Wednesday, February 28, 2007
But Kentucky only scores a D for academic achievement. Considering factors like state effort, a D may be better than Kentucky has a right to expect. A “return on investment” grade rates states on student performance per dollars spent, controlled for poverty. There, Kentucky scores a B.
Other Kentucky scores:
- Acdemic achievement of low income students = C
- Truth in Advertising about student proficiency = C
- Rigor of standards = C
- Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness = D
- 21st century Teaching Force = C
- Flexibility in Management and Policy = B
- Data Quality = B
According to the Cincinnati Post, a plea deal requires them to speak "to groups such as parent-teacher associations about the proper rearing of teenagers," as part of their 100 hours of community service.
I wonder whose going to write their script.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The authors expose think tank publications for what they ARE NOT - the vast majority are not original research.
"A large number are what might best be called “policy briefs.” Quality policy briefs, however, generally include a comprehensive consideration of previously published research and synthesize what is known in order to draw out policy implications. Accordingly, the usefulness of such briefs to guide sound policy is strongly related to the adequacy of their reviews of the literature. Sadly, the influential think tank reports we have been reading rarely provide either a comprehensive review of the literature or a defensible interpretation of the findings of whatever scant research is cited. They tend to opt instead for highly selective reviews of the literature and a necessarily skewed reading of the insights offered by that research."
Because the stakes for America’s children are so high, the two academic centers with which Education Week is associated—the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder—together launched the Think Tank Review Project to provide expert reviews of think tank reports.
"In 2006...13 think tank reports were reviewed. The results are disturbing. Only one, or perhaps two, could be considered to have even minimally passed expert muster. Moreover, the same flaws emerged repeatedly, over different reports reviewed by different scholars. For instance, empirical analyses have been shockingly shoddy, and the findings, conclusions, and recommendations ... have been unsupported by the analyses... [T]he ideological beliefs of the authors (and their think tanks) appear to have distorted the methods used, shaped the literature reviewed, and determined the results and recommendations of the reports."
For more information on the state of educational research in America and how we got here see An Elusive Science by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, the Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education and former Harvard dean.
A Murray Middle School teacher misdialed, and a text message conversation intended for someone else actually took place with Kentucky State Police Trooper Trevor Pervine. Now she's charged with conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance within 1,000 yards of a school, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Ooops.
The teacher was suspended Friday afternoon with pay.
They argue...More kids taking advanced classes + higher grades = lower NAEP test scores + dumbed down curriculum + grade inflation.
This from CNN.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Last fall, former Lexington Herald-Leader and Los Angeles Times Editor John Carroll decried these conditions on NewsHour. He discussed corporate pressure for profits, and conflicts between those who see themselves as serving the shareholders and those who see themselves serving the reader. “I think every good editor has a point which he has to define for himself, at which he must quit or resist, rather than damage the paper further.” Carroll left the LA Times last year and is now the Knight visiting lecturer at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.
In this era of publicly owned newspaper chains, money has overshadowed all else. And obligations to journalism, obligations to the community have fallen by the wayside to a considerable extent, and that is really the tension that's causing this problem. If owners reduced expectations to 10 percent profit margins, Carroll said, circulation would probably start growing. "And we would be able to invest very heavily in the Web, which is crucial to the paper's future," Carroll said. "At a 20 percent margin, I feel strongly that we are cashing in the paper's future in favor of current earnings."
“My topic is an urgent one: nothing less than the fate of journalism,” said Carroll. “The economic underpinnings of our craft are eroding. At the same time, the Web is offering rich opportunities for journalism in new forms. And, in the current scramble for market share, the work of the principled journalist is being lost in a din of marketing and propaganda...As a matter of public policy, a self-governing nation simply cannot do without real journalism...”
Sunday, February 25, 2007
At Issue: Pending Supreme Court ruling on racial diversity and the Jefferson County Public Schools student assignment plan
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I don’t raise this question to be critical of the Herald-Leader. I’ll bet the same would be true if I subscribed to the Courier-Journal or any other daily from a mid-sized city. I just find that today’s technologies put me in touch with more real-time news than I can consume.
But newspapers are important. From America’s early days publicists have realized the power of our newspapers to influence public opinion. As David Sloan wrote in American Journalism, “Their main purpose was to have a forum to promote their party’s views…to win elections…and thus determine the nature that the political system would take.” As Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson is said to have used state department funds to pay Philip Freneau, to edit a pro-Jefferson, anti-federalist bi-weekly newspaper called the National Gazette.
As late as 1870, 89% of urban daily newspapers were overtly affiliated with one party or another. But the conditions changed. Paper became cheaper, telegraph and new printing technologies came into being, cities grew and demand for news increased. These combined to make newspapers much cheaper to produce. The climate was right for new entrants into the profitable newspaper business.
Papers found that their editorial positions had to change to present both sides of the issues. Increasingly, cities had one newspaper and its readership was composed of liberals and conservatives. By 1920, fewer than half of the nation’s newspapers were politically affiliated. This journalistic model sought truth and valued honesty in a non-partisan manner; a neutral government watchdog.
That journalistic model is now under attack. Changes in technology have allowed politicians to use the press in ways that are new to 21st century citizens and increased political polarization has resulted. As the Scooter Libby trial has revealed, some of our watchdogs have been lured into government service. (For example: this from the Star-Tribune)
Today many newspapers seem to be struggling with a business model that just isn’t working. Take the mighty Wall Street Journal, for example, with their 1.75 million print subscribers. WSJ’s Deputy Washington Bureau Chief, David Wessel told an audience at the Yale School of Management last April that they maintain that number only by persistently discounting subscription rates. There is no growth.
But the on-line WSJ has 750,000 subscribers, an increase of eight percent over the prior year. Their growth market consists of college kids who are getting their news on-line. The problem is that they can’t charge advertisers as much for on-line readers as they can for the print readers. How can they continue to support the number of reporters it takes to produce reliable stories?
The unit of Dow Jones (WSJ’s parent company) that includes print and on-line editions of WSJ, Barrons and Market Watch had revenues over a billion dollars in 2005 - but still lost $2.5 million. They created their web site, hoping to move advertisers to the internet with them. The advertisers went - but most of them skipped WSJ and advertise with Google instead. Now Google has annual revenues four times that of Dow Jones.
The competition that once drove journalism toward unbiased reporting seems to be having the opposite effect today.
Harvard economists Sendhil Mullainathan and Andrei Shleifer argue that today’s competition forces newspapers to cater to the prejudices of their readers. As a result, news outlets seem to be returning to the kind of political niche marketing that existed in the days of pamphleteers. Whenever competitors can create so called “differences of opinion,” they do so to further divide the market and enhance profits.
