Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rethinking Local Control

This from Matt Miller in the N Y Times:

Local control of schooling — which means local financing of schools — is an injustice, masked as a virtue, so deeply ingrained in the American mind that no politician in either party dare challenge it. But America’s obsession with local finance, which made perfect sense in the 19th century, is now sinking us morally and economically. To fix it, Barack Obama needs to steal an idea from Richard Nixon.

Drive around Chicago, Detroit or most other big cities and you’ll see dilapidated schools staffed largely by rookie teachers. The districts spend, say, $10,000 a child. Twenty minutes up the road you’ll find suburban schools that sport Olympic-quality pools, Broadway-style (or maybe Off Broadway) theaters and the best teachers in the state. Those schools spend more like $17,000 per pupil.

This is what local control hath wrought, with financing schemes under which less than 10 percent of the money spent on primary and secondary education comes from the federal government.

The grim equation by which accident of birth determines educational quality in the United States is straightforward. The poorer the district and the state, the lower the local tax base, with less money for students. No other advanced nation tolerates such inequities...

Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds

This from the Washington Post, Photo by Jonathan Dyer of the Hilton Head Island Packet:

Teenagers Who Make Such Promises
Are Just as Likely to Have Sex,
and Less Likely to Use Protection, the Data Indicate
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking." ...

Schools fall short on hiring minorities

from the Advocate-Messenger:

A report released Dec. 4 by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights reveals area schools are among those with low numbers of minority educators.

The report found that the number of minority educators in public schools statewide is 4 percent, while minorities make up about 14 percent of the student population.

Educators are defined as teachers in the report, which looked at numbers for the 2006-2007 academic year.

Victoria Dempsey, spokeswoman for the KCHR, said the basic finding is that what is being done is not working...

Beshear calls upon pension systems to give relief to cities, counties, schools

This from the Gov:

Proposed changes would provide
$37.5 million in immediate financial relief

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Steve Beshear today said he is asking the state’s retirement system boards to enact policy changes that will provide more than $37 million in immediate relief to cities, counties and school districts struggling with shortfalls in the wake of the country’s financial crisis.

Specifically, Beshear recommends that cities and counties be permitted to spread their required contribution obligations over a 10-year period instead of the current five-year required time frame. The move, which has been found to be actuarially sound by the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS), would provide about $37.5 million of immediate relief to cities and counties next fiscal year, while ensuring a fiscally sound pension system.

“Just as the state is struggling to cope with the worst national financial crisis since the Great Depression, cities and counties are straining to provide the most basic services to their residents,” said Gov. Beshear, who was joined in today’s announcement by Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) and Bob Arnold, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo). “My proposal will provide more than $37 million of immediate relief to our local governments in a way that keeps our pension systems financially sound for years to come.”

Gov. Beshear’s recommendations are in response to the report of his bipartisan Public Pension Working Group, chaired by Finance and Administration Cabinet Sec. Jonathan Miller. Gov. Beshear said he hoped the KRS board would meet prior to the start of the upcoming legislative session to address his recommendations.

“Allowing additional time to achieve full funding of the actuarially required contribution is a critical component of our strategy to bring desperately needed financial relief to county government,” said Bob Arnold of KACo. “We look forward to working with the governor and legislative leaders to assure that the public pension system and the local governments that support that system remain financially strong.”

“With city budgets already cut to the quick, this proposal is an important component in our efforts to make employer contribution rates immediately more affordable for cities,” said Sylvia Lovely of KLC.

“Governor Beshear’s proposal is a responsible and fair approach that ensures the soundness of the retirement system and bridles the increasing costs to local governments,” said Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.

“First, cities must do right by their citizens, who have every right to expect excellent services,” Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said. “But responsible public officials also want to do right by public retirees by honoring the retirement agreements that were made with them when they were hired. Striking a balance is hard, particularly in this economic climate and particularly when some retirement costs have not been adequately addressed in decades. The Governor’s proposal will help us through a very difficult year.”

Today’s recommendations encompass a broad range of other pension reform issues, including providing financial relief to cities and counties, pursuit of securities’ litigation claims, refining state funding procedures, and reforming the delivery of health care. Other recommendations include:
  • Adopting effective securities’ litigation policies to enable the pension systems to claim millions of dollars of damages from Wall Street losses where companies have engaged in illegal or unethical practices;
  • Exploring creative health-care reforms adopted in other states to provide affordable health benefits, while ensuring the long-term financial stability of the funds;
  • Promoting the state’s existing optional defined contribution, 401(k)-style plan, the Kentucky Public Employees’ Deferred Compensation Authority, to encourage individual retirement savings;
  • Providing more oversight and transparency of pension system funds to enable the Governor and the General Assembly to ensure that the systems are properly funded; and
  • Amending enabling law to authorize the Kentucky Asset Liability Commission (ALCo) to issue pension-related bonds when funds are appropriated by the General Assembly to pay off unfunded liabilities of the pension systems. Specifically, consideration should be given to authorize the issuance of bonds, if market conditions are favorable, to repay funds to the KTRS pension fund that have been used to cover health insurance costs for KTRS members.
House State Government Committee Chairman Mike Cherry has pre-filed legislation to provide the $37.5 million of relief to cities and counties, if the KRS board doesn’t adopt the recommendations.

“I strongly commend Rep. Cherry for his leadership on the pension issue, both in terms of his pre-filed bill but more importantly for shepherding the significant pension reform and modernization legislation passed in last summer’s special session,” said Gov. Beshear.

“I think this extended timetable is fair and reasonable,” said Rep. Mike Cherry. “Given the current stark economic situation, any relief we can responsibly provide to our cities and counties should be done.”

“Each of the governor’s recommendations help ensure the objectives of HB 1 from this year’s special session,” said Sec. Miller. “These objectives are to provide teachers and state employees a safe and secure retirement, in a manner that is sustainable into the long term for Kentucky taxpayers.”

Pros and Cons: Arne Duncan

Kennedy sets confirmation hearings: Senator Edward M. Kennedy's office announced today a series of confirmation hearings on Cabinet posts under the purview of his committee.The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will interview former Senator Tom Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for health and human services secretary, on Jan. 8, two days after the new Congress convenes. That will be followed a day later, Politico reports, by the hearing for Representative Hilda Solis, Obama's pick for labor secretary, and on Jan. 13, by the one for Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, Obama's selection for education secretary. Obama gets sworn in a week later. Kennedy has already signaled enthusiastic support for all three nominees. (Boston Globe)

The Early Word: Administration Preview: Though the economic crisis, along with renewed tensions in the Middle East, are likely to loom large as the curtain goes up on President-elect Barack Obama’s first 100 days, it’s not too early to take a look at the new administration’s policies on issues that have attracted fewer headlines lately, starting with education. (New York Times)

In Chicago, Duncan Seen as Collaborator: School closures, innovations in teacher, principal training mark his administration. (Education Week)

Duncan to Confront Host of Challenges at Ed. Department: The Chicago schools chief supports the No Child Left Behind Act and could bridge differing approaches to education reform. (Education Week)

Chicago School Reform Could Be a U.S. Model: At Cameron Elementary School west of downtown, most kids don't know the alphabet when they start kindergarten, nearly all are poor, and one was jumped by a gang recently, just off campus. But the school this year posted its highest reading and math scores ever -- a feat that earned cash bonuses for teachers, administrators, even janitors. (Washington Post)

Arne Duncan's Dark Years in Chicago: Progressives across the country have been disappointed in President-elect Obama's appointment of various cabinet members. As an educator, the appointment of Arne Duncan to Secretary of Education, particularly in light of Obama's rhetoric and the platform of the Democratic Party, raises significant concerns about the future of public school education. (Counterpunch)

