Saturday, September 29, 2007

Has the CATS Assessment been reduced to a "Tall Tale?"

Bluegrass Institute analyst, Dick Innes, reports KDE's

"new CATS scoring is being adjusted by – a norming process! The CATS’ final score adjustment is very similar to that used in those very same nationally normed tests that the KDE consistently told us were substandard quality."
There's nothing inherently wrong with norming test scores - if - you tell folks that's what it is.

If KDE is telling schools that scores will regress toward the mean...isn't that a lot like...closing the gap statistically? The top schools scores are depressed, the lowest enhanced...

The CATS test has now gotten pretty far away from the original concept of a perfromance-based assessment as described by KDE under KERA post 1990. It is unclear if the Kentucky Board of Education is redefining "performance-based"; or not, This would seem to be a good time for the board of education to send out a clear message. Where is assessment in Kentucky heading?

Are we stretching the limits of sound assessment theory?

I like the idea of a n independent group to report assessment data to the state.

Here's my plan: I'm calling for the development of the Association of Assessment Gamesmanship Prevention. I want Ben Oldham, Tom Guskey and Skip Kifer to run it. They can flip a coin to see who is in charge: (Assuming 5 trials of 50 coin tosses each: Record the number of times the coin lands heads up. The statistician whose frequency of "heads up" events shows the greatest deviation from the mean, whether positive or negative, over the 5 trials, shall be declared Grand Statistical Poobah and will run the show.)

Poor design trumps good intentions. We'd better know where we're going.

Innes ascribes motive:

Absent significant progress, which is notably absent in credible measures like the NAEP, the KDE clearly needed to inflate scores. But, I think it would have been too obvious if the KDE inflated the overall scoring standards in a way that also inflated the final accountability score for all the schools.

Thus, to hide what was happening, the KDE needed a scheme that didn’t inflate everyone’s performance but that did boost overall scores in a way that made the state’s average look better.

In particular, the KDE benefits most by boosting the apparent performance of the lowest performing schools due to the way the CATS is actually scored. If more of those schools could be boosted into the CATS “Progressing Zone,” the schools wouldn’t face any sanctions and would appear to be doing better even if they didn’t make the goal. That would make the department look better than having performance spread out so that more schools wound up in the failing category while more schools also wound up topping out their CATS scores. What the department needed was a scheme that would make all the scores appear closer together.

Out on a Limb
It won't be long now. In a few more hours, CATS data will become public.
I have predicted jumps somewhere around 7 points will result...based on scant hard data. I am expecting dips at the top, leaps at the bottom. An overall swhift upward.
The over and under on Booker T Washington is 10; Harrison is 5; Fayette County is 8; The state is 7 ...

Why on Earth would anyone bother?
Well...some of it is sport. Over the years, it was my practice to predict test results; my own and others. It's a principal thing. If your numbers are's fun.
Some of it is because it's important.
Tomorrow morning: Will it be scholar or dunce?

Same exam, two scores

More on the CATS test, this from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Year-to-year comparison difficult
When state accountability test scores are released Tuesday, they'll look a little different from past years.

The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, also known as CATS, measures students' knowledge in core content areas.

CATS underwent several changes before students were tested this past spring, including redesigned tests, the addition of tests and the addition of grade levels that take those tests.
As a result, a school can't make a straight comparison of this year's score with last year's, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Therefore, the department will release two scores to each school and district next week.

The first score is the non-adjusted score, the same they've received every year since CATS went into effect in 2000. But that one is more for informational purposes.

The second score - the result of a concordance table, or statistical link - is the one that matters toward each school's goal of reaching proficiency (a score of 100) by 2014.

The concordance table is created by lining up each school's CATS scores this year from highest to lowest. The CATS score growth trend at each grade level from 2000-2006 is then factored in to determine the final score for each school this year...
... "We have different CATS now - the rules have changed," [said KDE Communications Director Lisa Gross.]

Gross likened the table to a bell curve. She gave a baseball analogy as to how it works."Say the Yankees batting average in 2006 was .300, then in 2007 the rules changed," Gross said.

For example, maybe the pitching mound was moved or maybe aluminum bats were legalized.
"Then in 2007, the team average was .330. You can't say they were a better batting team in 2007, but if you line up their average and the other teams' averages in 2007 and compare them to 2006, you can get a sense of where they fall."
And it looks like this year's test data gets an asterisk. Whether or not the dead ball era is over will be known soon enough. If NCLB data run true to form, when CATS scores are released next week a sharper than normal increase is expected - at least for lower performing schools. Higher performing schoools have been warned that their scores may be depressed.
Barb Martin, my old Ludlow High School classmate and present director of assessment and accountability for the Kenton County School District, used an ACT/SAT example.

"If you score a 24 on the ACT, you can get a concordance table to figure out what you would need to score on the SAT to be comparable to that," Martin said. "It's a statistical way of linking two systems that are not exactly the same."
So, the concordance is a way to compare apples to oranges?
I'm not laying this on Barb, but...If the concordance is a technically sound assessment practice, and there's no problem deriving a score for a test one does not take...then I've got an idea.
Let's just establish a concordance between CATS and whatever assessment Massachusettes uses - so we can determine how our students would have scored on the Massachusetts exam - because they just kicked our butts on NAEP.

How well this sits with superintendents and principals remains to be seen.

Gross said her department has gotten "a pretty good reaction" from superintendents. However, some district assessment coordinators haven't gotten
the same reaction from principals.

Schools received their scores this week for review before they're made public Tuesday.

"Some of them are not happy with the information they've received," said Charlene Ball, district assessment coordinator for Boone County Schools.
Then Gross said something very interesting. "Because of the bell curve, schools at the top and bottom will fluctuate the most, with the higher scores likely coming down and the lower scores going up. Those in the middle will likely adjust the least."
Her specific mention of a bell curve, and her description of the statistical effect called "regression toward the mean" strikes me as curious. Is she suggesting that CATS has been put through a normative process?
If so, doesn't that suggest that CATS is no longer a performance-based assessment? More Multiple choice; fewer open response; long gone are performance assessments; math portfolios...
Doesn't the law require the Board of Education to maintain a performance-based system?
And if that's true, shouldn't we all be more concerned that teaching to the test may, in fact, galvanize our students into a restricted curriculum - just as many public school critics currently claim?
Charlene Ball, district assessment coordinator for Boone County Schools said,
"The thing that's so frustrating is that schools see their non-adjusted score, then (the higher-performing schools) see their adjusted score lower," Ball said. "But these are two unrelated tests. There was no way to report scores this year with last year because you'd be comparing apples to oranges."

KSBA chats with Kentucky's gubernatorial candidates

Brad Hughes and the folks at the Kentucky School Board Association recently had chats with Governor Ernie Fletcher and his Democratic challenger Steve Beshear.

This from KSBA's Kentucky School Advocate:

In Conversation With ... Ernie Fletcher, Republican gubernatorial nominee

In Conversation With ... Steve Beshear, Democratic gubernatorial nominee

CATS: Marxist Psychobabble?!

The mainstream media has picked up on the frustration of school folks that results when higher authorities monkey with the assessment system - subordinating the need of school leaders for a stable system in the process.

The issue is aired out in ths morning's Cincinnati Post:

'A bunch of psychometric babble'

Changes made this year to Kentucky's standardized testing make it harder than ever to accomplish the primary goal of the program -- measuring improvement, many Northern Kentucky educators say.

The Kentucky Department of Education, which approved the changes in test questions and how they're scored and subjects weighted for the CATS program, doesn't disagree.

Comparing scores to previous years, the linchpin of monitoring progress since the first annual statewide CATS results were released in 2000, means little now, at least for this year.