So what’s a local newspaper to do? Is the most effective future business strategy for the Herald-Leader to be “in the middle;” fair and balanced in the traditional sense? Will competition reemerge in Lexington, perhaps in the form of an outrageous, youth-directed New York Post/Fox News-style on-line tabloid; meant to strip 30 percent from the Herald-Leader’s readership at low cost?
I suspect the answer for the Herald-Leader won’t come from its journalistic philosophy. It will more likely come from the local content itself. That’s the only thing the paper can (and must) produce better than anyone else - if it is to reinvent itself for the new century.
Friday, February 23, 2007
It's time for Gerald Bracey's annual skewering of those who trade is misstatement, lousy method and other education related faux pas.
This Week In Education: Rotten Apples Of 2006
Judge Wingate's opinion in Young v. Williams, 22 February 2007, Franklin County Circuit Court, Kentucky
The Council for Better Education announced today that it would ask the court to reconsider. Here is their Press Release.
Here's the Herald-Leader article.
Just how exactly does a group go about getting a fair reconsideration from a judge that apparently doesn't think he can tell the general assembly anything? Do they say, "I know you just issued a 22-page ruling in our case, but may we have a different one?"
I sure hope this works. But I'm not holding my breath.
Get the appeal ready.
Here's my response: (submitted to the Courier-Journal, 23 February 2007)
It would seem that the editorial folks at C-J have fallen into the same old trap that created the historically poor school system in Kentucky - blaming the school districts for not divining their own salvation. Never mind that they are powerless to do so. If the system is flawed the ONLY folks who can fix it sit in the General Assembly.
When inadequately funded, the state's SEEK funding formula punishes property rich districts while rural districts do somewhat better.
C-J needs to be on the side of our children, Kentucky's future economic competitiveness, and against legislative foot-dragging in the face of an obvious problem.
We're a poor state and our relatively meager efforts to support our schools has left us uncompetitive and promises to keep Kentucky near the bottom in the future. Our educational attainment, while improving, is still relatively low.
We're poor...because we're undereducated...because we're poor...because we're undereducated.
C'mon C-J, figure it out.
What follows are two articles on Judge Thomas Wingate's ruling in Franklin County Circuit Court...
KY. SCHOOL LEADERS' SUIT DISMISSED - SUPERINTENDENTS SOUGHT 'ADEQUATE' STATE FUNDING
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
February 14, 2007
Author: Raviya H. Ismail and Art JesterHerald-Leader Education Writers
A Franklin Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday that a group of school superintendents had failed to prove that the General Assembly violated the state Constitution by inadequately funding the state's public schools.
In the state's most important school finance case since the reform of Kentucky's public schools in 1990, Judge Thomas D. Wingate issued a summary judgment in favor of the legislature and said the issue of adequate funding should be resolved by lawmakers, not the courts. "Ultimately, increases in education funding must be the product of political will, not judicial decree," Wingate said in a 22-page opinion.Wingate said the plaintiffs, The Council for Better Education, had not provided "objective evidence of shortcomings in Kentucky's education system." Because the plaintiffs had not established that there was a clear constitutional violation, the court should not dictate how the legislature should appropriate money for the public schools, Wingate said."This court will leave the legislating to the legislature and hope that the citizens of Kentucky fortify it with the will to strengthen education for future generations of Kentuckians," he said.
The Council for Better Education had built its case on the historic ruling in the Rose case of 1989, which paved the way for the sweeping Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. In the Rose case, Kentucky's Supreme Court, led by then-Chief Justice Robert Stephens, concluded that the legislature's support of the public schools was inadequate and therefore unconstitutional.In the recent lawsuit, the plaintiffs, a group of superintendents, claimed that funding of Kentucky's schools is "inadequate and arbitrarily determined by the legislature." The plaintiffs based their claim on the Rose decision, where the Kentucky Supreme Court eventually ruled that "the General Assembly shall provide funding which is sufficient to provide each child in Kentucky an adequate education."
There are 164 school districts of a total 175 that belong to the Council for Better Education. The suit claimed Kentucky schools were underfunded from between $1.08 billion to $1.2 billion in the 2003-2004 school year, and underfunded in other years.
The legislature's two top leaders -- Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, and House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green -- were named defendants in the suit."It vindicates our position that we have made an attempt to adequately fund education," said Richards. " Do I think it's funded well enough? No, I do not."
The defendants refuted the allegations and argued that the state's Constitution "prohibits the judiciary from dictating to the legislature what levels of funding are appropriate and what process to use to determine how much funding education requires."In the ruling, Wingate found that the Council for Better Education had no evidence "relating to the actual nature of school system inadequacy or poor student performance."
The ruling concluded that the General Assembly "has created a system of common schools with tremendously enhanced results" and "KERA has produced dramatic progress toward excellence in public education."
"The determination of adequacy must be based on objective outputs, such as the CATS testing scores and our performance relative to neighboring states," the ruling continued.
Marion County Schools Superintendent Roger L. Marcum, president of the Council for Better Education, said the ruling was disappointing and far from the outcome the group expected. The group wouldn't say whether they planned to appeal the decision."Kentucky has made a lot of progress in improving student achievement," he said. "We are ignoring the fact that a lot of that progress has been made from students that are least at risk. You're going to see that there are many subpopulations that we are not reaching and they are not moving forward toward proficiency. You can see that in a number of schools in the state, in a number of districts."
What surprised Bob Sexton most was the language of the ruling."Many of the legislative leaders are regularly claiming that (KERA) is a failure," said Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. "I'm surprised by some of the language (in the ruling) that essentially says the schools are doing so well. I just find this whole thing to be inconsistent to what I'm hearing from legislators."
Edition: FinalSection: Main NewsPage: A1
Copyright (c) 2007 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0702140002
Courier-Journal, The (Louisville, KY)
February 14, 2007
Author: Nancy C. Rodriguez
State's neediest students ill-served, coalition says
A coalition of Kentucky school districts lost its legal bid yesterday to force state lawmakers to spend more money on public schools.But educators in the failed lawsuit said that their fight is not over and that without additional funding, they will never be able to serve some of Kentucky's neediest students.
The Council for Better Education filed suit in 2003, accusing the legislature of inadequately funding public schools. It asked the court to order lawmakers to direct hundred of millions more dollars into Kentucky classrooms.The state spends about $4.1 billion a year on education.
Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum, the council's president, called the ruling "disappointing" and said the council might ask Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to reconsider his opinion or appeal to a higher court."I can assure you this is not the end of the line for us," Marcum said.