Obama Picks a Moderate on Education. The president will ultimately decide whether to take on the teachers' unions: Barack Obama picked Arne Duncan only partly for his skills on the basketball court. As secretary of education, he will be running one of the administration's most important finesse games. The CEO of the Chicago public schools and the ultimate diplomat, Mr. Duncan rises to the rim at a moment when teachers unions are, for the first time, facing opposition within the Democratic Party from young idealists who favor education reform. (Wall Street Journal)

Duncan wrong education choice: Hailed by some as a pioneer in education reform, Arne Duncan was recently selected by President-elect Obama to be our next secretary of education. However, his track record as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools for the past seven years shows that Duncan is the wrong choice for America’s schools. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Arne Duncan on Making the Parents Care: A bit of congressional testimony from earlier this year provides an interesting window into how Arne Duncan, President-elect Barack Obama ’s choice to be the next Education secretary, might provide a counterpoint to Obama’s thinking on how much of the schools’ success is up to the parents. (Congressional Quarterly)

Photo of Arne Duncan and Family from TheAge.com.au.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ed Department Releases Guidance to Assist in Establishing Uniform High School Graduation Rate

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the release of non-regulatory guidance to implement a uniform and accurate measure of the high school graduation rate that is comparable across States. The uniform high school graduation rate is a critical step toward improving high school accountability.

"The nation can no longer tolerate - much less prosper - with its abysmal graduation rate, particularly among minority students," said Secretary Spellings. "Parents know that a high school diploma is the least their children need to succeed in today's economy. This guidance will help ensure resources are better targeted so that students earn a regular high school diploma."

The non-regulatory guidance released today provides States, local education agencies and schools with information about how to implement the uniform graduation rate regulations, including making data public so that educators and parents can compare how students of every race, background and income level are performing. This guidance provides the following information:

  • Defines the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, the extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, and the transitional graduation rates that are allowable until States must implement the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.
  • Guides States in setting a single graduation rate goal and annual graduation rate targets.
    Outlines requirements for reporting graduation rates.
  • Answers questions about how States include the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate and any extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate in AYP determinations, including the use of disaggregated rates for student subgroups.
  • Explains how a State must revise its Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook to include certain information and submit its revisions to the Department for technical assistance and peer review.
  • Clarifies the timeline for implementing the new graduation rate provisions, as well as the process for how a State that cannot meet the deadlines outlined in the final regulations may request, from the Secretary, an extension of time to meet the requirements.

Bad Science: It's Not the Study. It's the Spin.

Dr Bill Hoyt (William H.) is an economics professor at UK and a former "Cassidy parent" when I was still the principal there. We consulted once on an earlier KERA report of his and I've spoken to his economics students, as well as his wife Dr Gayle Hoyt's class. Good folks. Solid researchers. Great parents.

Bill is the principal author of a new study on education spending in Kentucky along with Christopher Jepsen and Kenneth R. Troske. The study, Educational Spending: Kentucky v Other States, was sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (which promotes vouchers) along with the Center for Business and Economic Research at UK's Gatton School of Business, where the researchers work, and two of my daughters have attended school.

And as studies go, this one's a whole lot better than the last school choice study BGI sponsored.

But Bill, like all (?) economists, is a quantitative guy. So I was shocked to find that the front page of his new report comes with a commercial for school choice!

School Choice for Kentucky: Many agree with the concept. Some disagree. And some simply want more information. As the public debate continues to grow about how best to provide a quality education to all Kentucky children, it is important to know the facts about parent choice, and how parent choice programs have had an impact on communities, parents and students around the country. All of this analysis is done with one goal in mind: The best possible education for all of Kentucky’s children.

Short on facts. Long on point of view. I'm guessing Bill didn't write that.

Such a strong suggestion of bias is not generally found in quantitative studies. Typically logical positivists assert: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”

Special interests have no such restrictions and may be expected to use good scholarship in support of their predetermined biases. Perhaps this is what happens when special interest groups sponsor a study.

As I read the second page of the report, I felt better about it. At least the biases are up front where the reader can grapple with them. And the Friedman Foundation even offers a challenge to those, like me, who would raise an eyebrow at the approach.

So if you’re skeptical about our research on school choice, this is our challenge to you: prove us wrong... We welcome any and all scientific critique of our work. But if you can’t find anything scientifically wrong with it, don’t complain that our findings can’t be true just because we’re not neutral.

Fair enough - but only if the Friedman Foundation restricts itself to the science and leaves unsupported commentary out. "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”

Being familiar with Bill's 1999 study, I'm not likely to complain about his science. The conclusions, however, are fair game for any thinking person. Numbers alone are not truth and special interests groups can twist numbers into a tale beyond recognition.

Take this statement from the report's executive summary:

In Kentucky state dollars make up a much larger share of a district’s educational budget than in other states, and this lack of control over funding could lead to less efficient uses of resources.
Is this an example of solid science being overtaken by biased conclusions? Lets break it down:

In Kentucky state dollars make up a much larger share of a district’s educational budget than in other states...
No argument. The data seems to support the conclusion. But then, there's this thin speculation:

and this lack of control over funding could lead to less efficient uses of resources.

What? Control over the sources of the funding?! What control over funding? School districts eat what the legislature feeds them whether by fork or by spoon. Is there some suggestion that school folks waste state money, but spend local dollars more wisely?

Stay tuned. There is a second report promised.

I'm dubious because I'm not sure the source of funding (state v local) matters one iota to school administrators when they plan their budgets. The only thing that matters is how much money - and how much improved educational service it will buy.

The Friedman Foundation's positivist bravado aside, this is a suspect conclusion which should have waited until they presented some basis for it. They should have remained silent.

But when the authors are free of the foundations, and stick to their science, I see nothing wrong with their findings - and none of it is surprising:

  • Despite the increase in educational spending that occurred with KERA, Kentucky still lags behind the average U.S. state in current expenditures per student. However, the gap between Kentucky and other states in per-student current expenditures has narrowed from $2,199 in 1987 to $1,092 in 2006.
  • Since KERA, Kentucky has surpassed all other states in the South-Central region in current expenditures per student. In 1987 Kentucky ranked 5th in current expenditures per students among the eight states in the region, but by 2006 Kentucky had the highest expenditures per student in the region.
  • KERA has led to a significant decline in differences in educational spending across regions in the Commonwealth. The gap in current expenditures per student between metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts fell from $600 in 1987 to $10 in 2006. Over this same time period districts in the Eastern part of the state went from having the lowest level of current expenditures per student to having the highest expenditures per student.
  • While KERA has led to greater uniformity in expenditures per student in the state, the sources of revenue continue to differ dramatically across areas of the Commonwealth. In 2006 districts in metropolitan areas received 40% of their revenue from local sources (property taxes) with the remaining revenue coming from the state (50%) and the federal
    government (10%). At the same time non-metropolitan districts received only 20% of their revenue from local sources with 66% of their revenue coming from the state and 13% coming from the federal government. For school districts in the Eastern part of Kentucky only 17% of their revenue is collected locally, while for districts in the Northern part of
    the state 42% of revenue comes from local sources.
  • Between 1987 and 2006 the share of revenue coming from local sources increased in Kentucky while the share of local revenue decreased on average in the U.S.. However, there still remains a significant difference in revenue sources between Kentucky and the average state. In 2006 the average percent of revenue from local sources in the U.S. was 42.8% while in Kentucky the percent of revenue from local sources was 31.1%. Among South Central States only districts in Alabama and Mississippi receive a smaller share of local revenue, and districts in Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas all receive a significantly larger share of local revenue.
  • How Kentucky allocates its money on education is quite similar to the average state in the country with approximately 50% of current expenditures going to instruction and 7% to administration. Compensation has a larger share of total expenditures in Kentucky with 70 – 80% of total expenditures going to salaries and benefits in contrast to 69 – 73 % for
    the average state over the period 1989 – 2006.
  • In 1987 Kentucky’s pupil-teacher ratio was 18.6 compared to the U.S. average of 17.4. By 1998 both the U.S. and Kentucky average was 16.5. However, since then the U.S average has decreased at a much faster rate; in 2006, the U.S. average was equal to 15.2 and the Kentucky average was 16.0.