That is the lament today in local schools and district offices, as superintendents try to figure out if their students have progressed and if so, how much, for the testing cycle that will be released to the public Tuesday.

"It's a bunch of psychometric babble," Walton-Verona School Superintendent Bill Boyle said Thursday. "We're going to sit down tomorrow and ascertain where we are. We have no idea."

The assessment program began under House Bill 53, when the KIRIS testing program (which seemed to change annually) was replaced by the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS). The shift to CATS may not ahve been perfect, but it was a stable system that allowed consistent long-term comparisons which are vital to longitudinal analysis. Consistency across place and time is what makes NAEP data so valuable, for example.

What possible advantage is it to ask schools to hit a moving target?

The heart of the CATS test, The Kentucky Core Content for Assessment (the academic parts of the test) has been revised. Questions have been changed, as has the "weight" given to each subject. The ACT college-entrance exam was added for all Kentucky high school juniors, and for the first time this year it will be factored into high schools' accountability scores. But cut scores that determine what constitutes "Proficiency" were adjusted, and their meaning was lost in the process.

KDE told superintendents:

"Your overall accountability index will likely decrease a few points if you have been a successful school."

It goes on: "Your overall accountability index will likely increase a few points if you have been a struggling school."

"I don't know who wrote this," Boyle responded. "Karl Marx?"

(KSN&C has speculated {on scant data} that it is now easier for schools to achieve proficiency. We'll see if this is true next week.)

Some of the changes were apparently forced by NCLB. For example, the state's dalliance with Depth of Knowledge (DOK) - Professor Norman Webb's reinvention of Professor Benjamin Bloom's famous taxonomy - supposedly absolved the state when it increased use of multiple choice questions (and reduced use of open response questions) making the test less performance-based; something that is required by Kentucky statute.

KDE says the changes are "technically sound."

The Prichard Committee' s Cindy Heine says, "On balance, it's been good. I fully believe our schools are more focused on curriculum and instruction, and helping all children be successful..."

CATS uses results from the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT), which are tied directly to the state's standards. The key goal is progress at each school.

But at least for this year, that's harder to figure. To ballpark how the new scores translate to previous performances, school districts must apply a concordance table....

...Since CATS results will now be released as a bell curve, schools will be better able to compare their scores to others. But it makes it more difficult to compare a school's scores to its results from last year because the rules, and the ways to interpret them, have changed.

That's why a school or district could perform better but get a lower score, or vice versa. That won't, however, affect state-set goals for progress by which schools and districts are judged by the Kentucky Department of Education....

KDE says this is the first year of a new cycle, so this year's scores aren't make-or-break. But I doubt many folks in the field are going to see it that way. No one is suggesting that school leaders won't be replaced based on poor performance as measured by the new yardstick.

Boyle's been in education for 30 years, and strongly applauds the past decade's push for accountability.

There was little accountability on educators when he started his career, he said, and he reflects the mood of many Northern Kentucky school superintendents when he says CATS was well-intended and has been largely helpful in shaping curriculum improvement plans.

But he and others see this year's changes as creating a shifting target.

"We're just tired of the continual change," he said. "You adjust your curriculum
accordingly, who you hire, but it deals with people's livelihoods, and it gets frustrating."

Timing, of course, is everything. And that's another major complaint educators have about CATS results. Students take the tests in March and April, but results aren't typically released until September.

This year, it was pushed back even further, to Tuesday, in the wake of districts'
complaints that No Child Left Behind scores were inaccurate.

The problem is, by then, the school year is well under way, so it requires adjusting curriculum, or subject emphasis, in mid-stream.

"My biggest criticism isn't that we have an aggressive accountability, it's the timing," said Newport School Superintendent Michael Brandt.

"It's almost in October ... and the data is almost irrelevant," Brandt said. "Some of it's still very subjective, and the open-response part takes too long to grade. I have kind of a silly way of looking at it. If you can get a child into Harvard, Yale, UC or Northern, based on him or her taking a four -hour ACT test, why can't this be done quicker ...

This needs to be back (to schools) in 30, 45 days to implement corrections sooner."

School folks are broadly supportive of the intent of the CATS assessment and see it as a great improvement over past times when the pressure for student achievement was slight. But with the changes, CATS supporters are now waiting to see.
Erlanger-Elsmere School Superintendent Mike Sander...remains cautiously optimistic about the current changes. "Overall, is it better?" he said. "That's difficult to say. Let's see in two, three years."
As Kenton County Schools Superintendent Tim Hanner points out,

"This year it really is a one-year snapshot of how our students did."

A one-year snapshot is right. Nothing less.

But as some frustrated superintendents point out, it's also nothing more.

Judge halts Clark plan to shuffle students

WINCHESTER --This week, a group of frustrated Clark County parents claimed a small victory in a lawsuit they filed against the Clark County School Board and the Kentucky Board of Education

A Franklin Circuit judge granted an injunction Wednesday that prevents the Clark County School Board from implementing a plan that would close four elementary schools, consolidate the two county middle schools and build a new building for the county's only high school.

Clark County Citizens for Quality Education filed the lawsuit in July. The group alleges that the school board didn't follow proper procedures in developing the District Facilities Plan that outlines the changes to the school district.

The lawsuit is another piece of a debate that has riled parts of the community and put school board members on the defense. In May, critics of the facilities plan challenged board member Rick C. Perry's residency, saying that he didn't live in the district he was elected to represent.

Perry, who was later cleared of the accusations by the attorney general's office, said he was being attacked because he voted in favor of the facilities plan.

For residents who are critical of the plan, their fight represents an attempt to take a stand against a trend across Kentucky -- rural counties losing small schools in favor of larger, consolidated schools...

This from the Herald-Leader.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The new NAEP data are released. That means it's time to spin the news!

The release this week of national test scores in reading and math has generated a fresh round of conversation about how Kentucky's students are performing.

We have this conversation at least three times a year when the various "yardsticks" (NAEP; CATS; NCLB) trot out their measurement data. Then there's SAT, ACT... EIEIO....

Wouldn't it be great if such data were integrated into a comprehensive value-added system? But I digress.

NAEP scores nationally, and in many individual states, showed modest gains from 2005 to 2007.

As Diane Ravitch explains in today's New York Post,
The federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is known in the education world as the gold standard of testing. In 2002, Congress authorized NAEP testing in every state to serve as a check of the states' own claims about their progress. (Congress rightly worried that individual states would dumb-down tests that they themselves develop and administer.)
And, there is at least reason to be suspicious of Kentucky's "new and improved" test. It appears Kentucky may have joined a number of other states in a race to the bottom by the redefining of proficiency.

Whenever test score data are released the spinning begins. The Kentucky Department of Education has an interest (some might say a duty) in pointing out the progress made by the schools. So they publicly shine a light on the best numbers, and privately express concern for the worst.

It's a little thing called spin. Everybody seems to delight in the practice these days.

In a Tuesday press release, the Kentucky Department of Education said,

"The results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and mathematics show that Kentucky's 4th and 8th-graders made gains when compared to the state's performance in previous NAEP assessments..."

True. Gains were made. Kentucky's student achievement, as measured by the NAEP, has trended steadily upward overall. (See charts below.)

So that's KDE's headline; Progress over time.

On the other side of the argument, assessment watchdogs are sniffing out specific areas of concern. Writing for the Bluegrass Institute this week, Richard Innes took issue with KDE's discounting of declines in 8th grade reading.

KDE claims of eighth grade reading since 1998, “Kentucky’s 8th-graders’ scores have remained steady, with minor gains and losses.”

Is that a fair description? Let’s examine the facts.

In the new ... NAEP assessments ... Kentucky had a reading proficiency rate of 30 percent in 1998. That rose to 32 percent in 2002 and went up again to 34 percent in 2003.

Then, things came unglued.