In 1985, the council filed a similar lawsuit that resulted in the state's school-funding system being declared unconstitutional and paved the way for sweeping education reform in 1990.But unlike that case, which focused on funding inequities, the latest lawsuit focused on whether districts were receiving adequate funding to teach every student the skills and knowledge necessary to meet Kentucky's education standards.
Wingate ruled that funding for Kentucky's schools wasn't "so inadequate that it amounts to a violation ... of the constitution."He said it's not the court's role to tell the legislature the specific method to use to determine if schools are being adequately funded.And he said the legislature's method of using rising test scores as proof that schools are being adequately funded is constitutional.
Wingate said, however, that it was "puzzling" why the legislature has not developed a different method of determining whether eSchools Lose Suit to Boost Funding
ducation is adequately funded."We do not know why, despite over a decade of requests from interested citizen groups and the Office of Educational Accountability, the General Assembly has yet to commission a study of its own to determine whether its funding levels for education are adequate," Wingate wrote. "... Perhaps it is afraid of the results that study will produce."
Marcum said, "We feel the issue about adequate funding is still something that needs to be addressed. " He added that without additional funding it will be "difficult, if not impossible" for schools to meet ambitious student achievement goals by the state's 2014 deadline.
Marcum said it is unfortunate that schools are being "penalized" for making gains and argued that while progress has been made, the state's neediest students are still in dire need of additional services."The students that are most at risk are the ones we still have not reached," he said, noting test scores that show low performance among low-income, minority and special-education students. "The reform was about proficiency for all."
But Mark Overstreet, the attorney representing Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Jody Richards, said the ruling was "a well-reasoned decision.""And it recognizes the hard work that the General Assembly has done over the 16 years since" the state passed education reform.
Richards, who recently announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said last night that he agreed with the ruling."We have made some great progress since the reform act was enacted," Richards said. "I don't think we've done well enough. It certainly is my goal and my intent to fund education better in the future. "
Richards said that cost increases for the Medicaid program and state prison system hampered the legislature's ability to fund public schools since the education reform act was passed.Asked why the legislature did not raise taxes to raise money for schools in that period, Richards said: "The citizens generally don't want taxes raised."
Marcum acknowledged the legislature's efforts last year to increase school funding, saying it was "better than it has been in some time ." But most of those increases went toward salaries, health insurance and retirements costs, he said."It does not provide additional resources for kids," he said.
Edition: KYSection: NewsPage: 1A
Copyright (c) The Courier-Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: lou39775540
It may not be revived yet, but I have updated and redesigned it (somewhat) and hope to do more with it in the future. We'll see.
CANCELLATIONS TOUGH TO CALL EVEN FOR BEST SCHOOLS CHIEF - SILBERMAN RETAINS CREDIBILITY BY NOT TRYING TO SNOW ANYONE
February 9, 2007
Author: Richard Day
The best school superintendents spend their waking hours communicating and driving district personnel to increase student achievement. They want high attendance, not low attendance. They want more school days, not fewer. They want to have school.
The hardest decisions a school superintendent has to make are those that go beyond his control, such as deciding whether to call off school when bad weather threatens. Sometimes conditions are bad enough that school cancellations can be announced the night before. Other times, it's a close call made at 5 a.m. Then there is a four-hour window of time after the decision to have class is made and until the last child arrives at school.In that time, the winds can change and turn a seemingly solid decision into mush. That's when school officials hold their collective breath.
Such was the case with Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman recently when he admitted to a blown call to have school on a snowy Groundhog's Day.Silberman was reportedly bombarded with complaints from pretty much everywhere, and he reassessed the situation. Then he did something refreshing. He apologized.
A student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School started a group on Facebook called "Stu wouldn't know a snow day if it hit him in the face." It featured a South Park-style rendering of Silberman in front of a school bus being hit with snow balls.The group's creator wrote, "Don't get me wrong guys, I love Stu. I just get the feeling that he has a bad system for calling snow days."
More than 440 high school students joined the group to vent frustrations and blame and to defend Silberman. They posted reports of Henry Clay students spamming the superintendent's e-mail and a mini-boycott where some Tates Creek seniors "just sat in their cars during first block."One student did blame Silberman for his car being rear-ended, but there were only a couple of snide bicycle references. What I found interesting was the general tone taken by most of the district's high school students. It was pretty mild.
Apologizing would seem to be the most reasonable and honorable thing for any superintendent to do. But it requires courage to expose oneself to blame instead of seeking scapegoats, and some have found that difficult.Former Superintendent Robin Fankhauser refused to accept responsibility when the district failed to update a required facilities plan that stood to cost the district $8 million in sorely needed facilities-construction money.Instead of accepting responsibility, she complained that she had been defamed by the public comments of some board members who demanded accountability. She was forced into retirement, and it apparently took some legislative arm twisting by state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr to get the funds restored.
Silberman's bad snow-day call doesn't rise to the level of an $8 million mistake, but only because there were no tragic accidents as a result.
When things go wrong, as they will, and the superintendent wants us to believe his explanation of events, it helps if he has already established a pattern of behavior that allows him the benefit of the doubt. Silberman followed up his apology by getting it right on the next snowy day, and dismissing school early yet another day.
Then, on Wednesday, he got a curve ball. This time the northeast section of Fayette County got snow and the rest of the county did not. Once again Silberman fielded angry calls; this time for not having school. But angry calls aside, he made the right choice.When deciding whether road conditions will permit school, the only appropriate basis for consideration is the whole county; anything less devalues someone and endangers someone.
Silberma worked hard and made friends before he needed them. From his first day on the job, he redirected district leadership, opened the planning process to the public and committed himself for the long haul.The school board probably could not hold him to his commitment to serve 10 years, but when his name was being bandied about as a candidate to replace departed Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, Silberman didn't miss a beat before taking his name out of the conversation.
Silberman has earned the confidence people place in him.
Caption:(1) by CHARLES BERTRAM , STAFF - Fayette County schools were in session Feb. 2 despite the weather, and the superintendent was bombarded with complaints.
(2) - Richard Day of Lexington is a former principal of Cassidy Elementary School.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: A13
Copyright (c) 2007 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0702090166
January 2, 2007
Author: Richard Day
(At issue: Commentaries by Herald-Leader contributing columnist Marty Solomon, "Testing bar set too high for Kentucky schools, children," Oct. 6, and "Testing focus muscles out real education," Nov. 29)
Since June 2002, Herald-Leader contributing columnist Marty Solomon has written several articles on the achievement gap and the federal No Child Left Behind law. I have tended to agree with his understanding of the research and his views -- until recently.
Over nine articles Solomon enumerated data points while referring to research and observations from the professional literature that suggest: poverty is a major factor in the achievement gap, anti-intellectualism threatens strong black students who are accused of "acting white," money matters, white racism matters and federal lawmakers shackled schools with unprecedented levels of testing under an arbitrary scheme that will unfairly label far too many schools as failures.