And, in the strongest defense of KERA, proffered by "equity-minded" choice advocates, the researchers state:

Since 1990 differences in educational spending per pupil between urban and rural areas of the state have all but disappeared.

There is no better evidence of the intended impact of Rose v Council for Better Education on Kentucky schools than this. Prior to KERA (the General Assembly's response to the Rose case) spending disparities between Fayette County and Whitley County were 8:1.

Now for personal reasons, I love Fayette County students and want them to be the best in Kentucky. But in the eyes of the constitution - they are not worth 8 times more effort than a Whitley County student.

As long as Kentucky relies on a state property tax (collected locally) to fund its schools, the inequities due to disparate property values guarantee that "rich"counties will always "send" a higher percentage of their school tax dollars to the state when compared to "poor" counties. Thus, we expected to see a higher percentage of state dollars flowing to rural districts, and the converse in urban districts. The only way to fix it is to quit funding schools on a property tax.

The study's econometrics are helpful in gauging the efficiency of the SEEK funding formula, but there should have been no surprise about the findings.

The executive summary concludes:

At the same time there is a growing disparity in the sources of funding with urban districts now obtaining over 40% of their funding from local taxes while rural districts obtain only around 20% of their funding from local sources.

In the second report, the researchers plan to make a case. Expect a bunch of correlations. And remember that correlation does not constitute causation. But I'll bet a nickle right now that the special interest groups already have their conclusions outlined.

Here's the spin on the present study - first cautious reporting from the Herald-Leader:

KERA closes rural-urban school spending gap

Kentucky's spending on elementary and secondary education has grown and evened under KERA, but it still lags nationally, a new University of Kentucky study concludes.

The report suggests that while the 1990 Kentucky Educational Reform Act essentially has eliminated disparities in per-pupil spending between urban and rural school districts, it actually might have increased disparities in the sources of urban-rural educational funding.
"Suggests." "Might have." The much maligned "liberal press" reported it just the way the researchers wrote it.

But at Kentucky Progress, BGI buddy David Adams seems to have read a different report:
"funding has increased since KERA but hasn't quite made it into the classroom very well."
I'm not quite sure what David means, but it doesn't seem to be supported. The figure below shows the researcher's findings on instructional spending.

Perhaps David picked up the line from BGI Director of Policy and Communications Jim Waters.

On the BGI wiki (FreedomKentucky.org), the group clearly shows they are aware of the researcher's reservations - they even highlight the "possible" and "could" language. But I guess that wasn't definitive enough. Waters is quoted by the Friedman Foundation saying, "... it appears that not enough of that increased funding finds its way into classrooms of the commonwealth's public schools."

And I'm not sure why Waters spun his fabrications even further in the Georgetown News-Graphic. Perhaps his heart is two sizes too small.

What a great gig! Co-sponsor a study. Then, quote each other's misinterpretation of the results in different locations. And then, get it into the news before anyone else can look into your claims.

Unlike BGI, the Friedman Foundation chose a straightforward statement that defies an agenda-driven interpretation:

"As Kentucky reviews and refines its school-funding mechanism, it's important to have some perspective on the effect of its previous efforts," said Robert Enlow, executive director of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. "We hope this KERA analysis will be of use to policymakers as they continue to improve their funding and schooling systems."

At the Bluegrass Policy blog, Dick Innes takes some literary license himself - twisting speculation into alleged fact.

For example, the researchers cautiously state their terms, like this:
"What evidence there is suggests that KERA may have....."

But the Bluegrass Institute, being on a mission, has no apparent interest in caution. Innes claims,
"the UK scholars indicate that the way tax supports for schools are divided among local, state and federal sources has acted to reduce local taxpayers’ control over their schools in an inequitable way."

Very definite in his mind. Then, Innes tells us a story. It might be true. It might not be true. But it's a good story. It's got hostages, and peculiar philosophies!

While high-wealth school districts still derive an appreciable amount of their total funding from local taxpayers, that isn’t true in low-wealth districts, which are generally located in rural parts of the state. As a consequence, by resisting tax increases when schools don’t perform, parents and taxpayers in wealthier districts have a somewhat more effective say over what happens in their schools than parents in Kentucky’s poor districts do. Thus Kentucky’s poor and rural school districts are more solidly held hostage to Frankfort and the sometimes peculiar education philosophies that emanate from the capital. Meanwhile, wealthier districts have been more resistant to Frankfort’s ideas and instead have kept a focus on rigorous coursework that better prepare kids for college and life.

Somebody ought to call to call Jon Draud and tell him that Shelly Berman and Stu Silberman are resisting the peculiar philosophies expressed in state law. I'll bet that'll be news to him.

But the UK scholars - while willing to offer weak speculation that "it is still possible that the lower level of local control over districts in rural areas of Kentucky could impact educational outcomes" - are appropriately reserved in noting the limitations of that speculation.

While capital and administrative spending did increase more than instructional spending in percentage terms, some caution should be taken in drawing conclusions from these changes as much less is spent on these functions, making small absolute changes in spending seem more significant in terms of percentage changes.
Problems with the state's chart of accounts continues to frustrate researchers who wish to precisely determine how education dollars are spent in Kentucky.

Say a superintendent hires a curriculum coordinator to help several schools improve. Are they district-based (as many were listed in the early 90's)? Or are they school-based (a later trend)? The job doesn't change - but how a district accounts for it will deternmine whether the position is "administrative" or "instructional." Innes has written about the problems with MUNIS and the chart of accounts since a 2006 OEA report. He and the UK researchers lament the limited amount of clarity as lack of transparency - with justification.

But caution? Apparently BGI didn't pay for caution. They're building a case for school choice and seem to lack the Friedman Foundation's restraint. The game plan seems clear. Anything that can be made to sound like bad news for the public schools - is good news for school choice. Otherwise, it's hard to connect the dots between SEEK funding and choice.

Let's not forget, however, that expanded school choice could be delivered federally if President-elect Obama presses one of his central campaign issues.

But let's wait for Dr Hoyt's second report to see where the UK researchers go with this line of thinking - so as not to jump to conclusions.