Eighth grade reading proficiency decayed to 31 percent in 2005, and in 2007 it slid again to just 28 percent. The 2007 proficiency rate is statistically significantly lower than both the 2002 and 2003 scores and is clearly six points lower than the 2003 performance. That six point difference isn’t just statistically significant – it’s just plain SIGNIFICANT.

No other state lost more ground in this time frame.

What’s more, during the same time period, the CATS Kentucky Core Content Test reading proficiency rates for eighth graders continuously rose. Do you believe that?
CATS up 10 points while NAEP declined six?

I'll take Dick's word for it that the declines are statistically significant and that Kentucky's decline is the nation's worst. The decline certainly looks significant to me.

We don't generally consider six point drops minor, and more to the point, downward trends are antithetical to progress. If it were me...I think I'd have left the word "minor" out of KDE's statement.


Innes has discovered some bad news, but arguably, not the worst news.

While Kentucky has progressed steadily, so have other states. Growth is a vital factor to consider, but so is excellence. Kentucky's relative standing among the states frequently leaves the state in all too familiar territory.

For example, who do Kentucky students outperform in 4th grade math? (See map below)

New Mexico, Louisiania, Mississippi and Alabama. All other states are roughly equal to (9 states), or exceed (36 states) Kentucky's progress. You're not going to hear that in a KDE headline.

It's a little better at 8th grade. Add California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tenessee, Hawaii and West Virginia to the list.

Kentucky only outscores eight states in 8th grade reading.

But clearly the best news for Kentucky is in 4th grade reading where Kentucky joins the national leaders and is only outscored by seven states. What happens between 4th grade and 8th grade in reading ought to be of concern.


We're less than a week away from KDE's next big announcement of progress. I predict the new CATS assessment will show average performance gains of 7% or so across-the-board and in some places, jumps will be huge based at least partly upon changes...
a) to the test itself
b) to the "cut scores" used to define proficiency

The new test data can not be compared to the previous tests - but it will be. It's the data school folks have.

We discussed the NCLB data situation last night at UK. Without advance comment, I asked a group of graduate students (and future principals) to analyze the NCLB proficiency rates in Kentucky. The general reaction to the sharp increase was "Wow!" One of the students shared her experience working with the assessment company to establish the new cut scores. We discussed changes to the system that might account for the dramatic increases, and how school leaders could "present" the data. That's when one of the students came up with the best spin ever. (Pay attention Lisa. Here's your angle.) The new assessment is a truer reflection of the content actually taught in Kentucky's schools, and therefore the 7-point spike in proficiency levels is a fairer measure of the actual progress Kentucky students have made than under the old test.


Now, if we can only get the NAEP data to bear that out....

We have a fundamental problem in our current accountability system. It's initial purpose was political (to garner the support of the business community for KERA's big price tag). It not focused so much on student achievement and curriculum. The focus was school accountability.

Better, would have been a assessment system that began with content and then folded the data into a value-added system, such as the one used in Tennessee. If CATS had been designed to improve instruction for individual students, it would have looked very different.

To their credit, and after the fact, many educators began to look at interim assessment systems that would help teachers identify learning problems early and intervene quickly. There has been a lot of good work done in the trenches, but the state system has become a hodgepoge under NCLB.

Interpreting test data to the public is a national problem, and "interested" parties will always spin the data to suit their own purposes. What we really need is a "disinterested" assessment/accountability reporting source.

As Ravitch understands, we need...
an independent, nonpartisan, professional audit agency to administer tests and report results to the public.

Such an agency should be staffed by testing professionals without a vested interest in whether the scores go up or down. Right now, when scores go down, the public is told that the test was harder this year - but when scores rise, state officials never speculate that the test might have been easier. Instead, they high-five one another and congratulate the state Board...for their wise policies and programs.

What the public needs are the facts. No spin, no creative explanations, no cherry-picking of data for nuggets of good news.
Just the facts.
I may even know the right folks for the job. I understand Ben Oldham at Georgetown College has recruited Skip Kifer and Tom Guskey to form an assessment center at Gtown. I studied under Ben and Skip and am familiar (along with most of the national academic community) with Tom's work. I can't think of a more valuable state resource to guide a more effective and fair assessment program that the guys at Georgetown.


Student Characteristics
Number enrolled: 679,878
Percent in Title I schools: 60.6%
With Individualized Education Programs (IEP): 16.0%
Percent in limited-English proficiency programs: 1.5%
Percent eligible for free/reduced lunch: 52.4%

School/District Characteristics
Number of school districts: 176
Number of schools: 1,426
Number of charter schools: N/A
Per-pupil expenditures: $7,2541
Pupil/teacher ratio: 16.0
Number of FTE teachers: 42,413

Racial/Ethnic Background
White: 86.3%1
Black: 10.6%1
Hispanic: 2.1%1
Asian/Pacific Islander: 0.9%
American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0.2%

Scale Scores for Mathematics
Kentucky vs. National Public

For more specific data check out NAEP's Data Explorer.

Cross State Comparison
Percent At or Above Proficient
4th Grade Mathematics
Blue = Kentucky
Green = States above Ky
Yellow = States about the same as Ky
Red = States below Ky

For more specific data check out NAEP's Data Explorer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kentucky Board of Education to Meet

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Wednesday and Thursday, October 3 and 4, in the State Board Room of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.

On Wednesday, the full board will meet at 8:30 a.m. The board’s Management and Audit Committees will meet in the afternoon. On Thursday, the board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee will meet at 9 a.m., with the full board convening after that meeting.

Agenda items include a presentation on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) data release, final action on a regulation related to the Kentucky Highly Skilled Educator program criteria and a report from the Kentucky Youth Advocates on alternative education programs.

The board also will present the annual Samuel Robinson Award to an individual or organization in Kentucky for demonstrating outstanding commitment, service and leadership in promoting opportunities to learn at high levels for all Kentucky students.

A full agenda follows.

OCTOBER 3-4, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

8:30 a.m. (EDT)

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Approval of minutes from the August 8-9, 2007 regular meeting and July 28, 2007 special meeting

IV. Report of the Secretary of the Education Cabinet

V. Report of the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education

VI. Report of the Executive Director of the Education Professional Standards Board

VII. Report from the Pre-K to 16 Council

VIII. Report of the Commissioner of Education

IX. Full Board Items

A. Discussion with the Christian County School District on its Voluntary Partnership Assistance Team (VPAT) program -- Johnnie Grissom, Steve Schenck and Christian County School District Staff ; 60-minute presentation/discussion

B. Overview of the facilities planning process and future revision of the school facilities regulation -- Larry Stinson, Mark Ryles and Tim Lucas; 45-minute presentation/discussion

C. Commonwealth Accountability Testing System Data Release -- Ken Draut, Rhonda Sims and Kevin Hill; 30-minute presentation/discussion

D. Hearing Officer's Report -- Kevin Noland; 10-minute presentation/discussion

X. Presentation of the Sam Robinson Award

XI. Luncheon Honoring the Sam Robinson Award Winner

(Lunch provided for KBE members, Invited Guests and Commissioner’s Planning Committee members/Associates only)


XII. Management Committee Meeting

A. Action/Consent Items
1. 2007-2008 Local District Tax Rates Levied
2. District Facility Plans: Clay, Gallatin, Graves and Owen County School Districts

B. Action/Discussion Items
1. Jefferson County alternative school-based decision making (SBDM) formula
2. 701 KAR 5:130, Drug Testing of Teachers Involved in Illegal Use of Controlled Substances (Final)

C. Review Items
1. 702 KAR 3:130, Internal Accounting
2. Identification of District Watch List (List of districts under separate cover)