Despite the credible scholarship that supports Solomon's reporting, his conclusion that standards for Kentucky students should be lowered would, if implemented, yield sad consequences for education reform in Kentucky and, more important, for Kentucky's children.
NCLB required all states to achieve proficiency but, inexplicably, left it to each state to define proficiency. This single act rendered any hope of fairness to reform-minded states dead on arrival. After several years of determined talk about enforcing the law as written, federal education officials, this year, began cutting deals with states that want to lower standards -- not to improve education but to avoid looking bad under NCLB.
In the 1980s, Kentuckians had a saying: "Thank God for Mississippi." If not for the Magnolia State, Kentucky would have ranked dead last in support of schools. Today, Mississippi leads a small band of states that are competing to see who can require the least of their students.
As New York Times Magazine editor Paul Tough reported in the Nov. 26 issue, Mississippi lowered its standards and "declared 89 percent of its fourth-grade students to be proficient readers, the highest percentage in the nation, while in fact, the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only 18 percent of Mississippi fourth-graders know how to read at an appropriate level -- the second-lowest score of any state."This kind of gamesmanship, designed to neuter federal requirements, might stick it to the authors of NCLB's deeply flawed accountability system, but it does so at the expense of education.
When I think of how schools should be, I rarely look back to the "good ol' days." I am much more motivated by the recent explosion of information technology, global competition, rising Medicaid costs and the overpowering need for a highly educated work force.Lowering standards may relieve pressure on some folks in the short run, but it's not good for Kentucky in the long run. Solomon's solution would return Kentucky to the 1980s -- with 1980s accountability. That's not the right solution for Kentucky's future economy.
Low expectations are much worse than high expectations. Low expectations are a recipe for low performance. For a principal, low expectations remove the need for results. For a teacher, it is an invitation to ease up and allow a certain percentage of hard-to-teach students to fail; and students always do better when teachers really try.
Motivation is important in any human endeavor, and that includes teaching. What gets inspected gets respected. Reasonable accountability systems, applied humanely, give the public useful information about the performance of schools without harming children in the process. In its present form, NCLB is not that system.
It is important to remember that Kentucky already had a well-developed accountability environment before NCLB came around. Kentucky school districts were already accountable for achievement by all subgroups of students under Senate Bill 168.Testing in our schools has been ratcheted up to its highest levels in history. With the addition of NCLB on top of Kentucky's CATS assessment, it is arguably too high. But Kentucky teachers have responded well by using a variety of assessment data to help identify students who need more or different kinds of instruction.
If we really want to increase student achievement we should keep the state accountability system, but focus more on improving the instructional tools teachers can access. The development of assessment technologies that would give teachers immediate feedback on student progress, with minimal loss of instructional time, ought to be one of the state's major initiatives.In the meantime, let's call on the new Congress to improve NCLB's assessment scheme by using a research-based calculation that takes student achievement growth into account and that defines proficiency with an eye toward the needs of the new century, not the last.
Caption:- Richard Day of Lexington is a former principal of Cassidy Elementary School.
Edition: FinalSection: FeedbackPage: A8
Copyright (c) 2007 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0701030192
By Richard Day
(At Issue: Nov. 14, 2006, Race disparities persist in U.S. by Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press, in the Lexington Herald-Leader)
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that decades after the civil rights movement, racial disparities in income, education and home ownership persist and may be growing again. Median income for black households had remained about 60 percent of the income for white households since 1980. In dollar terms, the gap has grown from $18,123 to $19,683. Last year, data showed average incomes in white households to be two-thirds higher than those for blacks. Despite claims that "trickle down" economic policies create more jobs and help poor families, the evidence provides reason for doubt.
Closing educational achievement gaps is probably the nation's best avenue to racial equality, but gaps persist after more than a decade of intense effort and despite the highest levels of school accountability in our nation's history.
This trend can't be too surprising to anyone with a sense of American history. The collective effects of slavery, Jim Crow and persistent social attitudes designed to keep down African-Americans have played powerful roles. In that sense, the achievement gap was deliberately created -- over many decades -- by majority rule.
It is instructive to remember that achievement gaps were closing in the wake of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society social programs. As Harvard social-policy professor Christopher Jencks reported in his exhaustive book, The Black-White/Test Score Gap, the greatest gains made by black students came between 1968 and 1980 and were explained by the civil rights movement, the War on Poverty and school-based improvements.
What happens to a student outside school -- such as access to health care and a safe home environment -- matters when it comes to achievement in school. Direct and indirect benefits to black student achievement contributed to 0.6 standard deviation growth for blacks on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, with a corresponding 0.1 standard deviation growth for whites.
This demonstrates the very definition of gap closing: finding ways to accelerate the learning of disadvantaged students while continuing growth among all students.
Unfortunately, President Ronald Reagan's economic policies reversed that, and the gap began to grow again. Reagan's decisions were informed by the prevalent social science view at that time: that school resources had little impact on student achievement.
Jencks, for example, argued in his influential 1972 book, Inequality, that reducing cognitive inequality would not do much to reduce economic inequality. He has since reversed his position, now stating that changes in education and earnings would reduce racial differences in crime, health and family structure.
New data prompted him to conclude that reducing the black-white test score gap is probably necessary and sufficient for reducing racial inequality in educational attainment and earnings. President Bush's economic policies echo those of Reagan. The best feature of Bush's education legislation, No Child Left Behind, may well be its title. It expresses the goal that schools will educate every student and will be evaluated by the performance of all subgroups of students, not just schoolwide averages. But NCLB is underfunded by billions of dollars, which, when combined with conservative economic policies, casts serious doubts about its success.
As Brandeis University law and social-policy professor Thomas Shapiro understood, "the wealth gap is not just a story of merit and achievement; it's also a story of the historical legacy of race in the United States." Changing that legacy will require more than strong leadership that motivates teachers to work harder and more effectively. It will require a fully funded and efficient system that provides the resources students need to attain high standards; greater access to pre-school and kindergarten programs, more help for English-language learners and special needs students, and additional school days.
There are a growing number of schools in low-income neighborhoods that are defying the odds and raising the performance of their students to top levels. It is being achieved with a combination of culture building, high expectations and hard work that focuses on each student's individual needs. But if one looks broadly at the performance of our schools, it is clear that much remains to be done. The census data demonstrate the cost to our nation if we fail to close achievement gaps across the board.
© 2006 Lexington Herald-Leader and wire service sources.
