economic reasons, but also for deep personal satisfaction and happiness."These threads of happiness seem woven throughout his family fabric."My family has about 150 years in education. My first teacher was my grandmother, who taught for 65 years. My father is a retired school teacher. My youngest brother is a school teacher. I'm a school teacher and my daughter has been accepted into the University of Virginia, in the School of Education," Brother La Pointe related.

This is not surprising, considering favorite family activities when he was growing up were having spelling bees and going to Shakespearean festivals. Brother La Pointe actually grew up in two communities. During the school year, he lived with his parents in West Pittsburg, Calif., and during the summer he lived in Ashland, Ore., with his grandparents. As a teenager, he learned about the Church through his best friend, Michael Lee. Missionaries visited the La Pointe home, and Brother La Pointe and two brothers were baptized. (Brother La Pointe baptized his 75-year-old mother two years ago.)

In Ashland, a logging town, he became familiar with Shakespeare. The citizens valued cultural events and built a replica of the Globe Theater to host a Shakespearean festival. From the time he was 3 years old to the time he left to serve in the Brazil Mission in the 1960s when he was 19, he attended the festival.The La Pointe family were also avid readers. This has carried over to his family today, consisting of his wife, Ann, and their nine children, ranging in age from 33 to 13. (Two sons are currently serving missions.)"In more recent times, I served as Scoutmaster for 12 years, and one of the important things I've done is read stories to my Boy Scouts around the campfires. [Literacy is] not only important to me and my family, but also to the young people I was entrusted with."These include children he taught and supervised throughout his educational career.

Most recently, he was superintendent of public instruction for Virginia. He has also served U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the U.S. Department of Education, was executive director for the National Council for Educational Research of the National Institute of Education, and was a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He and his family have also lived in California, where he is a former superintendent of schools, an English and history teacher and principal. At one time, he was also mayor of Concord, Calif. He received his doctorate in philosophy and master's degree from UCLA, his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a certificate of management from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

In his new position as president of Laubach Literacy, he intends on implementing a series of initiatives, including areas of family literacy, women and literacy, and a national scholarship book fund (generating resources to distribute books nationally and internationally to individuals and educational organizations).Brother La Pointe said there are some 40 million Americans with literacy challenges today. And, he added, "you cannot have a [truly] open society with people who are not literate."

Edition: AllSection: Church NewsPage: Z13
Index Terms: News
Copyright (c) 1999 Deseret News Publishing Company
Record Number: 9907190037

Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY) - July 9, 1999

Syracuse-based Laubach Literacy, the world's oldest and largest literacy organization, has named Richard T. La Pointe its new president.La Pointe replaces Robert F. Caswell, who is retiring after 17 years.

La Pointe has served with the U.S. Department of Education in the Reagan and Bush administrations and with the National Institute of Education. A former English and history teacher, he has served as a school superintendent in Contra Costa County, Calif., and as mayor of Concord, Calif. Most recently, he was state superintendent of public instruction in Virginia.He received his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley, his master's and doctorate at UCLA and a management certificate from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Widely published, he has done field research in Brazil and lived in Japan."We are truly delighted to have Richard La Pointe as president of Laubach Literacy," Thomas E. Noel, chairman of the nonprofit's board, said in a prepared statement. "His unique combination of scholarship, leadership and practical experience will bring an exciting new vision and strong direction to our organization at a time when our nation and world face an increasing number of educational challenges, especially in the field of adult literacy."Laubach Literacy is dedicated to helping adults of all ages improve their lives and their communities through reading, writing, math and problem-solving skills. It has 1,100 member programs throughout the United States, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, including The Learning Place in Syracuse.

Edition: FinalSection: LocalPage: B6
Copyright (c) 1999 The Herald Company
Record Number: 9907090095

Richmond Times Dispatch – 14 April 1998

The first thing Paul D. Stapleton did in his new downtown Richmond office was remove the historical portraits and put up framed artwork by children.The decor sums up the educational philosophy of Stapleton, who became the state superintendent of public instruction on April 1: children first.