XIII. Audit Committee Meeting

A. Review Item
1. KDE Audit Updates


XIV. Screening of applications for commissioner of education (closed session; working dinner; no action to be taken in closed session)


Thursday, October 4, 2007

7:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. (EDT)
(No business to be conducted)

9:00 a.m. (EDT)

XV. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee Meeting

A. Action/Discussion Items
1. 703 KAR 5:170, Kentucky Highly Skilled Educator Program Criteria (Final)

B. Review Items
1. Report from Kentucky Youth Advocates on the study of alternative education
2. Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC) Update
3. Title III English Language Learners (ELL)/Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Immigrant Students' English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards


XVI. Full Board Items

A. Special recognition by Chair Joe Brothers
B. Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) budget priorities and preparation of the 2009-2010 biennial budget request -- Kevin Noland, Robin Kinney and Petie Day; 60-minute presentation/discussion
C. Kentucky Board of Education 2008 Legislative Agenda -- Kevin Noland and Bonnie Brinly; 20-minute presentation/discussion

XVII. Approval of Action/Consent Agenda Items (approved as a block of items)
A. School District Tax Rates Levied
B. District facility plans

XVIII. Report of the Management Committee on Action/Discussion Items

XIX. Report of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee on Action/Discussion Items

XX. Report of the Audit Committee

XXI. Board Member Sharing

XXII. Information Items
A. KDE Employment Report

XXIII. Litigation Report

XXIV. Internal Board Business
A. KBE Policy Manual
B. Criteria for the Sam Robinson and Joe Kelly Awards

XXV. Adjournment

XXVI. Lunch
(Lunch provided for KBE members, Invited Guests and Commissioner’s Planning Committee members/Associates only)
SOURCE: KDE press release

Board of Education Plans to do its Homework on Next Kentucky Commissioner

This from Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal:
Board of Education chief impressed with commissioner candidates

In the second search for a state education commissioner this year, the chairman of the Board of Education said today that the number of applicants is “very encouraging.”

So far, approximately 40 people have applied, said Chairman Joe Brothers. ...

...Rather than appoint a separate screening committee, the full board will review the applications itself and narrow the pool to several semifinalists at its meeting Wednesday.

“We are going to hire someone to assist us with the criminal background and initial reference check,” Brothers said. “Once the applicants get through that stage, we will publicly identify about seven semifinalists.”

This is the second search conducted for a commissioner this year after Barbara Erwin...resigned three days before she was to start work....after a series of revelations about her background, including inaccurate information on her resume. Ray and Associates Inc., ...offered to conduct the second [search] at no cost, but...Board members criticized the firm, saying it should have vetted Erwin more closely.

Some board members also said that a lack of board leadership was partly to blame, and the former chairman, Keith Travis, was ousted last month.

Brothers, who replaced Travis, said he expects the semifinalists to be named by mid-October.

He said once their names are released, the board will spend “a lot of time” checking out each candidate’s background.“We will be doing all of the investigations and the footwork ourselves” for the second search, Brothers said. “I expect that we will be doing site visits, as well as checking with a number of people in each of the candidates’ communities and with places they have worked before.”

Once the board is done checking out the candidates, it will publicly identify between two and four finalists and interview them on Nov. 13, the same day the board would like to name the new commissioner....

Bail set for imprisoned ‘Jena 6’ teen

Prosecutor won't fight ruling that sent
black teen’s case to juvenile court

JENA, La. - Bail was set at $45,000 for Mychal Bell, a black teenager once charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate, a LaSalle Parish sheriff’s office official told NBC News.

Also Thursday, District Attorney Reed Walters confirmed that he will no longer seek an adult trial for Bell — one of the group known as the "Jena 6" — as part of a case that drew tens of thousands of protesters to Jena last week.

Reed Walters announcement, Video from CNN (4:00).

Walters credited the prayers of people in this small central Louisiana town with averting a “disaster” during the demonstration. Some critics of Walters considered that a slap against the peaceful marchers.

The conviction in adult court was thrown out this month by the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, which said Bell should not have been tried as an adult on that particular charge.

The ruling means that Bell, who had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on his aggravated second-degree battery conviction last month, cannot get anything close to that sentence in the case.

This from MSNBC. (Pundit Video)

Meanwhile: WAVY TV (Norfolk VA) reports: The FBI says it is investigating a Roanoke, Virginia man who posted the personal information of the "Jena 6" students on his website, urging white supremacists to "deliver justice" by lynching them. Bill White calls himself the Commander of the American National Socialist Workers' Party.

Louisville lawsuit challenges black-teacher ratio

The Courier-Journal reports:
Case filed against Jefferson district

A Louisville teacher is suing Jefferson County Public Schools, saying the district's practice of dispersing black teachers among its schools amounts to discrimination.

Laukhuf Elementary teacher Lorraine D. Hill filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, saying she was denied interviews and a transfer to Cane Run or Wellington elementary schools that were closer to her home because they already had too many black teachers.

She is contesting the district's use of the so-called "Singleton Ratio," named after a 1960s desegregation case. The ratio requires that the percentage of black teachers within a school remain within 5 percentage points of the overall average for elementary, middle or high schools.
In Jefferson County, that means holding most schools' percentage of black teachers between 6.8 and 21.9 percent, depending on the grade level.

Nearly 15 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools' 6,168 teachers are black. Roughly 35 percent of the students are black.

The district's practice of distributing black teachers dates to the 1970s, when it was part of court-ordered desegregation...


Meanwhile - Ted Gordon, the Louisville attorney who represents Hill and who helped overturn Jefferson County Public Schools' student-integration policy, is asking a federal judge to order the district to pay him $750,000 in fees and bonuses.

...This too from the Courier-Journal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You can lead a kid to homework, but you can't make him think

...Every parent's been there, trying to separate his homework-procrastinating child from today's endless world of distractions. And with cell phones, Blackberries, sidekicks, TV, video games, iPods and the Internet, it's harder now than ever.

Now, Fort Thomas Schools is offering some help. For the first time, the district is sponsoring a homework seminar for parents. It's set for Wednesday at Highlands Middle School...

...The program will discuss expectations for homework completion, homework completion strategies, and study strategies. It will also discuss how to encourage students to complete homework, how to develop good study habits, how to determine how much help to give, and how to develop student responsibility.

Among advice [Patrick Richardson, a district staff psychologist] offers:

Be consistent. An established routine will help students, already saddled with busy schedules, settle down to focus on their homework.

Be active. Know the details of your child's homework each day, and be aggressive about ensuring it not only gets done, but gets done right. distractions. No Nintendo, TV, phones, those types of things...

This from the Cincinnati Post.

Free Speech wins

Kentucky School News and Commentary posted a story recently about hundreds of Stanford University protesters who objected to the addition of Donald Rumsfeld to the University's conservative Hoover Institute, which also claims Condoleeza Rice and Eric "money won't make our schools better but it sure affords me a better lifestyle" Hanushek as members.

The argument is essentially that Donald Rumsfeld is a politician and a liar and should therefore be denied any "voice" that might influence others.

Countering this argument is Chris Holt, writing for the Stanford Daily.
...I propose that Donald Rumsfeld become the new Dean of Students. Liberals have questioned placing a politician in our academic environment, but I can tell you that I’ve been surrounded by nothing but academics at this university; that just proves we’re not really committed to diversity.

In contrast, while many conservatives point to the educational value of Rumsfeld’s experience, anyone who is familiar with his interviews over the last few months knows he doesn’t remember anything. Rather, we need his innate administrative skill...

...He’d also be a big supporter of the administration. Why, he’s renowned for his loyalty to governing bodies. No matter how controversial the decision, Dean Rumsfeld would put up a good front...If the University accepted money from a donor who sought to...erect a large gym without showers, Rummy would stand by the administration’s decision...He’d reassure us with things like, “It’s complicated” and “hard work.”