That would be bad science.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quick Hits

School Bus Ride "Killed" Asthma Kid: An ill Queens boy with a history of severe asthma attacks was sent home on a city bus by his school's nurse, only to die at a hospital less than an hour later, his family claims in a lawsuit. (New York Post)

Special-needs students still few at New Orleans charters: New Orleans public schools had mixed results in bolstering services for the thousands of children with special needs in the city during the past year, according to educators and recent numbers released by the state. (Times Picayune)

The luckiest generation: pre-boomers: Luck matters a lot in life, and one of the biggest pieces of luck is generational. For Australians alive now, the best time to have been born was the period from the late 1920s through the 1930s. Happiness and contentment are never guaranteed, of course, but the statistics suggest you had a better chance of achieving them if you were born in the decade before World War II than at any other time in the past century. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Huntington Mom Sues School Over Religious Ed. Class: School officials in a northeastern Indiana district deny that a religious education program offered during the school day illegally advances religion, as a federal lawsuit claims. The ACLU sued on behalf of "JS" who attends Horace Mann Elementary School, which offers third- and fourth-grade students a "release time" program for "By the Book Weekday Religious Instruction" through the Associated Churches of Huntington. The Complaint asks a federal judge to shut down the program. (Education Week)

Popular girls may be popular bully targets, study suggests: Boys are not alone in being the tormented. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Violence is a prospect many teens accept: In her 13 years as a seventh-grade teacher in Renton, Esther Rich has collected hours' worth of stories about students who could have been, families that should have been. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Charter schools' problems surfacing: Critics and some lawmakers say the Pa. law that launched the educational experiment needs an overhaul. Last of two parts. When an unusual coalition of Republicans and Philadelphia Democrats led by State Rep. Dwight Evans joined forces to pass a law bringing charter schools to Pennsylvania, they spoke in glowing terms about this "innovative" alternative to troubled public schools. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Pay cut for administrators could save JCPS $200,000: Jefferson County Public Schools could save $200,000 in the coming school year if it cut administrative salaries by 1 percent as some school board members have urged. (The Courier-Journal)

Too much testing cuts into learning: An ever-increasing number of testing requirements has taken the focus off learning and transformed urban schools into test preparation centers. THE GOAL of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 was to make schools more accountable to their neediest students and to the public. (Boston Globe)

Put climate change in the curriculum: Environmental consciousness is sweeping the nation. Politicians, vacation destinations, and college campuses all try to attract people with talk of carbon footprints, carbon offsets, and carbon neutrality. (Boston Globe)

Myths Left Behind: Fairfax County's Graham Road Elementary dispels the notion that achievement gaps are inevitable. The teaching staff at Fairfax County's Graham Road Elementary School doesn't waste time talking about things in their students' lives they can't control. Many of their students come from low-income families; they live in homes that are fragmented or where English is never spoken. (Washington Post)

How Do You Run a Hedge Fund? Colleges Are Showing How: Business schools are increasing efforts to educate students in the skills and knowledge most relevant to running hedge funds. (New York Times)

How Kids Get Hurt: Experts Find Thousands of Childhood Deaths Preventable New reports show parents and policymakers what accidents and injuries are worth worrying about. Each year in the United States about 12,200 people younger than 19 die of unintentional injuries. Around the world, fatal injuries in children total 830,000 a year, a number roughly equal to all the children in Chicago. (USA Today)

Seattle, Minneapolis most literate of big cities (250,000+): Minneapolis and Seattle are the USA's most literate cities, according to an annual study examining the "culture and resources for reading" in the nation's largest metro areas. Cincinnati tied for 10th. Lexington tied for 19th. Louisville tied at 38th. The indicator "Education level" placed Lexington 12th; Louisville 26th and Cincinnati tied at 35th. (USA Today)

Student earning her PhD in beer - in the lab: Monique Haakensen is not just another university student who claims to have spent her academic years occupied by beer. (Toronto Star)

Teacher Accused Of Tying Students To Chairs: A Connecticut special education teacher has pleaded not guilty to charges she abused autistic children. However, parents of Campbell's alleged victims had a lot to say about the charges brought against the teacher. "This was putting children in a closet in the dark, holding them in the closet, holding the door, not letting them out," said spokeswoman for the alleged victims' families, Lisa Nkonoki. "Waterboarding if you will -- taking the child, putting water up their nostrils and face so they couldn't breath." Nkonoki said that Campbell also strapped the children to chairs and yelled in their ears. (WFSB-TV)

Georgia Black Colleges Merger Idea Stirs Resistance: Public colleges created during segregation to provide blacks an education denied to them by white institutions are at the center of a budget battle brewing in Georgia. Facing a $2 billion shortfall, a Republican state senator has proposed merging two of the historically black schools with nearby predominantly white colleges to save money and, in the process he says, erase a vestige of Jim Crow-era segregation. (BlackNews.com)

Ruling: Magnets can admit by race: Magnet programs in Los Angeles public schools can continue to use race and ethnicity as a factor in student admission, according to a recent court decision. (The Daily Breeze, Los Angeles)

California: Law School Lure: No Tuition : A law school opening next fall in Southern California is offering a big incentive to top students who might be thinking twice about the cost of a legal education during the recession: free tuition for three years. The offer is part of a strategy by Erwin Chemerinsky, a renowned constitutional law scholar and dean of the new school at the University of California, Irvine, to attract Ivy League-caliber students to the first new public law school in the state in 40 years. (NY Times)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slashing the schools budget, illegal and unwise

Mike Rebell is executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, based at Teachers College, Columbia University, and was co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the CFE litigation.

Like the landmark Rose v Council for Better Education in Kentucky, CFE v New York was a "third wave case" which argued "equity" and "adequacy" under the provisions of the relevant state constitutions. The New York court, on its own, issued a “template” definition that included both substantive educational goals and specific resource essentials.

The New York court correctly outlined the meaning of "adequacy." Turns out, adequacy is a moving target. It is the amount of funding necessary to meet your goals. If your goals are high, it costs more.

The Kentucky General Assembly's only "constitutional" alternative to maintaining sufficient funding - something only the legislature can determine - would be to lower the state's goals. That would be a economically poisonous.

Rebell's comments are made in light of New York's constitution which requires a "sound basic education." Kentucky's constitution sets a higher and somewhat clearer standard:
It is the non-transferable duty of the General Assembly to establish and maintain "an efficient system of common schools throughout the state."
This from Mike Rebel in the New York Daily News:

On Tuesday Gov. Paterson proposed $2.5 billion in spending cuts to next year's state education budget. Of that number, $1.8 billion represents a deferral of increases committed to the state's children by the Legislature as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that concluded in 2006 - a lawsuit I helped lead. The remaining $700 million represents an actual 3.3% reduction from this year's education spending level.

Times are hard, and New York cannot avoid reckoning with its budget crisis. But the plain facts are that reducing appropriations to New York City's schools below the actual amount spent this year would be unconstitutional. And while much of the scheduled increase could legally be delayed, doing so would be as unwise as failing to address the financial crises on Wall Street or in Detroit.

In 2003, New York's highest court ruled that the state's education funding formula denied city public school children the "sound, basic education" guaranteed them by the state's Constitution. The Court gave the state a period of time to determine "the actual cost" of such an education and to revise the formula to provide that amount to every school in the city. The state stalled past the court deadline, and it took another court order to get the process going. Now that a plan for constitutional compliance is underway and the money is actually flowing, the state cannot legally roll back its progress by reducing the level of resources it has begun providing.

Slowing the rate of new increases does not raise the same constitutional issues, but it does mean that, during their formative years, millions of children would be denied the resources they need to become capable citizens and workers. It also means that what once appeared to be the state's commitment to eliminating achievement gaps will, in hindsight, have become just a fleeting aspiration.

Obviously, the governor - a good man who has fought hard in the past on behalf of education and children - must find ways to overcome an enormous state budget deficit. But there are better solutions than shackling our children's future. One possibility would be to impose an extra tax on the wealthy in order to maintain adequate education funding levels. If Paterson wants to avoid such a tax increase, he should instead urge the governors of the other 15 states who are currently cutting school funding to join him in petitioning the President-elect to throw a rope to the states to help them maintain their commitment to educational excellence and equity.

Perhaps as part of the new administration's anticipated stimulus package, we should invest in the human capital we need to maintain the country's prosperity. Safeguards could be put in place to ensure that the money goes immediately and directly to maintain educational services without sloshing around in states' general funds.

I estimate that such a program would cost about $20 billion nationwide for the next year. That is a lot of money, to be sure, but it pales in comparison to the bailout given to Wall Street, and it would arguably be money much better spent. If we can rescue banks and car manufacturers, surely we can afford to do the same for our children.