All Rights Reserved.http://www.kentucky.com
Field Hearing on "Academic Achievement for All” And the “Transferability” of Federal Funding
A key issue in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
by Richard E. Day
Principal, Cassidy School,
1125 Tates Creek Road
Lexington, Kentucky 40502
Lafayette High School Auditorium
20 April 2000
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee:
Thank you for this opportunity to present my views on federal funding. I am particularly thankful to Congressman Fletcher for his efforts in arranging “field hearings” right here in Kentucky, which I believe it is fair to say, has been a hot bed of educational reform for the past decade.
When Congressman Fletcher's office called and invited me to appear this morning I was told the committee was interested in a local school principal's opinion about the transferability of federal funding. To be honest with you, I haven’t paid much attention to federal activities of late and I had to do a little homework before appearing today. Most of what I know about this issue I learned from this committee. Your web site allowed me to review testimony as well as the chairman's comments, over the past two years. (The Internet has truly made government more accessible. So, thank you for that.) But, just as we teach our students to use multiple sources in their research, I also sought dissenting opinions. And, I had no trouble finding them among some of our more prominent professional groups.
What I have read is tempered by my own set of experiences. I was educated in a small public district, attended both the University of Kentucky and Xavier University, an excellent private institution. I have been a principal in three schools: one rural, one suburban and one city – all public - all in Kentucky. My experience includes how things were before, and during reform. So, I bring a couple of decades of practical experience and a strong belief that the decisions we make now, regarding the education of our children, will have an impact that goes far beyond today’s classrooms and extends into the middle of the new century.
The “transferability” of federal funds is a new concept to me. Historically, federal programs were developed to address specific needs. I suppose it was thought that since the constitution left education as a responsibility of the states, federal funds should only be used for specific programs. But, I’m not here to debate constitutional issues with you. I’m here this morning to share my opinion about “transferability” - and I like the idea - but with some important reservations.
First, I want each of you to know that today’s teachers are being asked to perform at higher levels than at any other time in our history. We are a long way past readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. And, in Kentucky, with our laws promoting local school-based decision-making councils, we are working more closely with our parents than ever before. It’s not just punch and cookies anymore. Parents and other community members have a stake in our schools and they have proven to be effective partners for change. It would be good for us all to keep in mind that these schools belong to the communities they serve.
In Kentucky, our school councils are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of evaluating our resources and planning for our school. We create positions, we cut positions and we develop programs for our children. It is helpful to us if we know our resources in advance, and that should include our federal resources as well. When schools know their resources, and are able to transfer some dollars between programs, they have an even greater flexibility to create positive change.
Frequently we find ourselves a few thousand dollars away from being able to afford a new character education program, purchase additional reading materials, or to extend summer school hours. Transferability of these funds, with the approval of our school council, would aid our efforts.
While HB 4141 endeavors to increase flexibility at the local level, (HR 2300) the Straight A’s proposal makes it possible for one individual – one governor - to take those funds away. The congress, in my opinion, should act to ensure that funding reaches the schools, by title, without being siphoned off at the state, or even to any significant degree, at the district level. Since our purpose is to educate children – not maintain bureaucracies or further individual political goals – why not pass federal title funds largely intact to the schools, where school councils would be accountable for budgeting? This should not prevent schools from cooperating to meet common needs, as has already been done in many instances, particularly for professional development activities. And, it would allow the flexibility that this measure anticipates. It might even allow us to remove a layer of bureaucracy somewhere along the line...governing better by governing less.
Each state’s Department of Education should be designed for broad oversight and assistance to local districts. Local districts should be places where experienced educators provide help and professional development for teachers. But the present proposal seems to favor control by governors and departments of education. In my opinion, the control should rest with each community.
Let me mention the related issue of “portability” of Title One funds. When NEA president Bob Chase addressed you last June he said that efforts to make Title One a portable benefit so that the funds would be assured to reach each child "represent an attempt to diffuse and dilute the effectiveness of Title One". Mr. Chairman, you have already commented on Title One’s cost and questionable effectiveness over the years, I would like to discuss the issue from a different point of view.
When I began my career as an elementary school administrator some 22 years ago the rules were very different. In those days if 70% of our school's children, regardless of any other demographic factor, were performing above the norm on nationally standardized tests, we were considered a great success.
But that has not been the standard of excellence for some time now. All children, including all demographic sub groups of children, must be taught to achieve at high levels. While the gaps in achievement may exist for many social reasons, it is the public school that is charged with the responsibility of addressing this achievement gap. Every day I see dedicated professionals attempting to do just this. I also talk to a lot of parents who are seeking assistance for their children. I would like to think that there would be no more excuses - for why resources should not be allocated - so as to guarantee that every public school child in need - receives his or her fair share of the benefit from federal funding - regardless of any other political factors.
Let me illustrate with an example. We have the Bluegrass/Aspendale housing project here in town. Children from this area are sent to a few different schools. Our goals for all of these children are the same: To perform up to our state's rigorous academic standards. But students in one home attend a school where Title One programs abound, while students in another home 50 yards away attend our school, and receive no such assistance. (During the 1999-2000 school year neighboring schools received the following Title One funds*: Johnson Elementary received $1000 per child totaling $280,000; Ashland Elementary received $750 per child totaling $174,750; J R Ewan Elementary received $500 per child totaling $147,000; Cassidy School received $0.) Instead, we are frequently asked what we (as a school) are going to do about the achievement gap - with no additional resources. These students represent a full 27% of our population. I’m not interested in diffusing Title One’s effectiveness. But, my students are as needy and as deserving as any others. They need your help, too.
In a larger sense, our whole nation depends on you - our federal legislators -to express our highest aspirations as a country - as stated in our laws. Throughout our history, even when individuals have failed, our laws have expressed America’s best intentions. When men stood to block the schoolhouse door - it was the law that ensured that we opened the door of opportunity to all people. Our most prized and most conservative values have not changed - we strive to fulfill the promises of - liberty and justice - for all.
All. That used to mean all white male landowners. But over the years we’ve come to understand that all … means all. All men. All women. All Americans. This is what we teach our children.
When our lawmakers debate issues involving how we educate our children…we are truly debating our country’s future. What kinds of places will these 21st century schools be? What should our vision be?
No matter what other kinds of educational opportunities may come to exist in the future, our public schools – the ones we trust you to nurture – must be places that promote the common good. Our public funds should be used to build the best schools we can build – schools that make us proud - schools that do not discriminate based on economics, religion or race – schools where everyone is welcome to an excellent education.
In my opinion, if there is any possibility - that under the provisions of HR 2300 - some Governor out there might collect all of the federal dollars for education and roll them into a program for school vouchers – then this new flexibility should not be attempted, regardless of how appealing the idea might otherwise be. On the other hand, if transferability really means that federal resources will arrive at the school with less “red tape” and more flexibility – then bring it on!