...Some students have expressed cynicism at the appointment of Rumsfeld. They suggest that Rummy would not be likely to engage students in an active debate, and, instead, his very presence seems to implicitly support numerous war crimes and one of the least popular administrations in recorded history. Many claim that even conservatives consider him the embodiment of failed policy and a blight on their party.

While the Hoover Institute is a separate body, these students assert that his selection is an embarrassment to the greater campus community and an insult to the innumerable soldiers and civilians that have lost their lives in Iraq.

To these foes, I can only reply: you go to school with the ethics you have, not with the ethics you want.

On the other side of the country Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial appearance at Columbia University brought out protesters saying he should not be permitted to speak.

The argument is essentially that Ahmadinejad is a politician and a liar and should therefore be denied any "voice" that might influence others. As Newsday reported:
[His] controversial appearance at Columbia University yesterday began with harsh, combative words from protesters, politicians and even the university president - who introduced the hard-line leader to a packed auditorium as "a petty and cruel dictator" with "a fanatical mindset."

"Today, I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for," Columbia University president Lee Bollinger said in a stinging rebuke of Ahmadinejad that also defended the university's decision to invite him to speak. "We do not honor the dishonorable when we open our forums to their voices."

Combative and engaging, Ahmadinejad was quick to respond, contending that Bollinger's introduction contained "many insults and claims that were incorrect" and that the audience should be allowed to draw its own conclusions after hearing him speak.

That's the way it is with free speech. It exists to protect the speech we don't want to hear. It matters less where the lies come from. It matter much more, that American democracy is buttressed by an educated public that can think for itself and see through the lies - regardless their source.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Say goodbye to NCLB

It is uncertain whether No Child Left Behind will be reauthorized, amended and reauthorized, or allowed to continue through Congressional inability to agree on a better approach. But it is becoming clearer that its aspirational title - the one the government failed to sufficiently support to reach its worthy goals - is on its last legs.

This from the Washington Post.

The days of President Bush's signature education initiative, No Child Left Behind, might be numbered -- not the program, but the name.

Lawmakers working on legislation to reform the program say they are considering a new moniker. One reason, said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a key sponsor of the original bill that transformed K-12 education in the country by ushering in an era of high-stakes standardized testing, is that "No Child" is inextricably linked to Bush.

And Bush, he said, has become unpopular. Furthermore, he said, people simply don't like the name.

"People find it an incredible insult [to suggest] that we are deliberately leaving children behind," he said.

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the nonprofit Children's Defense Fund, is all for a name change, partly because she said Bush's law was actually "a usurpation" of the fund's federally registered Leave No Child Behind service mark and trademark.

Her preference: "Quality Education for All Children Act" or simply
amending Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami, offered: "Children First!"

Andrew Friedson, president of the Student Government Association at the University of Maryland at College Park, had a few suggestions that show his dislike of the current law: "No Child Left a Brain Act" and "All the Money Left Behind Act."

Envisioning a new program was Dorothy Rich, founder and director of the nonprofit Home and School Institute, with these possible names: "New Partnerships for Student Achievement" or "Educating Americans for Today's World."

Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, suggested that a good "outcomes-focused title" could be "The Lifelong Economic Security Act," which she said would speak to individuals as well as corporate executives calling for a better-educated workforce.

An "aspirational" title, she said, could be "Give Children a Fair Chance Act."

"But I'm not sure the actual legislation would live up to the name," McGuire said.

It didn't the last time.

Call of the Wild

The dark truth behind Kid Nation

In 1954, the same year Lord of the Flies came out, researchers at the University of Oklahoma recruited 22 boys, all 11 years old, for an experiment that has become a Cold War classic of social psychology.

They split the homogeneous bunch into two groups and sent them to different areas in a wooded Boy Scout camp in Robbers Cave State Park. It was billed as a camp experience. But the counselors (researchers in disguise) kept a low profile as they set about studying a topic much on Americans' minds in the era of the communist menace: the dynamics of group identity and hostility.

The real agenda was to observe the boys bonding in their respective groups and then watch how animosities escalated after the groups were brought together to engage in an array of competitive games. The scientists wanted to see what it would take to orchestrate harmony between the tribes at the end of the three weeks.

As it turned out, all hell broke loose way ahead of schedule (sticks and stones flew), and the researchers struggled to engineer a truce. By inventing a common enemy, they finally got all the guys to work together—warily.

Sound sort of familiar?

Ours is a culture regularly panicked about children's vulnerability or their precocity, or both.

And with Kid Nation, a new reality show from CBS that debuted last [Wednesday] night, we may have our own social psychology classic in the making.

For weeks now, it has been clear the network has hit a nerve with its Survivor-junior idea of corralling kids in the New Mexico desert and leaving them to fend for themselves. Do grown-ups really have kids' best interests at heart?

It's a question that never ceases to titillate and terrify us, steeped as we are in a consumerist ethos that has parents, and hordes of marketers, hovering over children—and also hurrying them onward to … maturity or a life of vacuous, status-seeking insecurity? ...

This from Slate.

In Little Rock: "50 years may sound like a long time, but it isn't. We still have a long way to go."

Looking at the pictures, it is hard to imagine that it happened in America, but it did, and not so long ago: Fifty years ago in Little Rock, Ark., white adults hurled insults and jeers at nine black teenagers who just wanted to go to school. (Video 3:35) (Timeline)

It was the first test of the Supreme Court decision striking down the separate-but-equal doctrine that had kept schools legally segregated.

In September 1957, the nine black students trying to integrate Little Rock Central High School were repeatedly blocked by the Arkansas National Guard, under orders from the governor.

After weeks of crisis, on Sept. 25, President Eisenhower brought in the U.S. Army -- and the Little Rock Nine, as they came to be called, finally enrolled.

Today, Little Rock Central High School is more than half black and it is one of the best public high schools in the country, sending students each year to the nation's best colleges.

But while there is no longer anger between the races at Central, both teachers and students admit there is not much mixing either.

"I think Central is two schools," said teacher Cynthia Mahomes. "I'm not necessarily saying it is by design, but I think the way it happens, the reality ... is that there are two schools. ... There's a black school and a white school." ...

This from ABC News.

Teacher fired for claiming the Bible should not be taken literally

Teacher: I was fired, said Bible isn't literal
The community college instructor says
the school sided with students
offended by his explanation of Adam and Eve.

A community college instructor in Red Oak claims he was fired after he told his students that the biblical story of Adam and Eve should not be literally interpreted.
Steve Bitterman, 60, said officials at Southwestern Community College sided with a handful of students who threatened legal action over his remarks in a western civilization class Tuesday.
He said he was fired Thursday.
"I'm just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master's degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job," Bitterman said.
Sarah Smith, director of the school's Red Oak campus, declined to comment Friday on Bitterman's employment status. The school's president, Barbara Crittenden, said Bitterman taught one course at Southwest. She would not comment, however, on his claim that he was fired over the Bible reference, saying it was a personnel issue."I can assure you that the college understands our employees' free-speech rights," she said. "There was no action taken that violated the First Amendment."
Bitterman, who taught part time at Southwestern and Omaha's Metropolitan Community College, said he uses the Old Testament in his western civilization course and always teaches it from an academic standpoint.
Bitterman's Tuesday course was telecast to students in Osceola over the Iowa Communications Network. A few students in the Osceola classroom, he said, thought the lesson was "denigrating their religion."
"I put the Hebrew religion on the same plane as any other religion. Their god wasn't given any more credibility than any other god," Bitterman said.
"I told them it was an extremely meaningful story, but you had to see it in a poetic, metaphoric or symbolic sense, that if you took it literally, that you were going to miss a whole lot of meaning there."Bitterman said he called the story of Adam and Eve a "fairy tale" in a conversation with a student after the class and was told the students had threatened to see an attorney...
..."As a taxpayer, I'd like to know if a tax-supported public institution of higher learning has given veto power over what can and cannot be said in its classrooms to a fundamentalist religious group," he said. "If it has ... then the taxpaying public of Iowa has a right to know.
What's next? Whales talk French at the bottom of the sea?"
This from the DesMoines Register.