It's a motto found on the gold lapel pin that adorns his jacket and on the colorful coffee mugs he passes out to employees as motivational reminders of a school system's focus."I was told once before that it was silly to get to the state level and start talking about children first, that that wasn't the way we did things," he said. "What else would you talk about? If you're heading the state Department of Education, what would be your priority if it wasn't the children? Because that's what public education is about."

Educators and legislators across the state praise the one-time school bus driver and elementary school teacher for having the leadership and people skills to lead Virginia's public schools into the 21st century as they embark on one of the nation's toughest accountability programs.He also is expected to help pull the state Department of Education out of the low morale that followed major staff cuts during the Wilder administration and reached a nadir during the tenure of Stapleton's predecessor, Richard T. La Pointe.

Insiders also believe Stapleton's appointment by Gov. Jim Gilmore signals a continuing move toward a moderate education policy and away from the perceived ideological bent that marked the administration of fellow Republican George Allen.

Edition: CitySection: Area/StatePage: B-1
Copyright 1998 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
Record Number: 9804140265

April 7 1998 – Newport News Daily Press

There's a note of optimism among state educators because of changes Gov. Jim Gilmore has made in the top leadership ranks. Most recently, Gilmore appointed Paul D. Stapleton as state superintendent of public instruction. Stapleton spent 11 years as school superintendent in Charlotte County, where he built a reputation as a miracle worker…

That will be a major change from the atmosphere of the last year when Richard La Pointe's management of the department created serious morale problems.

Edition: FinalSection: EditorialPage: A8
Index Terms: Editorials
Copyright 1998, 2000 Daily Press (Newport News, VA)
Record Number: 9804070136

La Pointe Not Reappointed - Richmond Times-DispatchJanuary 17, 1998

[Virginia] Gov.-elect James S. Gilmore III yesterday appointed Scott Pattison as state budget director in his new administration…

Meanwhile, Richard T. La Pointe, state superintendent of public instruction, wasn't so lucky.

On Thursday, Gilmore's staff told La Pointe that he wouldn't be reappointed. A former education official in the Reagan and Bush administrations, La Pointe has been criticized by some in the legislature as too ideological.

The dumping of La Pointe is another indication that Gilmore will eschew the ideology-driven agenda of his predecessor who often had major fights with lawmakers over education and protection of the environment.

Yesterday, the former state schools' chief said he sought reappointment after serving 18 months in the Allen administration. He pointed proudly to the new accreditation standards and statewide testing program that were established during his tenure, accomplishments that both Allen and Gilmore have praised."I've carried out what Governor Allen has asked me to do, and I'm terribly pleased with the opportunity I had," La Pointe said yesterday.

Edition: CitySection: Area/StatePage: A-6
Copyright 1998 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
Record Number: 9801170167

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 9 January 1998

"The school report card will clearly bring accountability to our schools," said [Virginia Governor George] Allen, the father of two elementary-age children. "If the school is doing well, [parents] will be happy. If schools continue to underperform, they will demand changes and improvements."The easy-to-read report cards also will let parents know at a glance what the new criteria are.

While educators will pore through the new accreditation standards, "Normal people will not read through the [Standards of Accreditation]," Allen said."That's why the school report cards are so important," he said. "It's one card, and it's printed on either side of the paper. Folks can laminate it if they so desire or pick their teeth with it."

The report cards will not contain any demographic data, such as racial or sex indicators. Richard T. La Pointe, state superintendent of public instruction, said local school divisions can add more information in an insert if they wish. The cards will be an abridged version of more detailed information that will be available, La Pointe said.

Edition: CitySection: Area/StatePage: B-1
Copyright 1998 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
Record Number: 9801090203

Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) - 5 January 1998

Texas-based Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement designed the field test and is contracted to design future tests. Committees made up of Virginia teachers and administrators review and revise the tests.The field test, James said, contained ``too many errors'' - including questions for which none of the proposed answers was correct.Virginia Beach's schools superintendent, Timothy R. Jenney, thought so, too.

In a letter to state Superintendent Richard T. La Pointe last spring, Jenney wrote: ``The scope and quantity of errors and flaws raise serious questions about the technical quality of the SOL tests and their value as measures of student achievement. . . . Tests which contain so many errors or which do not pass the scrutiny of external experts will never be embraced by teachers.''Citing more than three dozen examples, his letter itemized problems found by his staff including errors (one algebra question had no right choices), the testing of ``trivial information'' (the year the telephone was invented - 1876) and a mismatch between some questions and the curriculum standards…

…State Superintendent La Pointe predicted that the department, after looking at the results this summer, will propose a rate that will be considered by the Board of Education in the fall.The state, he said, would not bow to any pressure to artificially lower the pass rate to ensure that more students pass.