Again, thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you this morning. I hope the members will enjoy their time in the Bluegrass.
* Source: Fayette County Public Schools, Title One office.
August 7, 2006
Author: Richard Day
I've been racking my brain, but I can't remember the last time I hid money in the freezer.
That's what U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., did.Court documents say Jefferson accepted bribes to help a Kentucky-based company obtain government contracts -- economic development's ugly side, I guess. The FBI followed the money to the congressman's freezer, and Jefferson cried "legislative immunity." Did the FBI have a right to conduct a warranted search of the congressman's office?
In a rare, yet unfortunate, act of bipartisan unity, Democratic and Republican lawmakers went berserk, complaining that they should be immune from searches by the executive branch.Jefferson called it "an outrageous intrusion in the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government."
In a recent ABC News poll, 86 percent of Americans disagreed.
Privileges granted to Kentucky legislators -- such as Republican Senate President David Williams and Democratic Speaker of the House Jody Richards -- under Kentucky's Constitution are identical to those for members of the Congress.And like Jefferson, Williams and Richards want to reinvent the definition of legislative immunity.
Fortunately for us, the Kentucky Supreme Court recently ruled on the issue in Baker vs. Fletcher.The court illustrated the intent of the law, citing the English Bill of Rights and James Wilson, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention who said, "In order to enable and encourage a representative of the publick to discharge his publick trust with firmness and success, it is indispensably necessary, that he should enjoy the fullest liberty of speech, and that he should be protected from the resentment of every one, however powerful, to whom the exercise of that liberty may occasion offense."
Virginia's experience with legislative immunity is instructive.
In 1660, Virginia Delegate Nathaniel Bacon was arrested by the royal governor as he traveled to the House of Burgesses to vote in opposition to the governor's wishes. Clearly, in such instances, legislative immunity is vital.
Unfortunately, in recent years Virginia lawmakers have used legislative immunity as a dodge. The Virginian-Pilot reported that state troopers were powerless to stop legislators from "driving as fast as they pleased on county roads outside Richmond."One delegate claimed immunity while he continued to use his radar detector, which is illegal in Virginia. Still another delegate claimed immunity as a defense against an indecent-exposure charge. Clearly, in such cases, legislative immunity is a coverup.
In a Kentucky case, Council for Better Education vs. Williams, Williams and Richards have not been deposed for almost a year now. They are claiming legislative immunity.
CBE vs. Williams questions whether the General Assembly has met its constitutional obligation to public education. The Supreme Court has already made clear in Rose vs. Council for Better Education that the General Assembly is solely responsible for maintaining an efficient system of schools and providing adequate resources to reach its rather ambitious goals.But the Council for Better Education, a collection of nearly all of the state's school districts, has filed suit asserting that the legislature has not met its constitutional mandate.
I understand that legislators should be protected from the resentment of the powerful, but I'm pretty sure that does not include Kentucky's children. There's a legitimate legal question; we need a ruling.
Rather than claiming immunity to protect legislative free-speech rights, Williams and Richards want to clam up. They want to misuse one section of the constitution to keep from having to do what another section requires of them.
We've come to expect this kind of legislative over-reaching from Williams. He's the legislative top dog in a state with a weak Republican governor, a confused opposition and a growing number of "right thinking" judges.Who can forget Williams' infamous assertion that "if 20 people in (the Senate) voted that someone was 30 years old (even though they aren't), no court in the land could overturn that."I can guess where his head is. "King David" has a nice ring to it.
But what is the explanation for Richards? Good stewardship of the public schools ought to be a bedrock principle of the Democratic Party, but I guess not.
The praise Republicans deserve for a 2006 regular session that improved the schools pales when one recalls the previous decade of neglect. And Democrats were largely responsible during most of Kentucky's history; that's a story with more lows than highs.
Clearly, Williams and Richards should not be deposed when the legislature is in session. But they have refused for a long time now, whether the General Assembly was in session or not. Shame on them. It's time to drop the pretense, take the immunity defense out of the freezer and do the people's business.
Caption:- Richard Day of Lexington is a former elementary school principal.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: A9
Copyright (c) 2006 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0608080135
September 12, 2005
Author: Richard Day
The school year has started in Fayette County with an innovation: the new Booker T. Washington Academy. This is a laudable and ambitious collaborative effort involving the merger of two low-scoring, high-poverty schools -- the Academy at Lexington and Booker T. Washington Elementary -- with help from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Kentucky.
Will Fayette County schools Superintendent Stu Silberman achieve his goal to make the academy one of the highest-achieving schools in the state without changing its demographics?
In January, Silberman told parents that much of their children's low-test-score problem could be attributed to the principals and their ability to motivate their staffs. He said principals -- one at a high-scoring school and one at a low-scoring school -- could be switched, and that the scores would flip-flop in two years. He subsequently selected Principal Peggy Petrilli to lead the new academy.
Petrilli had received acclaim in recent years as principal of Northern Elementary. She showed a flair for innovation, emphasized the arts and found more instructional time by starting Saturday programs. She created a more inviting atmosphere in the school, and her students made significant progress in academics.Since 2000, test scores rose 20 points on the state assessment, into the low 70s, while the number of "novices," the lowest performers, was cut in half. Much of the school's success has been credited to Petrilli's leadership.But what happens to Northern Elementary now?
Northern has lost its leadership and seven key faculty members who transferred to the academy with Petrilli. As Northern children returned to school this year, they were greeted by 15 faculty members who were new to Northern (almost half the total), including first-year principal Jennifer Flinn.
There is a need for sustainable student achievement growth in every Fayette County public school. The question is how the district gets there.Silberman told the Herald-Leader last November, "We don't want to come in and change everything and make that the cause of the increase in student achievement. We want to take the current population and faculty and staffs that we have in place and provide them with supports and resources to show what can happen."
The goals for the academy could not be higher. The task of moving low-scoring students into the upper echelons will create a high-pressure environment for the adults involved, and some teachers expressed the desire to transfer out of the spotlight.Silberman extended the time frame allowing teachers to do so. In the end, 14 teachers left the former Booker T. Washington and nine teachers left the former Academy at Lexington. Despite the superintendent's desire to minimize the amount of change, Petrilli got an opportunity to hire a lot of new teachers.
A typical elementary principal might expect to hire a handful of new teachers in his first year; perhaps another handful in the second. Principals consider some amount of turnover to be a positive thing as the principal slowly begins to build a faculty that reflects his philosophy.Most principals prefer to hire teachers with successful track records. But Petrilli seems to choose promising rookies; the academy started the year with 20 first-year teachers out of a total faculty of 40. Well-motivated young teachers can become proficient and loyal. They are also easier to fire if their performance comes up short.