Conference focuses on civics in schools

This from Toni Konz at The Courier-Journal:

National and local leaders joined education officialsfrom 14 states at a conference in Louisville over the weekend to discuss the importance of restoring civic education in America's schools.

The three-day meeting let participants exchange ideas, share resources and develop materials promoting civic education, said Donna Shouse, a social studies consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Annette Pitts, executive director of the Florida Civic Alliance, said in this era of high-stakes testing, civic education is being pushed to the side.

"We are trying to evaluate what is currently happening and we hope to advance public policy and enhance curriculum in all grade levels," Pitts said. "It's such an important task; if students don't know what the Constitution says or know how to be involved in a democratic system, we are at great risk of losing this form of government."

About 40 people attended the Southern Coalition on Civic Education and Engagement's conference at The Brown hotel, including Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District...

Education in Ohio being scrutinized

COLUMBUS - Both charter and public schools in Ohio have been tossed around like footballs this fall, leaving parents to wonder whether any variety of education is actually working for their children.

First, Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann announced a legal assault on charter schools that are missing state academic and financial targets. He filed the latest in his expected string of suits Friday against the privately run, publicly funded operations.

Earlier in the week, public schools in Columbus were targeted in a lawsuit by attorney and mayoral candidate Bill Todd. He argued that schools are spending way more money on some students than others - and not just from one district to another, but from building to building in the same district.

Whether either man, one Democrat and one Republican, has a valid legal argument is yet to be seen. But the political motives of each is clear...

This from the Cincinnati Post.

Back Jack

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

Tuscaloosa, where George Wallace once stood defiantly in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, also has had a volatile history in its public schools. Three decades of federal desegregation marked by busing and white flight ended in 2000. Though the city is 54 percent white, its school system is 75 percent black.

The schools superintendent and board president, both white, said in an interview that the rezoning, which redrew boundaries of school attendance zones, was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding. By optimizing use of the city’s 19 school buildings, the district saved taxpayers millions, officials said. They also acknowledged another goal: to draw more whites back into Tuscaloosa’s schools by making them attractive to parents of 1,500 children attending private academies founded after court-ordered desegregation began.

“I’m sorry not everybody is on board with this,” said Joyce Levey, the superintendent. “But the issue in drawing up our plan was not race. It was how to use our buildings in the best possible way.” Dr. Levey said that all students forced by the rezoning to move from a high- to a lower-performing school were told of their right under the No Child law to request a transfer.

When the racially polarized, eight-member Board of Education approved the rezoning plan in May, however, its two black members voted against it. “All the issues we dealt with in the ’60s, we’re having to deal with again in 2007,” said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members.

“We’re back to separate but equal — but separate isn’t equal.” ...

This from the New York Times. Photo by Dave Martin.

Newest Hoover Fellow Rumsfeld Draws Protest at Stanford

“We view the appointment [of Donald Rumsfeld] as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry, respect for national and international laws and care for the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford is inalienably committed.”

That's how the petition read as hundreds of Stanford University students and faculty protested the naming of Donald Rumsfeld to Stanford's conservative Hoover Institute.

This from the New York Times.

PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 19 — The appointment of Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution is drawing fierce protests from faculty members and students at Stanford University and is threatening to rekindle tensions between the institution, a conservative research body, and the more liberal campus.

Some 2,100 professors, staff members, students and alumni have signed an online petition protesting Mr. Rumsfeld’s appointment, which will involve advising a task force on ideology and terrorism. Faculty members say he should not have been offered the post because of his role in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the Iraq war...

...John Raisian, director of the Hoover Institution since 1989, defended the appointment...

...“I appointed him because he has three decades of experience, of incredible public service, especially in recent years as it relates to this question of ideology and terror,” Mr. Raisian said.

Mr. Raisian said Mr. Rumsfeld had accepted the appointment, which would last one year.

Such short-term appointments, whether by the institution or by an academic department, do not require the extensive review that a tenure decision might...

...At times, though, there have been tensions. In the late 1980s, some students and faculty members successfully fought a proposal championed by the director of the Hoover Institution to place Ronald Reagan’s presidential library on the campus. Last year, Mr. Bush planned to visit fellows at the Hoover Institution before having dinner with George P. Shultz, a former secretary of state who is also a fellow. But after protests, the meeting was moved to Mr. Shultz’s home.

Another potential conflict could involve Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a former Stanford provost and Hoover fellow. Ms. Rice, who is on leave from a tenured faculty position, has said she would be interested in returning to Stanford after leaving the Bush administration. In a letter to Stanford’s undergraduate newspaper in May, a professor wrote that she should not be welcomed back...

Education and Schools Are a Focus for Edwards

DES MOINES, Sept. 21 — The Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards laid out a proposal on Friday to overhaul the education system, saying that the current No Child Left Behind law was not working and that poor children were still being sent to schools that are “separate and unequal.”

Speaking at Brody Middle School here, Mr. Edwards outlined a plan that he said would evaluate students more effectively, reduce class sizes and reward teachers who work in high-poverty schools with up to $15,000 in incentive pay, initiatives similar to those championed by education officials in New York City and elsewhere.

He also called for universal preschool, the creation of a national university that would become a “West Point for teachers” and an initiative that uses what he described as “education SWAT teams” to sweep in and rebuild failing schools.

“First, every child should be prepared to succeed when they show up in the classroom,” Mr. Edwards said. “Second, every classroom should be led by an excellent teacher. And third, every teacher should work in an outstanding school. These three principles should guide our reform.” ...

This from the New York Times.

Beshear says he'll improve schools

Candidate unsure of funds for plan

Democrat Steve Beshear said yesterday that if he's elected governor he will support expanded preschool education for low-income children and better quality of education for all public school students.

Beshear, speaking at the Unseld Childcare and Development Center in Louisville, said his opponent, Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, hasn't done enough for education.
"This current administration has let the state down in many ways but under-investing in education is one of the worst,'' Beshear said.

Fletcher spokesman Jason Keller rejected that claim.

"It appears he (Beshear) doesn't have a clue about the governor's work in education in Kentucky,'' Keller said yesterday, adding that Fletcher has worked with lawmakers to seek additional funds for education and develop new programs, including the "Read to Achieve'' program now offered in 300 schools.

Beshear didn't say how he would pay for his proposals, saying he would first need to get in office and study the state's budget situation. But his plan includes:

Expanding free voluntary preschool to children ages 3 and 4 whose family income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- for a family of four, about $41,000. The state currently provides free preschool to 4-year-olds whose families are below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Improving students' basic skills in reading, math and science.

Raising teacher pay and providing more funding to education.

Improving school facilities and reducing class sizes from current guidelines that call for class sizes of 24 for the youngest students, to 31 for the oldest.

Beshear said he supports the basic tenets of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 but said the emphasis on high-stakes accountability testing, and other requirements, may need review.

"I think it's time to take a comprehensive look at KERA,'' he said....
This from the Courier-Journal.

Despite rumors and allegations, Deming teacher returns to school

MOUNT OLIVET -- Parents dropped off their children or busses arrived in time for the morning bell at Deming School, earlier this week. The only thing unusual was the presence of a few news media members hovering near the driveway.Following a Lexington news broadcast on Sept. 7, about rumored and alleged misconduct by a female teacher, residents may have been loosely talking about rumors, but kept tight lipped when asked for comments or factual information.