Critics fear that schools in low-income areas will have a particularly rough time meeting the accreditation requirement that 70 percent of their students pass the tests.``We will get the results back in midsummer, and we will have groups of national experts working with us,'' he said. ``My experience in this process is that there's a great deal of thoughtful care that goes into this.''

Edition: FINALSection: FRONTPage: A1
Copyright (c) 1998 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9801050062

On state funding - 12 December 1997 – Roanoke Times

The Commission on the Future of Education estimates the cost of curing much of what ails Virginia's schools at some $545 million in the next four years. That’s what it will take to embark on such initiatives as retraining teachers for new state tests, expanding programs for needy preschoolers and providing pay incentives for staff at the best schools…

Not every member of the commission endorsed the report.Richard La Pointe, state school superintendent and a Republican appointee, objected to some teacher retraining recommendations. The state already is taking those steps, he argued.

He also opposed a recommendation requiring fine arts in high school, saying it would reduce opportunities for students interested in vocational education.And he thought the commission's official cost estimates were too conservative. "I've tried to be fiscally responsible," La Pointe said after the meeting. This report "makes people feel good, but I don't think it's fiscally responsible."

Edition: METROSection: VIRGINIAPage: B1
Copyright (c) 1997 The Roanoke Times
Record Number: 9712120057

On Family Life Education program - 24 May 1997 – Newport News Daily Press

The issue of counseling for elementary school pupils has spawned an ideological war among members of the State Board of Education considers tougher public school accreditation standards.The proposed standards would leave intact a requirement that elementary schools offer counseling. Some board members, however, want local school districts to decide for themselves whether to offer counseling.

Many conservatives claim counselors use inappropriate psychotherapeutic techniques that can cause more harm than good when practiced on very young children.Counselors say if such problems exist, they are rare and should be dealt with on an individual basis without obliterating a service that does a lot of good for children who often have nowhere else to turn…

…The standards were drafted by Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard La Pointe and put through a series of public hearings throughout the state. The standards recommend keeping the controversial Family Life Education program, a key component of which is sex education.

Edition: FinalSection: StatePage: C3
Dateline: RICHMOND
Copyright 1997, 2000 Daily Press (Newport News, VA)
Record Number: 9705240077

On High Standards - 8 APRIL 1997 – Roanoke Times

State education officials, backed by Gov. George Allen, say high statewide academic standards are needed to prevent students -including culturally and economically disadvantaged children - from becoming victims of low expectations.But some teachers, parents and school administrators question whether all students can meet high expectations - and whether the push for higher standards will cause an increase in failures and dropouts.

Richard La Pointe, state superintendent of public instruction, doubts it. The dropout rate has declined in recent years and there is no reason to believe the trend will change, he said.

Edition: METROSection: VIRGINIAPage: C-1
Index Terms: MGR
Copyright (c) 1997 The Roanoke Times
Record Number: 9704080035

Roanoke Times - 2 April 1997

Virginia high school students would have to study more history with fewer opportunities to take art and music courses if proposed new graduation requirements are approved…

… Some Roanoke County school officials are worried that the new requirements would mean students would take fewer art and music courses because they wouldn't have time for them….

…But Richard La Pointe, state superintendent of public instruction, defends the proposals, saying they would better prepare students for college and jobs. La Pointe said the standards are driven by the belief that the core subjects are more important.

The proposals are part of the effort by Gov. George Allen and the Board of Education to emphasize the basics and higher academic standards.

Students still would have the opportunity to take fine arts and vocational education courses, although there would be less time for electives, La Pointe said. State education officials said some students would begin taking required courses in the eighth grade to free up more time for electives during the later grades.