KBE sets Jan. 7 meeting to begin process of replacing Ed Commissioner Draud

This from KSBA:

The Kentucky Board of Education will return to Frankfort on Jan. 7 to begin the process of finding a new state education commissioner. The meeting also will shed some light on how the Department of Education plans to implement Gov. Steve Beshear’s call for a 2 percent spending reduction by June 30.

The state board meeting agenda, released this morning, includes the following items:
  • Acceptance of the resignation of Commissioner Jon Draud
  • Administrative issues relative to Draud’s departure (assumed to be the appointment of an interim commissioner following Draud’s early February exit)
  • Steps to follow in filling the position of commissioner
  • Discussion and consideration of a motion to approve KDE’s 2 percent budget reduction proposal
  • The agenda also includes a pair of planned closed sessions tied to personnel issues.
Dr. Draud announced last week that he would resign his position of 13 months. He is recovering from a stroke he suffered in September.

Although the governor protected base SEEK funding from his spending reductions to cover a projected $454 million revenue shortfall, he directed state agencies to reduce spending in varying amounts, including a 2 percent cut for the remainder of elementary and secondary education programs. Department of Education officials have made no public announcements to date of how that spending reduction will be implemented.

Mountjoy: KET Programs that Promote literacy and Graduation Threatened

This from Tony McVeigh at WFPL:

KET Facing Staff, Program Reductions
Kentucky Educational Television is taking a major hit under Governor Steve Beshear’s budget-balancing plan.

Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy says KET is a member of the 18 percent club, meaning its budget has already been cut 18-percent this calendar year. Now it’s facing another four-percent cut.

“They’re probably going to have to discontinue the KET ED program, which is a whole series of programs that go directly into classrooms and are used all over the commonwealth,” Mountjoy said.

KET has already reduced its staff by 34 percent, and eight more layoffs may be coming.

Another member of the 18 percent club is the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, which supports local libraries, and is a treasure trove of state documents.

Mountjoy warns that if new revenue is not found soon, the agency may have to cease operations.

C-J Backs JCPS Student Assignment Plan

This from C-J:

Plan for success
Louisville's city schools desegregated voluntarily, back in the 1950s, soon after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and earned national recognition for peaceful change. Beginning in the mid-1970s, a combined city-county system used busing to help deal with re-segregation, and, after a rough start, a strong public constituency for diversity emerged and prevailed.

More recently, Jefferson County Public Schools fought tenaciously in the courts for its attendance system. Now, after a setback dealt by the U.S. Supreme Court, the system is again adjusting its plans, in an effort to protect the benefits of diversity for as many students as possible.

The point is, this community has waged a long struggle to do what is both just and smart, and there's no reason to stop now. Most local folks don't want children from different backgrounds educated in isolation from each other, because the point is to school them for success in a diverse world...

Jeff Co Bails On Year-round Calendar

This from C-J:
Berman wants them all on traditional schedule
Launched 14 years ago to boost student achievement, the once-popular year-round schools will likely become of thing of the past soon in Jefferson County Public Schools.

Four of the district's six remaining year-round schools -- Dixie, Rangeland, Breckinridge-Franklin and Roosevelt-Perry -- have recently decided to return to the traditional school calendar for 2009-10, saying the year-round calendar is too costly to maintain.

That leaves Jacob Elementary and Liberty High on the year-round schedule, and Superintendent Sheldon Berman says he wants them back on a traditional calendar, too.

"I don't believe having a year-round calendar is the most effective system out there," he told board members at a budget work session Wednesday night.

Berman said that returning all schools to the traditional calendar will save the district approximately $400,000 in transportation and professional development costs, which is why he has included it as one of 53 proposed cuts to make up for an expected $45 million budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1...

Delay in promised incentive pay frustrates teachers

This from the Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale):
Hundreds of nationally board certified teachers in a Florida district who were promised a $10,000 incentive for working in low-income schools are still waiting for the bonus after the district received less Title 1 money than expected from the federal government.

In the meantime, several teachers have backed out of the national certification process, fearing state and district incentives will have evaporated before they can take advantage of them. "They want highly qualified teachers but no one is willing to pay for them," said Sharon Hepburn, a nationally certified elementary teacher.

Impact of NCLB Greatest at Elementary Level

Today, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) released a new report that examines how classroom practices in Illinois have been influenced by the No Child Left Behind Act and by related state policies. Drawn from classroom observations and interviews, the report sheds new light on how teachers, principals, and administrators have responded to the federal school accountability law.

The report, Lessons from the Classroom Level: Federal and State Accountability in Illinois, found that elementary schools were impacted more by NCLB and state accountability policies than were high schools. In addition, the study found that there was a narrowing of the curriculum and a focus on test preparation in elementary schools. Many study participants also reported that they were using data more effectively, and high parental involvement was seen in both elementary and high schools.

Lessons from the Classroom Level is based on case studies of six Illinois schools’ efforts to prepare students for the Illinois state assessments to meet NCLB testing requirements.

That Flying Shoe

Cartoon by Nick Anderson in the Courier-Journal.

First Ladies Unite for Children

This from First Lady Jane Beshear, and former First Ladies Glenna Fletcher, Phyllis George, Libby Jones and Martha Wilkinson in the Courier-Journal:

Investing in Kentucky's children

As the current First Lady and former First Ladies of Kentucky, we have joined forces because we all value children and understand the importance of investing in their lives. During this holiday season, one of the best gifts we can give our children is a strong foundation that will prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow. We know how crucial it is that each of our children and every child in Kentucky receive the education they need to become successful adults.

That's why we, along with all of Kentucky's former First Ladies, are serving as honorary co-chairpersons of a statewide campaign, Seniors4Kids, because as grandparents, parents, sisters and aunts we care about Kentucky's future. We want policy makers to understand the importance of investing in Kentucky's children and make high-quality pre-kindergarten available to every 3- and 4-year-old. We want to guarantee that Kentucky realizes that investing in its children and making high-quality pre-kindergarten available to every 3- and 4-year-old is pro-economy and pro-productivity. Recent research indicates that children who attend pre-K strengthen their social and cognitive skills and go on to become successful adults.

According to the latest annual report from the National Institute for Early Education, spending per child enrolled in pre-K in Kentucky is still below the national average.

In addition to spending per child, the percentage of 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in pre-K in Kentucky is also below the national average. Only about 41 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds attend pre-K programs in the state. Among all the states, Kentucky ranks as 31st for number of children enrolled.

We can change the world by ensuring that we adequately prepare and educate our 3- and 4-year-olds.

Kentuckians of both political parties are focused on increasing pre-K quality and accessibility. The Kentucky Preschool Program was created as one part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 to provide a high-quality pre-K program to the state's neediest children. Financial difficulties prevented the Kentucky Preschool Program from growing for over a decade, but since 2006 there has been an increase of $23.5 million in funding.

On Oct. 29, 2007, as part of the initiative of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, the committee's Strong Start Kentucky program convened nearly 50 state leaders to develop recommendations to improve quality and access around the state. The recommendations stressed making voluntary, quality pre-K available for every 3- and 4-year-old in Kentucky.

Adults 50 and older will be instrumental in supporting efforts to increase quality and access to pre-K programs in Kentucky. Baby boomers are starting to reach the age typically associated with retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of adults ages 50 and older in Kentucky is going to increase substantially while the number of children ages 3 and 4 will change very little. These older adults will make great advocates for our children.

Developing high-quality pre-kindergarten is the most cost-effective way to decrease the number of unskilled adults in Kentucky's work force. A good early childhood education helps prepare a child for achievement by improving school readiness in vocabulary, reading scores and math skills.