"All I have heard is the rumors. I don't know the teacher. If the rumors were true, then something should be done," said one woman walking her daughters to class.

What has recently been verified by school officials is this: Crystal Wells, a Deming math teacher, has been disciplined by the school for what Superintendent Chuck Brown called "bad judgment" in text message communications between Wells and a teenage boy at the school.

In a Ledger Independent interview with Brown earlier last week, he declined comments on the accusations of inappropriate cellular phone activities between Wells and male students. At the time, Brown refused to confirm that Wells was not in class, reassigned or under any disciplinary action. Her position at the school was defined as "still employed here," and Brown confirmed Wells was entering her fourth year as a teacher at Deming.According to several Deming students, Wells had not been in her classroom during that same time and a substitute was in her place.

She was back on Monday...Parental complaints may have prompted the disciplinary action by the school, but no criminal complaints or charges have been filed, said police officials.

According to Kentucky State Police, Robertson County Sheriff's Office and Mount Olivet Police Department officials, allegations have not been forwarded to their agencies for investigation."You have to wonder how it would have been handled if the teacher was male and doing the same thing with girls," said Sheriff Randy Insko. "I have only heard what everyone else has, on the street, but no official investigation has been asked for."

...The Ledger Independent has been informed that a complaint filed by Wells in the past resulted in a male student, over age 16, being expelled for allegedly touching her. In that incident as well, no law officials were included in the school actions.

Family members of one alleged victim, who is under age 16, said they are concerned for the emotional welfare of the boy, but have been asked by other family members not to disclose details at this time. They were not happy Wells had returned to the school...

From Deming School Superintendent Chuck Brown,
dated Sept. 10, 2007
"Official disciplinary action was taken against Crystal Wells
in the form of an unpaid suspension.

This action was deemed necessary based on the following facts:

1.There were in excess of 3,000 text messages exchanged between her cell phone and that of a male student between January and April. The content of these messages is unknown.

2.Several of these messages were sent during school hours, which is in violation of school board policy.

There have been no allegations, nor has there been any evidence of any immoral or illegal activities on the part of Mrs. Wells.

The court of public opinion is quite possibly the most powerful court in the land. Unfortunately, decisions regarding guilt or innocence are based on half-truths or “testimony” from those unrestrained by a duty to confidentiality. While it is true that public school employees are subject to the same scrutiny as elected public officials, they do have the right to due process in matters regarding disciplinary action. Until all rights to appeal have been exhausted, any such action is not official and therefore is not available for public knowledge."

This from the Ledger Independent.

New JeffCo Super opines on Assessment in C-J

In an Op Ed in C-J Friday, Sheldon H. Berman correctly opines that

  • assessments ought to be diagnostic
  • CATS is about accountability and is not diagnostic
  • a proper test would tell us how students improve over time
  • overreliance on the current test distracts from the larger educational mission
  • parents aren't wild about the present testing circumstance
  • CATS should move toward a growth model of assessment (a value added system perhaps?)
  • limit the amount of time spent on assessment
  • investment in the schools must include efforts toward "small class size, early childhood services, [and] additional instructional time..."


Then he gets something wrong. Berman suggests that a new CATS assessment should include what folks refer to as multiple measures, "authentic measures of assessing student performance such as portfolios, exhibitions and extended writing samples that are better able to reveal higher-order thinking."

Here's the problem.

The essential question of accountability is, "What will the public accept as trustworthy evidence that schools are performing up to expectations?" I have real doubt that the public will put enough stock in highly subjective measures. Portfolio assessment, exhibitions...etc., suffer from threats to interrater reliability. In a high-stakes assessment environment subjectivity is poison. If the assessment system was redesigned to assist teachers only - not for accountability - it would be a different matter.

Otherwise, Berman has the right idea. You don't fatten a calf by weighing it. But when growth data are consistently kept, smart beef producers can better monitor the progress of the herd and account for the effectiveness of their various efforts to improve the livestock.

A Pendulum Swing On Education Reform

The current education reform movement is built on the belief that setting high standards and holding educators and schools accountable will lead to improved student performance. I am one who holds that belief.

However, if our goal is to bring all students to a level of proficiency that reflects depth of understanding, the measures we use to assess progress must be of sufficient quality to give us more than a general sense of what students know. They have to be diagnostic tools, enabling educators to accurately assess individual student needs and curricular strengths and weaknesses.

There is a significant difference between testing systems used to monitor performance and systems that provide diagnostic information on individual students. Diagnostic tests are both more elaborate and more expensive than tests used to monitor because they have to provide a finer grain of analysis on the understanding individual students have of particular concepts.

For example, a high quality diagnostic test in math has to provide educators with detailed information on individual student understanding in such subcategories as number sense, computation skill, algebraic concepts, geometry, data analysis, measurement, etc. Diagnostic information also has to tell us how students improve over time, what growth in understanding they've made in these particular areas, and what value specific educational programs and services have added to that growth.

To date, the instruments we've used to assess school improvement have been relatively crude and have focused primarily on monitoring performance rather than providing diagnostic information. In addition, the consequences of our overuse of these instruments have detracted from our larger educational mission...

...First, we need to move toward a growth model of assessing performance, assessing each student's growth for each school year. The Kentucky Instructional Data System (KIDS) project, which will allow schools and districts to look at students' progress from year to year, is a modest start in this direction but more needs to be done to align tests across years so we can track individual performance over time.

Second, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) needs to become more useful as a diagnostic tool by releasing more test items along with detailed item analyses so we can precisely assess students' strengths and needs.

Third, we need to carefully weigh the amount of time schools spend on local and state testing with the need for high-quality instructional time, and then begin to limit the amount of time devoted to testing.

Finally, we need to further develop and give greater credibility to authentic measures of assessing student performance such as portfolios, exhibitions and extended writing samples that are better able to reveal higher-order thinking...

...With so much attention focused on accountability, we need to be careful that the measures we use don't become ends in themselves....

...Our primary goal, after all, is for students to become thoughtful, responsible adults who are active and productive members of our community.

As the NCLB reauthorization debate continues in Washington and as we deliberate on the next steps in Kentucky's accountability system, it is time to enhance the sophistication of our assessment system so schools can focus on depth of understanding while ensuring that students become well-rounded individuals.

There is an old saying that the cow doesn't get fatter by weighing it more often. If we want to realize real instructional gains from our assessment efforts, we need to focus our attention on better diagnostic tools that enable us to advance individual student performance. In addition, we need to think beyond assessment and seriously invest in the solutions the public and most educators believe will effectively move education reform and student performance forward -- small class size, early childhood services, additional instructional time, and increased funding for schools.

After Jena protest, Nooses Found at NorthCarolina School

School Officials Found Two Nooses on a Tree,
One in the Bus Parking Lot
and One on the Flagpole

A day after civil rights figures led a massive protest in Jena, La., where racial tensions flared after nooses were hung from a tree outside Jena High School, more nooses were found on a tree outside another southeastern high school.

A total of four nooses were found Friday around the campus of Andrews High School in High Point, N.C., police said.

Two nooses were hung on a tree in front of the school, one was in a bus loop near the upperclassmen's parking lot, and one red noose was tied to the top of the school flagpole, High Point Police Capt. Margaret Erga said, citing a police report.

Erga said school administrators discovered the nooses around 8:30 a.m. and immediately notified authorities, who officially filed the report at 10:41 Friday morning.

Extra police officers were brought to the campus and security was in force at Andrews High School for the remainder of the day....

This from ABC News.

Black and White Becomes Gray in La. Town

ABC News posted another story on the Jena 6 which fills in more information:

It's got all the elements of a Delta blues ballad from the days of Jim Crow: hangman's nooses dangling from a shade tree; a mysterious fire in the night; swift deliberations by a condemning, all-white jury.