Edition: METROSection: VIRGINIAPage: C-1
Index Terms: MGR
Copyright (c) 1997 The Roanoke Times
Record Number: 9704020025

On Accountability - 2 March 1997 – Virginian Pilot

A foot-high stack of memos and drafts at the state Department of Education documents the thorny path to the release last week of proposed standards of accreditation for Virginia's public schools…

In a Jan. 19 memo, for example, Board President Michelle Easton advised Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard La Pointe, ``Board members are not prepared to accept either your accreditation criteria or procedures at this time.''

A response, unsigned but apparently drafted by a DOE staff member, challenged her logic. ``Easton says that this is the area of `greatest concern,' but she cannot articulate why. . .

''Other documents suggest that board members and staff disagreed on an array of issues ranging from whether or not to mandate the teaching of family-life education to the question of whether to require that a specific percentage of classroom time be spent on English, math, social studies and science.

The competing ideas reflect the complexity of the task Gov. George F. Allen has assigned his education team: finding a way to judge public schools based on the performance of their students.The documents reveal, as well, some of the internal struggles in an administration where ideology wars with pragmatism.

La Pointe and Easton both came out of the Reagan administration, and both were appointed by Allen. But insiders say their current relationship is strained by Easton's more ideological orientation.

The document La Pointe presented last week warrants analysis both for its politics and its policy. Due to be threshed over in public hearings for the next two months, the outcome can affect the direction of Virginia schools for years to come.Essentially, the proposed accreditation plan is Step 2 in an overhaul that began earlier in the Allen administration with the adoption of tougher standards for what must be taught in classrooms…

Edition: FINALSection: COMMENTARYPage: J5
Index Terms: Opinion
Dateline: RICHMOND
Copyright (c) 1997 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9703010014

Virginian Pilot – 2 March 1997

In setting school accreditation standards, Gov. George F. Allen has commendably steered his state Board of Education away from ideological battles and has focused, instead, on basic accountability.Many feared that the proposed standards, unveiled this week, would prompt polarizing divisions by concerning themselves with emotional issues such as family-life education and the powers of guidance counselors. Correctly, the administration left such disputes for another day.

What Superintendent Richard La Pointe instead submitted was a thoughtful accreditation plan that toughens graduation standards, aims at ending social promotion, and demands - largely through a regimen of student-achievement tests - that public schools be more accountable to the families they serve…

..One potential controversy - timing - may have been put to rest when the state board agreed to delay until the class of 2,003 a key graduation requirement. Thereafter, students will have to pass a competency test in the 11th grade before they can graduate from high school.The Virginia Education Association argued that it would be unfair to enforce the requirement earlier because a final decision on how the tests are written and graded will not be made for some time. Students and teachers deserve to know well in advance what information they're being held accountable for, the VEA said. La Pointe agreed, and the board acquiesed.

Edition: FINALSection: COMMENTARYPage: J4
Index Terms: Editorial
Copyright (c) 1997 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9702280013

Richmond Times-Dispatch - December 12, 1997

A bipartisan commission yesterday approved a report that recommends up to $156 million a year in new education programs despite concerns from some members about a lack of focus and absence of detailed costs.The Commission on the Future of Public Education, also known as the Bennett Commission for its chairman, Halifax County Democratic Del. W.W. "Ted" Bennett, concluded its work after a two-year study that cost $200,000. The vote was 9-2, and two members abstaining to protest the lack of specifics about program costs.

The 34-page report places a heavy emphasis on school staff development, remediation programs and more resources for early childhood education. It also calls for the legislature to consider independent public schools, known as charter schools…

… Richard T. La Pointe, state superintendent of public instruction, voted against the report…

…However, the state's top two education officials - both Republican gubernatorial appointees - were among the members who disapproved of the report, contending it needed concrete numbers to back up its proposals and encompassed too broad a scope.recommendations don't even acknowledge why something needs to be changed..."

…Some saw the commission, the brainchild of assembly Democrats, as a way to promote the education agenda of Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr., the party's unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate…

…La Pointe objected to about half of the recommendations, saying the new accreditation standards passed by the state Board of Education are stricter."I think the proposals we presented nine or 10 weeks ago are a far more comprehensive effort than what was being represented here, so why should I support something that's less rigorous and demanding?" La Pointe said after the 2 1/2-hour meeting.

Edition: CitySection: Area/StatePage: A-1
Copyright 1997 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
Record Number: 9712120256