Taking a school from 40 to 70 on the state accountability system is a great thing. Going from 70 to 100 is even better. The state goal is to get every school to 100 by 2014. Getting there may require other schools to engage in the kind of effort that can now be seen only at the academy.Citizens should continue to monitor the progress of these and all public schools. We should support their efforts and provide adequate resources. They are vitally important to our community's continued prosperity.
Caption:- Richard Day of Lexington is a retired elementary school principal.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: A13
Copyright (c) 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0509130105
July 17, 2005
Author: Richard Day
Is it just me, or are there other registered Democrats who want to scratch the blackboard every time state Democratic Party Chair Jerry Lundergan is asked to comment regarding the hiring scandal in Frankfort?I suppose Lundergan was selected by a lost and frightened Democratic leadership looking to "go conservative" after the party's most recent electoral spanking.
Surely Democrats have noticed by now that despite whatever redeeming qualities Lundergan may possess, his selection effectively seized the moral low ground on issues related to the public trust.
His June 26 quote in the Herald-Leader showed considerable pluck, as he actually appeared to be offering the Republicans advice on how to handle their scandal:"They need to just admit what they've done, take responsibility for it, fix it so it doesn't happen again and move on with the business of state government."
Who is he to offer advice on taking responsibility?Or is this really a conciliatory comment, a wink to the Republicans assuring them that the Democratic leadership won't be overly critical and that business in Frankfort can continue as usual?
In 1989, Lundergan was convicted of violating an ethics law barring legislators from doing no-bid work for the state. However, his conviction was overturned on grounds it should have been prosecuted as a misdemeanor, not a felony. The statute of limitations has since expired.Does his past make it impossible for him to act effectively as a Democratic spokesman dedicated to upholding the law?
The hiring scandal shines light on life in Frankfort where apparently loyalty to certain people is more important to politicians than loyalty to the rule of law.It's true of too many Democrats. It's true of too many Republicans. Perhaps this is not shocking in a state that expects so little from its government.
Republicans complain that they aren't doing anything the Democrats haven't also done -- which may be true -- but still sounds like an admission of guilt to me.Instead of fixing the problem, as promised, the Fletcher administration seems to prefer to lower performance standards, discard veterans and remove any obstacles to party members' continued patronage.
But hiring unqualified political cronies in merit positions is illegal for good reason. Doing so moves the bureaucracy away from excellence, breeding even more frustration in citizens who need an effective government to help solve problems.
I have thought Fletcher to be an honorable man who is stumbling in a difficult job. When asked for comment by the Herald-Leader on May 21, Fletcher's first instinct was his best one:"All I'm saying is that we've certainly made mistakes, and we will continue to because we're human ... The mistake that was made is not having a formal process for these recommendations ... After 30 years of Republicans not being in here, we have been flooded with recommendations of folks feeling like in the past they had absolutely no opportunity, and now they did have an opportunity."
Ahhhh, the refreshing ring of truth.
Since that time, his comments have been a disappointing mix of stonewalling, misdirection and obfuscation all too reminiscent of presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton at their worst.
It seems somebody got to Fletcher. I'm tempted to blame his advisers, but in the end, it is his responsibility, and Fletcher looks increasingly like a governor who has gotten himself handled.
As for Attorney General Greg Stumbo and his investigation, good for him. The hiring scandal broke when Fletcher was in Asia, and Stumbo was correct to proceed immediately.If the Lundergan case has taught us anything, it is that prosecuting misdemeanors, with a one-year statute of limitations, requires haste.We need an attorney general who will uphold the law by prosecuting illegal activity.
We could all feel better about it if we knew Stumbo's motives were pure. Unfortunately, that's not crystal clear.After all, it was Stumbo who, while state House Majority Floor Leader, told the Herald-Leader in 1991 that he was happy for Lundergan that his conviction was overturned and thought he never should have been prosecuted.
When personal loyalties take precedence over the law, individuals may win, but the state loses.
Caption: Fletcher created his own mess, but Lundergan's remarks recall his own past
Jerry Lundergan is chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Richard Day of Lexington is a retired elementary school principal.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: D4
Copyright (c) 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0507180176
April 4, 2005
Author: Richard Day
The Kentucky Supreme Court decision upholding a temporary injunction preventing Dana Seum Stephenson from serving as a state senator was welcome relief.I was beginning to wonder whether the Senate majority was simply going to be allowed to disregard the law, outvote the minority and bend the rules to fit their fancy. One thing is certain: With a super majority hanging in the balance, a lame court would have produced even more disregarding, outvoting and bending in the Senate.
What is troubling, however, was the dissenting opinion of Central Kentucky's Justice James Keller, joined by Eastern Kentucky's justice, Will T. Scott.Like most citizens, I have come to expect Kentucky's unbridled spirit to create a big mess on the floors of both legislative houses. Political infighting and shenanigans are a part of the legislative process.But when things get way out of hand -- such as when one party's candidate for state Senate doesn't meet the residency requirement -- most citizens expect the courts to step in.
The separation of powers is a serious issue, and the court's role is not to intrude into legislative remedies. But judges must occasionally say no. Then it is up to our elected representatives to do the right thing. Failing that, it is up to the people of Kentucky to throw them out of office. To exercise that responsibility intelligently, citizens need legal interpretation from the court.
The legislature used its exclusive right to determine its members' qualifications by describing in law the process to be followed whenever there is a dispute. In KRS 118.176, the General Assembly requires that claims must be addressed in "a motion before the Circuit Court of the judicial circuit in which the candidate whose bona fides is questioned resides."Of course, the issue of whether a member of the state Senate must truly be a Kentucky resident is so fundamental that lawmakers never anticipated that the circuit court of residence would be in another state. The initial action was filed in Jefferson County.
Keller argues that "the fact that the legislature may make a wrong decision is no reason why the judiciary should invade ... the exclusive domain of another department of government."But is Keller "invading" when he tries to write new law? He states that a challenger must "file such an action sufficiently in advance" -- whatever that means. But the statute doesn't say that. The statute provides that claims against a candidate's bona fides may be brought "at any time prior to the general election." If legislators didn't like the law, they could have changed it, but didn't.
Left unchecked, private interests will always intrude on legislative interests. If a justice fails to perform the most fundamental function of providing checks and balances, the state suffers. We need a court of justice to assure a government of laws.
I remember when an Alabama governor, supported by the majority, blocked the schoolhouse door. The law and courageous judges helped open those doors, but they had to assert their constitutional authority to do so.Are we to suppose that Keller and Scott would have looked the other way?