And drawn by this story, which evokes the worst of a nightmarish past, they came by the thousands this past week to Jena, La. to demand justice, to show strength, to beat back the forces of racism as did their parents and grandparents...

...Clearly, something bad occurred in Jena, population 2,971, an old sawmill town in LaSalle Parish that, once upon a time, was Ku Klux Klan country.

And, as most white and black residents readily agree, there is no good reason for embracing what unfolded here.

But what happened, exactly?

The story goes that a year ago, a black student asked at an assembly if he could sit in the shade of a live oak, which, the story goes, was labeled "the white tree" because only white students hung out there. The next day, three nooses dangled from the oak code for "KKK" the handiwork of three white students, who were suspended for just three days.

Much of that is disputed. What happened next is not: Two months later, an arsonist torched a wing of Jena High School. (The case remains unsolved.) Two fights between blacks and whites roiled the town that weekend, culminating in a school-yard brawl on Dec. 4 that led the district attorney to charge the Jena Six with attempted murder.

The lethal weapon he cited to justify the charge: the boys' sneakers.

In July, the first to be tried, Mychal Bell, was convicted after two hours of deliberations by an all-white jury on reduced charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit it.

(It was widely reported that Bell, now 17, was an honor student with no prior criminal record. Although he had a high grade-point average, he was, in fact, on probation for at least two counts of battery and a count of criminal damage to property. In any event, his conviction was overturned because an appeals court ruled he should not have been tried as an adult.) ...

Huey Crockett, 50, lives with his wife, Carla, 45, in a heavily wooded, predominantly black district just beyond Jena's limits, an area known as "The Country." The Crocketts, who are black, have complained to police that Bell and other youngsters were causing trouble in their neighborhood scratching cars with keys, breaking the windows of parked cars, spraying property with paint.

The authorities, Crockett says, were always slow to respond.

"But as soon as he had a run-in with a white boy, they came down on him like a hammer. That's not right. If I call the police for an incident here, it may take them an hour, an hour and half to get out here. But they'll be right out in an instant if a white person calls them." ...

...The three youths accused of hanging the nooses were not suspended for just three days they were isolated at an alternative school for about a month,and then given an in-school suspension for two weeks.

The six-member jury that convicted Bell was, indeed, all white. However, only one in 10 people in LaSalle Parish is African American, and though black residents were selected randomly by computer and summoned for jury selection, none showed up...

A number of other blacks and whites have raised ... questions about the Jena Six episode, particularly the manner in which authorities handled a series of racially charged incidents leading up to it.

Why, they ask, wasn't the noose incident ever reported to police? (A report might have triggered a hate-crime investigation, although federal authorities rarely go after juveniles in such cases.) And when whites and blacks tangled several times before the Jena Six episode, why did authorities charge the whites with misdemeanors or not at all while charging blacks with felonies? ...

This from ABC News.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New assessment company: errors commonplace in Kentucky

Faulty data, appeals, recalculations leading to new accountability decisions - this has become business as usual for too many Kentucky schools. It forces one to wonder about the trustworthiness of the assessment instrument and the company hired to administer it.

The Cincinnati Post reported:
While there's been much talk in Kentucky education circles that there were an unusual number of complaints from schools, department of education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said the number wasn't extraordinary given that the state changed the company doing the test and increased the number of grades tested.

"The breadth of the issues with the NCLB data was typical of that in previous years and had no major statewide effects," she said.

I'd like to be comforted by that thought, but I'm not sure I am. From the minute NCLB scores were released some western Kentucky superintendents claimed the data were contaminated.

Is Gross saying it's always this bad?

If so, why did KDE decide to delay release of the CATS data this year, as opposed to last year...or the year before?

Is Gross blaming the new company?

Covington District Assessment Coordinator Bill Grien told the Cincinnati Post, " When (the state department of education) listened to all the complaints from around the state, they decided to take time to make sure data was correct."

The clear message for every school in the state is, "Don't trust the data!" Double check it yourself.

Changes in the testing program this past year make all of the data suspect. Errors undermine confidence.

In addition, Kentucky School News and Commentary began hearing reports from teachers last spring (when the new tests were first being administered) that the new test was easier on its face - an unverifiable opinion of numerous teachers; suspicious nonetheless.

Even if the released data had been pristine, the fact that the assessment itself has changed has caused the Kentucky Department of Education to warn schools that the data can not be compared to past years.

Of course that did not stop district superintendents from proclaiming progress based on the new data. It's the only data they have.

Around the state local superintendents took bows and praised teachers for district progress. Much of that progress may well be accounted for by the new test alone. Superintendent Stu Silberman claimed that Fayette County had "broken some records" with this year's data. If the data cannot be can that be?

The question is...Has Kentucky joined the growing list of states who have lowered standards to avoid looking bad under NCLBs accountability system?

It looks like the answer might be yes.

Dick Innes, over at the Bluegrass Institute, has been dissecting the assessment program for years now. See his MUST READ post on the current KDE testing woes. His preliminary data on 2007 NCLB proficiency rates seem to confirm my own suspicions - that those teachers who said the new test is less demanding are correct.

Consider: Reading proficiency among all Ky students stood at 48.24% in 2002. In 2003, it rose a couple of points to 50.16%. The average growth per year was 2.15% as the proficiency percentage advanced to 53.45% in 2004; 55.95% in 2005 and 56.84% by 2006.

Then the test was changed.

In 2007 the percentage of students scoring proficient in reading jumped to 66.12%! A 9.28% increase in one year - which would really be worth celebrating if we knew it was the result of increased student achievement.

By changing the test, Kentucky made more "progress" toward meeting its NCLB goals in one year than it had over the previous four years.

The results are similar for Reading and Math and for African American and Free Lunch subgroups.

Average yearly gains for "all students" in Math were 2.49% until the new test. This year it jumped to 9.86%.

Average yearly gains for "African Americans" in Math were 2.24% until the new test. This year it jumped to 10.15%.

Average yearly gains for "Free lunch" students in Math were 2.73% until the new test. This year it jumped to 10.28%.

Average yearly gains for "African Americans" in Reading were 2.40% until the new test. This year it jumped to 10.03%.

Average yearly gains for "Free Lunch" students in Reading were 2.65% until the new test. This year it jumped to 10.14%.

(The sources for his data: KDE, NCLB Progress Reports for 2003 - 2007.)

Is it safe to assume (after multiple administrations of the old test) that the established pattern of 2.5% (approximate) growth per year was about right? If so, the new data should be viewed with suspicion. Reported student achievement growth may be inflated by something around 7%. If that's true...the celebrating ought not get to big unless a school's growth exceeds 7% this year.

If my suspicions are correct, when the CATS data are released on October 2nd, we ought to see some monster "progress." Annual increases may well break some records. In baseball parlance, the dead ball era is over. And in places where progress has historically been slow, but where the instructional focus has been the most intense, we may see numbers that are huge.

Just for fun

Any Fayette County folks want to guess what kind of gains Booker T Washington Academy will post when the data are released next month?

Principal Peggy Petrilli recently resigned (or was released, depending upon who you ask) amid a lot of fussing from parents about her methods. Petrilli was changing a school climate whose legacy was one of long-standing failure. She rubbed a lot a folks the wrong way. She canned some politically connected people. Lots of claims. A few investigations. So far...apparently wrongdoing substantiated.

But what about the results?


The CATS results for 2007 will show that the percentage of proficient readers at Booker T Washington Academy will...

a. decline
b. stay about the same
c. increase by less than 7 points
d. increase by a little more than 7 points
e. increase by more than 10 points
f. increase by more than 15 points

The correct answer is.... f.