One of our volunteers explained it best when she described her recent visit to a pre-kindergarten classroom in Kentucky. She saw an eager boy who was learning and thriving, a youngster who, his teacher adamantly explained, had special learning needs and wasn't speaking until he started pre-K. And now, after just a short amount of time, he was almost caught up with his age group. What a wonderful example of a pre-K success.

It is because of successes like this that we're pleased to join Seniors4Kids in working to improve education in Kentucky, education that will benefit people of all generations.

During this holiday season, we all have time to reflect on what is important to us. As those who have had the privilege of serving Kentucky as First Ladies, we believe the most critical gift we can give our state's children is a sound beginning. We encourage Kentuckians everywhere to join us and make a New Year's resolution to support pre-K for all of Kentucky's children.

Comic Slugfest Continues in Petrilli v Silberman.

Golden Claims Harassment.

McNeill Wants Costs Restored.

Ishmael Wants Peace on Earth
and a Chocolate Milk Shake

Jabs and hooks continued in the pretrial phase of Peggy Petrilli's suit against Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman.

Today's updates to the Peggy Petrilli Timeline show continued bickering as attorneys argue claims and counter claims before Fayette County Circuit Judge James Ishmael - each side looking for an advantage. Opportunities for one attorney to disparage the other are rarely missed.

The most recent sparring match involves the defendant's attorney John McNeill's subpoena of all of Peggy Petrilli's state and federal income tax forms.

Plaintiff's attorney J Dale Golden responded with a Motion for a Protective Order claiming that the "defendant's do not have a wholesale right to rifle through every part of the plaintiff's life... The defendant's are simply attempting to annoy and harass Ms. Petrilli."

Plaintiff's attorney Melissa Thompson, one of at least three attorneys who have appeared on Pertilli's behalf (Including Timothy C. Feld on the 12th), told the court, "This is meant to pull us around to numerous depositions that are unnecessary."

McNeill claimed yesterday's hearing was unnecessary and moved to have his costs restored by the Plaintiff. "I don't believe I'm going to get the records I'm supposed to get any other way," McNeill said.

"For them to say that 'we've asked Ms Petrilli for the records and that's what she's given us' - Judge, as weve seen in this case before, what Ms Petrilli gives, comes through several stages...It's a revelant issue...I don't even know why we're being dragged down here this morning on a motion for a protective order. In fact, I'd like to get my costs back for having to show up for this because this is clearly discoverable information..."

Ms Thompson countered that if there was any concern over a business loss (as might be shown through the documents) the defendants could have asked Ms Petrilli herself during her deposition. "It seems a bit much to now have to take the deposition of this other character, who didn't prepare Ms Petrilli's return, when if he wants additional records, just ask us for the records and I will do whatever I can to find those additional records."

"I don't believe that," McNeill snapped. "The second thing is that in Ms Petrilli's deposition - as a matter of fact, she does consult, so it is a revelant issue."

"And this is the whole ...problem with discovery in this case..." McNeill continued mockingly, "They don't - 'Well, I don't know. I don't know.' because somebody else comes in for all the hearings....All I want is the documents so that they can't play fast and loose in some shell game about what her records are and what her earnings are."

Judge Ishmael said that by making a claim about lost wages "Ms Petrilli has introduced the issue of income into the litigation."

He also asked the defendant's to be sensitive to the nature of the information saying, "We don't need to be putting this in the newspapers."

Ishmael overruled the plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order, saying "Now, let me buy you all a...

"It's too cold for a milk shake," McNeill interrupted.

...choclate milk shake this morning."

"Y'all have a happy Christmas season," Judge Ishmael sighed, as he held the defendant's oral Motion for Costs in abeyance.

"CompuBox numbers" following the bout showed John McNeill throwing and landing most of the punches.

The next bout is tentatively scheduled for January 20th - at 3pm, so that Attorney McNeill can take his Mother-in-Law to BINGO in the morning.

Felner: Defense Tactic #1

This from C-J:

Felner wants statements,
evidence suppressed

The lawyer for former education dean Robert Felner says federal authorities violated his client’s rights when they interrogated him for more than six hours at the University of Louisville last June.

As a result, attorney Scott C. Cox of Louisville has filed a motion asking that Felner’s statements during the interrogation be excluded in the case.

He also asks, in a related motion, that Felner’s books and papers seized during a search at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside where Felner was going to start work be suppressed on the grounds that the search was unconstitutional....
And more from C-J:

...In his motion to exclude Felner's statements during questioning by federal agents, Cox argues that "Felner, and any other reasonable person, would not have believed they were free to leave during the six-hour interrogation."

According to the motion, armed federal agents arrived at Felner's U of L office June 20 and demanded to speak to him.

"Felner was then escorted to a conference room adjacent to his office for an interrogation that exceeded six hours in length," the motion states.

The door to the conference room was closed, and at no time was Felner read his Miranda rights, the motion states.

"Mr. Felner was never free to leave the premises but, instead, believed at all times that he was in custody," the motion states. "The few times that he was allowed to leave the room to use the bathroom, he was always escorted by armed federal agents, who accompanied him inside the restroom."

The motion includes a transcript of a tape-recorded exchange between Felner and an unidentified agent at the end of the interrogation, in which the agent asks Felner if he understands that he is not under arrest and can leave without talking to the agents.

Felner indicates, during the exchange, that he knew he was not under arrest, but he did not know he had the option of leaving or not talking to the agents.

"I felt like I was escorted everywhere. I couldn't go anywhere. If I made a move to get up and leave, then I was in trouble," Felner told the agent, according to the motion. "… I didn't feel like I could leave the premises."

The motion also notes that "on multiple occasions" Felner invoked his right to an attorney. On his final request, Felner was allowed to call his lawyer, but the agents continued their questioning, violating his Miranda rights, according to the motion...

Something stinks - besides the pot

This from the Herald-Leader, Photo from WLEX TV:

A Lexington Christian Academy junior high art teacher has been charged with marijuana possession.

Anna C. Cox, 29, was arrested early Monday morning after police searched her glove compartment and found a bag of marijuana, according to an arrest report. Cox was parked in Veteran's Park with a 15-year -old at the time of the arrest.

She gave a police officer consent to search her Volvo, according to court documents.

The 15-year-old's parents were notified, Lexington Police spokeswoman Ann Gutierrez said. When contacted on Monday, Cox declined comment.

The school is on break this week and officials from the school could not be reached.
WLEX TV reports that the student was male and the arrest occurred at 1am Saturday. (Video)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Silberman Remains Committed to Fayette County

"I plan to keep my word
and will not be an applicant."

- Stu Silberman

Only last week Jon Draud announced that health problems had prompted his retirement as Kentucky Education Commisssioner.

That was the same week speculation began about who Kentucky's next commissioner might be. KSN&C readers have already begun suggesting names. One of them is very familiar - Stu Silberman.

The last time around, the finalists included:
  • Richard Hughes, a professor at Morehead State University and former superintendent of the Hardin County school district

  • Larry Vick, superintendent of the Owensboro Independent school district, and

  • Jim Warford, executive director/CEO of the Florida Association of School Administrators and a former chancellor for Florida’s public schools
The time before that, the Board - in its infinite wisdom - outsourced its responsibilities, announced only one finalist and set up the Barbara Erwin debacle.

So who's out there?

Blake Heselton is now mopping up a huge mess at UofL left by indicted former Dean Robert Felner. One supposes he will be committed to The Ville for a while. But if things aren't going well at Louisville - Is the commissioner's post a big enough excuse to jump ship?

Other in-state names include former OEA honcho Penney Sanders and Roger Marcum who recently announced his retirement from Marion County. Is Deputy Commissioner Elaine Farris ready for the top job? Senator Kelly had some nice things to say about her recently.