Keller and Scott are correct about one thing. Politics is, indeed, at work here. Unfortunately, it is the easy politics of abdication to the majority. Under this view, the court is not a co-equal branch. Rather, it passively ignores tyranny by the majority -- something we need a court of justice to prevent.Instead, Keller argues that "we must assume the Senate in good faith will not knowingly permit violations of other constitutional provisions" -- all evidence to the contrary.
Yes, it is a political question whenever elections are involved, and under Kentucky's constitution, Supreme Court justices are elected, too. This is something we should all remember in the next judicial election.
Caption: Richard Day of Lexington is a retired elementary school principal.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: A9
Copyright (c) 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0504050282
May 10, 2004
Author: Richard Day
Among the Fayette County public schools' success stories is Northern Elementary. Long thought of as a school to be avoided, a renaissance has taken place -- and it occurred because the faculty and staff have strong, steady leadership and a clear focus, and they work hard to make it happen. It's not the program; it's the people who make the difference.Northern is a high-poverty school that has narrowed the achievement gap while reducing suspensions, but, the district says Northern must change.
Northern's faculty and staff have crafted a safe and fair environment where every child can learn, but the district says Northern must change.The Northern approach serves as a model for others and an inspiration for high-performing schools. The data clearly show that things are moving in the right direction. But Northern must change -- whether the principal, who seems to know what she's doing, thinks it's in the best interest of the children or not.
Why? Because Northern needs resources if it is to continue its progress. It needs the smaller class size Title II grant that is being held hostage by central office. The message is clear. Northern must surrender its best judgment for that of the district, or the district withholds the funds Northern needs to continue its success.This is all about control, not about what's best for children. Northern has been doing just fine in that department.
The same is true for all Fayette County elementary schools that want to make improvements in student achievement through smaller class sizes. Conform or be denied. I'm fairly certain this is not what One Community, One Voice had in mind.Immediate past Superintendent Ken James says that "the district has a responsibility to... direct money into programs it thinks will help students." The district also says it understands the critical role principals play in the success or failure of a school, and that all schools are different.But that doesn't stop the district from disregarding the data and the principal to coerce a one-size-fits-all program. The district says a lot of things. Much of it conflicts.
One thing is clear: Any system that does not tolerate strong leadership at the school level won't have it for long. I'm fairly certain this is not what the school board had in mind.
There is a leadership crisis in our school district that needs to be fixed quickly. As the school board considers superintendent candidates, it is appropriate to discuss whether the next superintendent should be from inside the district or outside, and what qualities are crucial.Given recent history, I can think of nothing more important than finding a qualified person who knows the district, shares the board's vision and has a demonstrated commitment to Fayette County and its children. We need a steady hand on the wheel.
For all of his gifts, James was ultimately a disappointment. Now he is gone and Northern must change. Tough luck for Northern. If measured by the results, this eight-month administration shouldn't leave much of a legacy.I just hope James' move to balance our budget on the backs of disabled students doesn't come back to haunt us. The worst-case scenario would be a legacy that returns us to civil rights complaints and Department of Education corrective action plans.
In the end, authority is not a fitting substitute for leadership. Effective leadership is about inspiring and directing the activities of people around a common mission -- not the creation of programs, promises and excuses. We had better find a superintendent for whom the success of each and every child in Fayette County is a personal priority. There is no substitute for that.
Caption: System's one-size-fits-all mentality will destroy Northern Elementary School's spirit and progress.
Richard Day will retire this year as principal of Cassidy Elementary School in Lexington.
Copyright (c) 2004 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0405110029
March 24, 2003
Author: Richard Day
The Fayette County delegation to the Kentucky House of Representatives recently wrote to the Fayette County Superintendent and Board of Education regarding the current budget woes.The delegation wants the school board to shut up and do its job (cut the budget).
They complained that it is "not appropriate" for school folks to encourage taxpayers to contact their elected representatives and complain about inadequate funding for our schools. The delegation claims they have gone to "extraordinary lengths to provide the resources and means" to give our children the programs they deserve.Frankly, I'm stunned by the heavy-handed arrogance and shortsightedness of their position.The extraordinary lengths they claim to have gone are a fantasy. It is as though their only standard for excellence is passage of a budget (a year late) that somewhat exceeded what the governor had proposed for education.This falls well short of the constitutional mandate required by the Supreme Court in Rose v. Council for Better Education.
In school funding cases, the court sees "adequacy" as an issue of whether schools have the resources necessary to meet the goals set by the state. When our expectations are low, bare sufficiency may well provide adequacy.However, Kentucky's goal of a proficient education for each and every child is no easy standard. Adequate support for Kentucky's children must be sufficient in quality and quantity to assure that all schools meet the needs of all students.
Until the Supreme Court ruling in Rose, and the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, the legislature had happily contented itself to underfund a very modest system of schools for the benefit of most of its students.KERA stands as the General Assembly's great historical triumph -- the first time Kentucky ever earned national recognition for educational excellence.Kentucky climbed from 49th to 36th in support of its schools and conditions began to improve for children, but more recently, our legislators have been content to allow the system to slip once again.
The Office of Educational Accountability has been informing the General Assembly since 1994 that the promise of KERA has not yet been achieved.Since that time they have advocated steady increases in school funding. But time and time again, our legislators have ignored calls for more support for capital outlay, debt service, special education and teachers' salaries.The salary increases mandated in this past session -- nine years after the OEA recommendation -- were done in such a way that Fayette County will apparently not even benefit.It is also notable that the legislature is considering elimination of the OEA -- the very office the General Assembly had been ignoring.I guess some folks are just getting tired of hearing it. This would be particularly sad because the OEA stands as the General Assembly's visible symbol to all educators that any retreat from excellence would be dealt with seriously.
When school districts are inadequately funded, school boards are forced to cut programs. The district's principals have said with one voice, "Don't cut programs that directly touch children." If funds were sufficient, the board would not be talking about cutting at all.
In fairness, the delegation's claim that Fayette County failed to take the steps necessary to qualify for school construction funds is accurate.Neither have we levied local taxes sufficient to address our facilities needs. The board took strong, appropriate action on the first matter, and I hope will soon address the second.
While it may be amusing to watch those in power above us blame each other and make excuses, in the end, it is disheartening.Those of us at the school level know that no matter who ultimately gets blamed, we're the ones who must be here for the children.We are reminded daily, there can be no excuses for failure. The legislature, the school board -- everyone -- must do his or her job, so that we can do ours.
Caption: - Richard Day is principal of Cassidy Elementary School in Lexington.
Edition: FinalSection: CommentaryPage: A13
Copyright (c) 2003 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number: 0303240668