Then there's Stu Silberman. In each of the last two commissioner searches, Silberman took himself out of consideration citing his promise to Fayette Countians to stabilize the leadership in the state's second largest school district by committing to a ten-year tenure.

Once again Silberman says he's not interested and will not apply.

The greatest probability, however, is that the board will listen to the governor (for a change)decide to conduct a national search and our finalists will be folks we don't know yet. KSN&C will produce some background information on whomever the finalists are, as usual.

Jack Russell Hubbard pleads not guilty to sex charges

This from the Herald-Leader: KSN&C Backstory:

A former Beaumont Junior High School science teacher pleaded not guilty Friday to sodomy and rape charges stemming from allegations by two students in the late 1970s.

Jack Russell Hubbard, 61, appeared in Fayette Circuit Court for his arraignment on four counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree rape. Former students Thomas "Beau" Goodman III and Carol Lynne Maner made the accusations.

Hubbard, who now lives in Texas, was arrested in July 2007 in Pennsylvania as Maner testified in a civil trial in Lexington against the Fayette County school board. Maner, who accused the school board of ignoring a pattern of alleged sexual abuse against her by several school board employees, won a $3.9 million verdict. An appeal by the board is pending.
A pretrial conference is scheduled Jan. 29 before Judge James D. Ishmael Jr. the same judge who is hearing Petrilli v Silberman. After hearing motions a trial date could be set.

Which States Are Suffering Most?

This from NPR:

Listen Now [3 min 47 sec]
The U.S. Department of Labor released regional unemployment figures on Friday, and, as you might expect, in this economic climate the numbers are grim. In some regions, joblessness is at its highest in two decades. And economists say that some states will see double-digit unemployment rates in 2009.
Over the past year Kentucky is up 1.9% - from 5.1% to 7.0%.

Quick Hits

Colleges invest in athletes' grades: The time, money and resources spent on academic support for student-athletes take an astounding jump. (The Tennessean)

More New Orleans schools to convert to charter status: The Recovery School District is forging ahead with long-range plans to give charter status -- and thus more independence -- to many of the schools it still operates in New Orleans. (Times Picayune)

Coalition taking on teen pregnancy: A coalition of San Antonio community members has united to fight the city's teen pregnancy problem and is calling on the state Legislature to require more comprehensive sex education in schools and make it easier for teen moms to access contraceptives. (San Antonio Express-News)

Special education teachers refocus strategies to passing state tests: Arrowhead High School teacher Kathy Kopp ticked through her lesson on essay construction. Then she gave her sophomores one more tip for their upcoming language arts test from the state. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Your name here - Los Angeles Unified will sell naming rights: Name for sale! There are no signs saying "Your Name Here," but there might as well be. For the right price, Los Angeles Unified will sell naming rights to its new arts high school on Grand Avenue. (Los Angeles Times)

Geothermal energy put to test at schools: Some school districts in Arizona are considering geothermal energy to reduce utility costs. (Arizona Republic)

Baby Dolls Raise a Stink: Corrine Vigna, 4, whispers to her mother, Nancy, about her No. 1. Christmas wish, Baby Alive Learns to Potty. The doll talks, eats and answers nature's call, but mistakes can happen as a warning on the box reads: "May stain some surfaces." Critics of such realistic toys wonder if some things are best left to the imagination. (Washington Post)

Teachers face dilemma when students want to Facebook: What seems like an easy question — Will you be my friend? — is not necessarily so for teachers who have joined the Facebook phenomenon. (Houston Chronicle)

More white parents choose public schools: Perceptions of quality, Nashville neighborhood networks influence choice over private schools. The student population is 60 percent white and 35 percent African-American, with the rest divided between Asians and Hispanics. The removal of two pre-kindergarten classes, which were predominantly black, helped boost the numbers. (The Tennessean)

Colleges should help cut textbook costs: Noting the ever-rising costs of college textbooks that could run students $400 to $800 a semester, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report yesterday suggesting ways colleges, and students themselves, could help cut textbook expenses. (Newsday)

Teacher Beats Student to death for not doing homework: An Egyptian mathematics teacher has appeared in court in Alexandria accused of beating an 11-year-old to death because he did not do his homework. (BBC)

German fourth grade students try to poison teacher's pet: School children have tried to poison their classmate at a primary school in Hamburg because she was too smart, daily Express reported this week. The eight-year old girl still can’t believe what happened to her. “They wanted to poison me and wanted me to die.” (thelocal.de)

Charter schools Obama praised ripped at board meeting

This from the Chicago Sun-Times:

A parade of teachers, parents and students complained Wednesday about the new breed of Chicago schools President-elect Barack Obama touted the day before when he tapped Chicago's school chief to be his U.S. secretary of education.

The Chicago Board of Education meeting began with a standing ovation for schools CEO Arne Duncan. Board President Rufus Williams told a packed chamber that Obama had "identified Arne early'' but then "looked around the country to find the best person possible. He ended up with Arne.''

But not everyone was full of praise for Duncan's initiatives. With the school closing hit list due next month, teachers charged that CPS charter schools -- which have replaced some closed schools -- are "destroying'' neighborhood schools by luring away high-scoring kids. Meanwhile, they said, neighborhood schools are being forced to absorb low-scoring kids....

Students Occupy Cafeteria at New School University

This from the New York Post:

More than 100 students who barricaded themselves in a cafeteria at the New School University for more than a day began tossing chairs and overturning tables as their raucous protest of college President Bob Kerrey intensified.

The student "occupation" of the cafeteria on the ground floor of the building at 65 Fifth Ave., which began Wednesday evening, came a week after a faculty vote of no confidence in Kerrey, a former Democratic US senator from Nebraska.

By [Friday], more than 100 noisy protesters were confined to the cafeteria, where they'd trashed the area, hurling chairs and toppling tables. Other protesters gathered outside.

Cops, including police brass, amassed but made no move to end the stalemate. The no-confidence vote was spurred by the sudden departure of the school's fifth provost in seven years under Kerrey, and by the president's bid to step in to the interim provost position himself...

...cops moved to stop those inside the center from letting others enter via side doors.

University officials said they were consulting with the NYPD over the security risks posed by the occupation, and because a security officer had been struck by a student. "In today's world, every university must have zero tolerance for any and all security risks," Kerrey said.

The battle at the New School also played out online as students blogged from inside the graduate center, while Kerrey's blog was down for a while because of a "technical difficulty."

Students Threatened Over Oreo Crumbs

This from the Houston Chronicle:

Texas bus driver accused of
brandishing knife

MANSFIELD, Texas — A school bus driver accused of brandishing a knife and threatening three sixth-graders with cutting their wrists for leaving cookie crumbs on a seat has been arrested.

William Allen, 66, was taken into custody Friday on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Mansfield school district police confiscated a pocket knife with a 2-inch blade from Allen. He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, said Terry Morawski, a Mansfield school district spokesman.

Two of the three students told their parents that Allen took them out of the bus Wednesday at Mary Orr Intermediate School. They said he threatened to cut their wrists with the knife if they didn't admit to eating Oreo cookies and leaving crumbs behind, according to police reports...

In Afghanistan, Education Under Attack

This from the Washington Post, Photo from the BBC:

Few things symbolize progress in the fight against poverty better than the face of an educated girl. And I was fortunate enough to see hundreds of them during a trip to Afghanistan in 2006. Those faces, eager and alert, lit up the courtyard of a new school built to educate 1,000 girls in central Afghanistan's Bamian province.

Gone were the days of Taliban rule, when girls were forbidden to study and women weren't allowed to teach. Afghanistan's future leaders could learn -- out in the open.

Perhaps that is why last month's brutal attack on a group of Afghan schoolgirls in the southern city of Kandahar was so heartbreaking. The students were walking to school in uniforms. Two men wielding water pistols drove by on motorcycles and sprayed battery acid.

They took aim at that same symbol of progress, the one that has inspired me and so many others. ...

Schools see increase in subsidized lunches

This frrom the Union-Tribune:

SAN DIEGO COUNTY — The recession is driving more children into school cafeterias for government-subsidized lunches.

Schools nationwide are serving 425,000 more free and reduced-priced meals daily than they were last year, according to the School Nutrition Association. A survey released this month found that 80 percent of school districts are reporting an increase in the percentage of students qualifying for subsidized meals. ...

More Accurate Reporting Won't Solve Dropout Problem

This from Ed Week, Cartoon by John Trever in the Albuquerque Journal:

America is now the only country in the industrialized world where young people are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Education Trust. Two numbers illustrate this serious

25 percent: That is the alarmingly large number of American high school students who quit before earning their diplomas.

50 percent: That is the extraordinary number of minority students in United States who do not finish high school on schedule. Even schools with otherwise commendable overall graduation rates can camouflage the poor graduation rates of minority or special-needs students...

Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, Class of 2006

Overall - 73%

African American - 59%

Asian -90%

Latino - 61%

NativeAmerican - 62%

White - 81%

...As “The Silent Epidemic,” a report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, showed, while there is no single cause for students’ dropping out, boredom and disengagement and the coursework’s perceived lack of relevance to their futures are major contributing factors...

Judge Halts Mandatory Algebra Testing for California 8th Graders

This from the New York Times:
SACRAMENTO (AP) — A judge has blocked a plan to make California the first state in the nation to require algebra testing for all eighth graders.

The ruling, issued on Friday, sidelines an ambitious mandate approved by the state Board of Education in July after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended it over the concerns of California’s school superintendent and education groups.

The board pushed through the effort in order for the state to meet federal testing requirements or face losing up to $4.1 million in funding. The mandate would have affected students in the 2011-12 school year...

Legislators have little choice but to increase state revenues

This from the Daily Independent:

The only option

With the state and national economy in the midst of what many believe to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, conventional wisdom says this is no time to be raising taxes. However, conventional wisdom flies out the window when the alternative to a tax increase is worse.

And that’s just where Kentucky finds itself as legislators prepare for the 2009 General Assembly. With revenue falling a projected $456.1 million short of funding the budget for the current fiscal year — which ends June 30 — Gov. Steve Beshear has made a 70-cent-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax a key part of his proposal to balance the budget through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. If approved by the General Assembly, the hike would take Kentucky’s cigarette tax to $1 per pack, making it higher than any other bordering state except Ohio.

But the key word here is “if”. Earlier this year, the Kentucky House of Representatives approved a 25-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, but the Republicans who control the Senate refused to even bring the tax hike to a vote in that body. Now the governor is seeking a tax increase that it 45 cents a pack higher than what legislators rejected in March. Has the mood in the General Assembly changed that much so quickly? We’ll soon find out...

Not being mind-readers, we have no idea what legislators will do in regards to increasing revenue, but the worst thing they can do it nothing. We suspect legislators — including those in the Senate — will be more willing to increase the tax on cigarettes than they were in March, but it is difficult to imagine that a majority of legislators will endorse the type of increase the governor is proposing.

That’s their option, but if they choose it, they must be willing to either raise taxes elsewhere or make the type of spending cuts that are sure to send college tuition rates soaring, result in larger classrooms, deny medical care to our poorest residents, release more prisoners, and do all sorts of negative things.

No politician enjoys raising taxes, but sometimes there are no other options. This is one of those times.

When you start thinking about dying, it puts everything in perspective

With the end of the semester I've been too busy (with my real job) to keep up with the happenings surrounding the resignation of Commissioner Jon Draud. Students come first.

But KSN&C has heard lots of questions and speculation about what happened...and what's next. Some have expressed surprise at Draud's resignation following the supportive assessment he received from the Kentucky Board of Education at their most recent meeting. But as things often go in politics, what the public sees is just the tip of the iceberg.

Since Draud's first days, some have been less than supportive of his administration. KDE can be a snake pit, and amid the speculation about his health it wasn't always easy to tell if some individuals were rooting for him or against him. Despite a consistent track record of supporting adequate funding for the schools, while in the legislature and as Commish, Draud carried that big R on his chest which may have contributed to the doubt some establishment insiders expressed.

Some KSN&C readers have wanted to know if the governor pushed him out. I have no clue, but doubt it.

The governor is on the record as wanting a national search. Shortly before his inauguration in December, Governor-elect Beshear asked members of the Kentucky Board of Education to delay the appointment of a new education commissioner in order to conduct another national search to the state’s top education leader. The first search had resulted in the disastrous selection of Barbara Erwin, who resigned before her first day as commissioner after discrepancies in her resume were revealed. Within days after requesting the state school board to extend its search for a new commissioner, the board named Draud, a Republican member of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

But when the smoke cleared, their philosophies seemed to match up fairly well and both Draud and Beshear worked to save education from serious cuts. Beshear probably continued to believe that a national search would have been the way to go, but I don't see any evidence that he actually tried to do anything about it.

Was there conversation about his future? You bet.

Within KDE, among educators in the field, and among members of the Kentucky Board of Education there was concern about Draud's vitality. The job requires a lot - and unfortunately, Draud had a stroke.

This from NKY.com:
EDGEWOOD - Jon Draud followed a neurologist's advice and heeded pleas from loved ones when he decided to step away from the career that long ago became a passion.

The longtime educator and former legislator from Edgewood announced Friday that he will resign as Kentucky's commissioner of education in early February.

"It was really a hard decision for me to make after serving in education for about 50 years," Draud said. "I wanted to provide some leadership in a difficult time. But, you know, when you start thinking about dying, then it puts everything in perspective."

The 70-year-old was a unanimous pick a year ago to take over as education commissioner, but he suffered a stroke in September that weakened his leg muscles. Draud has been working in Frankfort about three days a week and undergoing physical therapy the other two days.

He said he is about 80 percent recovered from the stroke.

"I've made a lot of progress, but I want to try and get back to 100 percent," he said. "That job requires 100 percent effort and I'm just not prepared to do that right now." ...

On hearing the news of the retirement, former superintendent Jack Moreland heaped praise on Draud.
"He's one of the absolute finest people that I know," said friend Jack Moreland, who spent 19 years as superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools and led Covington schools for eight years. "He bleeds education. His first thought is education. If you go back and trace his history, even when he was in the General Assembly, his fundamental focus ... was education." ...
What happens next?

Well, already groups are lining up to offer their assistance in the selection of the next commissioner. The last time around, "the K groups" wanted a Kentucky Commissioner. It seems that that desire, having been satisfied, may not burn so brightly this time around, but they still want to participate in the process.

We can count on Governor Beshear reaffirming his belief that a national search should be conducted. And this board will be much better equipped to hear him.

Bob Sexton has said the pretty much the same thing: Consider state- but look national.

Not to be left out, KSN&C would be happy to contribute to the due diligence phase of the selection process - and would hapily give the Board the first peek at anything we discover. Heck, put us on the team and we'll even observe confidentiality. Perhaps the number of board members KSN&C hacked off during the Barbara Erwin affair is now low enough that they would welcome our humble assistance.


Photo by Rachel Stone: Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Jon Draud, a graduate of EKU, returned to his alma mater on April 8 to speak to Dr. Richard Day’s Educational Foundations class about current education-related issues in the Commonwealth. While on campus, he also met with President Whitlock and other education leaders to discuss how Eastern can help partner with the Kentucky Department of Education in building education leadership capacity in Kentucky.